- A ratepayer lawsuit filed late Friday accuses South Carolina Electric & Gas of mismanaging more than $1 billion in customer funds to expand the V.C. Summer nuclear plant, a project SCE&G and fellow utility Santee Cooper abandoned last month.
- The suit, filed by a utility customer in Columbia, S.C., says the utility hid financial problems at Summer as delays and costs mounted over years, The Post & Courier reports. The suit is seeking class action status.
- State and federal lawmakers are scrambling to devise a plan to finish at least one of the two new reactors slated for the Summer facility, and Santee Cooper announced last week it would cancel two rate increases planned to pay for construction.
The lawsuit, filed in Richland County circuit court by LeBrian Cleckley, is the first such case against SCE&G since Summer was abandoned, the Post & Courier said.
Days after his utility decided to abandon construction of the Summer plant, SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh told South Carolina regulators that the White House did not respond to requests for financial assistance on the project. SCANA is the parent company of SCE&G.
Now, fearing that customers will "pay for a hole in the ground," Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) told media outlets he plans to meet with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry on the subject and push for a Senate vote to extend tax credits for nuclear construction. That measure has already passed the House.
"I'm mad as hell that you spend all this money and you can't get it done," Graham told the Associated Press, referring to $9 billion already spent by SCANA and Santee Cooper on the project.
Graham also lent his support to a proposal from Gov. Henry McMaster (R) to sell all or part of the state-owned Santee Cooper to help pay for the project, telling a local TV station that he hopes "we find a partner with SCANA to build the damn thing."
Officials from Santee Cooper last week said the idea is "not in the interests of our customers," and that it had not received any credible offers to take over its 45% stake in the plant expansion, despite reaching out to more than 50 companies. The public utility said its rates would have to rise 41% to complete the project under current conditions.
The abandonment of Summer leaves only one nuclear plant under construction in the U.S. — Southern Co.'s Vogtle facility in Georgia. That plant has suffered from similar cost overruns and delays due to problems with reactors designed by contractor Westinghouse, which filed for bankruptcy in March.
The owners of the Vogtle plant have also reportedly reached out to the federal government for assistance, arguing for acceleration or increases to loan payments to the plant. Southern plans to file its recommendation on whether to finish or abandon the plant with regulators by the end of the month.