At least Jessie James used a gun. Once again, the monied interests of the Richmond business community have used their bought and paid for lap dogs in the state legislature to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Virginians. This particular heist involves charging Dominion’s ratepayers in Virginia increased prices for clean energy costs that don’t provide a watt of new, clean energy in Virginia. As always, the scam is aided and abetted by the General Assembly.
Before we get to the specifics of this particular robbery, it will be useful to review the basic pattern of General Assembly / Dominion “cooperation.” Virginia’s state government is one of only four states that have no limits on campaign contributions. Dominion Resources is a huge utility providing electricity to a majority of Virginians. The rates that Dominion can charge are set by state law and regulated by a commission whose members are appointed by the General Assembly. Now comes the fun part. Dominion is the largest non-party contributor to politicians in Virginia. Dominion has donated $364,750 to state politicians in 2012 alone (and we’re only half-way through a non-election year in Virginia). Perhaps more stunning, Dominion’s 2012 donations include payments to 70 members of our 140 person state legislature. It seems that we’re half way through the year and Dominion is half way through the political payouts. What does Dominion expect to get for all this money? Lots ….
Dust in the wind. One recent fleecing of Virginians involves Dominion’s ability to charge higher rates for the introduction of alternate energy generation. The higher rates are compliments of our benevolent (and well compensated) General Assembly via HB1022 from the 2010 session. The statute is pretty simple. If Dominion meets certain renewable energy goals it can collect extra money from Virginia ratepayers. In fact, the statute is not just simple, it’s simple-minded. Dominion can satisfy its Renewable Portfolio Requirements (RPS) by building renewable energy generation plants or by purchasing renewable energy certificates from other companies. And here’s the best part – Virginia’s RPS definitions are so weak that the renewable energy certificates that qualify in Virginia wouldn’t qualify in many of the states where the power is actually generated! The Southern Environmental Law Center says that $1.7 million could buy enough of these certificates to satisfy Dominion’s 2010 RPS targets, qualifying the company to collect an extra $76 million over two years from its ratepayers.
The Treasure of the Sierra
Madre Club. Ivy Main is vice chair of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. She has written an excellent opinion piece in the Washington Post describing this fleecing in more detail. To watch the Sierra Club’s video on this theft, click here.
A Clown Show Hat Trick. One, our General assembly passes a law that financially rewards Richmond-based Dominion for renewable energy generation that does not require renewable energy or even generation. Two, Dominion uses the poorly written legislation to trump up renewable energy credits and gets higher rates from people all over Virginia. Three, Dominion uses some of this ill-gotten gain to remain the largest corporate contributor to Virginia’s state politicians. Score another one for Richmond’s corporate monied interests.