Dominion buys out SCANA: How we got here
In newly unsealed documents, a former SCANA employee says the utility’s then-chief executive, Kevin Marsh, put her on “special medical leave” after she went to him with concerns about a failing, $9 billion nuclear project.
Carlette Walker, once SCANA’s vice president of Nuclear Finance Administration, also testified that, in 2015, her bosses filed misleading testimony under her name with state regulators about how much the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion project would cost.
“While I was out, they wrote testimony under my name, and they filed testimony under my name with the (lower cost) number that I had fought against,” Walker said in an April 24 deposition.
Walker’s full sworn statement — parts had been released before with sections blacked out, or redacted — was made public Thursday as the S.C. Public Service Commission began its weeks-long hearing into the nuclear-related power rates of SCE&G, SCANA’s electric subsidiary.
A spokesman for SCE&G said the utility would not comment except during the PSC hearing.
Previously, most of the pages of Walker’s 187-page deposition had been at least partially blacked out at SCE&G’s request. However, PSC hearing officer David Butler ruled Wednesday the entire document should be made public.
The state’s utility watchdog, the Office of Regulatory Staff, plans to use Walker’s deposition as evidence SCE&G misled the PSC — which sets utility rates — in order to keep the project alive, and its revenues and executive bonuses flowing.
In her deposition, Walker said she had projected the cost to finish the floundering project was about $500 million higher than contractors had estimated. But, she said, her SCANA bosses submitted the contractors’ lower numbers — which she considered unrealistic — to regulators in her name while she was out of work on leave, taking care of her sick husband.
Another former SCE&G employee, Ken Browne, said in his deposition the contractor’s cost projections were based upon productivity rates that V.C. Summer construction workers never had attained. Work was going so slowly, the project could have taken far longer — until 2030 — to complete, Browne said.
According to Walker’s deposition, when Browne objected internally to SCE&G using the lower cost submitted to the PSC, under Walker’s name, he was “pretty much cussed out by (SCE&G outside attorney) Mitch Willoughby and put in his place, and so he just shut up.”
In the formerly redacted portions of her deposition, Walker said she went to both then-SCANA CEO Marsh and current CEO Jimmy Addison — then the company’s chief financial officer — with concerns about the nuclear project in the fall of 2015.
She said she approached Addison with a file showing how she came to her cost projection. However, Addison explained he would choose the lower, contractor-provided cost number, she said.
Walker said she also took her objection to Marsh.
“And, much to my surprise, Kevin didn’t want to hear what I had to say,” Walker told attorneys. “And he put me on medical leave. A ‘special medical leave’ was the term he used. And so I was on medical leave for three months. And it was obvious when he put me on the medical leave that it was a complete exit from the company.”
Walker said the executives were arrogant and “didn’t want to hear it” when she sounded alarms.
“They wouldn’t even listen to Bechtel,” she said, referring to the San Francisco-based civil engineering firm that SCE&G and Santee Cooper hired to assess the project in 2015.
Bechtel authored a report listing a host of serious problems with the project, including SCE&G’s oversight. The Cayce-based utility since has sought to discredit the report that it and Santee Cooper paid Bechtel $1 million to produce.
“I mean, these guys (were) propping up everything, trying to make it look great, and then all the sudden the deck of cards all just fell apart,” Walker said. “I mean, you can only lie so long before the truth just – I mean, it has to come out.”
Ultimately, Walker resigned after hiring an attorney to negotiate her departure from SCANA. Walker signed a nondisclosure agreement that prevents her from discussing the nuclear project unless ordered to do so by a court, according to her deposition.
Walker said the internal fight over the project’s cost, coupled with her husband’s illness, left her “stressed to the max” and suffering from headaches.
Still, she said she had trusted Marsh up until her last meeting with him.
“That’s when I found out that Kevin Marsh was just a piece of trash, and he’d been lying to me for two years, and that he would lie and steal from every person in South Carolina to line his own pocket.”