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Judge reduces lawyers’ fees in SCE&G lawsuit settlement

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A Circuit Court judge has reduced the cut lawyers will receive in a $2.2 billion lawsuit settlement with customers of Dominion subsidiary S.C. Electric & Gas.

Judge John Hayes on Tuesday signed an order reducing legal fees in the settlement, reached last November, from $66 million to $51 million.

S.C. Attorney Alan Wilson was among those seeking a reduction in those fees, arguing that his office’s work spurred the lawsuit’s settlement and reduced the workload of SCE&G ratepayers’ lawyers.   

“We’re glad to see that the judge and the lawyers involved recognized how crucial the work done by the Attorney General’s office on behalf of ratepayers was in settling this case,” Wilson said in a news release. “We fought to get as much money as possible for the ratepayers and are glad that the legal fees awarded are less than half what was originally requested.”

Ratepayers’ lawyers originally asked for 5% of the $2.2 billion settlement, or $110 million, the attorney general’s office said. That request was later reduced to 3%.

Columbia attorney Robert Dodson filed an objection to the original settlement, saying that the agreement violates SCE&G customers’ constitutional right to due process. The settlement is also “fundamentally unfair” to ratepayers, Dodson contended, because they are likely to get back less than five cents on the dollar toward the $2 billion paid toward the reactors.

“If SCE&G wants this case settled, it better get reasonable and come to the bargaining table with more money for the ratepayers,” Dodson said in a news release. “ … We will not stand idly by and allow this settlement to be approved in its current form. We will fight this to the bitter end if necessary.”

The November settlement came as Virginia-based Dominion Energy acquired former SCE&G parent company SCANA. The merger capped years of tumult centered around the failed V.C. Summer nuclear reactors, a project SCE&G co-owned with state utility Santee Cooper.

Through a controversial state law known as the Base Load Review Act, SCANA requested and received nine rate increases related to the now-abandoned reactors’ decade-long construction. SCE&G customers shelled out more than $2 billion to build the reactors, abandoned in July 207 amid rising costs and mounting delays and in the face of contractor Westinghouse’s bankruptcy.

 

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