SCANA settles $ 2 billion lawsuit over the VC Summer project

SCANA Corp. has entered into a $ 2 billion agreement with SC customers, who have charged high electrical prices for a failed nuclear power plant project.

And in a new turn, the legal agreement is transferred to SCE & G customers of $ 115 million golden skydiving shoots that were set aside to soon become SCANA executives. It also forces the sale of a number of non-essential SCANA properties that could give SCE & G customers an additional $ 70 million or more in refunds or debits, according to a lawyer involved.

But the settlement – announced Saturday by Cayce-based SCANA – is not a completed deal.

The hinges on a judge OK and a decision by S.C. Public Service Commission approval of Virginia-based Dominion Energy's proposed acquisition of SCANA, SCE & G's parent company.

As part of this buyout, Dominion has proposed cutting SCE & G's nuclear electricity prices by as much as $ 22 a month, saving SCE & G's 730,000 electrical customers over $ 2 billion.

That's how much SCE & G customers have paid in the form of higher power bills for the failed VC Summer Nuclear Station expansion project. It also corresponds to the rate takers seeking SCE & G in nuclear recovery, according to Pete Strom, a lawyer representing SCE & G ratepayers.

"This is really our version of the Bernie Madoff situation," said Strom. "We have some bad actors who did some bad things on SCANA. As a result, hundreds of millions of money are lost. We've got as much money as we possibly can out of this, and still make it attractive. for the Dominion to take it over. "

Settlement seeks to resolve a legal firestorm over SCE & G customer's inflated bills of electricity since July 201[ads1]7, when the Cayce-based tool canceled its ten-year, $ 9 billion effort to build two nuclear reactors at the VC Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.

SCE & G's customers have paid more than $ 2 billion in the form of higher bills to finance the now abandoned project. The impact on SCE & G's electricity bill at the highest level was noticeable.

After nine interest rate hikes, approximately one fifth of SCE & G customers paid electricity bills for the project. It costs the typical residential customer around 27 dollars a month.

As soon as SCE & G canceled the project, customers wanted $ 2 billion back. The filed lawsuit sought refunds and accused their use of fraud and maladministration.

The settlement announced Saturday could put an end to the legal battle.

It was approved by SC's Advocate General Alan Wilson, a Lexington Republican who last September issued a non-binding opinion that the 2007 law that allowed the VC Summer core project and the nine interest rates were unconstitutional.

Wilson thanked Dominion Energy for their willingness to provide the financial resources needed to make this refund. It is important to note that Dominion Energy was not involved in establishing this situation and we appreciate its role in finding a decision that serves the best of SCE & G. "

Wilson said he believes that the $ 2 billion settlement is the largest of its kind in the SC story, but suggested that his office continue its investigation of the nuclear weapons project failure.

"This milestone completes our search for a refund to ratepayers, but does not end our inquiry to the individual players who may have contributed to the project's mistake," said Wilson. "We want to recognize the hard work of the private lawyers who zealously fought for the interests of taxpayers also through various litigation filed on behalf of SCE & G ratepayers."

Strom, the former American lawyer for South Carolina, also said Investigation of potential criminal injuries by SCANA leaders is probably not over.

"At the end of the day comes real justice for those who did something wrong," said Strom. "I would be surprised if there were no charges."

As part of the settlement, SCANA agreed to turn over to its electrical customers a trust of $ 115 million that had set aside managers if they lose their jobs during the planned Dominion acquisition. The money once earmarked for managers could now go to customers in the form of credits or refunds.

This will include former SCE & G customers who helped pay for V.C. Summer project, but the page has moved, said Strom.

These leaders will probably still get golden parachutes if they lose their jobs during the Dominion merger. But Dominion would now be on the hook to pay these retirement packages.

Current and former SCE & G customers will also benefit from the sale of non-essential SCANA properties, including Ramsey Grove Plantation in Georgetown, where SCANA leaders arrived hunted; the original SCE & G headquarters on Meeting Street in Charleston; and more properties near SCANA's headquarters in Cayce.

"We wanted to remove the golden parachutes and the toys of someone who left it," said Strom.

It was unclear on Saturday how much the IRS would be paid as part of the settlement.

The settlement did not include SCANA's liability or liability. The company has consistently settled the blame that the project has not led the contractor Westinghouse to declare bankruptcy in March 2017 and state-owned minority partner Santee Cooper for unilaterally withdrawing from the construction project July 31, 2017.

"SCANA and SCE & G deny the claims in the case but agreed to resolve this matter, the company said in a press release.

SCANA's senior lawyer, senior vice president Jim Stuckey, said in a statement: "We are pleased that we could achieve a mutually acceptable solution to This case so that we can focus on moving on with the merger with Dominion Energy. "

Now Wilks at 803-771-8362. Follow him on Twitter @AveryGWilks. Follow Travis Mix on @DTravisBland.

John Monk contributed to this story.

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