By Steve Haner
One sentence, if it is the right sentence, can upset the machinations of the powerful. Two bills pending in the 2023 Virginia General Assembly contain such a sentence, and it could upset the plans of Dominion Energy Virginia.
Here is the sentence at the heart of both bills:
…if the (State Corporation) Commission determines in its sole discretion that the utility’s existing base rates will, on a going-forward basis, produce unreasonable revenues in excess of the utility’s authorized rate of return, then, notwithstanding any provisions of subsection A 8 of § 56-585.1, the Commission may order any reductions to such base rates that it deems appropriate to ensure the resulting base rates (i) are just and reasonable and (ii) provide the utility an opportunity to recover its costs and earn a fair rate of return.
The House version of the bill, House Bill 1604, has bipartisan sponsorship. The Senate version, Senate Bill 1321 has three Democrats listed as sponsors. It is the Senate version which at least has been aired in an open Senate subcommittee meeting, and the leading Dominion lobbyist in the room was not coy about his concerns. So far, the House version slumbers and has not been heard.
During the Senate discussion, William Murray, the firm’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, noted the presence in the bill of “strong words,” which he said included “notwithstanding” and “any.” He warned the legislators in the meeting that “our concern would be if you just mooted everything you did in Senator Saslaw’s bill.” The Richard Saslaw-sponsored bill he referred to is Dominion’s main effort to recast its regulatory environment, which had just been discussed in the same meeting on January 18. It was first reported here. Continue reading