Home Dominion Power Dominion’s Bully Tactics and Alternative “Facts”

Dominion’s Bully Tactics and Alternative “Facts”


by Elena Schlossberg

Dominion Energy’s paid spokesman Chuck Penn, at almost 6.5’, towers over my petite 5’ frame — and outweighs me by probably more than 80 pounds.

I’d never thought much about this, until he stood blocking my way out of a conference room at the Washington, DC offices of public radio WAMU.  We had just finished debating Dominion’s ongoing problems with the Haymarket powerline project (“the Prince William County neighborhood of mostly elderly African American homeowners is being threatened by plans for a 38-acre computer data center that will be built nearby. The project requires the installation of 100-foot-high towers carrying 230,000-volt power lines through their land.”) on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

Joyce Hudson of the Alliance to Save Carver Road, Tony Olivo from the Washington Post, and Ken Schrad from the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) joined us on the program. Joyce was standing with me now, watching Chuck verbally attack me.

Chuck was looming. Chuck was booming. Chuck was furious. All six feet and more.

Those of us who have spent years opposing Dominion’s attempt to build Amazon’s private extension cord are accustomed to the blustering and bully pulpit tactics – Chuck’s behavior just echoes his employer’s, only at a smaller scale. The angry, personal attacks with a more desperate edge, well…you never get used to it.

But if I were him, I might be mad too. When the alternative “facts” you’re peddling crumble, standing taller, getting louder, and using intimidating body language might be all you can do. Hell, it got Donald Trump elected president.

What are Dominion’s alternative facts? Right now, they’re selling three big ones.

Alternative Fact #1: “It’s all about Corey Stewart.”

Corey Stewart inspires no neutral reactions. On many issues, he’s wrong. But on this issue, Corey happens to be right. He correctly labelled Dominion’s initial, single-power-line proposal, as “corporate vandalism.” He has worked with other elected officials and residents to stop that option and to oppose all overhead-only routes. He and the full Prince William County Board have hammered Dominion’s shifting “need” narrative. Others, including Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, have led opposition to legislation in Richmond clearly aimed at strengthening utilities versus localities. This issue is broad-based, bipartisan, and bigger than any single politician.

Alternative Fact #2: “Carver Road wasn’t Dominion’s choice.”

Attempting to cut out community opposition, Dominion wants desperately to collapse the plot to “Stewart Stopped Railroad; That’s Forcing Carver.” Quite simply, this is a lie. First, after the Railroad route got stymied, Dominion proposed four additional routes across three counties and nearly every major neighborhood, historic site, or natural preserve. Second, Dominion developed Carver as one of their final route alternatives – not Stewart, not the SCC, not anyone else. Third, Dominion could save Carver Road by dropping the project, since the need argument has imploded, or by asking the SCC to consider the partially buried hybrid alternative. Like Chuck in the doorway, Dominion controls the options now.

Alternative Fact #3: “This project isn’t about Amazon.”

Speaking of Chuck, he himself said that the Haymarket project is for a single large block load customer, later revealed to be Amazon. Dominion’s expert witness testified at the SCC’s Evidentiary Hearing that 97% of the project’s capacity would support this one “customer” (oddly, Amazon disputes this and has said on the record it may not need the power at all, undercutting Dominion’s arguments).

As I finally got into the elevator with Joyce, we both expressed relief, along with shock at the open attempt to intimidate. And that’s the reaction Dominion and their professional “communicators” count on from individuals and communities alike. They want us to see their superior size and strength. They want us to know that their paid voice will be louder. They want us to feel their control over exits — and options.

But it hasn’t worked this time or with this community. We stand united behind a single alternative – if needed, bury the line; and Amazon pays – and we will continue to stand united. We won’t take the bait on Dominion’s alternative facts, or let them pit community against community. We will be vigilant in our defense and vigorous in our response, whether in the court of public opinion, or possibly all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court.

And as for Mr. Penn, I will happily debate him again. But I might just ask for better security.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Penn’s verbal abuse is not working. Dominion’s bully tactics and outright lying are as transparent as their attempts to blame the Carver Road Community for being used by the county and the Coalition to oppose them. Mr. Penn, you are the one being used in a feeble attempt to bully ‘your people’ (your own words). How does it feel? By your reaction to your loss on the Kojo Nnamdi show, it’s apparent to us listeners Dominion is not winning.

    • Anonymous2!

      Hey “Anonymous” chuckle, chuckle. How do you feel now that your handlers have told you they had the Carver Road blocked all long? How do you feel now that your buddy, Corey and his bigoted crew, has blessed Charlottesville? You are pathetic, Anonymous” and clearly are not worthy of the mantle of leadership. You suffer from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome!

  • TaddCWilson

    As a resident along one of Dominion’s second set of proposed routes, let me assure you Alternative Fact #2 is weapons-grade falsehood. Dominion and only Dominion can propose a route or alternative (and in Dominion’s November 6, 2015 application to the SCC, I-66 Overhead was their proposed route – not Railroad – and Carver was included as an alternative, just like Railroad… it’s in the application!!). Their regulator (SCC) may select from among those routes, or generate their own. If your home or neighborhood is in the crosshairs, it was put there by a Dominion proposal, or by the SCC amending a Dominion proposal. Before Dominion put Carver in the crosshairs, it looked at four routes which seemed designed to provoke maximum reaction. Then Dominion took some of those off the table (though a few lingered in the application) and proposed I-66 Overhead with Carver, Madison, Hybrid 66, and Railroad as alternatives.

    Dominion’s application also notes “the Company is including the Railroad Alternative Route for Commission consideration in the event agreement with Prince William County can be reached.” Dominion proposed something besides Railroad, plain and simple. They knew Railroad was unlikely, and took steps to deal with that.

    An earlier commenter noted, “Mr. Penn’s verbal abuse is not working.” Penn has an ugly job – to help Dominion dance through a minefield of its own words, on the record. It’s an impossible and frustrating task, I am sure. And the toll is starting to show.

    Also, if Dominion is so angry at having Railroad stymied, why has it taken three years to manifest? And why hasn’t the SCC’s thwarting of their second choice drawn similar ire? Dig into the facts, they don’t support Dominion’s account.

  • Anonymous2!

    Ha. It’s a bird, no it’s a plane. No it’s Not Superman.

    It’s Mighty Mouse!! Or is it Mighty Mouth?

    You know, the self-absorbed one, the chameleon who can morph in a blink of an eye from the angry rebel looking for a cause to luxury living in million dollar mansion to the protector of the poor, black and um … exploited.

    “We’re tired of rich people coming into our community …” she bellows with her patented bellicose oratory. But hey, feigned righteous indignation is her specialty. Did you catch her Academy Award act the other day?

    Here I come to save the dayyyy!