More Falsehoods and Malarkey from Clean Virginia

Capitalist Michael Bills of Clean Virginia: “Dividends are Bad”

By Steve Haner

The big money behind the Clean Virginia activist group was all earned by a Charlottesville hedge fund manager through the great American system of capitalism. That didn’t stop his organization from a recent attack that could have come from Communist Party USA. This one would have made Bernie Sanders blush.

Dominion Energy is paying out dividends in the middle of a pandemic! Shocking.

“Dominion Energy is transferring nearly $3 billion dollars from Virginia families and small businesses to Wall Street shareholders at a time when people are still struggling to stay in their homes and keep the lights on. This is economic injustice at its starkest,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore.”  See this news release.

I know I pick on Clean Virginia all the time. Somebody has to call it out. This cannot simply be stupidity. They have to know these statements are nuts and they hurt their own cause.

“The record payouts will arrive on the heels of a new Virginia budget that allows Dominion Energy to pocket over half a billion dollars of customer overcharges while forcing Virginia customers to pay for all outstanding debt that is owed to the monopoly…”

“A new Virginia budget, expected to go into effect next week, compels no refunds of the $502.7 million Dominion overcharged customers since 2017 and puts the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout on the shoulders of Dominion’s captive Virginian customers, allowing shareholders to pocket excess profits…”

Whatever excess profits Dominion Energy Virginia has earned in the 2017-2020 period are still hanging out there, accounted for somehow on the utility’s books. It is a lie to say they have now been pocketed by shareholders in the 2020 dividend payout. It is also a lie to say the new budget bill allowed that to happen.

What Clean Virginia got correct is that the budget diverted presumed excess profits toward paying off delinquent customer bills during the COVID recession, and then forced other customers to pick up the unpaid balances in the future. Clean Virginia’s legislative allies were focused on giving even more of the excess to that purpose, and never on refunds to those who overpaid.

Unless the 2021 General Assembly changes the rules again — (and my bet is it will try) – the State Corporation Commission will review those four years of company expenses and earnings next year. The excess cash above the allowed profit margins might be $500 million, it might be less, and it might be more.

Then that case will determine the use for those dollars. For whatever is left after the delinquent bills are paid, previous General Assembly action (fools) set up two options: Refunds to customers or use of the funds as down payments on various wind and solar boondoggles. Odds are that is where the $500 million (probably less now after the delinquent payments) will go – towards all those non-fossil fuel energy projects.

After all this time, the Clean Virginia folks must have some inkling how this works. But nuance is the enemy of propaganda, and it is easier to stoke resentment against “Wall Street shareholders” collecting dividends while Virginians suffer.

That’s the biggest and most ignorant pile of malarkey in their missive. Thousands and thousands of regular folks in Virginia will be collecting those dividends, either directly or through mutual funds and exchange traded funds. They include company employees and retirees, but plenty of other average investors will benefit.  Through XLE, an energy ETF, I guess I will be getting some.

It doesn’t really matter if you pay a bill with a government stimulus handout check or a quarterly dividend. Cash is cash, and if Dominion is leaning forward on its dividends this recession year then we should all appreciate that. If the SCC has the opportunity and authority to order refunds in 2021, that will have the same beneficial impact – cash in people’s pockets.

As has been discussed before, Clean Virginia is just as much about corrupting the legislative process with money as any utility or other major donor. Clean Virginia’s ultimate goal is promoting what it considers clean energy, not clean politics. To repeat myself:

Understand this: These same people are behind the Green New Deal remake of Virginia’s economy which will skyrocket the cost of electricity, natural gas and eventually gasoline. They don’t give a tinker’s dam about what it will cost you. Some drink the Kool-Aid and think costs will go down, but the higher prices for energy are inevitable and intentional. Any doubt that they understand that should be dispelled by the plan to create a new electricity welfare program, funded with a tax on all ratepayers.

I await Clean Virginia’s expression of concern over that Percentage of Income Payment Plan, which also forces one set of ratepayers to pay the bills for another. I will wait for a long time. They are not for the average ratepayer.