Crime & Courts

Santee Cooper hires 3 SC criminal lawyers in grand jury probe of nuclear debacle

Debbie Barbier, Johnny Gasser
Debbie Barbier, Johnny Gasser John Monk

The state-owned Santee Cooper utility has hired three high-profile S.C. criminal defense lawyers in connection with an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle.

The three attorneys, all from Columbia, are Johnny Gasser, Greg Harris and Debbie Barbier. All are former federal prosecutors who have worked in the U.S. attorney’s office in Columbia.

That office is overseeing an FBI and federal grand jury probe into a failed multi-billion-dollar nuclear reactor project in Fairfield County. That project was owned by SCANA, a public investor-owned utility, and Santee Cooper.

Gasser, Harris and Barbier were spotted recently sitting in the back row of a Legislative hearing where Santee Cooper chief executive Lonnie Carter was testifying. The attorneys refused comment.

Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore confirmed the attorneys had been hired. “They are providing help on subpoena-related work.”

Both utilities have been served with grand jury subpoenas for records.

When the utilities abandoned the project in July, they had spent $9 billion. Rate payers for both utilities have been charged about $2 billion so far for the project.

All three lawyers also are defending clients in the ongoing state grand jury probe into State House corruption.