South Carolina Electric & Gas faces another lawsuit that alleges the power company mismanaged its effort to build two nuclear reactors, adding to a tangled web of legal actions in the wake of the project’s cancellation.
The lawsuit, filed late Monday by 10 Fairfield County residents, accuses SCE&G and its parent company, SCANA Corp., of fraud and negligence in the years leading up to July’s decision to abandon the expansion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, which cost $9 billion.
The complaint, which is seeking class-action status, is the second to seek refunds for SCE&G’s more than 700,000 customers, who have paid roughly $1.4 billion toward the project and are expected to keep paying for the reactors for decades.
It joins a series of legal actions over the project’s demise that been filed against SCE&G and its partner, state-owned utility Santee Cooper, as well as the contractors building the reactors. The lawsuits have sought refunds for customers, extra wages for workers and payments for subcontractors.
The rush follows the utilities’ July 31 decision to pull the plug on the reactors after lead contractor Westinghouse Electric filed for bankruptcy protection. The power companies’ analysis found that the project was several years behind schedule and its price tag was expected to roughly double initial estimates.
The Fairfield County lawsuit argues that SCE&G, which has a 55 percent stake in the reactors, should have known about those problems earlier, saying that the effort was "not feasible" and not being held to a comprehensive construction schedule.
"The defendants knew or should have known that the project was not economically viable and was not progressing as a proper pace much earlier," according to the lawsuit, which was filed by Georgetown attorney Ed Bell.
SCANA spokeswoman Rhonda O'Banion declined to comment on the litigation, but said in a statement that SCANA is "confident that the company’s actions complied with all legal requirements."
V.C. Summer is in Fairfield County. It's about 30 miles north of Columbia.