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.

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21 responses to “More Falsehoods and Malarkey from Clean Virginia

  1. Wow! There is plenty to criticize about Dominion — Steve has articulated the issues well. But paying dividends is bad? Really? The same could be said about almost every electric utility in the country. Utility stocks are so-called wid0ws-and-orphans stocks, valued for their high dividend payouts. I don’t know how Michael Bills made his money — trading derivatives maybe? — but it sure wasn’t salting away his nickels and dimes to purchase utility stocks to provide a reliable income in his retirement.

    Dividends are good. That doesn’t mean that Dominion stockholders are entitled to higher dividends supported by excess and unjustifiable earnings. But if the earnings are unjustified, attack that, don’t act as if dividends are reflective of rapacious capitalism.

  2. Fidel Castro dies with a net worth of over $900m, stashed away in off-shore (non-Cuban bank accounts). Terry McAuliffe and Tony Rodham established a ridiculous company raise investment through purchased US visas, start an electric golf cart company in Mississippi and get even more money from the State of Mississippi. As predicted by everybody who understood the automotive business, the company exploded into a dumpster fire and left the State of Mississippi and foreign investors holding the bag. Anybody traveling to Ukraine will hear from the people of that country that Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma was totally and completely predicated on his being able to gain access and curry favor with his father. Biden and his wife, Jill, earned a total income of $396,552 in 2016. They also made a total of $16,603,421 in adjusted gross income between 2017 and 2019, more than $15.6 million of which was from speaking fees and book deals. If you want to buy political influence a lucrative speaking gig will do it. Can anybody even name the title of a book written by Joe Biden?

    The far left / progressive / socialist wing of the Democratic Party operates with three classes of people – elites, useful idiots and sheep. The elites leverage their money and / or political influence to get the useful idiots to convince the sheep to support them. The elite profit enormously from socialism. Ask Fidel Castro. The useful idiots get to preen and virtue signal and the sheep get sheared. Ask the Cuban people.

    When you hear a modern American far leftist or socialist speak the first thing to do is identify them as elite, useful idiot or sheep. Only engage with the elites. Try to coax out of them their latest rent seeking, crony capitalist scheme to enrich themselves. Then, copy them. I really wish I had Al Gore’s phone number in that private jet of his. I’d really like to know what he’s working on now.

  3. What a dip%%%%. There are two issues: 1) excess profits; and 2) dividends to shareowners. The frigging GA, both under the GOP and now under the Democrats, have kowtowed to Dominion and permitted it to keep excess profits. Repeal the statutes that take away jurisdiction from the VSCC and open an investigation to identify and rebate the excess earnings back to customers.

    But as to lawful earnings, Dominion management has the right and the obligation to balance reinvestment in its operations and the payment of dividends to shareowners. And why doesn’t Bills give up his estate and build affordable housing units on it? Walk your talk, a%%h***.

  4. Liberals demand ultra-expensive mandates for offshore wind, super expensive if we have to go through Dominion which we must. We need to allow liberals to say that they did not agree with the extreme high costs, but liberals do mandate that we have to do that, if that’s what it is going to cost in Virginia.

  5. Dominion cut their 3rd quarter dividend by about 1/3 to reflect coronavirus losses and uncertainties after they revised their income guidance for the future and revised that down. I’d hardly call it a record dividend.

  6. No one from Clean Virginia is arguing that dividends are a bad thing or that the dividends represent a direct transfer of unrefunded overcharges. What’s important to keep in mind is that Virginians are still struggling to make ends meet while a pandemic and economic crisis rages on. But instead of refunding money it has overcharged its customers, Dominion lobbied tooth and nail to keep its unearned, excess profits — this is juxtaposed against the largest divident payout in recent years. Other states accelerated refunds to customers from utility overcharges in the wake of the COVID crisis. It is clear from these dividends that the monopoly and its shareholders took no financial hit from COVID, yet it is everyday ratepayers who will pay the price for overdue utility debts, just as the Attorney General and the SCC warned. Right now, every dollar counts for Virginia households. The bottom line is that Dominion and its legislative enablers blocked sorely needed refunds. These first duty of these legislators should be to their consituents, not Dominion shareholders.

    -Clean Virginia

  7. Steve. You seemed to argue about dominion taking overcharges and putting them into dividends. Am I wrong? If so, how?

    • Peter: Clean VA is wrong to claim that 2020 dividend payouts include that money, as we won’t even know what it involved until there is a rate case. It is wrong to claim that the special session budget bill was the culprit in allowing to Dominion to earn excess revenue, or keep it. It is wrong to ignore that perhaps tens of thousands of Virginians themselves are getting those 2020 dividends, not unknown “Wall Street” persons. Wrong to claim that dividends themselves are economic injustice. Their whole statement was just….wrong.

      The solution to this, too much to hope now, is to get this all back in front of the SCC and let it sort out the wheat and chaff. Clean VA wanting the General Assembly to dictate decisions about this is just as unhelpful as when Dominion runs to the Assembly for actions in its favor.

      DJ: When Chap’s bill comes up, Clean Virginia is Exhibit One for the opponents, who say it is behaving the same way — which is correct.

      Not sure why I stirred from my lethargy on this one. Perhaps that phrase “economic injustice” just had too much of an AOC ring to it.

  8. Steve, thanks but in the headline “Malarkey” is a Biden term. Did you write this head or did bacon? If the latter, I’d head for the exits.

    • Do you mean Biden uses it or it applies to him? He doesn’t own the word. We geezers have the same vocabulary I guess…I thought it was the polite choice.

  9. About half of what the “left” proposes can be rationally explained when you realize these are the folks that have their piece of the pie, and want to use the force of government to take what little slice you have. The other half, by the iron triangle

  10. If Clean Virginia cared about ordinary people, it would still be fighting the inclusion of the ocean-based windfarm investments in Dominion’s regulated rate base. It would also be funding a challenge to Dominion’s 9.2% monopoly return on equity.

  11. FYI, I put some of this up on Twitter (directly replying to Clean VA) and the Eco-Twits are arguing that it was unfair comparison because Dominion is not capitalism, but a quasi-governmental operation. Well, gee, guys, that would make it socialism and for that reason you should love it!

    The next few years will be such fun…

  12. We could do what Nebraska did in the 1930s. Buy out the power companies and have a state-operated electric utility. The Omaha Public Power District served me when I lived there. They sure did a better job than Dominion in trimming trees.

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