If your main concern is that people pay a fair price for electricity, the best outcome of Monday’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting would be approval of the bill changing the rules on Dominion Energy Virginia’s 2021 rate review, followed by defeat or delay of the highly touted Virginia Clean Energy Act. That is also the outcome which preserves the independent authority of the State Corporation Commission.
Looks like it will be the other way around.
News broke late on Friday that the first, House Bill 1132, is not even on the docket for Monday’s meeting of the committee, despite it passing the House with a strong bipartisan vote. Committee Chair Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, sets the docket and he must be acting at the utility’s behest. The Twitterverse is alive with commentary and derision today.
Much of it is coming from the advocates for that other bill, House Bill 1526, which is on the docket and is expected to gain approval Monday. There may be some amendments to it, as yet unknown outside a secret circle, but it won’t change much.
The sins against the people of Virginia that the first bill seeks to correct are compounded and worsened by the second. It is just as dismissive of the SCC’s independent role. This year’s intrusion by the General Assembly into politically driven central energy planning is no different than its previous assaults on utility ratepayers in 2014, 2015 and 2018.
People who think themselves smarter than the rest of us will take our money through higher rates and spend it how they want to, often to satisfy political supporters. Utility stockholders remain protected. Electricity rates have merely become yet another form of hidden tax. The provisions in this new bill to means test the impact of those higher “taxes” on low income customers just prove the point.
Saslaw has a keen eye for hypocrisy, and the smart folks at Dominion know that forced to choose between the two bills, Democrats will sacrifice the rate case bill. The Climate Catastrophe hysteria is too central to their political message, its adherents and beneficiaries providing too much manpower and money. In 2018 Dominion tapped into that to push through the Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act, with many of the same environmental groups lined up to cheer its promise to build more non-fossil generation.
If you have an hour, Blue Virginia posted a recording of a long conference call among the proponents of that bill. At least read the accompanying summary if you lack time for the recording. They spent a fair amount of time congratulating themselves for diminishing the influence of Dominion. That was Thursday night, and Friday this news broke. Maybe they spoke prematurely. Maybe they have Dominion right where the utility wants them.
Should both bills pass, and if the 2021 SCC rate review then does result in lower base rates (it should), that would simply set a new floor for the coming cost explosion under the Virginia Clean Economy Act. It is hard to get excited about that, frankly. It’s a political fig leaf at best, one step forward followed by two steps back.
As the commentary on the audio makes clear, this tinkering with the minutia of energy regulation will continue into future years. They are coming after the rest of the economy next, including transportation, agriculture and the use of natural gas for home heating and industry. Here is Del. Richard Sullivan, D-Arlington, patron of the House version of the Clean Energy bill, quoted on Blue Virginia:
“…we will be back if there are things we don’t get in this bill, that we want to continue work on; we can come back next year. There’s certainly nothing in the bill that says this is now set in stone for the next 30 years… None of us know what kind of technology might exist five to ten years from now…We will have an annual possibility to come back and now tweak or even make major changes to the bill.”
Late last year, I bumped into an SCC official I know in a grocery store. During the conversation I noted that I’d slowed down writing about these issues here on Bacon’s Rebellion. “Well, its always the same story,” was the response. Indeed, once politicians decide the end justifies the means, it is always the same story. Here it is happening again.There are currently no comments highlighted.