A state agency head on Friday became the fourth executive to announce his departure after South Carolina’s nuclear fiasco.
“It’s time,” said S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff executive director Dukes Scott. “It’s been a great experience up until the last year, and the last four or five months have been tough.”
Scott, 68, will step down Jan. 15, more than five months after SCE&G and Santee Cooper pulled the plug on a 10-year effort to build two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, he said, adding that criticism from the public over the nuclear failure has sped up his retirement date.
Scott has led the ORS since its inception in 2004. The agency helps police utilities by auditing their requests for rate hikes and negotiating what customers should be charged.
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However, Scott and ORS have come under fire since the nuclear project was abandoned.
Some state lawmakers called for Scott’s resignation, but S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster demanded that he stay in his post.
Scott had angered a panel of lawmakers by telling them that his agency recommended that the Public Service Commission approve the nuclear project and, then, did not oppose any of the nine rate hikes that SCE&G was granted to help pay for it.
Those rate hikes have cost SCE&G power customers $1.8 billion so far.
Three other executives have retired over the nuclear fiasco. Santee Cooper chief executive Lonnie Carter announced his retirement on Aug. 25. SCANA chief executive Kevin Marsh and chief operating officer Stephen Byrne announced their retirements on Oct. 31.
Scott told The State Friday that McMaster had “reluctantly accepted” his resignation.
“On behalf of the entire staff at ORS, we are happy for but also saddened by the retirement announcement of executive director Dukes Scott, the only director the agency has ever known,” said ORS deputy executive director Nanette Edwards. “Duke’s kindness, professionalism, honesty and integrity have set the standard for conduct at ORS and made him beloved by his employees and respected by state legislators, Public Service Commission members and industry leaders.”
Scott said he had planned to retire in 2018, anyway, perhaps in the summer or on Dec. 31. Aside from a five-year break at the turn of the century as an administrative law judge, he has worked as a state utility regulator since 1981.
“We’ve handled a lot of tough cases,” Scott said. “We brought a lot of people together to work out issues. And I think that’s one of the great things we did.”
Scott said he does not know what his agency could have done differently to prevent the V.C. Summer project’s failure.
Lawmakers have proposed giving the agency more teeth – including the power to subpoena important documents from utilities – when the Legislature returns to Columbia in January.
“Obviously, I regret what happened out at the V.C. Summer plant.”