South Carolina’s state police confirmed Tuesday they are investigating South Carolina Electric & Gas and its parent company SCANA.
A spokeswoman for the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed the investigation with the Associated Press on Tuesday. SLED launched the probe at the request of state House Speaker Jay Lucas. Lucas on Monday wrote a letter to SLED Chief Mark Keel requesting the review of the failed V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project.
State Reps. Peter McCoy, R-James Island, and Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, also signed the letter. Both are chairing the House panel looking into the project’s failure.
“It has become our belief that the proximate cause of the V.C. Summer collapse is a direct result of misrepresentation by SCANA and SCE&G,” Lucas stated. “We also believe that criminal fraud through the concealment of material information is also a plausible cause for the project’s disastrous collapse.”
SCANA confirmed the investigation in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday. The FBI has also subpoenaed documents related to the project’s failure.
Meanwhile, the state Attorney General’s Office questioned the constitutionality of a 2007 law which allowed SCE&G and its construction partner Santee Cooper to charge customers for the project’s $9 billion cost on the front end. “The Base Load Review Act, which is constitutionally suspect, is unprecedented in South Carolina history,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said.
Solicitor General Robert Cook crafted the opinion, which is not legally binding but indicates how a court might rule. He noted the state constitution allows lawmakers to regulate utilities “to the extent required by the public interest.” However, he questioned how allowing utilities to continue charging customers for an abandoned, unfinished plant.
“It is not ‘in the public interest’ to increase the power bills of consumers who receive nothing in return,” the opinion said. He argued it could be seen as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on governments taking private land for public purposes without due process or compensation. However, Cook emphasized the law is constitutional until a court rules otherwise.