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

cassady@cleanvirginia.org, 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.

Clean Virginia’s statement on SCC’s approval of Dominion’s offshore wind project
By Diana Williams | August 10, 2022

On Friday, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved Dominion Energy’s offshore wind project, the single largest energy project ever built in Virginia and the first offshore wind project owned by an investor-owned utility.  

“While we welcome the necessary shift to clean electricity generation in Virginia, this project is unprecedented in size, cost and complexity. As such, it needs strict consumer protection mechanisms in place to ensure that the clean energy transition does not create additional financial burdens for Virginia families,” said Brenann Gilmore, Clean Virginia’s Executive Director.

Clean Virginia emphasized in its testimony to the commission earlier this year that there are many risks associated with this project that necessitated higher levels of consumer protection including:

  • Requiring Dominion to regularly report (at least quarterly) and to retain an independent monitor during the construction phase of the project.
  • Implementing a capital cost cap at the current estimated amount of $9.65 billion. 
  • Requesting the commission assess if the current utility-owned model is the most appropriate mechanism for the remaining 2,600 MW of offshore wind development contemplated in the  Virginia Clean Economy Act. (The Commission has previously recognized that utility ownership poses additional risks, whereas, the risk is most incurred by third-party owners when energy is procured via Power Purchase Agreements.) 

“The State Corporation Commission’s inclusion of key reporting requirements, that Clean Virginia and other stakeholders requested, is a welcome addition that will allow for more effective monitoring of the project. In addition, the inclusion of a performance guarantee will more fairly distribute the risk of the project between ratepayers and shareholders. However, we note that the Commission did not approve an independent monitor that would have provided an additional, much-needed layer of transparency,” Gilmore said.

Clean Virginia also supported the Attorney General’s performance guarantee proposal which would hold customers harmless in the event the project does not generate as much energy as forecasted. 

Despite citing all the risks associated with the utility ownership model, the SCC denied Clean Virginia’s request for an assessment of the appropriateness of the utility ownership model and did not provide a detailed explanation for its denial. Nonetheless, the consumer protections now in place means that ratepayers bear less risk for Virginia’s largest energy project.

Gilmore added: “As we move forward, Virginia must study all options available to procure the second phase of offshore wind established in the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Utility ownership is not the only, and likely not the most affordable, option for offshore wind development in Virginia.”


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.


About The Author

Photo of Clean Virginia’s statement on SCC’s approval of Dominion’s offshore wind project
Diana Williams (she/her)

Diana loves telling stories about the human experience. She’s the founder of Williams Multimedia, a production company specializing in audio storytelling. Her reporting has focused on histories of people of color, LGBTQ+ people and the intersections where those two communities meet. Diana holds an MA in journalism and public affairs from American University. Diana and her husband Clarence have lived with their two sons in the Shenandoah Valley since 1997. She is on the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge and the Virginia School Boards Association. She is also Vice Chair of the Waynesboro School Board.

Clean Virginia Invests $650,000 in 2023 Candidates for the Virginia General Assembly
By Cassady Craighill | July 15, 2022

Nearly 60 candidates publicly refuse contributions from Virginia utility monopolies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

CONTACT:

Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Deputy Director 

cassady@cleanvirginia.org, 828-817-3328

July 15, 2022

Clean Virginia Invests $650,000 in 2023 Candidates for the Virginia General Assembly 

Nearly 60 candidates publicly refuse contributions from Virginia utility monopolies

Charlottesville, VA — Clean Virginia announced a $650,000 investment to support Senate and House of Delegates candidates, including nearly 20 new candidates, who have demonstrated a commitment to an equitable clean energy transition and fighting corruption in Virginia. The financial support comes from Clean Virginia’s Political Action Committee, Clean Virginia Fund.

“The new candidates who have come forward for a chance to represent their districts in the Virginia General Assembly are a deeply impressive group, with a wide range of backgrounds, and united in a commitment to tilt the balance of power in Virginia back towards the people,” said Brennan Gilmore, Clean Virginia Executive Director. “We are pleased to support our clean energy and good governance champions in the Virginia House and Senate as well as offer early support to those new candidates who have taken a principled stance against accepting money from the monopoly utilities they will be tasked with regulating, if elected to the General Assembly.”

With nearly 30 seats lacking an incumbent due to redistricting, the 2023 election presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity to elect a new generation of clean energy and good governance leaders. While Clean Virginia has provided early funding, formal endorsements of candidates will take place in 2023. In several cases, multiple candidates within the same district are receiving funding. These individuals demonstrate Clean Virginia’s commitment to supporting a robust primary process that provides an opportunity for diverse voices and viewpoints to be heard.

To learn more about Clean Virginia’s Political Action Committee and political funding, visit www.cleanvirginia.org/who-we-support/

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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.


About The Author

Photo of Clean Virginia Invests $650,000 in 2023 Candidates for the Virginia General Assembly
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.

Opinion: Don’t saddle Virginians with higher energy costs
July 10, 2022

By Kendl Kobbervig and Kidest Gebre

In May, Virginia’s largest electric utility monopoly asked State Corporation Commission regulators to raise bills anywhere from $15 to $24 a month for the average energy customer. Dominion Energy already charges its 2.5 million Virginia customers, many of whom live in Hampton Roads, some of the highest electricity bills in the nation. If regulators grant the electric utility’s request, expenses will increase by up to $288 a year for the typical household, a sum high enough to push families into making tough decisions between rent and utility bills. Four Virginia cities, three of which are in Hampton Roads, rank in the top 10 for highest evicting cities in the nation. Working families already struggling to make ends meet will soon face another economic headwind thanks to a broken utility regulatory system. 

Dominion claims that it needs the bill increase to cover a $3.3 billion gap between expected and actual fossil fuel costs due to the war in Ukraine, inflation, and the pandemic. While money is tight for all Virginians, families already on the brink of economic hardship will pay the highest price for Dominion’s overreliance on fossil fuels. Instead of holding Dominion accountable for fuel costs, current rules shield the utility by allowing it to pass 100% of the costs along to its customers. Even before recent economic shocks, 75% of Virginia households reported unaffordable energy expenses. This “energy burden” crisis disproportionately affects low-income families and communities of color who are more likely to face tough choices between paying rent or paying electricity bills. 

Decades of reckless investments in fossil fuels have made Dominion even more vulnerable to global fuel market disruptions. Because regulators are powerless to prevent the utility from passing fuel costs to customers, Dominion has no incentive to make cost-conscious investments, minimize fuel use or transition to renewables. On the contrary, in the last decade, the utility has doubled down on fossil fuel investments, adding four massive, baseload gas plants and the $1.8 billion Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, one of the last coal plants to open in the country. Today, that plant makes up one of the largest charges on customer bills. In fact, according to Dominion itself, only one of the utility’s eight coal plants was projected to provide “economic value” to customers, even though those customers are the ones stuck paying the bill. And now that fossil fuel prices are soaring amidst global turmoil, the utility is only adding to the energy burden by forcing Virginians to shoulder those costs alone, leaving its profits, executive pay, and shareholder dividends untouched. 

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Other states have advanced measures that hold utilities accountable for fuel costs by aligning incentives with customer benefit. In 2018, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved a sharing mechanism that splits the risks associated with fuel price volatility 98% and 2% between customers and the utility. In Vermont and Oregon, utilities have taken on 10% of the risk for fuel price volatility as far back as 2006 and 2007, respectively. Similar risk-sharing measures in Virginia could encourage more customer-focused utility performance and a swift, affordable transition to renewables. 

For now, the laws governing Virginia’s utilities leave regulators with a single option: to soften the impact to customer’s bills by deferring fuel cost recovery over a three-year period rather than over a single year. Customers will still take on 100% of fuel costs, but they’ll just pay for those costs over a longer period of time. This lose-lose situation is not an accident, nor is it a one-off. And until the state passes legislation to more fairly balance the interests of customers and utilities, Virginians will continue to pay the price for Dominion’s shortsighted planning.


Kendl Kobbervig is the Advocacy and Organizing Manager at Clean Virginia. Kidest Gebre is the Energy Justice Organizer at Virginia Interfaith Power and Light

 

Clean Virginia joins with fellow advocacy organizations in support of energy efficiency
By Diana Williams | May 12, 2022

Dominion lags behind peer utilities in meeting energy efficiency goals for residential customers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Richmond — Energy reform organization Clean Virginia requested Wednesday in public testimony that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) require Dominion Energy to accelerate its energy efficiency outreach and education campaign, particularly in light of the company’s request to increase customer bills.

“Despite the value of energy efficiency to customers and the codified financial incentive for Dominion Energy included in the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), the company’s long-term plan still fails to meet the law’s minimum targets and the vast majority of Dominion customers have no awareness of Dominion’s residential energy efficiency programs at all,” Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia’s Deputy Director testified in remarks to the SCC.

Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest utility monopoly, has filed for approval of a set of Energy Efficiency programs necessary to comply with the energy savings targets established in the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Dominion is not yet on track to comply with these savings targets, according to an analysis ordered by the SCC.

Compared to peer utilities, the performance of Dominion’s residential energy efficiency programs is notably low. Only 19% of surveyed residential customers were familiar with Dominion Energy programs and only 13% participated in a program in the last three years,  according to a long-term plan report required by the SCC. The report included several areas of improvement and emphasized the need to raise public awareness and consolidate the different utility programs.

“It shouldn’t be a battle to get energy efficiency tools in place, but it is because it interferes with the entrenched power and profit of utility monopolies. Regardless, putting energy efficiency first will put Virginians, and not profits, first. And that’s what we need,” said Laura Gonzalez, Energy and Regulatory Policy Manager at Clean Virginia.

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About The Author

Photo of Clean Virginia joins with fellow advocacy organizations in support of energy efficiency
Diana Williams (she/her)

Diana loves telling stories about the human experience. She’s the founder of Williams Multimedia, a production company specializing in audio storytelling. Her reporting has focused on histories of people of color, LGBTQ+ people and the intersections where those two communities meet. Diana holds an MA in journalism and public affairs from American University. Diana and her husband Clarence have lived with their two sons in the Shenandoah Valley since 1997. She is on the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge and the Virginia School Boards Association. She is also Vice Chair of the Waynesboro School Board.

Legislators should invest in Virginia’s future, not Dominion Energy’s stock
April 28, 2022

This blog was updated on May 4th with the addition of stock ownership by several Virginia lawmakers.

By Kayli Ottomanelli, Clean Virginia Advocacy Fellow

Nearly 60 U.S. Congress members made headlines last month when they violated federal law by failing to properly report their stock ownership and financial trades in accordance with the decades-old Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or Stock Act. These elected officials have faced widespread criticism for using their political positions and access to nonpublic information for personal financial gain. 

Unfortunately, the issue of elected officials serving their stock portfolios rather than their constituents extends beyond just the federal level – it exists here in Virginia, as well. Currently, six members of the Virginia General Assembly own substantial quantities of stock in Dominion Energy. According to annual candidate and incumbent disclosures, which were updated this month, these lawmakers own anywhere from $825,000 to $1.25 million in Dominion stock combined. Additionally, three members of the Virginia legislature, Minority Leader Tommy Norment, Senator Bill DeSteph, and Delegate John Avoli each owned at least $250,000 worth of Dominion Energy stock alone in 2021. 

Although opponents of stock-ban legislation have asserted that the United States is a free-market economy and everyone, including elected officials, should be able to participate in stock trading, this argument becomes problematic when lawmakers are purchasing stock in the corporate monopolies they are tasked with regulating, as is the case with Dominion Energy. Captive customers of utility monopolies, like the two of three Virginians that are Dominion customers, lack the luxury of shopping around for a better deal on their electricity. It is a clear conflict of interest for elected officials to participate in legislative matters in which they have a vested financial interest. 

Currently, conflict of interest laws require Virginia lawmakers to recuse themselves from legislative matters when they have a personal interest in the affected corporation. Although well-intentioned, in practice this legislation is unenforceable under Virginia’s lax disclosure rules. The Virginia General Assembly Conflicts of Interest Act requires any legislator who receives $5,000 or more in dividend payouts from stock ownership to disqualify themselves from participating in votes on relevant legislation. However, candidate and incumbent disclosure rules only require elected officials to disclose their investments within an estimated range that spans nearly $50,000, rather than reporting the exact value. As a result, it is impossible to tell just how much legislators are financially benefiting from certain votes.

Due to these legislative loopholes, elected officials have continued to participate in matters in which they have a vested financial interest. For example, with at least $250,000 in Dominion stock holdings, Senator DeSteph likely received nearly $9,000 in dividends from his shares in Dominion Energy last year, clearly placing him above the $5,000 threshold set by the General Assembly Conflicts of Interest Act. Despite this, he is still actively participating in legislative matters that impact how the corporate utility is regulated. In the 2020 legislative session, Senator DeSteph cast the only opposing vote on a piece of bipartisan utility legislation intended to give the State Corporation Commission more discretion to reduce the rate of return on common equity for investor-owned electric utilities. This begs the question: how can we expect legislators to fairly regulate Dominion Energy, when they themselves directly profit off of the corporation?

To strengthen existing legislation and hold lawmakers accountable, Delegate Dan Helmer introduced a bill (House Bill 1252) during the 2022 legislative session to prohibit any member of the General Assembly from owning stock in public service corporations like Dominion during their term of office. This bill would directly eliminate conflict of interests and ensure legislators are acting in the interest of Virginians, not their wallets. Passing this common-sense bill could also help restore public trust and faith in our institutions. Unfortunately, this bill was sent to the House Rules Committee where it never received a hearing. By denying the legislation a hearing in committee, lawmakers effectively killed the bill without having to vote on it. This method of killing legislation is particularly underhanded, as it allows elected officials to sidestep taking a stance on this issue on public record and dodge any electoral consequences for their actions. 

Share this blog post now on social media to help protect future good governance legislation and to take a stance against our elected officials being allowed to profit off of their legislative decisions. 

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.

Dominion Energy Virginia customers should receive refunds soon, no thanks to the monopoly
By Diana Williams | February 25, 2022

A freshman lawmaker took on Dominion, demanding customer refunds and scoring a win for Virginians

Virginia’s largest electric utility, Dominion Energy, is required to refund over $300 million to its Virginia customers and cut future rates by $50 million thanks to Del. Suhas Subramanyam’s 2020 consumer protection law (HB 528) and a 2021 settlement between the State Corporation Commission (SCC), the Office of the Attorney General, and the utility monopoly. 

The result of Dominion’s triennial review of rates, also known as a rate case, represents a victory for consumers, with costs of living steadily rising and every dollar needing to count. It’s also clear evidence that more utility regulatory reform is urgently needed. Dominion is getting away with only refunding a fraction of the $1.1 billion it overcharged customers. The settlement further proves that rates could already be lower – the adjustment to future rates is less than a quarter of the $212 million SCC staff recommended. 

Here’s what you need to know about the refunds:

Why are Dominion Energy customers receiving a refund?
House Bill 528 restored the SCC’s authority to establish recovery of costs associated with early retirements of coal plants in a manner that best serves customers. Before this bill, Dominion could unilaterally decide how to recover these large costs. Absent this legislation Dominion would have recovered over $900 million from customers all at once in an attempt to deprive customers of refunds and a rate cut. 

I’m a Dominion Energy customer in Virginia. When will I receive my refund?
Beginning January 29, 2022 and throughout the 2022-2023 period, many Dominion residential customers should receive approximately $67 refunded back to customer accounts in the form of a check or bill credit. The total amount refunded will be based on a residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month from 2017 to 2020. No one will call you to discuss or issue your refund.

Dominion has overcharged customers by $1.1 billion dollars. Why are customers not getting bigger refunds?
Dominion-backed laws have largely handcuffed the SCC in recent years and prevented the agency from taking the appropriate accounting and rate-making measures to protect consumers. For example, Dominion drafted and lobbied extensively to pass the 2018 Grid Modernization Act, which capped rate reductions for customers at only $50 million. 

What happens if Dominion overcharges Virginians again?
Not if, when. Based on current laws, Dominion is overcharging Virginians right now and will continue to do so until the SCC has all the tools it needs to hold utilities accountable and keep prices low for all Virginia families and businesses. Legislators should continue the bipartisan progress to fix the loopholes that generate unearned excess profits and customer overcharges, including restoring the SCC’s authority to properly regulate Dominion.


About The Author

Photo of Dominion Energy Virginia customers should receive refunds soon, no thanks to the monopoly
Diana Williams (she/her)

Diana loves telling stories about the human experience. She’s the founder of Williams Multimedia, a production company specializing in audio storytelling. Her reporting has focused on histories of people of color, LGBTQ+ people and the intersections where those two communities meet. Diana holds an MA in journalism and public affairs from American University. Diana and her husband Clarence have lived with their two sons in the Shenandoah Valley since 1997. She is on the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge and the Virginia School Boards Association. She is also Vice Chair of the Waynesboro School Board.

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

cassady@cleanvirginia.org, 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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