"Dominion uses the money from my electric bill to buy off politicians so it can overcharge me on my electric bill. And I have no choice if I want to keep the lights on. This has to change." - A concerned Virginian
LEARN ABOUT DOMINION ENERGY
Dominion Energy is a public utility providing a necessary service to customers throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, and employs thousands of hardworking Virginians who keep our lights on. But unlike other public utility companies, Dominion's primary corporate objective is to maximize profit, not the public interest. What this means is that Dominion has consistently made choices directly in favor of its shareholders but directly opposed to the interests of Virginians. As a result, our pocketbook, health, and environment suffers.
In order to ensure their ability to make these tradeoffs, Dominion has focused intensively on financing politicians, and they have proven very effective in doing so - they are the largest political donor in Virginia. The Virginia legislature is responsible for balancing the logical pursuit of a monopoly corporation to maximize its profits with the interests of bill payers. However, large, systematic contributions and gifts to lawmakers have led to a rigged system that has favored corporate interests over the common good. Dominion likes to say that the laws permit this, and they do -- because they were written by Dominion lobbyists themselves. The system is broken.
A few facts:
- Dominion has routinely overcharged customers. In 2015, a Virginia Senator introduced a bill that he readily admitted Dominion wrote, that would cancel any refunds to consumers.
- In 2015 and 2016 alone, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) estimated that Dominion overcharged Virginians up to $705 million. None of this money has been returned.
- Monthly bills for Dominion’s average residential customer rose 7 percent between 2015 and 2017 while the average monthly bills for similarly situated utilities in the Southeast fell slightly during that time.
- The Virginia campaign finance system is one of the least constrained in the country. Contributions are unlimited and can be used for personal expenses.
- For the $669,479 it contributed in 2015, Dominion Energy made $280 million in corporate profit, enabled by a complicit legislature.
- In 2016, 44 out of 140 legislators owned more than $5000 of stock in companies that directly lobbied the General Assembly.
- When Dominion profits, the windfall goes to its shareholders and executives. When it loses, it spreads these loses to the public, through higher rates. As a monopoly, it has no competition to protect consumers from these abuses. In fact, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) guarantees a minimum of a 10% return on its investment.
- Dominion does not hide who it cares about. Thomas Hamlin, former Vice President of Investor Relations: investors “are the ultimate owners of the company; we are caretakers of their capital. Our job is to take care of them the best way we can.”
- The CEO of Dominion, a public utility which has no competition, which drafts laws, contributes to candidates' campaigns, and has guaranteed return on interest by the state, made $17.3 million in 2015 - more than the CEOS of General Motors, McDonalds, Citigroup, and DuPont. From the bills that average Virginians pay, he made twice as much in one day as the average Virginian did all year.
- Compare that to other public utilities. The director of public utilities in Richmond, which provides another necessary public utility – water – at cost, made $139,740 per year.
What all this means for Virginians (and why Virginians should care):
Money out of your pocket: In 2016 alone the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), the state agency formerly responsible to regulating monopoly utilities, estimated that Dominion Energy over charged its customers by more than $420 million. Prior to 2015, the SCC had the power to limit electric utilities’ profit to about 10%, but in that year, Dominion had legislators pass a bill that stripped the SCC of that authority through 2020. The total estimated cost to Dominion customers—over $1 billion in over charges.
Good jobs lost to other states: Virginia ranks well behind other states in its investments in solar, wind and energy efficiency because Dominion has stifled competition from the renewable energy industry. In the same year, 2015, that Dominion committed to 400 Megawatts of solar by 2020, the state of North Carolina installed over 400 MWs in that that year alone. While North Carolina ranks second in the country in installed solar with over 7000 jobs in that industry, Virginia ranks 20th. Only recently has Dominion begun to make initial investments in renewables but because Dominion is an inefficient monopoly, we will pay more for that solar power than if the free market prevailed.
Polluting our air and water: Dominion’s coal and gas power plants make it the biggest air polluter in Virginia. From soot and smog to toxic lead and greenhouse gases, Dominion is poisoning the air our children breathe. Dominion’s coal plants also pollute our water. Dominion has effectively lobbied our legislators to allow it to leave leaking toxic coal ash piles in unlined pits that are contaminating our ground and surface water, poisoning families drinking water wells. Even the limited scrutiny of Dominion’s coal ash pits does not apply to coal ash pits in southwest Virginia owned by Appalachian Power which succeeded in exempting itself from even this modest state oversight.
Freedom of choice in electricity providers: Not too long ago most of us could only get our phone service from AT&T. With the popularity of cell phones, we broke up that monopoly and now we have better service, many more options and the freedom to choose our cell phone carrier. Similarly, there are now providers of solar and wind power who would love to sell you cheap, clean power if only monopolies Dominion and Appalachian Power would let them. Sure, you’d still need to pay your utility to transmit that electricity through their wires, but you should be able to buy your electricity from other cheaper, cleaner more efficient providers.
Property rights violated for private gain: You’ve probably heard a lot about Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion’s pipeline company is separate from its utility which sells us electricity. It is a for profit company responsible only to its stockholders, and yet, pipeline companies have the right under federal and Virginia law to trespass on your property without your permission and to condemn your land for their private gain, not for any public purpose. Farms that have been in families for over 100 years are being taken for Dominion’s for-profit, unecessary pipeline
This is why we need to take back our state government from corporate special interests like Dominion Energy. With your help we can do that. Sign up today to help!
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