Lexington County Chronicle
July 6, 2020
Project said to be major reason Dominion was willing to buy SCANA, SCE&G
By Jerry Bellune
Dominion Energy and Duke Energy have canceled their costly, long-delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The pipeline to bring natural gas from West Virginia to the NC-SC coast was a major reason Dominion was believed to be willing to buy failing SCANA Corp.
The Lexington County-based owner of SC Electric & Gas was deep in debt from a failed $9 billion nuclear project.
Federal authorities are investigating SCANA executives and their lawyers for investor fraud and lying to the SC Public Service Commission.
Retired SCANA executive Steve Byrne, a former Irmo resident, is due in federal court next week for bond and plea hearings on fraud charges.
He faces up to 5 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines and bonus losses.
Federal investigators are believed to have struck a deal with Byrne to testify against his fellow executives to avoid prison.
Despite a favorable US Supreme Court decision last month, a US District Court overturned a federal permit for water and wetland crossings.
A 9th Circuit ruling indicated an appeal was unlikely to succeed.
“This new information and litigation risk … make the project too uncertain to justify investing more shareholder capital,” both companies said..
Due to legal challenges, the project’s cost increased to $8 billion from the original estimate of up to $5 billion.
Separately, Dominion agreed to sell almost all of its gas transmission and storage assets to Berkshire Hathaway for $9.7 billion.
Stock analysts expected the decision to hurt Dominion and Duke shareholders.
Dominion wanted to get the ACP into South Carolina to get it on to Savannah for liquid natural gas export, said Tom Clements of Savannah River Watch.
“So us ratepayers won’t now have to foot the bill for that,” he said..
Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell and Duke CEO Lynn Good said that a “series of legal challenges … has caused significant project cost increases and timing delays.
The CEO’s lamented that, “Until these (legal) issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”
“Not so,” said SC Small Business Chamber CEO Frank Knapp, Jr.
“Increased reliance on natural gas has delayed what we really need to address the energy needs of this county – investment in renewable energy, battery storage and energy efficiency.
“Many of our coastal residents have been properly concerned that the ACP would be brought into South Carolina and terminating on our coast.
“Mr. Farrell had previously testified at a SC Public Service Commission hearing that this was exactly Dominion’s intention,” Knapp said.
“Our vibrant coastal tourism industry would have been harmed.”