Ex-CEO who oversaw doomed nuclear project to be sentenced

An executive who lied to regulators about two South Carolina nuclear plants that never generated a watt of power is being sentenced

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The executive who oversaw a $9 billion plan to build two nuclear reactors in South Carolina is getting ready to go to prison, more than four years after he announced the mammoth project had failed without ever generating a watt of power.

Former SCANA Corp. CEO Kevin Marsh has agreed with prosecutors that he should spend two years in prison. On Thursday, the former utility executive faces a federal judge who will decide whether to accept that deal and make him the first executive put behind bars for the nuclear energy project debacle.

Marsh decided to go ahead and ask to serve his time, saying his wife of 46 years has incurable breast cancer and he hopes she is still around and he can care for her when he leaves prison.

A second former SCANA executive and an official at Westinghouse Electric Co., the lead contractor to build two new reactors at the V.C. Summer plant, have also pleaded guilty. A second Westinghouse executive has been indicted and is awaiting trial.

Marsh pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in federal court, and obtaining property by false pretenses in state court. Prosecutors agreed to his request to serve his entire sentence on both sets of charges in a federal prison.

He has already paid $5 million in restitution. SCANA had paid Marsh $5 million in 2017, the year the utility abandoned the hopelessly behind-schedule project.

For sentencing, Marsh’s attorneys also submitted 10 letters from friends, colleagues and church pastors detailing his good acts such as helping the family of an employee killed on the job get financial and legal help, securing an air conditioner for a women’s home and taking a week out of his busy executive schedule to volunteer for vacation Bible school.

The letters also detailed his relationship with his wife, Sue, who he married when both were teens. She has terminal and incurable metastatic breast cancer and may not be able to visit her husband in prison because of COVID-19 fears and her weakened condition, defense lawyers said.

Federal regulatory filings have documented the history of the doomed nuclear project begun in 2008. Those filings said Marsh never wavered from saying the two reactors being built at the V.C. Summer site north of Columbia would be finished by the end of 2020 — a deadline that had to be met to receive the $1.4 billion in federal tax credits needed to keep the $10 billion project from overwhelming the utility.

Prosecutors said Marsh lied and presented rosy projections on the progress of the reactors that he knew was false in earning calls, presentations and press releases. The CEO wanted to keep investors pumping money into the project and keep the company’s stock price up, they said.

His actions took more than $1 billion from the pockets of ratepayers and investors, authorities said in an 87-page Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed against him and a second executive in 2020.

SCANA and its subsidiary, South Carolina Electric & Gas, were destroyed by the debt and poor management and were bought out by Dominion Energy of Virginia in 2019. State-owned utility Santee Cooper, which had a 45% stake in the project, ended up saddled with $4 billion in debt even though SCANA controlled management of the project.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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