COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina utility should be forced to refund the more than $450 million collected from its customers in connection with a nuclear construction project since the venture failed, ratepayers' attorneys argue in a lawsuit against the company.

In court documents filed Wednesday and provided to The Associated Press, lawyers for South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. ratepayers argued that the company should have stopped assessing customers for a nuclear construction surcharge when it abandoned the multibillion-dollar project at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station last year.

SCE&G and state-owned utility Santee Cooper walked away from the project in July 2017 following the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. Thousands of workers lost their jobs in the debacle, into which the utilities had jointly sunk around $9 billion.

In all, SCE&G customers have paid about $2 billion toward the company's debt on the project. Since the effort fell apart, SCE&G has collected more than $452 million from its ratepayers despite making no progress on the project, the lawsuit contends. Attorneys argue they're entitled to an immediate ruling in their favor because state law only allows the company to charge for ongoing projects.

The nuclear project's failure spurred state and federal investigations, as well as multiple lawsuits and legislative inquiries that dominated this year's session. Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved legislation cutting the amount ratepayers are charged for the failed project by 15 percent. Those rate reductions, along with several months' worth of rebates, went into effect last week.

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Reach Kinnard at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.