Virginia Senate Allows Dominion to Regulate Itself; House Votes Feb. 12

On February 9, 2018, the Virginia Senate passed a bill radically restructuring how Virginia regulates monopoly utilities (Dominion and other minor players), allowing utilities to use excess earnings from over-charges paid by customers to build new electric infrastructure. Then,  by incorporating building costs into the company’s rate base for which customers are charged annually, utilities could “double dip” by billing customers twice for these capital projects. The legislation also fails to fully refund Dominion’s overcharges from 2015-2016. Currently, the legislation proposes that Dominion refund just $200 million of what the State Corporation Commission estimates to total between $327.8 million and $705.2 million in overcharges from 2015-2016.

On Monday February 12, 2018, the Virginia House of Delegates will vote on HB1558, a bill that will govern our energy policy for a decade. While Dominion and its allies have launched a propaganda campaign (funded by our electric bills) to hide its effects, the bill is unquestionably a bad idea for Virginians. Learn why here. Contact your delegate and urge that delegate to vote against Dominion.

Read Appalachian Voices’ op-ed for more background on the issue

In response to the Senate vote, Kate Addleson, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, released the following statement:

This bill would further erode the SCC’s authority to regulate monopoly utilities including Dominion Energy Virginia, and effectively allow Dominion to use their outsized influence in the General Assembly to regulate themselves. Giving Dominion the power to charge customers twice, or “double dip” on infrastructure projects effectively steals from Virginians, and hits low-income families the hardest.

Dominion is proposing to refund an arbitrary amount representing just pennies on the dollar of SCC estimates of overcharges from the years the refund freeze was in effect. The amount to be refunded should be determined by an SCC audit in a rate case, not by Dominion in the legislation they wrote.

While progress towards stricter energy efficiency standards and more clean energy is commendable, it should not come at the expense of ratepayers’ rights and sensible supervision.

Under this new scheme, refunds for Dominion’s overcharges over the first four-year period, no matter how high, are capped at a meager $50 million dollars. This is unacceptable: every dollar overcharged by Dominion should be returned.

The Senate’s vote today allows Dominion to profit from projects that Virginians will pay for twice, and leaves us footing the bill. If the goal is to end the “rate freeze,” then the General Assembly should simply restore government watchdog authority so they can force Dominion to treat customers fairly.