SCANA’s former chief operating officer testified at a South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing that he was skeptical about the Bechtel Report, the audit of how things were doing before the failed nuclear expansion at the VC Summer plant in Fairfield County.
Stephen Byrne told commissioners he had concerns about the report. “I was also concerned that Bechtel was motivated in part by a desire to get more permanent work on the project,” he testified. “Bechtel had made references to their experience working as owners, engineer in prior meetings with the owners and attempted to pitch for additional work on the project.”
SCANA, parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), and state-owned Santee Cooper abandoned the project in July 2017 when they realized it was financially impossible to finish both reactors under construction.
“I was surprised to see a project schedule in the presentation because Bechtel was not asked, to my knowledge, to re-baseline the schedule,” Byrne said. And I did not think that Bechtel had sufficient time or information to do so.”
Byrne maintained he did not read the report until after the project had been canceled, but he did sit in on Bechtel’s presentation of its findings in 2016.
The purpose of the hearings is to determine who pays for the debt as a result of the abandoned construction. The PSC has until Dec. 21 to permanently set SCE&G’s electric rates, which went up by as much $27 a month for the average residential customer as the company received nine rate increases to finance VC Summer.
Opponents of further ratepayer involvement, such as the Office of Regulatory Staff, maintain that SCE&G officials misled state regulators about the project’s viability in order to continue receiving rate hikes. ORS has focused on the Bechtel report, which was kept confidential from investors and regulators, to justify its arguments that SCANA knew its project was unlikely to finish on time. SCANA officials have tried to downplay the report, however, saying they relied more on contractor schedules than the audit.