Columbia, SC (WLTX) - South Carolina state senators spent five hours Tuesday grilling SCE&G and Santee Cooper officials on the decision to abandon a multi-billion dollar project at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.
The hearings were the first in a series of meetings as lawmakers investigate why the two utilities walked away from the construction of two nuclear reactors at the plant earlier this summer, a decision that ultimately cost 5,600 people their jobs
There were a lot of questions during the hearing held on the State House grounds, as well as finger-pointing. Both utilities put the blame for the failures on Westinghouse, the company contracted to build the reactors.
The project was over budget and had taken much longer than projected to be completed. Westinghouse ultimately declared bankruptcy, and was taken over by Toshiba. Toshiba then reached a $2.2 billion settlement over the project.
SCE&G and Santee Cooper said had they noticed red flags with Westinghouse since 2014. Santee Cooper mentioned that Westinghouse had delayed the construction by 77 months total, and the company alleged there had been mismanagement by Westinghouse.
Both companies apologized for what happened but lawmakers were not in a sympathetic mood.
"We went a number of years with Westinghouse just screwing you over and we just let it happen," said State Sen. Shane Massey. "We can sit here and blame Westinghouse all day, we can blame a partner or two, but at some point we can't pass the buck any more."
SCE&G started suspending payments to Westinghouse in 2011 because they weren't performing. But the partnership remained until the company went into bankruptcy and the project was abandoned.
Back on July 31, Santee Cooper announced first they would leave the project. Hours later, so did SCE&G. SCE&G has said it would have been too expensive to move forward with work on the reactors by themselves.
An idea has been gaining steam for Santee Cooper to sell its 45 percent stake in the construction project, a deal suggested even suggested by Gov. Henry McMaster. But so far, Santee Cooper says they haven't had any serious offers.
Even if someone stepped forward, SCE&G isn't sure yet if they could continue. They also say it would take at least a year to restart construction.
SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh was set to testify during the hearing, but had to leave before his speaking time after he was rushed to the hospital with a medical emergency. SCE&G later said Marsh was deailng with pain from kidney stones, and would be released from the hospital shortly.