In the latest confirmation of an escalating investigation into South Carolina’s #NukeGate debacle, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and officials with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) descended upon the V.C. Summer nuclear power station in Fairfield County, S.C. this week.
According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, the federal investigators/ prosecutors were observed taking photographs of the abandoned nuclear power project – which has plunged the Palmetto State into a protracted legal and political battle that could strike at the very heart of its sustained economic viability.
“They are building a case,” a source familiar with the visit told us.
Indeed they are …
While state lawmakers have been bickering over half-measures aimed at extricating the state from this $10 billion debacle, investigators have been meticulously going about their business: Conducting interviews, collecting evidence and preparing for prosecutions.
As we reported months ago, both federal and state law enforcement assets are involved in the investigation – which targets crony capitalist utility SCANA, government-run utility Santee Cooper and as-yet-undefined “co-collaborators.”
How did we get into this mess? Government decided to meddle in the energy industry, that’s how.
State lawmakers effectively socialized more than $2 billion (and counting) worth of investment risk associated with the construction of two next generation nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer – a sprawling campus located near Jenkinsville, S.C. This socialization was made possible thanks to the now notorious Base Load Review Act (BLRA), which was advanced by liberal state lawmakers and allowed to become law in 2007 by former governor Mark Sanford.
The two utilities spent ten years building (or as it turns out, not building) these reactors a cost of $9.8 billion. The project wasn’t completed, though. In fact it’s not even half-completed – with the cost to finish it reportedly ranging anywhere between $9-16 billion.
That’s clearly not happening – yet ratepayers remain on the hook for the reactors.
Drowning in debt, Santee Cooper pulled the plug on the project last July – killing an estimated 5,600 jobs and throwing the state’s energy future into chaos. The government-run utility’s decision has also prompted a flood of lawsuits and criminal investigations – as well as a full-court press by lawmakers to try and undo the damage they did (or at least give that impression to voters).
The FBI presence at V.C. Summer was a scheduled visit, according to a memo from the embattled S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff (SCORS) – one of several entities that was supposed to be minding the store as it relates to this spectacularly failed project.
“The US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) will be on site this week and they expect between 16-19 FBI personnel assisting the DOJ,” the memo (.pdf) stated. “(SCORS) has no further information at this time.”
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