Press release: August 25, 2020

BREAKING: House Leadership Blocks $400 Million Economic Relief Bill


Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Communications and Advocacy Director [email protected], 828-817-3328

BREAKING:House Leadership Blocks $400 Million Economic Relief Bill
Bipartisan legislation would return an emergency refund to 2.45 million Dominion Energy customers

August 25, 2020

RICHMOND — The Virginia House of Delegates leadership has failed to schedule a vote on a bill that would provide Virginians with nearly $400 million through direct refunds and debt forgiveness using the $502.7 million that Dominion Energy has overcharged Virginia families and small businesses since 2017. Leadership released the Labor and Commerce Committee’s Wednesday docket with no mention of the bipartisan economic relief bill, House Bill 5088, which more than a quarter of the members of the House of Delegates signed on to co-patron. This failure to act comes less than 24 hours after the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued its final extension of a utility disconnection moratorium. House leadership also did not docket a bill (HB5117) that would specifically address utility repayment plans after the moratorium ends.

“The State Corporation Commission could not have been clearer about the General Assembly’s mandate to solve the COVID-19 utility debt crisis during the legislative session this month,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore. “Virginian families and businesses are struggling under the weight of two unprecedented crises and their financial difficulties have been compounded by Dominion Energy’s refusal to refund their money. House leadership’s failure to put the interests of hard-hit Virginians over those of a utility monopoly is deeply disappointing.”

The SCC issued its final utility disconnection moratorium yesterday stating in its order that “this period of time has been sufficient to provide an opportunity for the General Assembly to choose whether to address legislatively the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on utility customers and utilities.” Democratic Delegate Jay Jones (Norfolk) and Republican Delegate Lee Ware (Powhatan) introduced HB 5088 last week after the SCC released a report finding Dominion Energy had overcharged customers by $502.7 million since 2017.

The legislation would provide nearly $400 million of immediate economic relief by:

  • Returning over $250 million to Virginians in the form of emergency, accelerated refunds to all Dominion customers from their 2017-2019 overcharges, per Dominion’s annual earnings filings.
  • Establishing an over $100 million utility debt forgiveness fund to aid Virginians who have accrued debt to Dominion due to the COVID-19 crisis, administered by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) and funded using the 30% of overcharges that under current law Dominion keeps. This protects all Dominion customers—including those in good standing—from being forced by Dominion to shoulder the cost of the unpaid debt, which was an explicit warning from the SCC in its August 24th order.

“Currently, Wednesday’s meeting is the only scheduled convening of the House Labor & Commerce Committee, but there is nothing stopping House Democratic Leadership from taking urgent action on Virginia’s utility debt crisis. We urge Speaker Filler-Corn to do so. Refusing a fair hearing for a bill that would inject nearly $400 million of Virginians’ own money back into the economy in this moment of crisis is unacceptable.” Gilmore said.