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Dominion Energy Clearly Panicking, Lashes Out with Conspiracy Theory, “Dark Money” Charge at Virginia Organizing, Anti-Pipeline Groups

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Yesterday’s Washington Post story on Dominion Energy’s “campaign to elect a pipeline” – astroturfing, disparaging pipeline opponents as “absolutists,” attacking the media for not toeing the Dominion Energy line, etc. – was not a big surprise to those of us who have long known what type of company we’re dealing with here. But the details were interesting, as was the clear tone of panic in the Dominion spokesperson’s presentation. Clearly, Dominion is worried, and with good reason, as their business model looks increasingly shaky, and they just witnessed an election in which a bunch of anti-Dominion Democrats defeated Dominion-friendly Republicans (people who Dominion had invested a ton of money over the years). Sad, huh? OK, no, not really. LOL

So now Dominion is clearly freaking out, as evidenced by the latest…I honestly don’t even know what to call it…on its “sponsored” blog. Here are a few highlights:

  • Lots of whining about how the media looks into Dominion Energy – the most powerful company in Virginia, a state monopoly no less – but NOT into Dominion’s nefarious, dastardly, powerful and well-funded (hahahaha) opponents – Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Friends of Nelson, Virginia Organizing, etc.
  • Conspiracy theories galore, including this bats***-crazy “report”  by Senate Republicans in 2014, which claimed among other things that “an exclusive group of wealthy individuals, directs the far-left environmental movement” (yes, these fossil fuel tools actually believe that there’s a “far-left environmental movement” funded by “an exclusive group of wealthy individuals”).
  • The assertion that “We know where Dominion’s money comes from — from Dominion rate payers and shareholders. It’s pretty straightforward.” Yes, I’ve got to concede, that one IS “pretty straightforward” – Dominion spends s*** tons of money to buy up the Virginia political system and to maintain its state-protected, anti-competitive monopoly status, then takes the money “captured” Virginia ratepayers have little choice but to send Dominion (if said ratepayers want to stay cool in the summer, warm in the winter, etc.) and uses it to enrich its top executives, run well-funded propaganda and smear campaigns, etc. Straightforward, alright – straightforward corruption!
  • Laughable attacks and innuendo against the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), including – gasp! – that its support comes  “mainly from Maryland and Washington, D.C., not Virginia.” The horror! The horror!  We also supposedly don’t know who this mega-rich (not), mega-powerful (not) grassroots environmental organization is “beholden to,” according to Dominion’s sponsored blog. Oh, and I bet you didn’t know that CCAN isn’t “a true grassroots environmental organization?”As I said, Dominion is absolutely panicked at this point, flailing and lashing out. Pathetic.  Even more pathetic is when you consider how miniscule CCAN’s staff and budget are compared to the Dominion behemoth (nearly 15,000 employees, billions in revenues). Recall that Dominion CEO Tom Farrell made $20+ MILLION in 2014, while CCAN’s Director Mike Tidwell makes…well, an infinitesimal percentage of $20 million, let’s put it that way. I guess that CCAN’s wealthy “dark money” must be why the group does stuff like a “Polar Plunge” in the James River to raise money, because it is SO loaded with cash. LOL.
  • By the way, I checked with Mike Tidwell (yeah, I guess we here at Blue Virginia are part of the grand “conspiracy” too – hahahaha) on Dominion’s throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-if-anything-sticks craziness, and he responded: “CCAN’s Virginia campaigns are strong and locally funded. We have nearly 20,000 Virginia supporters. We draw the overwhelming majority of our Virginia funding from individuals and philanthropies based in Virginia. We use this funding to empower grassroots-based solutions to climate change.” Evil, huh?
  • Outlandish charges, such as that Virginia Organizing (a small, “non-partisan statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives”) somehow receives money via “Russian energy interests through the Bermuda-based Klein Fund to the California-based Sea Change Foundation, and then from Sea Change” to Virginia Organizing. I contacted Virginia Organizing for comment, and they referred me to their previous statement on this: “We received money from Sea Change almost a decade ago to support our efforts to inform people about climate science. The foundation no longer supports us, and our record as a grassroots organization needs neither quotes nor
    embellishment.”
  • Also on this loony charge, see the July 2017 Politico story, “Republicans brewing Russian scandal to target greens: Allegations the Kremlin is bankrolling U.S. anti-fracking activists are ludicrous, groups say. But lawmakers want Treasury to investigate.” Among other things, Politico notes that much of “the case that Russia funneled money to U.S. green groups comes from a 2014 report” comes from an anti-environmental group managed by Richard Berman, also known as “Dr. Evil” and “the astroturf kingpin” for “his repeated use of the strategy of forming dozens of non-profit front groups, attack-dog web sites, and alleged think tanks that defend his corporate clients’ interests by attacking their critics, allowing his paying clients to remain out of public view.” Just to demonstrate how evil Berman is, he runs “a front group created to undermine public support for food-safety and animal welfare groups”; he opposed the Americans with Disabilities Act; and has worked “to counteract minimum wage campaigns, keep wages low for restaurant workers, and to block legislation on food safety, secondhand cigarette smoke, and drunk driving and more.”

So yeah, that’s what we’re dealing with here. In the end, what’s newsworthy about this story isn’t that Dominion is a corporate bully, polluter and corrupting influence – we already knew all that. What’s newsworthy is how irritated, defensive, even crazed Dominion is at the scrappy, grassroots citizens and small/local environmental groups fighting Dominion’s proposed fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline. To me, that is VERY telling, and a sign that we should, if anything, redouble our efforts to expose Dominion for what it is and what it’s doing to our state.

 

  • rvaanon

    Those slides were something else. This stuff here is amazing. Guess they didn’t acquire a good enough hipster yet. Yes they are scared and panicked- while it’s a good sign we are winning for the long term, it’s also weird to watch a breakdown of people when they see their assumed inherent power being challenged even a bit. Whatever – it’s clear they’ll eventually lose, but Virginians will be the ones to pay for it – these pipelines cannot happen. (This comment sponsored by my dark money lining my pockets.)

    • Dominion needs to lose, no doubt, the question is when? “ASAP” would be nice.

  • Kenneth Ferland

    A government sanctioned monopoly should have no ability to spend funding for any political purpose, that is tantamount to an officeholder spending government funds on his own election campaign.

    • Agreed. Or to spend ratepayer money to push out their propaganda on TV, radio, blog, etc. Should be illegal.

  • Harry

    If Dominion had competion it would be out of business. No company could get away with being against their customers in everything it does. Prince William County is a prime example: the coal ash ponds at Possum Point. Dominion and its lap dogs at VA DEQ (the Commissioner took a fully paid by Dominion trip to the Masters in Augusta, GA), proposed dumping millions of gallons of toxic waste in to a local stream that fed the Potomac River. Additionally Dominion refuse to fund monitoring wells for residents who used well water and were in proximity of the waste dump at Possum Point, turns out the wells were cointaminated. Now the lap dogs at DEQ want to allow Dominion to keep the waste dumps in place rather than removing millions of tons of toxic coal ash from PWC. If Dominion’s for it you know its bad for concumers. Another issue, take a look at net metering for renewables, Virginia has the worst legislation/regulations in the country, it all but eliminates the benefit to a home owner who installs renewables. Dominion is a public monopoly utility and should be treated as such with strict regulation, an allowable profit and all legislation aimed to support consumers. Dominion is a rogue company with an anti consumer agenda.

    • Agreed; if Virginia power markets were fully opened to competition, Dominion would be toast – good riddance to bad garbage. Also, we need to change our laws to make a lot of what Dominion does illegal. For now, though, we all suffer under the “dominion” of Dominion’s tyranny.

  • A few superb comments by Peter Galuszka on Dominion’s sponsored blog.

    *”There is no doubt in my mind that many who oppose the ACP are sincere. I have been int heir homes. I have been shown how the pipeline will affect them. I really doubt that a regional green group such as CCAN is some kind of diabolical plot and is somehow hiding its real backers. Are people not supposed to have the right to organize and voice their views? Another false equivalency.”

    *”…even suggesting Russian funding in the anti-fracking movement is a bit of a stretch. There is no question that shale gas and oil undercut Russian oil sales, but they also cut OPEC sales and prices. Shale gas and oil are worldwide phenomena. In the U.S., they stretch from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to Eagle Ford in Texas to Marcellus in Pa and W.Va. Fracking did take a hit when prices got so low that it was too expensive to drill. But to say the Russians are funding some Blue Ridge groups is preposterous and sooooo provincial.”

    *”I really don’t need a lesson on how Russians try to manipulate energy prices. They’ve been doing that for years. But to paint them as secretly funding Blue Ridge farmers and retirees is just plain stupid.”

    *”If you are so keen on sticking it to Moscow, one way is to put solar panels up EVERYWHERE rather that erect a $5.5 billion pipeline that likely is not needed in an economic sense.”

    *”Well, Jim,, let’s break this apart.

    (1) privately held corporations do not have to disclose much.
    (2) Publicly held companies do.
    (3) regulated utilities with monopoly power most definetly should be extremely transparent
    (4) advocacy groups that are non profits must follow the disclosure rules for non profits.
    (5) If not non profit, then no, they don’t have to disclose much.

    As usually, you are putting forward some false equivalencies.”