County takes SCE&G to court

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County faced off with attorneys for South Carolina Gas and Electric (SCE&G) last week in Common Pleas Court in Winnsboro before Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Brian Gibbons.

Lawyers for the County called for the immediate issuance of a temporary injunction against SCE&G based on what the County says is the power company’s failure to comply with the terms of the County’s fee-in-lieu contract with SCE&G. The county also asked for an immediate, temporary restraining order to prevent SCE&G from abandoning the project at V.C. Summer nuclear plant and not protecting the assets at the plant.

Fairfield County’s Director of Economic Development, Ty Davenport, explains the economic impact of the VC Summer abandonment on the County.

At the heart of the County’s concern is getting access to the plant so it can assess all aspects of the property.

Terry Richardson, Jr. of Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman law firm, one of two law firms representing the County in the lawsuit, said the County is only asking to hold the status quo until it can assess the property. He said the County has been trying to get access but that SCE&G hasn’t responded.

Judge Gibbons determined that it is the County’s right, according the Fee-in-Lieu agreement to have full access for the purpose of assessing the property.

Richardson said the County is eager to go in the following Monday (Dec. 18) to begin the assessment. Gibbons said he planned to have a ruling on Thursday, Dec. 21, and asked Richardson to have the evaluations and assessments back to him by Wednesday, Dec. 20.

“We were ready to take our county assessor, Randy Roberts, and a team of assessors from the State Department of Revenue in with us on Tuesday,” County Administrator Jason Taylor said on Wednesday. “But even though SCE&G promised to give us access, they have not given that access yet. We don’t know when we will be allowed in. A lot of things are happening in Columbia right now. We need to talk to the attorneys to see what the outcome of this thing is going to be. We were supposed to have the information back in to Judge Gibbons today (Wednesday, Dec. 20) and be back in to court for his ruling tomorrow, so I don’t know when that’s going to happen,” Taylor said.

Richardson said there is immediate concern, as well, that SCE&G is turning in its nuclear license for the two reactors, a $9 billion issue for this county.

“That would have tremendous ramifications for the County,” Richardson told the Court. “We want to get our County people out there evaluating that property and take a look at it, inspect and evaluate it. We need all that to be done before the license is turned back, before there is complete and total abandonment of the site. There may be pollution issues, permits may be needed,” Richardson said. “We want to hold the status quo.”

According to sources who asked not to be quoted, there is speculation that SCE&G could soon be turning its license over to Santee Cooper.

“The license is a huge asset and we want to slow the process down before they turn it in,” Taylor said. “We hope to work with the governor and the state for a good outcome.”

The County’s lawsuit alleges breach of contract, fraud negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and unfair trade practices. The County claims that SCE&G’s expressed intention to abandon the project and dispose of the properties, plus abandon regulatory permits and licenses by year’s end in order to gain a tax advantage, deprives the County of determining what potential tax and license fees could be due from the property within its jurisdiction and may leave dangerous or potentially dangerous conditions to the County’s citizens.

Judge Gibbons told attorneys for both parties that his ruling, when it is given, will be only temporary.

The McDonald McKenzie, Rubin Miller and Lybrand law firm is also representing the County.