Dive Brief:

  • A South Carolina judge on Tuesday finalized what may be the largest private class action settlement in state history, including returning up to $146 million to customers of South Carolina Electric & Gas, related to the failed development of the VC Summer nuclear plant.
  • The settlement, agreed to last year, will return more than $2 billion to customers in the form of rate reductions and refunds. The deal was key to regulators approving Dominion Energy’s acquisition of SCE&G and its parent company SCANA.
  • SCE&G and its partner, Santee Cooper, in 2017 canceled development of the VC Summer nuclear project after costs spiraled to exceed $25 billion — a 75% increase over initial estimates. The two utilities spent $9 billion before pulling the plug.

Dive Insight:

Most details of the SCE&G settlement have been in place for months, but had been held up by a dispute over legal fees. The judge’s June 11 decision sends more than $50 million to the law firms which litigated the case — dropping the legal fees from $66 million.

“We fought to get as much money as possible for the ratepayers, and are glad that the legal fees awarded are less than half what was originally requested,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement.

Lawyers had initially requested fees that amounted to 22.7% of the settlement’s $2.2 billion maximum common benefit, according to Wilson. That request was later dropped to 3% and settled at around 2.3%.

Along with bill reductions, the deal means between $121 million and $146 million will be returned to SCE&G customers, with the final figure determined by certain asset sales.

Asked to comment on the settlement, a SCANA official said customers with questions regarding the judge’s order could find answers on a web site set up to address their concerns. 

The VC Summer debacle led to multiple rate hikes for SCE&G customers, with average customer’s bills including almost $30 in nuclear development costs at the peak. Bills have been more than $20/month lower, however, since South Carolina lawmakers last year passed a temporary rate cut and Dominion agreed to a permanent decrease related to its merger.

Dominion finalized its acquisition of Scana in January.