Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project proceeds with strong customer safeguards
December 15, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT:

Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Deputy Director

[email protected], 828-817-3328

December 15, 2022

Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project proceeds with strong customer safeguards 

Pressure from environmental groups, Attorney General, Walmart led to cost and accountability measures 

Richmond — Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project, one of the largest energy projects in Virginia’s history, can proceed with a cost cap and performance provisions, according to a final ruling from the State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued today. The SCC’s final ruling concludes months of pressure from multiple parties including Clean Virginia, a reconsideration attempt by Dominion Energy to remove a common performance standard, and a settlement reached in October by Dominion Energy, the Office of the Attorney General, Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, and Walmart. The SCC’s final ruling includes a cost cap that would shift significant cost overruns to shareholders and a process for accountability if Dominion fails to produce sufficient renewable energy from the project.

“With its final ruling today, the State Corporation Commission demonstrated that consumer protection must go hand in hand with Virginia’s clean energy transition,” said Clean Virginia Energy Policy Manager Laura Gonzalez. “Absent the Commission’s leadership and pressure from environmental groups, the Attorney General, and Walmart, Dominion Energy would have zero incentive to actually produce clean energy from its offshore wind project or keep costs reasonable.” 

In earlier filings with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), Clean Virginia recognized that offshore wind represents a paramount addition to Virginia’s clean energy transition and requested a cost cap, an independent monitor, and an evaluation of alternative ownership models. Clean Virginia also staunchly defended the regulatory agency’s decision to adopt the performance standard, a common consumer protection intended to hold customers harmless if Dominion’s wind project does not generate as much power as projected. The Office of the Attorney General, Walmart, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Appalachian Voices also supported the performance standard. 

Dominion’s 100% utility-owned model essentially places all of the financial risk on customers, making strong consumer protections critical to ensuring that ratepayers do not shoulder all the financial burden for the project’s possible poor performance and cost overruns. In its order approving the settlement, the SCC notes that “the magnitude of this Project is so great that it will likely be the costliest project being undertaken by any regulated utility in the United States. And the electricity produced by this Project will be among the most expensive sources of power – on both a per kilowatt of firm capacity and a per megawatt-hour basis – in the entire United States.” 

“As Virginia moves to develop the next phase of offshore wind, it is imperative that Virginia lawmakers consider alternatives to the utility ownership model that maximize cost savings for ratepayers and environmental benefits to Virginia overall,” Gonzalez said.

Clean Virginia did not oppose the settlement and testified during an SCC hearing last month that regulators did have the authority to implement a strong performance provision and cost containment measures. 

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Clean Virginia is a 501(c)4 independent advocacy organization with an associated Political Action Committee, Clean Virginia Fund. Clean Virginia works to fight corruption in Virginia politics in order to promote clean energy, a robust, competitive economy, and community control over our energy policy. We are motivated by the core belief that our democracy should serve everyday Virginians over special interests.

Clean Virginia response to Dominion Energy offshore wind settlement
October 28, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT:

Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Deputy Director

[email protected], 828-817-3328

October 28, 2022

Richmond — In response to the settlement reached between the Office of the Attorney General, Dominion Energy, Walmart, Appalachian Voices, and Sierra Club regarding consumer protection and performance measures for Dominion’s offshore wind project, Laura Gonzalez, the Energy Policy Manager for Clean Virginia, a party to the case, said:

“The settlement between Dominion Energy, the Office of the Attorney General, Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, and Walmart represents a vast improvement in consumer protection for Dominion Energy’s $9.8 billion offshore wind project, thanks to steady pressure from multiple parties. Virginia energy customers and the Commonwealth’s fight to combat catastrophic climate change with clean energy will benefit from an offshore wind project with a reasonable cost cap and accountability measures to encourage strong project performance from Dominion. Absent pressure from environmental advocates, the Office of the Attorney General, regulatory staff, and Walmart, Dominion would have proceeded with one of the most expensive energy projects to date in Virginia with few consumer protections and would have faced little performance expectations to actually generate consistent clean energy.”

In earlier filings with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), Clean Virginia requested a cost cap, an independent monitor, and an evaluation of alternative ownership models and defended the regulatory agency’s decision to adopt the performance standard. The Office of the Attorney General, Walmart, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Appalachian Voices also supported the performance standard.

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Clean Virginia is a 501(c)4 independent advocacy organization with an associated Political Action Committee, Clean Virginia Fund. Clean Virginia works to fight corruption in Virginia politics in order to promote clean energy, a robust, competitive economy, and community control over our energy policy. We are motivated by the core belief that our democracy should serve everyday Virginians over special interests.

Clean Virginia Response to Gov. Youngkin Energy Plan
October 3, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT:

Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Deputy Director 

[email protected], 828-817-3328

October 3, 2022 

In response to the Virginia Energy Plan released by Governor Youngkin today, Clean Virginia’s Executive Director Brennan Gilmore said:

After years of inaction in which Virginia’s utilities actively denied climate change while promoting  fossil fuels and blocking clean energy solutions, Virginia has leapt forward during the past few years with the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the Clean Cars Act, and membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Collectively, this legislation has put the Commonwealth on a path to a future free of harmful emissions. While the Governor’s plan rightly sounds the alarm about unsustainable energy costs for Virginian families, the transition to clean energy is not the culprit. Clean Virginia will, along with our partners, defend the progress Virginia has made towards a clean energy future.

What Governor Youngkin’s plan gets right is that Virginia’s monopoly utilities have, through years of political contributions, lobbying and influence operations, been in the driver’s seat of our energy policy while successfully transferring Virginians’ hard-earned money to their shareholders and executives. It is this systemic problem – regulatory capture by monopoly utilities – that has resulted in Virginians paying some of the highest electricity bills in the country. By calling for a return to proper regulatory rate structure the Governor has shown leadership and vision and sent a clear signal that this ill-gotten arrangement must end. While Democrats and Republicans will undoubtedly face-off over many provisions of today’s plan, ending the profiteering by our monopoly utilities at the expense of Virginia families is one thing that both parties can and have agreed on. In fact, similar provisions restoring regulatory rate-setting authority to the State Corporation Commission and cleaning up utility-friendly provisions of our code passed the Virginia House of Delegates with 77 bipartisan votes in 2020 before a handful of Senators who collectively received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company killed the bill in a key committee.

Clean Virginia looks forward to working with the Youngkin Administration on these aspects of the Virginia Energy Plan, while continuing to staunchly defend the progress Virginia has made on transitioning to a clean energy future. 

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Clean Virginia is a 501(c)4 independent advocacy organization with an associated Political Action Committee, Clean Virginia Fund. Clean Virginia works to fight corruption in Virginia politics in order to promote clean energy, a robust, competitive economy, and community control over our energy policy. We are motivated by the core belief that our democracy should serve everyday Virginians over special interests.

Regulators should defend consumer protection measure for offshore wind project
September 21, 2022

Dominion’s unique ownership model causes increased risk for customers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT:

Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Deputy Director

[email protected], 828-817-3328

September 21, 2022

Richmond — In a legal response filed yesterday with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), energy reform organization Clean Virginia defended the regulatory agency’s requirement of a performance standard, a consumer protection measure for Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project, which would be one of the largest energy projects in Virginia’s history. Dominion’s 100% utility-owned model places essentially all of the financial risk on customers, making the performance standard the “most significant consumer protection adopted by the Commission”, according to Clean Virginia’s filing. 

In its original testimony to the SCC earlier this year in support of the project, Clean Virginia recognized the wind project’s critical contribution to Virginia’s clean energy transition, and requested consumer protection and quality measures including an independent monitor, a cost cap, and an evaluation of alternative ownership models, which the regulatory agency did not adopt.

“Dominion Energy’s utility-owned model for offshore wind guarantees record profits at no risk for its shareholders. All other states developing offshore wind have adopted models that reduce risks to customers,” said Laura Gonzalez, Clean Virginia’s Energy Policy Manager. “It is the regulator’s job to balance monopoly profit motives by adopting common and reasonable standards that will protect Virginians.”

In a petition for reconsideration filed last month, Dominion, Virginia’s largest utility monopoly, requested that the SCC reconsider the performance standard, a common provision that requires the company and its shareholders to take on the financial obligation to provide credits to customers for replacement energy costs when the project does not meet the output levels that Dominion defended in its regulatory application. Dominion customers will cover 100% of the project’s development and operations costs, paying an estimated $21.5 billion over the project’s 30-year lifespan, which includes Dominion’s guaranteed rate of return, currently estimated to be $7.22 billion.

In its filed response to Dominion’s appeal, Clean Virginia argues that: 

  • The Commission’s Performance Standard is lawful, reasonable, and consistent with precedent. In fact, Dominion Energy itself has proposed similar standards for some of its solar facilities, and utility commissions in multiple states have adopted similar performance requirements for large-scale wind projects. 
  • The Company overstates the potential financial harm to shareholders if the performance standard is triggered in some future year. As the largest capital investment in Dominion’s history, the offshore wind project will also be one of the most profitable, rewarding shareholders with an estimated $7.22 billion in guaranteed profits. If ever triggered, the performance standard will likely have a limited financial impact on Dominion’s bottom line.  

Dominion has until September 29 to file a reply to the pleadings filed yesterday.  

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Clean Virginia is a 501(c)4 independent advocacy organization with an associated Political Action Committee, Clean Virginia Fund. Clean Virginia works to fight corruption in Virginia politics in order to promote clean energy, a robust, competitive economy, and community control over our energy policy. We are motivated by the core belief that our democracy should serve everyday Virginians over special interests.

House Republicans block ban on personal use of campaign funds, ignoring ethics recommendations
By Cassady Craighill | March 2, 2022

Virginia remains out of step with nearly every other state and federal government on ban 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Richmond — Virginia House Republicans have now twice blocked a ban on the personal use of campaign funds this session, which the Virginia Senate passed nearly unanimously last month on a 37-3 vote. Republicans in a House Privileges and Elections subcommittee killed the bipartisan legislation carried by both Democratic Senator John Bell (Senate Bill 463) and Republican Delegate Mike Cherry (House Bill 1296).

In response, Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore said, 

“There is nothing currently stopping a political candidate in Virginia from using unlimited campaign funds, for which there is no cap in Virginia, to purchase a vacation house or a swanky country club membership. It’s no wonder that public trust in our elected officials is at an all-time low. This legalization of grift is deeply embarrassing for Virginia — nearly every other state and the federal government ban the personal use of campaign funds.” 

The Privileges and Elections Subcommittee in the General Assembly’s lower chamber failed to advance Senate Bill 463 earlier this morning on a 5-3 party-line vote. The same committee blocked the House companion bill from Del. Cherry last month. Opposition from House Republicans remained strong despite Republican Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) speaking in support of the bill on the Senate floor.

Both bills defined “personal use” using the federal definition, known as the “irrespective test,” which states that any expense incurred that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign for office is deemed ineligible for use of campaign funds with the exception of caregiver costs. An ethics commission first recommended the measure in 2015 as part of the fallout from the corruption conviction of former Governor Robert F. McDonnell, and a bipartisan report released last year that was the result of a joint campaign finance committee process including multiple experts and stakeholders included the move in its suite of campaign finance reform recommendations. A ban on personal use of campaign funds also unanimously passed a Republican-controlled House in 2019 and a Democratic-controlled House in 2020 and 2021. 

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About The Author

Photo of House Republicans block ban on personal use of campaign funds, ignoring ethics recommendations
Cassady Craighill (she/her)

A North Carolina to Virginia transplant via D.C., Cassady has spent over a decade engaging audiences about energy, climate change, and civic engagement. After earning an M.A. from Georgetown University and publishing research about public perceptions of complex technologies, Cassady worked for Greenpeace USA where she developed strategies for communicating about climate impacts, the influence of the oil and gas industry on our democracy, and the energy footprint from the internet. An expert in rapid response communications, Cassady’s quotes have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Associated Press. She lives in Charlottesville with her husband and daughter.

How Virginia Can Improve Its Utility Disconnection Policies
February 7, 2022

By Kayli Ottomanelli, Clean Virginia Advocacy Fellow and Fredericksburg resident 

Virginians across the Commonwealth have experienced a rough winter this year. Icy precipitation has suspended school schedules, shuttered businesses, and stranded hundreds of commuters on roadways. In some areas of the state, heavy snowfall has also been accompanied by widespread power failures and water shutoffs. Nearly 200,000 residents throughout Central and Northeast Virginia lost power for days after a strong winter storm swept across the state last month. Many families had to bundle up to keep warm in their 30-degree living rooms and had to bury their perishables out in the snow. 

These hardships offer a glimpse into what many low-income households in Virginia could endure during the winter months if their utilities are disconnected for non-payment. Virginia currently has among the weakest utility disconnection protections for customers of any state in the south. Most states have seasonal protections for utility consumers that prohibit disconnections when temperatures are below 32℉ or above 95℉, but Virginia lacks these protections. 

Disconnection policies in Virginia vary by utility, subjecting residents to disparate disconnection regulations based on their provider. Of the 41 electric and gas utilities in the state, only Dominion Energy is prohibited from disconnecting consumers due to unpaid bills due to an executive order to halt disconnections during the pandemic, and they will only be mandated to do so until March 2022. Virginia also has no limitations on disconnections during certain months of the year or within specified temperature ranges. However, when temperatures drop dangerously low or climb precipitously, service disruptions that expose households to extreme weather can quickly become a matter of life or death. 

To bridge this critical gap in consumer protections, Delegate Irene Shin has introduced a bill (House Bill 1054) that would protect families by prohibiting public water, gas, and electric utilities from disconnecting essential services during extreme weather events or periods of crisis. Not only does this bill protect vulnerable Virginians from dangerous utility disconnections during times of extreme weather, it also expedites service restoration by allowing utilities to incorporate disconnection and reconnection fees into a payment plan, thereby severing the link between reconnection and fees.

Families should not have to face a potentially fatal situation when they fall behind on their utility bills, but the unfortunate reality is that thousands lose their lives every year from exposure to extreme temperatures. Civil rights organizations uphold that all individuals have the right to affordable energy and uninterrupted essential services. Implementing fair utility disconnection and repayment measures that allow families to heat and cool their homes in the most severe months of the year, such as HB 1054, will literally save lives. 

This bill comes up for a vote in the House soon – act now to tell legislators to protect our most vulnerable individuals by setting fair disconnection rules for electricity, water, and gas utilities in Virginia.

Dominion-backed committees block campaign finance, rate reform bills
February 2, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT:

Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Communications Director

[email protected], 828-817-3328

February 2, 2022 

Dominion-backed committees block campaign finance, rate reform bills 

Dominion Energy has contributed over $1 million to members of three powerful committees 

Richmond — Members of three key legislative committees backed significantly by Dominion Energy failed to advance bipartisan bills that would prohibit campaign contributions from public utilities and protect Virginians from unnecessarily high electricity bills, a popular talking point last year for Virginia candidates.

“Members of these powerful committees talked a tough game on the campaign trail, but ultimately defaulted to Dominion Energy over their constituents yet again,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore. “Our failed utility regulatory system leaves Virginians, in the best of circumstances, paying some of the highest bills in the nation, being overcharged by hundreds of millions of dollars annually by Dominion, and in the midst of a weather crisis like last month’s snowstorm and grid failure, stuck in dangerous situations with little assurance that there is an end in sight. Dominion’s self-regulation and political manipulation hurts Virginians and it must end.” 

The members of the Privileges and Elections House and Senate committees who voted against the bipartisan bills that sought to ban public utilities regulated by the General Assembly from donating to state lawmakers accepted over $500,000 from Dominion Energy in the past year. These bills included SB 45 introduced by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), SB 568 introduced by Sen. Richard Stuart (R-Westmoreland), HB 71 introduced by. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan), and HB 524 introduced by Kelly Fowler (D-Virginia Beach). And despite General Assembly candidates campaigning on lowering high electricity bills for customers, a Republican-controlled House committee failed to advance a bill that sought to remedy the ability of Virginia’s largest utility monopoly Dominion Energy to overcharge customers by over $1.1 billion without issuing full refunds. Del. Ware and Del. Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville) introduced the bill (HB 1288), referred to by advocates as the Ratepayer Protection Act, marking the third year in a row that lawmakers have introduced bipartisan rate reform legislation. 

“For years, Dominion Energy has rigged the system, contributing gobs of cash to members of the General Assembly, and chipping away at regulators’ ability to fairly oversee Virginia’s electric providers. As a result, the utility monopoly has gotten away with overcharging customers by $1.1 billion in recent years. Each lawmaker that continues to oppose common-sense good governance and rate reform is failing families and small businesses across the Commonwealth,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore.

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‘Commitment to consumer protection’: Clean Virginia responds to Del. Jones’ resignation
December 16, 2021

‘Commitment to consumer protection’: Clean Virginia responds to Del. Jones’ resignation 

Contact: 

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

December 16, 2021 

In response to news that Del. Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) is resigning from his House of Delegate seat representing Virginia’s 89th District, Clean Virginia Political Director Lizzie Hylton said, 

“Delegate Jay Jones has left his mark in the Virginia General Assembly as a consumer protection champion committed to keeping the big boys honest. He led a bipartisan campaign for overdue electric utility reform in Virginia, fighting to return over $1 billion in overcharges from Dominion Energy to Virginia families and small businesses. Jones’ campaign message to prioritize people before corporate utility profit during his bid for Virginia Attorney General energized hundreds of thousands of voters and helped cement the issue of accountability for Virginia’s utility monopolies in statewide elections. We wish him and his growing family good health and the best of luck.” 

“As Virginians face rising everyday expenses and with the severe impacts of the climate crisis having already arrived at the doorsteps of Norfolk’s residents, it is imperative that Del. Jones’ successor and his General Assembly colleagues take up the mantle of climate justice and an affordable and fair clean energy transition that benefits all Virginians.”

Del. Jones patroned multiple utility reform bills in the House of Delegates that sought to restore oversight from Virginia’s electric utility regulators. Clean Virginia Fund endorsed Del. Jones for Attorney General during the 2021 Democratic primary and contributed $250,000 to his campaign. 

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Clean Virginia: Youngkin should continue bipartisan progress on energy, ethics reform
November 3, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT:

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

Clean Virginia: Youngkin should continue bipartisan progress on energy, ethics reform

10 Clean Virginia-backed House incumbents defend seats against competitive challengers

November 3, 2021

CHARLOTTESVILLE  — In response to the results of Virginia’s 2021 General Elections, Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore said,

“The progress made so far in Virginia on energy and good governance reform is thanks to bipartisan leadership and cooperation. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin should continue that tradition so that every Virginian will benefit from fair and ethical governance and an affordable clean energy economy.”

“Both gubernatorial candidates knew that refusing direct campaign contributions from Dominion Energy would resonate with voters. Now it’s time for Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin to make good on campaign promises and hold Dominion Energy accountable. There is a powerful contingent of legislators from both parties in the Virginia General Assembly who have fought hard for energy and ethics reform — they must now defend the legislative progress already made that protects Virginia from corporate polluters and the worst impacts of the climate crises, unethical self-dealing, and unaffordable energy costs.”

Clean Virginia’s Political Action Committee, Clean Virginia Fund invested nearly $3 million in the 2021 General Election in key regions, including the districts of ten incumbents who defended their seats against competitive challengers —  Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond), Del. Kelly Fowler (D-Virginia Beach), Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-Loudoun), Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Woodbridge), Del. Dan Helmer (D-Fairfax), Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News), Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William), Del. Clinton Jenkins (D-Norfolk), Del. Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News), and Del. Rodney Willett (D-Henrico), and in the district of Del. Alex Askew (D-Virginia Beach) a Clean Virginia champion whose race remains uncalled. 

In addition to direct financial support to over 60 candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates, all of whom share a principled stance against accepting campaign contributions from Virginia utility monopolies and owning stock in those companies, canvassers knocked on over 100,000 doors in over a dozen districts. Additionally, a Clean Virginia-funded advertising program featuring an anti-corruption message and Delegate votes to lower electricity bills reached millions of voters on digital platforms. 

The message from voters on doorsteps and online was crystal clear: the era of corporate monopolies ruling Virginia politics must end. The winners of this week’s elections should uplift those voices when they are facing armies of corporate utility lobbyists seeking to manipulate the law and self-regulate.”

See the full list of endorsements here. 

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Clean Virginia is a 501(c)4 independent advocacy organization with an associated Political Action Committee, Clean Virginia Fund. Clean Virginia works to fight corruption in Virginia politics in order to promote clean energy, a robust, competitive economy, and community control over our energy policy. We are motivated by the core belief that our democracy should serve average Virginians over special interests. 

Lawmakers weigh in on Dominion Energy rate case settlement in public testimony
October 22, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

October 22, 2021

Lawmakers weigh in on Dominion Energy rate case settlement in public testimony
$330 million customer refund “great first step,” but more reform needed to control costs

Richmond — During public testimony today, multiple legislators applauded Virginia’s utility regulator, the State Corporation Commission (SCC), and the agency’s proposed settlement with Dominion Energy and the Office of the Attorney General. This settlement is the latest development in Dominion Energy’s rate case, the first time in six years that regulators can examine the monopoly’s earnings and what customers pay for electricity. Senator John Bell (D-Loudon), Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), Delegate Sally Hudson (D-Charlottesville), and Delegate Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudon) all pointed out that the settlement’s $330 million customer refund and $50 million rate decrease are victories for customers, but only represent the maximum amount permitted by law and that more reform is needed to grant reasonable electricity rates.

“Though we still have a long way to go to achieve fair utility practices in Virginia, a refund of $330 million for ratepayers is a great first step,” said Del. Subramanyam who passed a 2020 law that restored key decision-making authority to the SCC, unlocking the ability for regulators to grant any customer refunds during Dominion’s 2021 rate case.

“The passage of this legislation was a huge victory for ratepayers, and it was the result of many years of effort starting at the grassroots to hold our regulated utilities accountable,” Del. Subramanyam said in his rate case testimony.

Dominion Energy has overcharged customers by over $1.1 billion, according to SCC staff, but due to utility-friendly state laws, customers will only receive a fraction of these overcharges back as refunds and future rates cannot be lowered by more than $50 million, despite the SCC’s calculation that customers are due for a $212 million rate cut.

“The General Assembly must commit to fixing this broken system once and for all so that regulators have the authority required to do their jobs and set reasonable prices for electricity in Virginia,” said Clean Virginia Political and Legislative Director Lizzie Hylton. “Virginians cannot afford Dominion Energy’s chronic manipulation of regulation in its favor any longer.”

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