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Santee Cooper, Westinghouse reach equipment settlement

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Santee Cooper and Westinghouse Electric Co. have finalized a settlement giving the Moncks Corner-headquartered, state-owned utility full ownership of and the ability to begin selling all non-nuclear equipment associated with the failed V.C. Summer project in Fairfield County.

The companies will split net sale proceeds of nuclear equipment according to specified terms.

“Finalizing this agreement is a tremendous milestone, because it means Santee Cooper can move quickly to sell thousands of pieces of equipment ourselves, as well as support Westinghouse’s efforts to sell the nuclear equipment,” Mark Bonsall, Santee Cooper president and CEO, said in a news release. “We are already planning next steps, and Santee Cooper’s proceeds from equipment sales will be used to shore up our rate freeze and contribute to our long-term plan to retire debt.”

Net proceeds from major non-installed nuclear equipment will be evenly divided between Santee Cooper and Westinghouse, while Santee Cooper will receive 90% of net proceeds from the sale of major installed nuclear equipment. Santee Cooper will also receive 67% of net proceeds from the sale of other equipment that could be used in nuclear projects.

Westinghouse has responsibility for marketing the nuclear equipment, according to the settlement (.pdf). Marketing and sales efforts will last for up to five years.

Santee Cooper co-owned the V.C. Summer project, along with S.C. Electric & Gas. Westinghouse was the project contractor. Construction on the twin nuclear reactors was abandoned in July 2017, four months after Westinghouse declared bankruptcy, after years of rising costs and mounting delays.

In May 2019, Santee Cooper asked a New York bankruptcy court to dismiss Westinghouse’s claim of equipment ownership filed in August 2018 as part of the Pennsylvania-based company’s bankruptcy reorganization.

“Westinghouse has no legal claim to this equipment,” J. Michael Baxley Sr., Santee Cooper senior vice president and general counsel, said in a news release at the time. “Westinghouse never listed this equipment among assets that bankruptcy code required it to disclose, nor did Westinghouse claim this equipment when it retrieved assets left behind after it walked off the site July 31, 2017.”

Under terms of the 182-page settlement agreement finalized Friday, Santee Cooper will provide storage and preservation of equipment at the site and preventative maintenance services through 2020.

In February, Santee Cooper released its 2020 budget and details of a reform plan aimed at convincing the General Assembly not to sell the utility in the fallout from the V.C. Summer debacle.

In March, preliminary approval was given to a $520 million settlement that would provide refunds to Santee Cooper customers whose rates were increased to pay for the project. SCE&G, now owned by Dominion Energy, reached a $2 billion settlement with ratepayers in November 2018.

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