Bylined Utility Puffery in Richmond Times-Dominion

by Steve Haner

I guess what shows up in the driveway every morning is now called the Richmond Times-Dominion.

On yesterday’s front page, and today picked up and spread across the state by the Virginia Public Access Project, was a long, puffy public relations piece about Dominion’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. It was written by the paper’s climate-alarmism correspondent Sean Sublette. It was a byline on a company news release, not something real newspapers do.

What the casual observer will miss is that it also represents a trend. The same writer, who came to the paper from a climate alarmism non-profit, about a week earlier wrote a similarly one-sided report based on Dominion’s claims of coming success in its rollout of utility-scale battery projects. Back on April 1, he quoted the company’s own cheery take on a recent State Corporation Commission approval of various solar and storage projects.

All three articles quoted only company spokesmen and provided only the company spin.  Readers who stopped there would know nothing about any disputes during the SCC proceedings, long-term costs to consumers, or any of the widespread doubts about the reliability of the underlying technology.

One such story earns a yawn. Three in three weeks, and now with the longest one getting picked up and treated as actual journalism by VPAP, requires the throwing of a flag. This is the same VPAP which continues to refuse to share any of my extensive reporting on the wind project application or the recent solar projects. Re-writes of pure company PR pass muster instead.

And for an example of quality work, look in the same VPAP string for Laurence Hammack’s very balanced report on the similar renewable projects application pending from Appalachian Power Company, which serves The Roanoke Times territory. It is possible that two recent posts of mine on Bacon’s Rebellion alerted that paper to the fight down at the SCC, but the reporting is all his, including, apparently, some time monitoring the (very dry) hearing last week.

Hammack also picks up on the debate over secrecy in the company filing (and also in Dominion’s), which may soon draw a ruling from the SCC hearing officer. The other “real” newspapers in the state, perhaps also under Dominion’s thumb, so far show no concerns about the widespread hiding of data on consumer costs and ratepayer risk. When the company press releases arrive, they will rearrange a few paragraphs and slap on bylines.