carter marsh sitting.jpg (copy) (copy) (copy)

Former Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter and former SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh sit next to each other during a media tour at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

When Dominion Energy purchased S.C. Electric & Gas earlier this year, it agreed to take on a sprawling web of lawsuits the South Carolina utility faced as a result of the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.   

The list of legal and tax liabilities Dominion voluntarily inherited is long.

It includes disputes with former contractors. There's also a legal fight with the nuclear construction workers who were abruptly laid off in July 2017. A federal lawsuit accuses SCE&G of racketeering. There's a fight with Fairfield County over a property tax deal that SCE&G entered into for the two reactors that were never completed. 

And there's an ongoing probe by the state Department of Revenue to determine if the utility owes taxes on billions of dollars in parts and materials it purchased for the abandoned nuclear power plants.  

But 10 months after Dominion cemented its takeover, the Virginia-based energy giant is arguing it shouldn't have to cover all of those legal bills on its own.  

Dominion's attorneys sent a letter to Santee Cooper, the minority owner of the failed nuclear project, on Oct. 21. It demanded the state-run utility cover 45 percent of Dominion's costs for nine separate legal disputes. 

The lawyers for Dominion say Santee Cooper owes the money because of its earlier agreement with SCE&G to build the two reactors. Santee Cooper owned 45 percent of the project. Dominion is arguing that obligates Santee Cooper to cover 45 percent of its legal liabilities. 

"To date, Santee Cooper has failed to honor its contractual obligations," Carlos Brown, Dominion's attorney wrote in his letter.

Dominion declined to tell The Post and Courier how much it has spent on all of those legal disputes so far.

Part of Dominion's demands to Santee Cooper, however, include a roughly $200 million settlement it entered into with current and former SCE&G customers earlier this year. Ratepayers recovered the mostly small-dollar checks as part of that settlement in August. 

Dominion's argument didn't sit well with Santee Cooper, which believes it doesn't owe Dominion anything. As a result, the Moncks Corner utility asked a judge Thursday to block Dominion from trying to extract millions of dollars from Santee Cooper and its ratepayers. 

The fight over the legal costs is a sign of how hostile the relationship between the two utilities has become. It's far different from the united front the companies tried to display shortly after they abandoned the $9 billion reactors. 

It's not the first time the former business partners have confronted each other in court.

Santee Cooper is still arguing that Dominion, as SCE&G's new owner, should be responsible for any claims filed against the state-run utility. Santee Cooper wants to be held harmless in several other pending lawsuits, including complaints filed by South Carolina's 20 electric cooperatives. 

We're starting a weekly newsletter about the business stories that are shaping Charleston and South Carolina. Get ahead with us - it's free.


In a filing late last year, Santee Cooper blamed SCE&G's former executives for mismanaging the multibillion-dollar nuclear project. 

"SCE&G’s 'hands-off' approach to managing the project delayed implementation of corrective measures and contributed to the project’s failure," Santee Cooper's attorney argued in December. 

In its letter last month, Dominion pushed back against those claims. 

Brown, Dominion's attorney, criticized Santee Cooper for trying to pass all of the blame to SCE&G, and he accused Santee Cooper for pushing a "well-publicized effort to publicly castigate SCE&G as the scapegoat for abandonment." 

"Santee Cooper's ongoing false narrative omits any reference to Santee Cooper's own role in the oversight of the project," Brown wrote. 

It's now up to Jean Toal, a former chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court, to settle the bitter legal disputes between the two utilities.

Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.