The South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) represents the public interest of South Carolina in utility regulation for the major utility industries – electric, natural gas, telecommunications, transportation, and water/wastewater – before the Public Service Commission of South Carolina, the court system, the South Carolina General Assembly, and federal regulatory bodies. The ORS also has responsibility for oversight of railroad safety and natural gas pipeline safety in South Carolina.
The public interest, as defined by the South Carolina General Assembly, is as follows: The concerns of the using and consuming public with respect to public utility services, regardless of the class of customer, and preservation of continued investment in and maintenance of utility facilities so as to provide reliable and high-quality utility services.
The provisions of House Bill 3194 that relate to ORS’s oversight of Santee Cooper take effect January 1, 2022.
Sections 12 of the bill (S.C. Code Ann. § 58-31-225) gives ORS the authority to make inspections, audits, and examinations of Santee Cooper relating to their electric rates. In those circumstances, ORS is required to report its findings to the management and Board of Santee Cooper and attempt to resolve any identified issues.
Under Section 13 of the bill (S.C. Code Ann. § 58-4-51, ORS also has the authority to make inspections, audits, and examinations regarding Santee Cooper’s electric service, standards, practices, etc. and to make recommendations to the appropriate entity about those matters.
Based on those provisions, beginning January 1, 2022, ORS will have the authority to review the rate charged for the Street Light program and to attempt resolve complaint issues with Santee Cooper. If no resolution can be reached, ORS could escalate the matter by making recommendations to the appropriate entity, which would be determined by the context of the issue and what is learned as part of the inspection.