SCANA Corp. has ousted chief executive Kevin Marsh and chief operating officer Stephen Byrne, making them the Cayce-based utility’s first executives to fall in the aftermath of the company’s failed nuclear expansion project, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation.
SCANA board members decided on the departures during a phone meeting Saturday morning, sources told The State newspaper.
Marsh and Byrne will join former Santee Cooper chief executive Lonnie Carter, who announced his retirement in August, as the state’s only top executives to depart their jobs over the bungled attempt to build two new nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.
That nine-year effort, abandoned by the two utilities July 31, has cost S.C. power customers $2.2 billion in electricity rate hikes and left them on the hook for potentially billions of dollars more in charges. SCANA customers currently pay roughly 18 percent of their monthly electricity bills – or $27 a month – toward the scuttled reactors.
It is unclear when or how SCANA will announce the executive departures – or whether their exits will be characterized as retirements, resignations or firings. The company could opt to announce Monday that the the two executives have retired, one source said.
In an emailed statement to The State, SCANA spokesman Eric Boomhower wrote, “Your report that SCANA has ‘ousted’ Kevin Marsh and Steve Byrne is not true.”
Asked whether SCANA considers news of the departures untrue, or if the company objects only to the term “ousted,” Boomhower wrote: “I have nothing to add to the statement I just gave you.”
It also is unclear whether Marsh and Byrne will depart immediately or are retained temporarily while the company weathers a political firestorm over the V.C. Summer fiasco.
SCANA’s board will meet again Sunday to work out the details of succession, sources said. Top candidates to replace Marsh are thought to be SCANA chief financial officer Jimmy Addison and senior vice president Keller Kissam.
News of the departures comes two days after SCANA reported its third-quarter profits plummeted by more than $150 million to $34 million because of the V.C. Summer debacle. The company’s stock was selling at $46.50 a share at close of business Friday, down from $73.25 at the start of the year.
The news also comes two days before an S.C. House panel meets to sort out how to help SCANA’s 700,000 customers who have been hit with nine electricity rate hikes to bankroll the project.
SCANA’s executives, and Marsh and Byrne in particular, have come under fire in S.C. House and Senate hearings into the project’s demise.
S.C. lawmakers have fumed that the executives refused to accept blame for the project’s failures, instead deflecting to lead contractor Westinghouse, which declared for bankruptcy in March.
Lawmakers also were rankled to learn that SCANA’s top executives accepted roughly $3 million in bonuses tied to their performance on the doomed project – much of which SCANA now has left to ruin against the wishes of Santee Cooper and some lawmakers.
It is unclear what severance pay, if any, Marsh and Byrne will receive. If SCANA – now a takeover target with stock prices declining – were sold, Marsh could have earned a $28 million golden parachute. Byrne could have been due $12.8 million.