Cuccinelli to North Carolina on Electricity Regulation – Avoid Virginia’s Mistakes

The Cooch is back. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli penned an op-ed for the Wilmington, North Carolina based Star News opposing Duke Energy’s proposed changes to electrical regulation.  The title of the opinion piece is, “N.C. should block this Duke Energy power grab”.  Cuccinelli’s biggest issue with the pending regulation is extending the period of time between utility rate cases.  The editorial board of the Star News agrees. Cuccinelli writes:

“Key provisions to extend the period of time between utility company rate cases are embedded within N.C. Senate Bill 559, being debated at the N.C. General Assembly. Similar provisions hurt Virginia customers, and will hurt North Carolina customers, too.”

Transparency, true accounting and true ups. Cuccinelli maintains that multi-year rates can work. However, he cites three criteria required to make such a scheme fair to ratepayers:

“Multi-year rates can work, but Duke’s proposed model is flawed. If it could be amended to ensure that the utility operates with transparency, a full accounting of their spending, and a 100 percent “true-up” of over-earning for all years between rate reviews, then it’s possible the concept could work. The Virginia model and North Carolina’s SB 559 fail on all three counts.”

Mr. Cuccinelli maintains that Dominion’s “windfall profits” under Virginia’s flawed multi-year rate setting approach has Dominion on track to collect $1 billion in over-earnings between 2015 when the legislation was passed and the end of this year.

Storm damage refinancing. Cooch likes one aspect of the new bill — storm securitization. This would allow Duke to refinance debt to pay for work recovering from storms at a lower rate. This would save ratepayers money.  However, even though he applauds this aspect of the bill he has questions about Duke’s motivations. He writes, “But Duke is using securitization as a human shield for multi-year rates. They’re using a good legislative idea to sneak through huge windfall profits with the provisions that lock in its over-earning with multi-year rates.”

The future for the Coocher. I follow Ken Cuccinelli on Facebook and make it a point to read all the articles he writes or posts. Maybe it’s just me but he seems to have taken a decided turn toward the center. He has also developed a strong populist tone on many issues, including this electricity regulation matter. His name has been rumored to be under consideration for a high ranking post in the Trump Administration. Could Cooch be eyeing a return to politics?

Commentary – time for revenge in November. Our former Attorney General is holding out the General Assembly as capitulating to Dominion’s interests at the expense of Virginia ratepayers. His claim of $1 billion in over-earnings across 5 years is stunning. While those of us at Bacon’s Rebellion have long known about the hanky-panky between the General Assembly and Dominion, most Virginians were either unaware or didn’t care. That seems to be changing. Ahead of the 2017 Virginia elections 60 candidates signed a pledge to accept no money from Dominion. Thirteen of these candidates won. As we head into the House and Senate elections later this year the question of Dominion money should be very high on the list of voters’ concerns. I believe that any incumbent who refuses to take that pledge should be voted out of office. If they are running unopposed cast a write-in vote for “Virginia B. Cleanedup.”

— Don Rippert

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8 responses to “Cuccinelli to North Carolina on Electricity Regulation – Avoid Virginia’s Mistakes

  1. Ken Cuccinelli is accurate in his description of the regulatory dysfunction in both Virginia and North Carolina. This is not the regulators’ fault. It is because Duke and Dominion hold sway over the legislatures and get bills that cut-out the regulators and reward the shareholders at the expense of their customers.

    Being concerned about this doesn’t require one to be at a particular place on the political spectrum. Corporate executives, economic developers and chamber of commerce types should be just as concerned about the utilities taking money out of their pockets as families and small business owners.

    It is a fleecing unwarranted by the utility compact. Monopoly utilities should receive a fair return for providing needed services at a fair price. Instead, the leading energy companies in Virginia and North Carolina feel entitled to unfettered access to the public’s wallets. They tell financial analysts that they do business in a “favorable regulatory climate.”

    There is a better way for all concerned. Let’s get to it.

    • It’s not the SCC’s fault. That organization seems to want to do the right thing. They are blocked by the General Assembly and incredibly compliant governors unwilling to veto bad legislation. Always the same story in Virginia. Hide in plain sight and steal the people blind.

      I assume you remember Cuccinelli’s tenure as AG. He was, in my opinion, overly concerned with far right policies and activities. He tried to prevent Virginia public universities from providing insurance coverage to the partners of gay employees. He tried to sue UVA to get Michael Mann’s research. He sued the federal government over Obamacare. If suing the Federal government was cool then Cuccinelli was Miles Davis. None of this worked. During that time he seemed to lack any interest in relatively mundane issues like energy regulation. Things have changed. Cuccinelli is now addressing more mainstream issues and seems less publicly interested in tilting at far right windmills. He also seems perfectly willing to (somewhat) politely call out Virginia’s recent state government as sellouts to Dominion – which is what this op ed seems to do. Good for Cooch.

      North Carolina hasn’t passed this abysmal legislation, at least not yet. I’m guessing it won’t pass. North Carolina seems to have healthier coverage of state and local politics from traditional news outlets than Virginia. Maybe being further away from the Washington Post helps keep local news alive in the Tarheel State. More importantly, North Carolina forbids corporate campaign donations to state politicians. At least, that’s what I get from looking at the matter from a high level.

      Virginia needs energy regulation reform but until our legislators are either shamed into ethical behavior (a la the McDonnell incident and “gifts”) or voted out of office it won’t happen. I’m all for the latter. 2019 is as good a time as any to “throw the bums out”.

  2. I don’t think the Cooch has changed his stripes…. myself. I’d have to see a lot more changes including reversals and “I was wrong” on some of his prior right-wing idiocy. To me, he has had few real ideas, he’s mostly opposed things. I just don’t see a vision from him on how to proceed with things like health care, immigration, global warming, etc and that goes double for the GOP in Va with who he would presumably align.

    Their war cry these days is that the Dems are “socialists” and “baby killers”… we’ll see how that plays but I see no other GOP “converts” on Dominion….nor their interference with the SCC.

    Sorry DJ – yours hopes just totally outrun the realities.

  3. Oh I agree but look at the numbers of Dems vs GOP and look at the prospect of the GOP as a group – changing. I just don’t see it and Cooch as a GOP Gov is going to align with the rest of the GOP – he’ll not “lead” on this issue. Now, if he RUNS for GOV and says that’s what he intends to do if elected which includes convincing the GOP in the GA to change – I’ll reconsider but right now – it’s little more than a fan dance.

  4. I spoke with him at Bacon’s soiree a few years ago. We spoke about his failed attempt to get the VA supreme court to overturn issues related to the rate freeze. The state intervened. AG Herring defended the status quo to the detriment of ratepayers.

    He appeared to be genuinely concerned about Dominon’s grip on energy policy that costs Virginians much more than they should pay.

    • I’m not sure how long ago “a few years” is. He was Attorney General from 2010 through 2013 (four years). Then he lost the governor’s election to Terry McAuliffe. Since then his political outlook has matured a lot. He has de-emphasized being a right wing firebrand and moved to becoming a more thoughtful, although determined, populist. Contrary to LarrytheG’s views … I think Cuccinelli is a much different politician than he was as Attorney General. I for one hope he returns to Virginia politics – perhaps with a second run for governor in 2021.

  5. I’m listening. But I’m a skeptic on the Cooch. I think he’s masquerading. I want to hear more from him on a variety of issues and see where he is relative to the rest of the GOP.

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