As I listen with disgust to the details surrounding the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle and learn more about how SCE&G customers will not see a refund in the rates they’ve already paid as the result of nine increases and will be on the hook for at least $2.2 billion more to cover the cost of this colossal failure, I can’t help but think about Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.”
Let’s compare, shall we?
The Producers: Produce the world’s most offensive play, “Springtime for Hitler.” Leo Bloom (mild-mannered accountant) figures that a producer could make a killing by finding a play so horrible that it couldn’t go past opening night. He would over-finance it, then keep the remaining money from the investors after the show closes.
V.C. Summer: Pretend to build a nuclear power plant.
Producers: Max Bialystock and Bloom bilked little old ladies out of millions as they sold “stock” in their play.
V.C. Summer: SCE&G hit its more than 700,000 customers with 9 rate hikes that so far have added up to $1.4 billion for upfront costs.
Producers: After being exposed as frauds and schemers, they are sent to jail (where they go on to bilk criminals out of their dough) but then return to Broadway as legitimate, successful producers.
V.C. Summer: Westinghouse is protected from loss by filing bankruptcy.
SCE&G is protected by a law passed in 2007, which makes it easy for energy companies to get their money back from ratepayers if they try but fail to build a nuclear power plant. Meaning the more than 700,000 are now being targeted for at least an additional $2.2 billion (with a B) as SCE&G is already moving in that direction. But don’t worry; we won’t see the hikes “right away.”
Everyone still has their job — except the 5,000 construction workers who were unexpectedly fired.
SCANA’s top executives shared $21 million in bonuses over the past decade. Specifically: CEO and president Kevin Marsh received $1.4 million in bonuses in 2016 partially based on his “oversight and support of our nuclear construction activities.” CFO Jimmy Addison was paid an additional $620,000 last year for “efforts to secure financing related to our new nuclear construction project.”
No jail time. Everyone still has their job — well, except the 5,000 construction workers who were unexpectedly fired.
Producers: The little old ladies denied being victimized; they insisted that they were given “love” and companionship.
V.C. Summer: The 5,000 workers and their families who, in good faith, showed up to work and were given no notice of job, insurance or benefits loss.
SCE&G customers on the hook for at least $2.2 billion more.
Customers who financed the plants are left with a incomplete monument to waste and incompetence.
The biggest difference between “The Producers” and V.C. Summer is that one is fictional, has a great soundtrack, was made into an amazing Broadway play and makes you laugh.
The other is true, infuriating and heartbreaking.
The 5,000 have no job, no insurance, no benefits and no hope of getting help from their former employer. The communities where these folks moved to will suffer great financial loss as well. And finally, customers who financed the nuclear power plants are left with a incomplete monument to waste and incompetence.
Ms. Lane is a Chapin artist and former radio talk show host in Montgomery, Ala.; contact her at Mthrrbt@aol.com.