Featured Image Source: Grace Beahm Alford – Post & Courier
Kevin Marsh, the former CEO of SCANA, has entered into a federal plea deal on charges of fraud and conspiracy in relation to the VC Summer nuclear expansion in Fairfield County. Marsh is accused of defrauding nearly one million South Carolinians who paid inflated utility bills to fund the now-defunct project.
SCE&G and partner Santee Cooper pitched the ambitious project as a one-fix-wonder to growing concerns surrounding accessible energy versus environmental concerns. The duo claimed that the $8 billion dollar investment would provide South Carolinians with a reliable source of clean energy at an affordable cost… once the plant was in operation. Until then, customers would be footing the bill. Customers were led to believe the increased utility prices were only a short term sacrifice for a long term solution, but executives like Marsh made sure customers were left completely in the dark.
According to the South Carolina U.S Attorneys Office, Marsh and co-conspirators, including Santee Cooper executives who have yet to be held responsible, covered-up the structural, logistical, and financial issues that doomed the project from the start. Marsh was found culpable of falsifying critical evaluations and misleading both investors and stakeholders in an attempt to salvage the project as they quietly raised utility prices nine times over the course of the venture.
With the fate of Santee Cooper (a state-owned entity) undecided, customers may be looking at even higher energy costs if lawmakers refuse to sell Santee Cooper. As a state-owned utility, Santee Cooper does not have to adhere to the same regulatory scrutiny as investor-owned utilities and executives can raise rates with just the approval of their own board. Critics point out this lack of accountability is what led to the VC Summer debacle and debt in the first place.
After accepting the prosecutors plea, Marsh is now the second executive to plead guilty rather than face a criminal court. While the specifics of the plea deal are not yet confirmed, it is almost certain Marsh will spend time behind bars along with hefty fines.
Meanwhile, Santee Cooper’s former CEO, Lonnie Carter, retired right after the VC Summer scandal made headlines with a very comfortable retirement package that is also being paid for by Santee Cooper customers, in addition to any legal fees he and other executives managed to rack up.
More cases of criminal misconduct related to the failed VC Summer project are expected to surface as the investigation continues.