1-VC Summer Sept 18 2017 IMG_0482 for pc-101517-bz-scanaboard (copy) (copy)

SCE&G and Santee Cooper halted work at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station expansion in July. Provided.

As it sifts through who knew what about the demise of the state's massive nuclear project, South Carolina's utility watchdog wants to question the sort of people you'd expect:

The man who was in charge of South Carolina Electric & Gas' nuclear plans. The new chief executive of its parent company, SCANA Corp. The CEO throughout its final years.

But that's not all. The Office of Regulatory Staff, which audits the state's power companies, also wants to question nuclear project insiders who aren't so closely aligned with SCE&G's interests.

They include a former employee who left a scathing voicemail accusing the company of mismanaging the project to boost profits, ex-contractors who are cooperating with opposing legal teams and a partner utility's employees, who secretly critiqued SCE&G for years.

The agency also wants to use depositions taken for other cases, like the lawsuits filed against SCE&G by its electricity users.

SCE&G opposed that idea because it wants to put limits on the agency's depositions, like requiring that they stay confidential. The state's Public Service Commission, which has the final say on who will pay for the $9 billion failure of the V.C. Summer nuclear project, said the interviews would be allowed, but regulators will have the final say on what is made public.

But some of the potential witnesses' remarks are already on the record — in court filings, public records and newspaper reports.

Here's what they've said so far.

Carlette Walker, SCE&G

Walker was in the inner circle at V.C. Summer throughout the project's key years, when she was SCE&G's vice president of finance for the construction effort. She was in charge of keeping tabs on its $9 billion budget, oversaw the team that cut billions of dollars of checks to contractors and kept in touch with SCE&G's top brass.

By 2016, however, her feelings about the project had apparently turned. More than a year before it went belly-up, she called her counterpart at Santee Cooper, SCE&G's partner on the project, and implored him to block any budget increases.

In a scathing voicemail obtained by The Post and Courier, she accused her bosses of mismanaging the project and stringing it along to boost the company's profits — and their bonuses.

"I know the truth now, and I don't want you and Santee to get screwed any more," she said. She continued: "They are mismanaging that project, and it's at y'all's expense. ... They're all on the frigging take."

Brian McIntyre, Westinghouse

At least two former officials at Westinghouse, the company responsible for building the new reactors at V.C. Summer, are cooperating with attorneys opposing SCE&G. McIntyre is one of them.

And in a lawsuit filed on behalf of investors in SCE&G's parent company, he raised a startling point: In on-site meetings, utility officials openly doubted the project's schedule.

It was simple math, he said in an interview. Workers were completing less than 1 percent of the reactors each month, and at that pace, they had little chance of finishing on time.

"It was a statement of the obvious," McIntyre said.

The Office of Regulatory Staff has also said it wants to interview at least three other current and former Westinghouse employees, including Danny Roderick, its CEO until 2016.

Roderick was gone before the project was cancelled. But in May 2017, one Santee Cooper employee disparagingly refered to him as a "blowhole" as he criticized his leadship on the project.  

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Lonnie Carter, Michael Crosby and Marion Cherry, Santee Cooper

In public, South Carolina's state-owned utility, Santee Cooper, didn't raise many concerns about what was happening with the nuclear project. But internally, it was worried, since its share of the reactors was costing billions of dollars.

And its top nuclear officials didn't mince words. An unsigned Santee Cooper memo described SCE&G's team as "naive" for trusting Westinghouse and "unwilling to take a stand." It said the utility had "consistently demonstrated ineptitude" in keeping contractors in check.

They griped over email, too. Michael Crosby, Santee Cooper's vice president of nuclear energy, wrote his boss in 2013 about a handful of emerging concerns. And he echoed a point apparently made by his boss, former Santee Cooper chief executive Lonnie Carter.

"As you stated a few days ago, no one at SCE&G ... acts concerned" besides its CEO, Crosby wrote to Carter. "I've come to learn they are a status quo group."

Ty Troutman, Bechtel

Much of the furor around the nuclear project has swirled around a bombshell report detailing its problems, the so-called Bechtel report.

The audit laid out a litany of problems at the construction site, from bad designs to a missing work schedule. It was written by Bechtel Corp., a major engineering and construction firm with experience running massive projects.

The auditors work was led by Ty Troutman, Bechtel's general manager for nuclear power. His deposition is key, because Bechtel is central to allegations that SCE&G knew about problems but kept them out of the public eye. SCE&G contends Bechtel was simply trying to be hired as a contractor on the project. 

Troutman was also involved in other versions of the report, like an earlier draft that raised doubts about contractors' ability to finish the project on time. He also wrote a memo suggesting that SCE&G and Santee Cooper were "relatively inexperienced or reluctant to act" as construction slid off the rails.

"While this was not our original focus, the oversight structure has risen to a higher-than-expected level of concern," the October 2015 memo said, nearly two years before construction was called off. It went on to say that the project's owners and their contractors lacked "basic project management tools and controls."

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