Lawyers are benefiting from chaos of south carolina’s failed nuclear project business postandcourier.com bp gas locations

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Others got paid more than $5,810 to review the "potential criminal liability" stemming from The Post and Courier’s story Stamped for Failure, which revealed how Westinghouse disregarded state engineering laws in their attempt to build a new generation of nuclear reactors.

The court records show Westinghouse paid more than $1 million last year for more than a dozen highly paid defense attorneys to monitor the legal disputes and political backlash that erupted in South Carolina after the nuclear project was dropped last summer.

The company’s legal bills open a small window into the ongoing cost of what is widely considered the biggest economic failure in South Carolina history. The invoices also highlight Westinghouse’s concerns over the possible criminal implications stemming from its decade of work on the nuclear reactors near Jenkinsville.

Westinghouse, a Pittsburgh-based company, contracted with SCANA and Santee Cooper — two South Carolina electric utilities — to build the now-abandoned reactors. The company largely avoided scrutiny following the nuclear cancellation as a result of its earlier bankruptcy in March 2017.

But throughout last fall, Westinghouse paid white-collar defense attorneys with K&L Gates, one of the country’s largest law firms, thousands of dollars to attend legislative hearings in the South Carolina House and Senate. It paid those lawyers up to $700 per hour to craft a "narrative and defense" about the company’s work at V.C. Summer. It shelled out even more for the attorneys to review the Bechtel Report, a 2016 audit that revealed serious oversight, construction and engineering problems at V.C. Summer.

On Oct. 16, Thomas Ryan and Vincente Martinez, two partners with the firm, spent more than an hour discussing an internal report drafted by a Westinghouse engineer in 2011. That document, uncovered by The Post and Courier in September, warned Westinghouse’s leadership its four new reactors at V.C. Summer and Plant Vogtle in Georgia were "at risk."

Martinez, who defends clients facing "inquiries and charges from regulatory and law enforcement authorities," also took a keen interest in a 2012 legal opinion uncovered by The Post and Courier. That opinion suggested Westinghouse didn’t need professional engineers to vet and sign off on many of the blueprints for the yet-untested nuclear power plants.

Yet, Martinez and the other attorneys looked at the penalties for performing engineering work without a license in South Carolina. They checked how often South Carolina enforced those laws. They reviewed complaints about Westinghouse’s engineering filed with state officials in South Carolina and Georgia. And they studied the instructions given to juries in those two states.

Westinghouse did not respond to questions about whether it is under investigation by federal and state law enforcement officials who are looking into V.C. Summer. But the company’s legal bills suggest it is entangled, at least tangentially, in the ongoing investigations that spawned out of the nuclear cancellation.

The records show Westinghouse’s attorneys communicated with the U.S. Attorneys Office on Nov. 13. The lawyers discussed gathering computer hard drives on Nov. 17 as part of "subpoena requests." And, on Nov. 20, the legal team notified Westinghouse officials not to destroy documents as the result of a grand jury subpoena.