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Consultant says South Carolina utility ignored problems

November 13, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An independent consultant says a South Carolina utility ignored warnings about problems with construction of two nuclear reactors that it abandoned last year.

Scott Rubin testified on behalf of AARP at a hearing in Columbia where regulators will decide who will pay for the failed $9 billion project in Fairfield County, The State newspaper reported.

“You have a utility that bet the farm and lost,” Rubin said Monday. “By the end of the year, customers will have paid $2.2 billion for absolutely nothing, not a single watt of electricity.”

Rubin testified there were numerous signs in 2013 and 2014 that the project should have been canceled sooner. Those signs included a 14-page summary of problems with work by contractors, written by SCE&G’s own chief executive in 2014.

The Public Service Commission is considering whether SCE&G customers, the shareholders of its parent company SANA, or both should pay the costs.

SCE&G and the state-owned utility Santee Cooper abandoned the project in July 2017, blaming the bankruptcy of principal contractor Westinghouse for the failure.

Rubin also pointed out that Santee Cooper, tried unsuccessfully in 2012 and 2013 to find another utility to buy part of the project.

“Other utilities thought the cost was too high, the benefits too small and the risks too great,” Rubin said. He said SCE&G customers should not pay anything else for the project.

The Public Service Commission is holding what is expected to be a monthlong hearing. A number of groups are participating, including AARP, which advocates for senior citizens, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

The Public Service Commission is also considering whether Dominion Energy of Virginia can buy SCANA. Dominion has said it might walk away from the purchase if its unable to recover the costs of the failed project.

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