SC judge says class-action lawsuits against SCE&G can continue

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A state judge has denied a motion by SCE&G to stop five class-action complaints.

The suit seeks to stop the utility from charging customers for the failed nuclear plants in Fairfield County.

The multi-billion dollar project was abandoned last July...leaving many ratepayers paying an average of $27 a month more to offset the costs.

"Today's order is the first real step toward keeping the power companies from continuing to benefit from their past misdeeds and negligence stemming from the billions of dollars charged to ratepayers to pay for the now-failed V.C. Summer nuclear plants," said plaintiff's attorney Ed Bell of Bell Legal Group.  He and colleagues filed one of five separate actions related to the failed projects.  The order applies to each of the cases, which are listed below.

Bell said on Friday he and other plaintiff's attorneys involved in the cases would continue to push for their clients in the actions against the utilities

"We will continue to press forward to hold the company accountable," said Bell, a nationally-prominent attorney from Georgetown.  "It should be cut off from future payments for the failed project and clean up its house on its own, not on the backs of ratepayers for the next 20 years.  It's just plain wrong to charge ratepayers well into the future for the company's failure."

The order issued today by S.C. Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III denied SCE&G's attempt to dismiss the plaintiff cases against the company, which alleged the court didn't have jurisdiction, among other arguments.

"Plaintiff's Complaint properly states causes of action in the original jurisdiction of the Circuit Court, which the PSC [S.C. Public Service Commission] is incapable of hearing," the court wrote.  "The relief sought by Plaintiff is not available through the PSC or any other administrative channel.  And Plaintiff's claims are separate and distinct from those matters currently pending before the PSC."

In the order, Hayes wrote the issues brought by plaintiffs were "well within the everyday purview of this court."  He also wrote the company received settlement funds after the project failed, but didn't share them with customers, who have been paying for the project since 2008.

"Despite Plaintiff funding a significant portion of the Project over the past nine years, SCE&G has kept all proceeds of this settlement and has not returned any of the settlement proceeds to Plaintiff."
Bell added it was good that the cases were heard together because it saved time for plaintiffs and the court.
"Having this order applied to the other cases will help make something that's complicated easier to remedy," he said.

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