VC Summer nuclear (copy)

South Carolina utilities Santee Cooper and SCE&G reached a $2.2 billion settlement with Toshiba over costs of two nuclear units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville. File/SCANA Corp./Provided

The official website for the SCE&G class-action lawsuit is warning South Carolina residents to beware of a scam.

Now they tell us.

But everyone should take this alert seriously because these folks are proven experts in the field. Problem is, the ongoing saga of the V.C. Summer nuclear plants is rife with rip-offs — most of it perpetrated by SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G.

So, which particular scam are they talking about?

Is it the one where a monopoly utility extorts $2,000 from each of its customers over a decade under the guise of building nuclear plants, but instead fritters away $2 billion before abandoning the project?

Or is this about Dominion Energy offering $1,000 checks to every SCE&G customer while trying to drum up support to buy the utility, only to renege after the deal is set?

To make amends, the company magnanimously vowed that, to retire the remaining nuclear debt, we would have to pay only $7.10 a month … for the next 20 years.

Which is technically two separate scams.

Maybe it’s a reference to the lawsuit itself. Earlier this year, SCE&G — without admitting guilt — agreed to pay its customers back almost a whole 10 percent of the money it squandered. Attorneys got $51 million, more than a third, but announced that SCE&G’s former customers could expect to receive payments averaging $100.

So imagine our surprise — or the lack thereof — when those settlement checks began arriving last week and weren’t exactly as advertised. There have been more sightings of the Lizard Man than $100 settlement checks.

People are posting photos on social media of SCE&G checks for 86, 32 and even 19 cents. In other words, not even enough to cover the cost of mailing said rebates.

With such a comically poor sense of economics, it’s no wonder they couldn’t build those nuclear plants.

The upshot is we’ve been had again. These people have perfected the art of the steal, and if they were still in business they should change their name to SCAMA. It’s almost too funny to get mad about.

Almost.

“Many people have contacted me about the measly checks being sent out by SCE&G because so many heard the advertised false promises of a $1,000 check from Dominion,” says state Sen. Sandy Senn. “It was a bait and switch tactic, plain and simple.”

And that’s the problem, as well as the actual source of this most recent scam alert.

The class-action settlement website warns that some unscrupulous sorts are using a mash-up of these various broken promises as bait.

The ads, texts and emails say SCE&G customers may be eligible for a “$1,000 refund.” All victims have to do is call a special number — where some other crooks will get their personal information, and pick their pockets.

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Assuming SCE&G hasn’t already cleaned them out.

More than a decade ago, the Legislature gave SCANA permission to finance the V.C. Summer project with ongoing surcharges. Some people warned against this from the start, including many Charleston-area lawmakers, but no one could have anticipated just how terribly the utility would abuse that entitlement.

They spent money on executive bonuses, golden parachutes and a bunch of raw materials that were just left behind two years ago, and the company calculated it would be more profitable to simply not build the plants but keep charging us suckers.

Since then, people have been trying to get their money back. And most of us are seeing all that we ever will. For many folks, it was less than what the utility jacked from them in a single month.

“The bottom line is, we will never be paid back what we are owed from SCE&G,” Senn says. “The only thing that we as the Legislature can do to SCE&G/Dominion now is to make sure we elect new Public Service Commission members who will be more consumer friendly and who will hopefully tell Dominion to take a hike whenever they ask for a rate-raise in the future.”

It would take some real nerve to ask for a rate increase when we already pay more for electricity than most states — and continue to finance SCE&G’s past sins.

But then, there’s ample proof that some people have no shame.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

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