A circuit court judge on July 20 gave final approval to a $520-million settlement in a class action civil suit brought against Santee Cooper over alleged deceptive business practices involving the failed nuclear-expansion project at South Carolina’s Summer plant.
Santee Cooper was the junior partner to SCANA Corporation’s South Carolina Electric and Gas in the two-reactor project, which was canceled in July 2017 (NN, Aug. 2017, p. 17). In July 2019, SCANA became a wholly owned subsidiary of Virginia-based Dominion Energy (NN, Feb. 2019, p. 15).
According to the lawsuit, brought by ratepayers, Santee Cooper raised rates to cover the increasing costs of the Summer expansion even after becoming aware that the project was no longer viable.
Judge Jean: The judge in the case, Jean Toal, a former South Carolina Supreme Court chief justice, had given her preliminary approval to the settlement in March, at that time calling it “a remarkable accomplishment in one of the most complex pieces of litigation in my 50-plus years in practice that I’ve ever seen,” and “by far the largest settlement or potential verdict of its type in this state.” In the July 20 hearing, Toal again lauded the settlement, saying that it was “fair and adequate and quite a win for the ratepayers in the plaintiff class.”
The terms: Under the agreement, Santee Cooper will compensate its ratepayers to the tune of $200 million and freeze electricity rates for four years, while Dominion will pay $320 million. As part of the settlement, nearly all of Santee Cooper’s 1.7 million residential, commercial, industrial, and other customers will receive a cash payment of some kind after about 90 days, according to attorneys connected to the case. Refund amounts of less than $25 are to be provided via credits on electricity bills.
Despite the settlement, neither Santee Cooper nor Dominion has admitted to any fault in the case.
The quote: “We are glad to be at this point in the settlement process and appreciate the court’s swift decision,” said Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore. “This settlement is good for our customers, and Santee Cooper is taking the steps necessary to move forward.”
Of note: Another class action suit, this one brought by SCANA shareholders over the company’s involvement in the Summer project, was settled two weeks ago for $192.5 million.