Gov. Henry McMaster demanded Thursday that Santee Cooper “immediately” provide a report by the Bechtel Corp. that examined a troubled nuclear construction project the state-owned utility and SCE&G abandoned after spending $9 billion and nine years on the effort.
In a letter to Leighton Lord, chairman of the Santee Cooper board, McMaster said he was making a “formal demand” that Santee Cooper provide the report and any associated documents or other information.
The information “shall be produced forthwith,” McMaster said.
Lord said he wants to comply with the governor’s directive, but needs legal advice first.
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He has sent the letter to Santee Cooper’s legal counsel. A decision on whether to release the report could come as soon as Friday, Lord said. A key question is whether Santee Cooper can release the report without the consent of SCANA, parent company of SCE&G, he said.
Earlier Thursday, thestate.com reported SCE&G had told state regulators it would not release the report, citing attorney-client privilege.
“I want the governor to have it,’’ Lord said Thursday night. “I think it would help explain the situation much better.’’
Lord, a Columbia lawyer, told The State newspaper the Bechtel report “found a lot of problems.’’ Among other things, the report recommended hiring an independent manager for the then-troubled nuclear project, he said.
Santee Cooper became concerned over the progress of the nuclear project about four years ago and supported hiring an independent company to assess the V.C. Summer construction effort, he said. A key question was how well Westinghouse, the chief contractor, was performing, he said.
Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in late March. SCE&G was the senior partner on the project that first was estimated to cost about $11 billion, but later ballooned to more that twice that amount.
“We were concerned with Westinghouse, very concerned,’’ Lord said. “We were being told everything was under control, but we wanted an independent audit of how things were going.’’
Bechtel is one of the few companies with the expertise to assess a complicated nuclear project, he said.
Information gathered by Bechtel came up at legislative hearings last week on the bungled V.C. Summer nuclear project. The report could be critical in determining whether state regulators agree to let SCE&G recoup more money from ratepayers. The utility already has charged its customers $1.7 billion for the failed project.
Lawmakers have said they would issue a subpoena to get the report, but it was unclear if legislative committees had received the Bechtel document.
SCE&G and partner Santee Cooper walked away from the project July 31 after spending about $9 billion on it during the past nine years. The companies collectively charged customers 14 rate increases to finance the work. So far, ratepayers from the two utilities have been charged about $2 billion for a project, which now will not be completed.