Nuclear Power Station (copy) (copy) (copy) (copy)

Work on two reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant came to a halt last summer. Efforts by SCE&G to toss lawsuits tied to the project's failure were rejected last week by the S.C. Court of Appeals and a federal district judge. File/Grace Beahm/Staff

A slate of lawsuits seeking refunds for South Carolina Electric & Gas ratepayers can go forward, the state Court of Appeals says.

SCE&G had tried to have four cases tied to its failed nuclear project tossed, arguing the courts shouldn’t decide how much electricity-users pay for service. Ratepayers sued for lower bills and refunds after the costly expansion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station crumbled, saying they shouldn’t pay for a project that won’t produce power.

In an order handed down last week, the Court of Appeals sided with the ratepayers — at least enough to keep their case alive. It agreed with a trial court’s decision not to dismiss the cases.

The trial court rejected SCE&G’s contention that the work of setting utility rates belongs only to the S.C. Public Service Commission. The court found the V.C. Summer case opens questions larger than rates alone — questions like the constitutionality of the law that helped finance the failed project.

“This action does not challenge the ratemaking process,” Judge John C. Hayes III wrote in his initial order in March. “Rather, it alleges that consumers were charged rates for a benefit that SCE&G failed to deliver.”

In a statement, SCE&G said it still thinks the Public Service Commission is the “best forum for the issues related to rates and customer refunds to be decided.” It also described the raft of lawsuits filed against it as an effort by dozens of lawyers to win significant fees.

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

Separately, SCE&G faced another setback Friday in a case filed by former V.C. Summer construction workers. The company is accused of not giving enough notice before calling off work on the site, leaving thousands of people in the lurch.

The lawsuit seeks extra pay for workers, who under federal law are generally entitled to two months’ notice of mass layoffs. SCE&G had argued it wasn’t responsible for giving notice because the workers were employed by its contractors.

U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs disagreed and rejected SCE&G’s effort to toss the lawsuit, saying the utility appeared to have “de facto control” over its contractors’ crews.

Lawyers will now argue whether the case should be granted class-action status.

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703. Follow him on Twitter @thadmoore.