Virginia Budget Changes Could Allow Dominion Energy to Pass COVID Debt Remission Costs on to Taxpayers Later

Virginia’s General Assembly released amendments to its proposal biennial state budget Friday, that would leave Energy of Domination landed from a previous proposal, which would have required the utility to dip into hundreds of millions of dollars in excess profits as a source of money to write off the debt some of its customers have racked up amid the COVID-19 crisis .

If the changes pass, Dominion will still have to write off much of its electricity customer debt, but the changes are critical in determining who will pay. One earlier proposal by Governor Ralph Northam would have forced Dominion to dip into the $ 320 million in excess profits it has taken from its customers in recent years to fund debt cancellation. Instead, depending on the House and Senate versions, Dominion could effectively pass the costs of canceled taxpayer debt on to its clients in the years to come, reducing the amount of refunds those clients could receive as a result of the case. tariff of the public service next year, or possibly by requesting a rider “tariff adjustment clause (RAC)”.

Members of the House of Delegates and Senate appropriation bodies, who proposed the updated wording, received approximately $ 2.5 million from Dominion and its employees in campaign contributions throughout their careers, including more than $ 580,000 from Dominion Energy between 2019 and 2020.

The modified Senate version The budget would require the utility to write off debts from customers who are more than 30 days late on their electricity bills as of September 30. Home version would require Dominion to write off debts for the only customers who are over 60 days overdue on their electricity bills as of August 31 – relief estimated at $ 74 million, per year letter to the legislators of the State Attorney General.

According to a letter From the Virginia Crown Corporation (SCC) Commission to lawmakers, Dominion customers were nearly $ 117 million behind on their bills as of June 30 as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to create hardship economic. Breed and income specific data is not available for arrears in Virginia, but national surveys showed that black and Hispanic households were much more likely not to be able to pay an electric bill during this summer than white households. Virginie knew her hottest July on record this summer.

A CSC report discovered last month that Dominion overcharged its clients by more than $ 500 million above its allowable level of return between 2017 and 2019. Meanwhile, Dominion paid its senior executives over $ 85 million.

Budget provisions would replace an expiring CCP moratorium on disconnections of public services, extending that relief for up to 60 days after the state of emergency in Virginia ends, or “until the governor determines that economic and public health conditions have improved.” They would also require utilities to provide late-paying customers with six to 24-month repayment plans – a digression from the twelve month supply approved by the Senate earlier this month.

The CSC moratorium, which he extended to give the General Assembly time to address impending shutdowns, will expire on October 5. Each chamber is expected to vote on its version of the budget beforehand, followed by a reconciliation process to resolve differences between the two. invoices. (Under virginia law, the budget will take effect “as soon as it is adopted. “)

Dominion paid over $ 2 million to Virginia lawmakers on appropriation committees

Members of the Virginia State Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee have accepted more than $ 1.3 million in contributions from Dominion Energy, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). On the House side, members of the Supply Committee accepted over $ 825,000. The Dominion has made nearly a third of these contributions on the Senate side and a quarter on the House side over the past two years.

In addition to these corporate contributions, contributions from Dominion employees – including CEO Tom Farrell and other company executives – to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee amounted to approximately 345 $ 000. The public service campaign finance “bundle” strategy – in which a candidate or committee receives both corporate contributions from the Dominion and others from individuals affiliated with the public service, often within a short period of time or even the same day – was the first exhibited by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2017.

The management of the credit committees of both houses accepted large sums from the Dominion. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Torian (D-52) agreed $ 77,250 in Dominion contributions, of which $ 61,000 was collected between 2019 and 2020. Dominion is Torian’s second-largest contributor, according to VPAP data.

On the Senate side, the chair of the finance and appropriations committee, Janet Howell (D-32) accepted $ 66,750 in Dominion contributions, plus an additional $ 19,825 in contributions from Dominion employees. Dominion is Howell’s third-largest contributor overall, according to VPAP data.

Dominion was the largest overall contributor to six other members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee, according to VPAP data. In the House, these include the former Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk cox* (R-66), as well as the Delegates Ken plum (D-36) and Delores mcquinn (D-70). Cox accepted a record $ 376,777 in Dominion money, including more than $ 100,000 in 2019, an election year in which he held his seat by a narrow margin. (Plum has not received money from the Dominion since 2017.)

On the Senate committee, Dominion was the main overall contributor to the Senate Majority Leader Dick saslaw (D-35), President pro tempore of the Senate Louise lucas (D-18), and senator Granny Locke (D-2), according to VPAP data. Saslaw, who earned the nickname “Dick Domination” of his critics, accepted more than $ 436,000 from the utility, plus an additional $ 47,000 from Dominion employees. Saslaw, Lucas and Locke have all received significant sums from Dominion in the past two years alone: ​​$ 85,000, $ 82,500 and $ 62,500, respectively.

Virginia’s lax campaign finance laws allow candidates to loot campaign funds for personal use, making Dominion and its employees contributions to friendly legislators virtually unrestricted.

Only one member of either Appropriation Committee – Senator Creigh Deeds (D-25) – signed a agree to reject Dominion contributions created by Activate Virginia, an activist group seeking to make Virginia politics more democratic and elect Democrats. Others “have taken a principled stance against accepting campaign contributions” from the Dominion, its leaders and lobbyists, according to one. listing maintained by Clean Virginia, a group that opposes the corruption of the utility monopoly in state policy.

* Excluding “contributions” to Cox from its own nominee committee, “Cox for Delegate”, which VPAP considers to be its main overall contributor.

Update (9/29 at 5:25 p.m. ET): This post has been edited to add a debt relief estimate for the House Budget Amendment, as well as information on Clean Virginia’s list of lawmakers who state that they reject the contributions of the Dominion.

“Virginia State Capitol Building” by Black sky is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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