#NukeGate: Lawsuit Against SCANA Seeks $452.3 Million

Request for judgment stokes bankruptcy fears …

A new filing in the class action lawsuit against crony capitalist utility SCANA is seeking $452.3 million in damages from the embattled company – money collected over the past twelve-and-a-half months for a pair of abandoned nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, South Carolina.

According to attorneys for the plaintiff class, that is the amount of money “improperly received from customers attributable to nuclear construction from July 31, 2017 to August 6, 2018.”

The specific dollar amount was cited in a motion for partial summary judgement filed in Hampton County, S.C. this week by attorney Pete Strom – the lead counsel for the plaintiff class.

Strom’s logic?  That there was no “nuclear construction” during the specified time period.

According to Strom’s filing, SCANA’s subsidiary SCE&G was “not statutorily authorized to continue its collection of advance financing and construction costs … following is voluntary abandonment of the V.C. Summer Project on July 31, 2017.”

That’s a reference to the detonation point of #NukeGate, the state of South Carolina’s spectacularly failed government-led intervention in the energy industry.

To recap: State lawmakers socialized nearly $2 billion in investment risk over the last ten years related to the construction of two next generation, pressurized water reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear generating station in Jenkinsville, S.C.  Another huge chunk of the investment risk for this project was assumed by government-run utility Santee Cooper – which is embroiled in several legal dramas of its own.

Anyway, the reactors were supposed to have been operational in 2016 and 2017, respectively, at a cost of $9.8 billion.  They weren’t, though – and never will be.

The money was spent, the project simply wasn’t finished – and the two utilities couldn’t afford the estimated $10-16 billion price tag necessary to complete them.  On July 31, 2017 Santee Cooper pulled the plug on the boondoggle – killing an estimated 5,600 jobs in the process.

Months later, the public learned SCANA and Santee Cooper knew the project was doomed – but continued raising rates on consumers anyway.

In the aftermath of the V.C. Summer project’s abandonment, Santee Cooper has found itself in a virtually hopeless situation.  In fact, it has asked the S.C. Supreme Court to issue an order allowing it to continue raising rates on consumers to cover the debt associated with the project.

Meanwhile SCANA – which is hoping to be acquired by Virginia-based Dominion Energy – is seeing its prospects deteriorate as lawmakers continue their meddling in the private sector.  Just last week, a pair of credit rating agencies downgraded the company and its subsidiaries – fueling fears of a possible SCANA bankruptcy.

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Clearly the precarious situation in which SCANA now finds itself is not lost on the attorneys for this plaintiff class …

Dominion’s proposal includes $1.6 billion of ratepayer relief (roughly $1,500 per customer), $1.7 billion in debt assumption related to V.C. Summer and a gradual reduction in the “nuclear surcharge” associated with the project.

Meanwhile a legislative “fix” – first reported on by this news site in late June – would provide $260 million in relief as part of a deeper (albeit temporary) rate cut.  SCANA is currently suing the state over this rate cut in federal court, arguing it represents an unconstitutional “taking.”



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