Former Top Manager Testifies That SCANA Execs Misled Regulators About Nuke Project
SCANA utility executives lied about the true status of the now-canceled V.C. Summer nuclear project, according to testimony that marked the start of South Carolina Public Service Commission hearings on the nuclear expansion. The hearings, which began Nov. 1, will address ratepayer relief as well as Dominion Energy’s proposal to acquire the troubled utility.
Pre-filed testimony submitted by South Carolina’s Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS)—obtained via deposition of numerous witnesses—details aspects of SCANA’s oversight of the estimated $25-billion nuclear project in Jenkinsville, which the utility walked away from in July 2017.
“That testimony is startling because it verifies much of what I and the House believe was the depths of deceit that SCANA engaged in to secure most, if not every, rate increase associated with the V.C. Summer construction project,” House Speaker James Lucas (R) said in a statement in response to the filings.
ORS is recommending the PSC disallow $1.87 billion in project costs incurred by SCANA after March 12, 2015. After that date, the ORS has evidence the utility misled the PSC about the project’s schedule and budget.
“[SCANA subsidiary] SCE&G deliberately and repeatedly misled the PSC and ORS by withholding key information on the projected construction schedule,” according to testimony by Gary C. Jones, a consultant ORS hired in 2011 to help monitor the project’s schedule and budget.
Also prominent among the deposed witnesses was Carlette Walker, SCANA’s vice president of nuclear finance administration before resigning in June 2016. Notably, Walker alleges that, while she was out on leave, top executives created testimony in her name for submittal to the PSC that cited a lower cost to complete the nuclear project than her own team’s estimate. Ultimately, Walker went along with SCANA’s submittal of the false testimony to the PSC out of fear of losing her job, she says.
In its original proposal to buy the utility, Dominion offered $1,000 cash payments to ratepayers. The Virginia-based utility has since produced an alternative plan that would double immediate and ongoing bill reductions in lieu of cash payments.