NukeGate Probe: Dominion Energy Reaches Cooperation Agreement With State, Federal Investigators

Major development in criminal probe of abandoned nuclear reactor project …

Virginia-based Dominion Energy has entered into a cooperation agreement with state and federal prosecutors probing the origins of a botched nuclear reactor project in Fairfield county, South Carolina – a.k.a. the notorious NukeGate debacle.

The agreement – viewed as a critical breakthrough in the ongoing investigation – was reached between the company and the offices of U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.

McCoy is the top federal prosecutor in the Palmetto State. Wilson is South Carolina’s top state prosecutor. This investigation – which began in the fall of 2017 after the reactor project collapsed – involves multiple federal investigative agencies as well as the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). It seeks to determine what, if any, criminal actions were committed in connection with the V.C. Summer nuclear generating station expansion project in Jenkinsville, S.C. – which was abandoned in July 2017 at a cost of $10 billion to South Carolina ratepayers and taxpayers.

How do we know a deal was reached?

The agreement was announced by Dominion earlier this month in a required quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“Dominion Energy is cooperating fully with the investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, including responding to additional subpoenas and document requests,” the company noted on its latest “10-q” form. “Dominion Energy has also entered into a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.”

A “10-q” form is a comprehensive report of a company’s performance that must be submitted to the SEC by all publicly traded companies on a quarterly basis. The filing must include any information relevant to a firm’s financial position.

The 10-q form filed by Dominion referencing the agreement was submitted to the SEC on May 5, 2020 – two weeks ago.

According to the form, “the cooperation agreement provides that in consideration of its full cooperation with these investigations to the satisfaction of both agencies, neither such agency will criminally prosecute or bring any civil action against Dominion Energy or any of its current, previous, or future direct or indirect subsidiaries related to (NukeGate).”

To be clear: Dominion had no role in this debacle.

The company purchased West Columbia, S.C.-based utility SCANA – one of the two partners in the NukeGate project – in January 2019 as the fallout from the scandal cascaded across the Palmetto political landscape.

The other partner in the project – state-owned power provider Santee Cooper – is currently on life support, up to its ears in debt as state lawmakers mull whether it should be sold to the private sector.

We have weighed in frequently on that subject (most recently here).

Santee Cooper and SCANA had planned on bringing the two V.C. Summer reactors online in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Obviously, that didn’t happen …

The money was spent, but the reactors weren’t completed – and the utilities couldn’t afford the $10-16 billion price tag necessary to finish them. Even worse, 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.

In fact, Santee Cooper actually proposed a rate hike related to the project just days before bailing on it.

Santee Cooper has not helped its situation in the aftermath of the debacle with multiple tone deaf management moves – including giving its former chief executive a $16 million golden parachute.

This news outlet reached out to sources at both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the S.C. Attorney General’s Office in the hopes of getting some context regarding the Dominion revelation, but spokespersons for both offices declined to comment on the status of their ongoing investigation.




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