COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina lawmakers say they’re receiving dubious emails that urge them not to pass laws that the senders say could kill a proposed sale of SCANA Corp. to Dominion Energy.
House Majority Leader Gary Simrill tells The Post and Courier of Charleston that he began receiving the emails Thursday in the aftermath of the state’s failed $9 billion nuclear project. At least two came from friends who said they didn’t send them.
Dominion, SCANA and an outside group that crafted the messages say they don’t know why the emails are being sent without the knowledge of the sender.
SCANA subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas owned a majority share of the unfinished reactors at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. Lawmakers don’t want the power company to charge its ratepayers $37 million a month for them.
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But Dominion and SCANA say blocking the charges could kill the $14.6 billion sale and force SCANA into bankruptcy. The emails said lawmakers “could make matters even worse” for its electric customers.
One email that came from one of Simrill’s friends, William Barron of Rock Hill even listed his home address. But Simrill noticed the email address was different from the one he had on file. And SCE&G doesn’t sell electricity in Rock Hill.
When Simrill questioned his friend, Barron said he didn’t know anything about it.
Then another acquaintance supposedly emailed Simrill. She hadn’t sent it either, he said.
“They’re being impersonated. These folks never wrote these emails,” Simrill said. “I mean it’s really despicable that they are using our constituents’ names and physical address as if they had written us an email.”
Barron said he was upset to see his name and address attached to the email. “Someone’s impersonating me,” Barron said. “It’s very discouraging, and it reeks of fraudulence.”
David Holt, the president of the Consumer Energy Alliance, confirmed that his group wrote the form email, which is on its website as a template for constituents to contact their legislators.
Holt said he first became aware the system was apparently being abused Saturday. The group discovered the form email was being sent repeatedly from the same internet addresses, meaning the same computers were accessing it over and over.
“We’re concerned as well,” Holt said. “We’re going to be reaching out to the proper authorities in the state of South Carolina because it appears to us that an individual or individuals have submitted names that are not themselves.”
State Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, said he has also received more than 15 of the same form emails over the last few days. He contacted several of the purported senders and determined that at least three didn’t send the email.
Both SCANA and Dominion said they were not aware of the form email and had no role in crafting or distributing it.
“We’ve been very upfront about our proposal and our public outreach efforts. Everything we’ve done is out in the clear, so we would have no reason to want to do anything like that,” said Dominion spokesman Chet Wade. “We’re very puzzled, frankly, about how this got generated.”
Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com