Two former executives of crony capitalist energy utility SCANA – which was purchased last December by Virginia-based Dominion Energy – exercised their constitutional right against self-incrimination during depositions in connection with a South Carolina civil suit, according to tweets from reporter Andrew Brown of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.
According to Brown, former SCANA chief executive officer Jimmy Addison and chief nuclear officer Jeff Archie both invoked their Fifth Amendment rights during these depositions – refusing to answer questions about the botched construction of a pair of since-abandoned next-generation nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear generating station in Fairfield county, S.C (a.k.a. NukeGate).
The abandonment of this project is likely to wind up costing South Carolina ratepayers and taxpayers in excess of $10 billion.
Will other high-ranking SCANA executives follow suit?
The abandoned reactors – jointly owned by SCANA and government-run utility Santee Cooper – are at the heart of a pending civil case filed by Jessica S. Cook and a class of plaintiffs against Santee Cooper. They are also the focus of an ongoing federal criminal investigation led by the office of U.S. attorney Sherri Lydon.
In a motion filed on Addison’s behalf in the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit, where the civil suit was filed, his attorneys argued that attorneys for Cook “repeatedly asked questions that go directly to the core of the Department of Justice’s ongoing criminal investigation into the construction and abandonment of V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 or that provide a potential link in the chain of inculpatory evidence the government seeks.”
Such questions post the “threat of particularized harm” to Addison, which is why he “entitled to invoke his privilege against self-incrimination and refuse to answer all such questions.”
(Click to view)
(Via: High Flyer)
How did we get here? Beginning in 2008, SCANA and Santee Cooper partnered on the construction of two pressurized water reactors at the V.C. Summer facility. This project was subsidized in large part by government debt, but SCANA and Santee Cooper ratepayers were also billed for it each month – with the socialization of SCANA’s private investment risk approved by Republicans and Democrats in the S.C. General Assembly via the now-notorious “Base Load Review Act.”
On July 31, 2017, Santee Cooper’s leaders pulled the plug on these uncompleted reactors after wasting nearly $10 billion on their botched construction. Compounding the problem? Documents released in September 2017 showed the utilities knew in 2016 (and perhaps earlier) that the project was doomed – yet they allegedly concealed this critical information from regulators (and the public) while continuing to raise rates and rack up additional debt.
On the criminal side, investigators have been on the case since September of 2017. Subpoenas were issued at that time to both SCANA and Santee Cooper, and a follow-up subpoena in March of 2018 sought additional information from the state-owned utility.
FBI agents and officials with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) also paid a visit to the V.C. Summer site last May, and the following month agents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were reportedly conducting a deep dive into Santee Cooper’s bond documents.
Many believed the investigation was approaching a point of critical mass earlier in the fall, but as of this writing there have been no criminal indictments in connection with the command economic boondoggle.
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