SCE&G is trying to keep secret thousands of pages of documents that could explain more about why the utility's V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project failed last year.
The embattled utility, accused of keeping the public in the dark as the project began to fall apart, asked the state Public Service Commission last week not to force it to give the public records that it considers confidential under S.C. law.
Environmentalists are seeking the records to bolster their legal case, alleging SCE&G did not wisely spend money while building the project and its customers should be reimbursed up to $2 billion in higher rates that they were charged.
SCE&G is upset the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth already have released some 70,000 pages of company documents that the two groups obtained as part of their lawsuit. The utility doesn't want more records released to the public by the groups.
In its April 20 filing with the PSC, SCE&G says the groups "have no right to publicly disseminate every document they receive ... as they apparently have done to date.'' The utility claims some of the records the groups are seeking contain sensitive information.
Environmentalists have used the legal process to "gratify private spite, promote public scandal, circulate libelous statements or release trade secrets,'' SCE&G says.
The State and The Post and Courier published stories in March that relied on the SCE&G records, SCE&G says in the PSC filing. SCE&G asks the commission to deny a request by Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club to force the release of more records unless the groups agree to keep the information confidential.
Bob Guild, a lawyer for the environmental groups, said he's not signing a confidentiality agreement, adding the public has a right to know what happened. His groups have released records they received from SCE&G and will do so again when they receive more records, he said.
"We believe journalists are entitled to this information, regulators are entitled to it and ratepayers are entitled to it,''' Guild said. "We have shared with anybody who has expressed an interest.''
Guild said SCE&G is trying to hide potentially damaging information.
Among the records Guild is seeking are documents that support the Bechtel report, a study that found a variety of problems at the V.C. Summer site. SCE&G had kept the Bechtel report secret, but it became public last fall after Gov. Henry McMaster obtained and released it.
"This is evidence bearing on the prudency of the project,'' Guild said.
Last July, SCE&G and its junior partner, the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, walked away from the V.C. Summer expansion project after spending $9 billion and nearly a decade on construction. The nuclear project would have added two reactors to an existing reactor in Fairfield County.