Utility pays bonuses to execs before nuclear project fails

$21 million paid out over past decade, review reveals
|payroll-reporter.com|Last Updated: 08/14/2017
Henry McMaster
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has said he is looking for ways for the project can continue to complete at least one of the reactors. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The company that led the failed effort to build two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina paid its executives millions in bonuses, some of it for work on the project, a review of federal records shows.

A review of filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show SCANA paid executives more than $21 million in performance bonuses over the past decade, including money for work on the V.C. Summer nuclear station north of Columbia, The State newspaper reported.

The filings do not say exactly how much of the $21 million was based on the failed project.

SCANA's South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. and the state-owned utility Santee Cooper last week abandoned plans for new reactors, for which they already paid $9 billion. Much of the money already was paid by customers.

The utilities blamed construction delays and cost overruns. The problems came to a head when lead contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection.

SCANA spokeswoman Rhonda O'Banion told the newspaper the company doesn't talk about employees' pay.

Last year, SCANA's top five executives received $3.3 million in performance based pay, according to the federal filings.

Nearly half of last year's performance pay went to SCANA president and chief executive Kevin Marsh and represents about a quarter of his $6 million in total compensation.

The filings said Marsh's $1.4 million performance-based bonus for 2016 was paid, in part, because of his “oversight and support of our nuclear construction activities.”

For most of the last 10 years, about half of the performance based pay was based on meeting profit goals. The rest was paid for individual and department goals, including construction milestones on the reactors.

A law passed in 2007 gave the utilities the ability to charge ratepayers for the reactors before they were completed. The same law allows the utilities to charge customers for the project even if it was not completed.

Some lawmakers are trying to stop the utilities from recovering the money. Lawmakers have been outraged by the failure of the project, whose projected costs ballooned from about $11 billion to more than $20 billion.

Both Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman of Florence and House Speaker Jay Lucas of Hartsville have appointed committees to review how the project failed and what can be done now.

Rep. Russell Ott of St. Matthews is a member of the House review panel.

“Knowing everything we know now, and knowing that we have a project that has been abandoned, those are pretty staggering numbers,” Ott said.

Gov. Henry McMaster has said he is looking for ways for the project can continue to complete at least one of the reactors. One of the ideas under consideration would include the sale of Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility that was responsible for 45 per cent of the project.

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