COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Latest on an abandoned nuclear project in South Carolina (all times local):
State police have opened a probe into possible criminality on behalf of one of the co-owners of a failed South Carolina nuclear project.
State Law Enforcement Division spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the agency had opened an investigation in response to a request from lawmakers including House Speaker Jay Lucas.
Lucas and others on Monday asked SLED to look into “potential criminality” on behalf of SCANA and its chief subsidiary, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.
SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper earlier this summer scuttled the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, putting 6,000 people out of work. Federal authorities have subpoenaed documents from both companies, and a half-dozen lawsuits are pending.
The utilities that abandoned a nuclear power project in South Carolina are considering selling a $2 billion, five-year settlement for a one-time payment to guarantee they’ll collect some money.
Santee Cooper Chairman Leighton Lord said Tuesday the state-owned utility and SCANA are evaluating lots of proposals to monetize their settlement with Toshiba, the parent company of bankrupt Westinghouse. The settlement was signed in July, just days before the utilities ended the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station project after jointly spending nearly $10 billion.
Westinghouse, the project’s lead contractor, declared bankruptcy in March. The settlement’s first payments are due next month. Toshiba’s ability to pay has been questioned.
Lord says the utilities could get better terms if they sold their shares together, but separate decisions are possible.
Santee Cooper’s board is set to meet Wednesday. A SCANA spokeswoman did not immediately respond.
One of South Carolina’s top prosecutors says a state law used by utilities to raise customers’ rates to fund a now-defunct nuclear project is “constitutionally suspect.”
Solicitor General Bob Cook made that assertion about the 2007 Base Load Review Act in an opinion obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
A bipartisan trio of lawmakers recently asked prosecutors to study the 2007 law, which allowed South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. and Santee Cooper to repeatedly request rate increases to fund the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station project.
The companies abandoned the venture earlier this year, after charging more than $2 billion to ratepayers.
The state Supreme Court rejected a 2014 challenge to the law. Attorney general’s opinions carry no legal heft of their own but generally represent the position of the state.