Ten residents of Fairfield County have filed a class action lawsuit against SCANA and utility SCE&G for billing them for a nuclear power plant project that will not be built.
The state suit, filed Monday in Fairfield County, seeks damages for more than $1 billion in charges to customers. The suit says SCANA executives received more than $14 million in compensation at the same time the company was billing its customers for the now failed project.
SCE&G has charged its customers $1.7 billion for the project it abandoned last month. The company has said customers will not get the money back.
The suit says SCANA and SCE&G knew the project was failing but misled the state Public Service Commission and ratepayers about the project’s troubles. As the project began to fail, the company received hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, the suit says. The suit says South Carolina has some of the nation’s highest power bills.
Georgetown lawyer Ed Bell said the companies wrongly benefited from the doomed project. A judge would have to certify class action status.
“When power companies have so much control over our lives, they should not be able to benefit from their own misdeeds and negligence,” Bell said in a prepared statement. “It’s pretty simple. If you don’t pay your electric bill, what do they do? They cut you off. Now, we should cut them off from future payments for a failed project. They should be held to the same standards as their rate holders.”
SCANA spokeswoman Rhonda O’Banion said the company would not comment on the lawsuit, but “we are confident that the company’s actions complied with all legal requirements.’’
SCE&G, a subsidiary of SCANA, serves some 700,000 customers in the Columbia and Charleston areas. The company abandoned the nuclear project July 31 after nine years of efforts. The company and its partner, state-owned Santee Cooper, have spent $9 billion on the failed project.
About 18 percent of the average SCE&G customer’s power bill goes toward the now-failed nuclear project.
Among the other attorneys suing on behalf of ratepayers are state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, and former state Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Fairfield.