Former SCANA executive pleads guilty for fraud associated with failed VC Summer project
Stephen Byrne admitted his role in misleading investors and rate payers about the failed VC Summer project
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — One of the executives at the center of the VC Summer nuclear power plant debacle pleaded guilty in federal court this morning.
Stephen Byrne, the former Executive Vice President of SCANA, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud at the Perry Federal Courthouse in Columbia Thursday morning. Several people who were impacted by the financial and environmental impact of the project gathered outside the courthouse with signs, asking for Byrne for an apology.
Byrne oversaw all nuclear operations for SCANA, including the construction of the two new nuclear units.
Back in 2017, SCANA stopped the construction of two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County, a move that cost billions of taxpayer dollars as well as the loss of thousands of jobs.
Prosecutors say Byrne and other executives misled ratepayers and investors in saying the construction of the reactors was going as planned, a project that increased rates for thousands of customers.
“There were a lot of people, a lot of ratepayers on fixed incomes who had to choose between food, medicine, and paying the increased rates that were going to happen,” said Pamela Greenlaw, an intervener against the VC Summer project who stood outside the courthouse Thursday morning.
As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors say Byrne will assist the federal investigation.
“What’s important when you look at that plea agreement and see is the cooperation agreement as part of that process. Mr. Byrne has agreed to cooperate in the rest of this process, and so that’s very, very important,” said Peter McCoy, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina.
Some members of the group who gathered outside the Perry Federal Courthouse in Columbia say Byrne’s plea is a step in the right direction, but they believe more will happen over the next few months.
“It’s the first accountability for the SCANA executives who perpetrated this on South Carolina so we’re quite pleased that some justice is going to be served, and we want to see more indictments come,” said Tom Clements with Friends of the Earth, who also acted as an intervener against the project.
Byrne faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.