Another former chief executive officer of crony capitalist energy utility SCANA – which was purchased last December by Virginia-based Dominion Energy – has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in connection with a civil lawsuit tied to the botched construction of a pair of abandoned nuclear reactors.
Kevin Marsh – who led SCANA during the failed reactor project (a.k.a. NukeGate) – pleaded the fifth on November 21, 2019 during a deposition for a pending civil case filed by Jessica S. Cook and a class of plaintiffs against Santee Cooper, the Palmetto State’s debt-addled government-run utility.
Along with SCANA, Santee Cooper is responsible for this spectacularly failed command economic intervention in the energy marketplace that has left Palmetto State taxpayers and ratepayers on the hook for a pair of reactors that will never be built.
The price tag for this boondoggle? A whopping $10 billion … and counting.
The failure of the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project – and revelations that top utility executives knew it was doomed but kept charging ratepayers for it anyway – ultimately cost Marsh his job. It also prompted a flood of lawsuits – as well as an ongoing federal criminal investigation led by the office of U.S. attorney Sherri Lydon.
That investigation is referenced in Marsh’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights.
“Mr. Marsh invoked his constitutional rights in response to questions that … went to issues that are the subject of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing criminal investigation into the construction and abandonment of the nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer,” attorneys for Marsh asserted.
Or alternately, Marsh was asked questions which “would have elicited testimony providing a link in the chain of inculpatory evidence” which according to his lawyers could “be a link in the government’s theory of criminal liability.”
Here is the filing …Kevin-Marsh
(Via: U.S. District Court)
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Marsh was at SCANA for 33 years. He became vice president and chief financial officer of the company in 1996 and a senior vice president two years later. He is one of several top SCANA executives who made bank while presiding over NukeGate – the culpability for which ultimately traces back to the S.C. General Assembly.
Marsh’s successor as CEO of SCANA – Jimmy Addison – and the company’s chief nuclear officer, Jeff Archie, both invoked their Fifth Amendment rights during depositions related to this same lawsuit earlier in November. Attorneys for Addison also claimed their client was “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 was “entitled to invoke his privilege against self-incrimination and refuse to answer all such questions.”
The civil action in question was originally filed in the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit, however the case has since been moved to U.S. district court.
How did we get here?
To recap: Beginning in 2008, SCANA and Santee Cooper partnered on the construction of two pressurized water reactors at the V.C. Summer facility in Jenkinsville, S.C. 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.”
(Click to view)
(Via: High Flyer)
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.
The latest legal wrangling comes as South Carolina lawmakers are mulling the possible sale of Santee Cooper, a process the utility has repeatedly tried to sabotage in the hopes lawmakers will allow it to “reform” itself.
Our hope? That Santee Cooper is sold and this disastrous chapter of government-driven energy policy in South Carolina is permanently closed.
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