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Sources: Hugh Leatherman Presented SCANA With Ultimatum

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“HEAVY HAND” PLAYED

Imperiled private sector energy provider SCANA (and its subsidiary, SCE&G) issued a press release earlier this week announcing the company’s intention to withdraw its petition to abandon a pair of nuclear reactors under construction in Jenkinsville, S.C.

“Over the past two weeks, SCE&G management has met with various stakeholders and members of the South Carolina General Assembly, including legislative leaders, to discuss the abandonment of the new nuclear project and to hear their concerns,” the statement read.  “SCE&G’s withdrawal decision was in response to those concerns, and to allow for adequate time for governmental officials to conduct their reviews.”

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, government-run utility Santee Cooper – which was partnering with SCANA on the V.C. Summer nuclear project – announced its intention to pull the plug on these reactors.

That decision forced SCANA’s hand, although many believe neither utility had sufficient funds available to complete the colossally mismanaged project – which was originally supposed to be completed this year at a cost of $9.8 billion.

Turns out the actual price tag is twice that amount (at least).

Either way, Santee Cooper’s decision killed an estimated 5,600 jobs, squandered billions of dollars in investment (including more than $2 billion raised through rate increases on consumers), threw the state’s energy future into chaos, cost Santee Cooper its credit rating and prompted a class action lawsuit against SCANA.

It also created the #NukeGate political scandal – in which Palmetto State politicians who previously supported these consumer rate increases found themselves badly exposed (see herehere and here).

(Click to view)

(Via: SCANA)

One of those politicians?  Powerful S.C. Senate president Hugh Leatherman – who formed a panel of elected officials (many of whom originally supposed the rate hikes) to investigate what went wrong with the project.

Never mind that Leatherman and his fellow State Senators should probably take a look in the mirror for the answer to that question …

Anyway, with so many establishment politicians eager to get themselves front of television cameras and media microphones as part of the greatest blame-shifting “cover your ass” exercise in South Carolina political history, it wouldn’t do for Santee Cooper and SCANA to have presented lawmakers with a fait accompli.

Their hearings have to mean something, right?

Right … which is why Leatherman reportedly went to great lengths to threaten SCANA into reversing (on paper, anyway) its decision to abandon the V.C. Summer project.

According to sources familiar with the case, Leatherman called SCANA chairman Kevin Marsh on Tuesday and presented him with an ultimatum.

“You have until 5:00 p.m. to withdraw your petition or else you’re going to find out what the General Assembly can do to you,” Leatherman reportedly told Marsh.

Wow …

SCANA sources declined to confirm the substance of the call, but they did tell us Leatherman played a “heavy hand” in his conversation with Marsh – who obviously complied with the alleged ultimatum.

What, exactly, did Leatherman’s threat accomplish, though?

Beyond semantics, absolutely nothing.

The day after its press release was issued, SCANA reiterated publicly that it had no intention of reversing its prior position.

“In our discussions with the legislature, we have not changed our position on that abandonment,” Marsh told financial analysts on a conference call on Wednesday, saying the move was “a prudent decision for us to make given the facts we had in front of us.”

“I fully expect that in appropriate time in the future, we intend to re-file that (petition),” Marsh added.

Once again, Leatherman accomplished absolutely nothing.

All he did was demonstrate the legislature’s impotence in the wake of its incompetence.

Marsh further stated that he had previously communicated his position to S.C. governor Henry McMaster, who is desperately searching for a new partner for SCANA in the hopes of completing at least one of the two planned reactors in Jenkinsville.

“I’ve had this conversation with the governor, so I know he’s actually seeking for someone to take over Santee Cooper’s share,” Marsh said.

Our view?

Leatherman and his legislative cronies are directly responsible for allowing a government-run utility (and a government-subsidized one) to stick taxpayers with the bill for this unfinished project.

No ultimatum – nor blame-shifting legislative “hearing” – is going to change that.

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Banner via Travis Bell Photography

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