Governor Northam Signs Controversial "Dominion Bill"

Mar 9, 2018

Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

Electric utility companies Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power have avoided Virginia regulators for several years, although that era may be coming to a close.

In the game of Monopoly, the cost to the consumer is based on a roll of the dice. Many lawmakers here say the price consumers across Virginia will pay in the future is just as arbitrary. For the last few years, those rates have been frozen in place, allowing the monopolies to rake in millions of dollars in over-earnings. Now, says Delegate Mark Keam of Fairfax County, lawmakers are lifting the rate freeze but stripping regulators of the ability to regulate.

“The one problem that this bill was supposed to address, which was to bring us back into the rate review after the rate freeze, we don’t do that. We do everything else instead. And everybody else is getting good stuff.”

Good stuff like investments in wind and solar. But many lawmakers are uneasy with the way the bill allows the companies to write off those investments, essentially making ratepayers finance them. Senator Bill Stanley of Russell County says the bill doesn’t even end up returning over earnings back to ratepayers.

“Well I thought we should just unfreeze the rate freeze and go ahead and return the money to the ratepayers. So I thought it was a simple undoing. This seemed to complicate it just a little bit.”

Some lawmakers were pressing Governor Ralph Northam to make some last-minute changes to the bill, returning more of the over earnings to ratepayers. But the governor signed the bill without making any changes.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.