Kevin Fisher in 2018

Kevin Fisher

“This check is issued pursuant to the terms of the SCANA settlement in the class action…” – Notice accompanying check to former SCE&G customers, Aug. 2

For we the deceived, we the cheated and we the ones left holding the bag, it was a pittance.

We were not, and will never be, made whole. Or anything remotely near that. Indeed, to call it pennies on the dollar would be generous.

On the other side of the coin (so to speak), the lawyers suing SCANA won big. To be clear, I’m not saying they didn’t take risk, work hard and earn it. But I am saying they were overpaid under the circumstances.

Even after a judge reduced their fees in response to a legal challenge, the plaintiff’s attorneys involved in the case received over $50 million. That came to $2000 per hour. Yes, you read that right.

So, they were paid more for one hour of their time than the average customer was refunded for their many years of paying monthly for the now abandoned nuclear project.

Sorry counselors, but your good work notwithstanding it’s hard to see the economic justice in that. More of the money recovered could and should have been returned to those who paid it, not those who made it in legal fees at an hourly rate the average working person cannot imagine.

Moreover, former SCE&G customers will continue paying for those abandoned reactors for many years to come.

That’s because we were the unwitting suckers in the nuclear debacle, put in that position by the almighty SC Legislature and its Base Load Review Act. That is what made it all possible, allowing SCE&G and Santee Cooper to charge for the project before it was completed.

But alas it was never completed. Or anywhere near completed.

Instead, an endless stream of ratepayer money was simply poured into a hole in the ground in Fairfield County. That would be a literal hole in the ground, which is all we got in return for the billions we paid.

So, what did you buy with your SCANA settlement check? Dinner? Dinner for two if you were a long-term SCE&G ratepayer? Dinner for four if you were a high-usage customer?

I wish those were joking examples, but they’re not. The “dinner settlement” is our fate, and for lots of folks it will be dinner at McDonald’s. Your Legislature at work.

But while the civil case is now settled, the criminal side of the nuclear debacle remains remarkably quiet more than two years after the project’s spectacular collapse.

This in spite of the fact that the Public Service Commission eventually got off its bureaucratic backside and issued an official report finding that SCANA/SCE&G executives “intentionally misled” the public for years about both the progress and prospects of the doomed nuclear project.

Further, the PSC found those executives did that in order “to win electric rate hikes” for the failing project.

Topping it all off, The State reported some of those executives even got “performance bonuses” based on the “progress” made on construction of the nuclear reactors. No, I’m not kidding.

While there have been references in news stories to both state and federal criminal probes, nothing has happened yet. The obvious question is: Where are the indictments?

As for our state’s now gone-to-history utility and the executives who sent it there, they brought it on themselves.

While those SCANA/SCE&G officials worked for a monopoly, they also seemed to think they were playing with Monopoly money. But they weren’t, it was ours.

And there should be no “Get Out of Jail Free” card for them in this game.

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.


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