Lawmakers Weigh Stronger Regulation of Utilities
When the General Assembly met just over a year ago, members passed a bill that could make Virginia a leader in the transition to Clean Energy. Democrats were thrilled, but critics say the law could boost utility bills in this state by $800 a year on average by 2030.
Now, nine lawmakers are backing legislation to protect consumers.
The Virginia Clean Economy Act was a source of pride for environmentalists. It promotes increased reliance on solar energy and the largest offshore wind farm in the nation, but the non-profit Clean Virginia warns that lobbyists for Dominion Energy played a key part in crafting the new law.
“Because Virginia has a part-time legislature with legislators who are poorly paid and poorly staffed, a lot of very intricate bills are crafted in large part by lobbyists,” says spokesman Brennan Gilmore. He claims the legislation will provide Dominion with a generous profit on its offshore wind farm while sticking consumers with a very big bill.
“We can’t further burden households in Virginia that are already paying in the instance of Dominion customers the 7th highest bills in the country.”
His group has contributed to the campaigns of lawmakers who no longer take money from Dominion, and nine of them are now pressing for increased regulation of monopoly utilities in Virginia. Among them is Suhas Subramanyam.
“The General Assembly has not done its job in protecting ratepayers over the past decade," he says. "It has enabled monopoly utility companies to essentially play accounting tricks at the expense of everyday Virginians.”
Delegate Jay Jones says Virginia must free the State Corporation Commission to again regulate utilities after years of restrictions imposed by the General Assembly.
“Dominion is able to ride roughshod over the state, because the state has failed to empower the SCC to properly oversee what they’re doing. We’ve effectively tied their hands, and so it’s really important to me that we have those guardrails in place going forward.”
Jones says Dominion Energy has overcharged its customers by more than $500 million and should be required to pay them back.