FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Communications Lead
February 15, 2021
BREAKING: Dominion-stacked Senate committee kills overdue electricity rate reform
Virginia utility monopolies donated over $1.2 million to deciding Senators
Richmond — In a chaotic and abbreviated meeting, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee failed to advance a suite of electricity rate reform bills that would have strengthened consumer protection measures for all utility customers and prevented Dominion Energy from pocketing overcharges from its customers. Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company have contributed over $1.2 million to the eight Senators who voted against a bill introduced by Delegate Dan Helmer (Fairfax) that would have allowed the State Corporation Commission to adjust future rates up or down to reflect a utility’s cost of service and rate of return.
“$1.2 million is the price Dominion Energy has paid in campaign contributions to a handful of Senators on the Commerce and Labor Committee to cheat Virginians out of over $500 million of refunds and fair electricity rates,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore. “Instead of voting to reform Virginia’s unjust ratemaking system that leaves customers paying the 6th highest energy bills in the country, this powerful committee and roadblock to fair energy policy, once again, batted for Dominion Energy.”
Senator Minority Leader Tommy Norment, who with Majority Leader Dick Saslaw led the charge against the utility rate reform bills, owns up to $250,000 in Dominion Energy stock, according to public disclosures, and has received over $180,000 in campaign contributions from the utility. Senator Norment voted last month to pass by a bill that would have ordered Dominion Energy to refund 100% of the money the utility overcharged Virginians, claiming that bills aimed at protecting Virginia consumers were a “legislative assault” on the utility and expressing concern about the impact of the bill on Dominion’s “desirability in Wall Street’s perspective.” Saslaw has accepted over $460,000 in campaign contributions from Dominion Energy.
“What we witnessed in today’s committee is a blatant corruption of the democratic process. Until voters change the makeup of this committee, powerful utility monopolies will continue not only to write favorable legislation, but to rig the entire legislative process thanks to Senators compromised by their clear financial and personal interests,” Gilmore said.
The five consumer protection ratemaking bills put forth during this year’s General Assembly session would have restored the State Corporation Commission (SCC) with its full regulatory authority to protect consumers during Dominion’s next earnings review this year — HB1914, HB1984, HB2049, HB2160, and HB2200. All passed the House of Delegates with bipartisan support and earned endorsements from a broad spectrum of stakeholders including the Office of the Attorney General, environmental groups, low-income advocates, faith organizations, the business community, and conservative grassroots coalitions.