SCANA executives Friday said they would seek to charge power customers more to cover the cost of abandoning two unfinished nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.
But the Cayce-based utility is willing to negotiate with lawmakers how much of the remaining $2.2 billion falls upon the backs of SCE&G ratepayers, CEO Kevin Marsh told a South Carolina House panel.
In a tense, six-hour hearing, legislators investigating the $9 billion V.C. Summer fiasco made clear they want that figure at $0, or close to it.
They took turns grilling a six-member team of SCANA executives on their response to a critical, long-secret February 2016 report that diagnosed critical problems at the construction site 18 months before the plug was pulled. They also blasted SCANA’s leaders for keeping the report secret, even from state regulators.
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“I believe the concealment of that report led the Public Service Commission to approve schedules and cost changes that they otherwise would not approve,” said state Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Oconee.
With repeated, pointed questions, House members also pushed SCANA officials to publicly accept blame for the project’s failure.
But legislators were flabbergasted when the executives didn’t crack, insisting SCANA’s project management was appropriate at the time and always had SCE&G’s power customers’ interests in mind. They blamed the project’s failure primarily on the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the project’s lead contractor.
“I believe the actions taken by the company were prudent,” Marsh said. “We took prudent steps to address the issues in the report.”
Several House members were not satisfied.
“It is clear to anybody who is sitting in this room that SCE&G bears some responsibility for where we sit today,” said state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland.
Near the end of the hearing, Marsh offered an olive branch. He said SCANA could work out a deal with legislators to take on some of the $2.2 billion in remaining shut-down costs. No numbers were placed on the table, but Marsh called in an opportunity to “significantly reduce the impact on customers.”
Still, Marsh said, any deal must be structured so it does not cripple the Cayce-based utility.
“What I want to do is find a way to solve the problem in a way that would be fair to customers and fair to the company,” he said.