The South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) that hearing which will set South Carolina Electric & Gas’s (SCE&G) future power rates and decide whether the utility’s holding company SCANA, customers or both will have to pay off its nearly $5 billion in nuclear construction debt dragged on again Monday.
Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) consultant Gary Jones said he reviewed the failed V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project. He argued SCE&G’s electric customers should not pay for the failed expansion project. “These costs were imprudent and should be disallowed by the PSC as a basis for recovery due to the abandonment by SCE&G.”
SCE&G attorneys have insisted ORS staff knew of the project’s major problems and is blaming SCE&G for the failed project.
Last week representatives of SCE&G blamed the project’s failure on lead contractor Westinghouse for declaring bankruptcy in March 2017. That in turn, they said forced them and state-owned partner utility, Santee Cooper, to stop construction and back completely out of the project in July 2017.
The PSC entered a fourth day of hearings Tuesday with no apparent ending in sight for a process expected to last up to a month. The commission and parties involved in the hearings have the right to question witnesses.
At issue is a state law approved by the legislature earlier this year which dictated that SCE&G could not spend ratepayer money if the costs were not incurred “prudently.” ORS is trying to argue SCE&G leaders knew by 2015 that V.C. Summer was unlikely to be completed on-budget and within its scheduled window. The utility maintains it trusted Westinghouse and believed the contractor’s estimates were accurate. However, ORS has submitted SCANA emails which seem to suggest at least some highly-placed employees did not trust the Westinghouse budget and timeline.