SCANA Corp. and principal subsidiary S.C. Electric & Gas have settled a lawsuit with SCE&G ratepayers for $2 billion, the amount SCE&G customers have paid toward the abandoned twin nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Power Station in Fairfield County.
The settlement, announced Saturday, will also distribute to SCE&G ratepayers the $115 million set aside as golden parachute money for SCANA executives who may lose their jobs in a pending merger with Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Energy. Additionally, it will give customers the proceeds from the court-ordered sale of SCANA properties, including real estate in Cayce and Charleston, that could total tens of millions of dollars.
The settlement is subject to court approval, and to approval of the Dominion merger by the S.C. Public Service Commission. Funds for the rate relief will be provided by Dominion as a condition of the proposed deal, according to a news release from SCANA.
On Nov. 20, Dominion filed a revision to a second acquisition proposal with the PSC.
“SCANA and SCE&G deny the allegations made in the lawsuit, but have agreed to resolve this matter. … Upon the approval of the settlement announced today, the lawsuit will be dismissed by agreement and the claims of SCE&G ratepayers will be resolved,” Cayce-based SCANA said in a statement released Saturday.
Eligible SCE&G customers will receive a bill credit or a payment in an amount to be disbursed by a court-approved class action administrator, according to the SCANA release.
SCANA asked for and received nine rate increases under a controversial 2007 state law, known as the Base Load Review Act, during the decades-long construction of the twin reactors. The project, co-owned by SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper, was abandoned in July 2017 following a series of rising costs and mounting delays and three months after contractor Westinghouse declared bankruptcy.
“In reaching this agreement, we have been able to secure more than $2 billion in relief and accountability for the people of South Carolina,” J. Preston Strom Jr., plaintiff lead counsel, said in a statement. “We thank the attorney general’s office for their hard work throughout this case and particularly in securing the return of funds set aside for executive bonus payments to the ratepayers.”
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said the agreement was “the result of countless hours of work by our office seeking to make SCE&G customers whole for the abandonment of the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. … We believe that this settlement, which encompasses over $2 billion in benefits, is the largest of its kind in the history of South Carolina.”
Wilson, who also thanked Dominion “for its willingness to provide the financial resources necessary to make this restitution,” said that while the settlement resolves SCE&G customers’ BLRA-related claims, it “does not end our inquiry into the individual actors that may have contributed to the project’s failure.”
SCANA executives have been issued federal subpoenas related to the failed project.
The PSC is in the midst of a nearly monthlong evidentiary hearing to determine permanent SCE&G rates and to decide the fate of the proposed $14.6 billion Dominion merger, which has undergone two revised filings since it was first announced in January.
“We are pleased that we were able to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution of this matter so that we can keep our focus on moving forward with the merger with Dominion Energy,” Jim Stuckey, SCANA senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.
In October, a circuit judge assigned to the class action lawsuit appeared to signal its potential outcome when he instructed attorneys to draft orders including statements that the BLRA violated the S.C. constitution.