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3rd Official to Plead Guilty in South Carolina Nuclear Debacle

Santee Cooper-South Carolina VC Summer File
Jeffrey Collins/AP
FILE - Construction is well underway for two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, S.C. on Monday, April 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A former official for the contractor hired to build two South Carolina nuclear reactors that were never completed will plead guilty to lying to federal authorities, court documents show.

Carl Churchman was the Westinghouse Electric Co. project director for the failed plant that cost ratepayers and investors billions of dollars after utility executives swore construction was on track even as the project rapidly fell behind.

Churchman will plead guilty to making a false statement to federal officials, according to a court filing last week. He could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the offense.

Churchman lied to an FBI agent and said he was not involved in communicating the project timeline with utility executives, according to authorities. Churchman repeatedly emailed colleagues at Westinghouse about project completion dates and reported those dates to executives in 2017.

Two top-level executives have already pleaded guilty in the multi-year federal fraud investigation.

Former SCANA Corp. Executive Vice President Stephen Byrne agreed last summer to tell investigators everything he knows about the lies and deception SCANA and its subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas used to keep regulators approving rate increases and maintain support from investors.

Kevin Marsh, SCANA's former CEO, signed a plea deal on felony fraud charges in November.