Legislature Moves To Fill Power Vacuum It Created

State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, new Chairman of the Commission on Electric Utility Regulation (Image: Virginia Star)

By Steve Haner

State Senator Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, showed today that he had something which the State Corporation Commission now lacks – a quorum.  Surovell and the other legislators will gather in Richmond tomorrow to address the state budget but are expected once again to fail to fill the two vacancies on that vital regulatory body.

Surovell, however, was chosen this afternoon to chair the newly reconstituted Commission on Electric Utility Regulation (CEUR), a legislative oversight panel that has not met since December 2017 despite several tumultuous years of change in Virginia’s energy sector. The meeting lasted just a few minutes beyond one hour and never discussed the huge problem the legislators have created by refusing to elect new SCC regulators.

The single sitting State Corporation Commissioner, Jehmal Hudson, has been joined in several recent orders by former Commissioner Patricia West, sitting in as a substitute judge and creating a quorum of two on the three-judge panel.  West is now taking a job as chair of the State Parole Board and once she is no longer available, it is unclear what comes next. Hudson by himself cannot approve a final order. Word is that all the hearings are already being conducted by hearing officers, not Hudson.

Tomorrow is the last opportunity until January for the legislature to fill one or both vacancies, a deadlock now two years old. Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has shown no inclination so far to make a recess appointment, which would hold only until the legislature meets. If he does name someone, Surovell has indicated he would challenge it anyway, claiming the Senate is technically not adjourned.

Perhaps Surovell, a Democrat, and other legislators are happy that the official regulatory body is weakened as they begin to assert more interest in this arena. Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore was elected to be vice chairman of the CEUR.  Surovell, from Fairfax County, and Kilgore, from Scott County, worked together on the legislation that revived CEUR.

The legislative membership has been named, although it could be scrambled by the election. State Senator Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, is not seeking a new term. Should party control shift in one body either way, expect additional changes.  Attorney General Jason Miyares is being represented by his Consumer Counsel Meade Browder, and additional citizen members are still pending. Governor Glenn Youngkin has not yet named his choice as a consumer advocate.

Job one, as discussed at the brief meeting, is hiring an executive director. The group can have up to six staff persons, but the money being approved in the new budget won’t go that far. Surovell was quite open about wanting to build up the funds to build up the staff. Under the new law, CEUR will play a role in energy plans developed by the governor and will be able to issue ratepayer impact estimates on pending legislation.

Surovell announced that he had initially hoped for a meeting that began to dive immediately into issues, hoping that Dominion Energy Virginia would come to discuss its disputed Integrated Resource Plan, Youngkin’s Energy Department would come to talk about its plans and activities, and even sought a presentation on federal energy issues. But the meeting stuck to basics instead.

Without question, this is creating a legal and political power center on energy matters that did not exist before, and which could easily compete and even contend with the SCC or the executive branch. Who will call the shots, again, depends in part on the election, but not entirely on that.

Most of these legislators in either party take major campaign contributions from the players in this arena — Dominion Energy Virginia, Appalachian Power Company, Clean Virginia and other renewable energy advocates and providers — something not allowed with SCC judges. A dysfunctional SCC only adds to the influence flowing from those multi-millions of dollars.

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20 responses to “Legislature Moves To Fill Power Vacuum It Created”

  1. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    I started to plug in the campaign donation numbers from VPAP.org but it was just too freaking depressing. Except for Chris Runion, R-Rockingham, who seems totally clear of dollars from all the big players so far.

    Someone who attended the meeting (I watched online) commented on the pleasant, bipartisan atmosphere. I was reminded of the second part of the famous quote about “the evil party and the stupid party” that when they do something both evil and stupid, that is called bipartisanship. Leaving the SCC seats vacant has been and continues to be evil and stupid.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      “when they do something both evil and stupid, that is called bipartisanship.”

      Nah, not evil or stupid. It’s just money. Bipartisanship is just grudgingly sharing when faced with the prospect of none at all.

      1. Bipartisanship is just grudgingly sharing when faced with the prospect of none at all.

        A cynical view, but one against which I currently cannot form an argument.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Cynical? Maybe a little . Well, this ain’t cynical. Don’t go outside! It’s HOT! Africa hot! I went to the boat to charge the engine battery and got to cleaning the bilge. Left when I was dumping more sweat in than water getting wiped out. What the deuce?! It’s worse today than last week.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Surovell’s opponent is poorer than an itinerant Baptist preacher. Not one dollar raised.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        We are soooo going to miss Chap Petersen. Especially if the D’s hold the Senate, which is certainly very possible. Surovell has ambition and energy.

      2. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        We are soooo going to miss Chap Petersen. Especially if the D’s hold the Senate, which is certainly very possible. Surovell has ambition and energy.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          He seems to be the likely successor to Saslaw as Democratic floor leader. He was the lead on much of the legislation that the Democrats enacted in 2020 and 2021. He is smart and hard working.

        2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          He seems to be the likely successor to Saslaw as Democratic floor leader. He was the lead on much of the legislation that the Democrats enacted in 2020 and 2021. He is smart and hard working.

        3. DJRippert Avatar

          I think Scott is too progressive for statewide office in Virginia. However, over time …. Gerry Connolloy is 73, Don Beyer is 73 – so, there should be some opportunity at the national level. Meanwhile, I agree with Dick that Scott will look to fill in for Saslaw.

      3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        That is a great analogy!

      4. DJRippert Avatar

        Doesn’t Surovell’s opponent know anybody at Dominion?

  2. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    Just corrupt beyond belief with respect to Dominion and the politics and non-science involved from all.
    Like get UVA back to education, could Dominion please just get back to the efficient production of energy? Nuclear, coal, gas? And could the mostly Dems and quisling Rs stop trying to mandate things like electric cars and clean energy? They have NO IDEA what they are doing.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      The legal corruption in Virginia is astonishing. The princelings in The General Assembly have a one term governor, off year elections, unlimited campaign contributions, no effective campaign spending disclosure laws, no term limits, and when something like the SCC starts to get in the way of the General Assembly doing Dominion’s business – they just neuter it.

      Then you have the electorate.

      In Nova, the citizens (by and large) just don’t care about state and local government. Most voting age adults know the name of the current governor but not the Lt. Governor. An astonishing percentage have no idea who represents them in at the Delegate / State Senator level. As for things like school boards / Commonwealth’s Attorneys – forget about it. They have no Earthly idea. Soros knew what he was doing when he heavily funded Commonwealth Attorneys in urbanized areas.

      In the Greater Richmond Area, a lot of people still believe in nonsense like “The Virginia Way”. The citizens from that area drank the Kool-Aid that says our elected officials are so honorable that they don’t need any ethical guardrails, rules or laws.

      I get the feeling that Tidewater is a lot like NoVa – lots of transient people moving in and out. The folks down there seem to have a better understanding of local politics than in NoVa but the state government? Not so much.

      Elsewhere in Virginia (mostly small town and rural) there is a solid appreciation of the state government apparatus. This is where the Byrd Machine took root. You can live pretty well on a state government paycheck in many of these areas and patronage / nepotism still rule the day. Politicians from these areas get what they want but they have to bring disproportionate amounts of state revenue home to stay in office.

      Given this unholy mix of an over-powered General Assembly, low information voters in some areas, people living in the past in other areas and a good dose of opportunists – the likelihood of reform is low.

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        I think NoVa and Tidewater are similar on the transient part, but NoVa worse as to the federal teat and federal only. Rural parts…a mixed bag…probably right about some remnant of the old one-party Byrd days – I would put Whitt Clement as an example – but those Dems used to be sane. That area is abandoning the Ds, but overwhelmed by the federal grift and the inner city corruption, routinely turning out 90% for Ds, while Ds deliver less than zero to them, unless you call higher crime and worse schools “value.” But the support for Californication electrification is (1) idiotic; (2) suicidal; (3) unscientific…by both the GA and the Dominion execs. Why can nobody see that? Are they that easily bought off? (Oops…should be rhetorical…look how cheaply SlowJoe has been bought. Hire Ukraine as your investment advisor! A $10 million investment has paid off nearly $200 billion!)

  3. David Wojick Avatar
    David Wojick

    Is there a BR or other source on the “disputed Integrated Resource Plan”?

    1. Here are a couple:
      Dominion Energy projects adding up to 9 GW of gas-fired capacity in Virginia to bolster reliability https://www.utilitydive.com/news/dominion-virginia-resource-plan-reliability-natural-gas-coal-renewables-youngkin/649377/

      Law? What law? Pandering to the governor, Dominion’s new plan ignores Virginia’s climate law: The energy giant’s IRP is a political document, not a serious approach to meeting Virginia’s electricity needs. https://www.virginiamercury.com/2023/05/10/law-what-law-pandering-to-the-governor-dominions-new-plan-ignores-virginias-climate-law/

  4. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner


    There is Virginia Mercury’s take on the meeting, a straight story that ignores the foundering SCC in the background. Walton Shepherd of the Natural Resources Defense Council thinks this is a great development. All you need to know….

    1. The foundering SCC in the background at the very least needs to be transformed into the elephant in the room.

      How might we go about initiating that transformation, with both political parties and the press apparently content to leave it huddled in a dark corner, helpless and mute?

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