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Dominion Spends “Captured” Virginia Ratepayer Money to Push Its Propaganda, Disparage Pipeline Opponents and the Media

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I already have a rock-bottom opinion of Dominion Energy, so I can’t say that this Washington Post article (“Campaign to elect a pipeline:’ Va.’s most powerful company ran multi-front fight”) necessarily surprised me. Still, after reading it, I felt like I needed to take a long, hot shower. Also, WTF — why does Dominion get to spend Virginia ratepayer money to basically run an anti-environmentalist, pro-fossil fuel propaganda operation, as described in an October presentation to the natural gas industry by Bruce McKay, Dominion’s senior energy policy director??? A few highlights from McKay’s presentation include:

  • In its efforts to push the environmentally ruinous, economically nonsensical, fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, “Dominion…compiled a ‘supporter database’ of more than 23,000 names, generated 150 letters to the editor, sent more than 9,000 cards and letters to federal regulators and local elected officials, and directed more than 11,000 calls to outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia’s U.S. senators.” Astroturf, anyone?
  • McKay whined that “historically non-political processes [are] now political,” which of course is laughable – U.S. and Virginia energy policy have ALWAYS been highly political, with massively more subsidies – direct and indirect – flowing to the fossil fuel industry over the past century than to clean energy options.
  • McKay disparaged pipeline opponents as “absolutists who believe ‘natural gas [is] worse than coal.'” In fact, what environmentalists argue isn’t that natural gas is WORSE than coal, but simply that methane leakage in the natural gas production process, along with other environmental issues related to fracking, pipeline transmission of natural gas, etc. can make natural gas nearly as bad – or even as bad – as coal. As for being “absolutists,” the climate science is very clear, as is the math: we need to get off of fossil fuels as rapidly as possible, or we’re going to make the planet a truly nasty place to live (e.g., ocean acidification, anyone? yeah, didn’t think so!). Again, this has nothing to do with ideology or being “absolutists”; this is simply what climate scientists overwhelmingly have been saying — no new fossil fuel infrastructure, starting immediately.
  • McKay, whose company has been churning out propaganda funded by “captured” Virginia ratepayers, audaciously claims that “social media is fast and provides no fact-checking” and that “other media are ‘lazy, sympathetic, often inept.'” Note how McKay takes zero responsibility for the fossil fuel industry’s (including his company’s) massive campaigns to promote climate-trashing dirty energy while disparaging clean energy and energy efficiency? Instead, he blames “social media” and “other media” — basically all media — for messing with Dominion’s plans for more fossil fuel infrastructure (the very thing climate scientists have said, over and over again, we CAN NOT HAVE). Sad, huh?
  • McKay further whined that “there is ‘no electoral reward for political courage,'” that “[o]pponents stage events for media consumption, using ‘outrage and intimidation’ as ‘common tools’ to try to delegitimize the process,” and that “[i]n the wake of President Trump’s election, the opposition is ‘more aggressive, [with] more litigation, more funding.'” This is, frankly, not worthy of a serious response, only mocking laughter and also outrage at the arrogance and disdain of Dominion Energy, which most Virginians are essentially stuck with thanks to Dominion buying up our state legislature and pushing laws that give it everything it wants.

Finally, note that McKay complains about regulators “being bombarded by general citizenry, by elected officials who have asked to insert themselves into the process, and this debate swirls around” — as if that’s a bad thing! What should our response be to that? Clearly, we need to double down, bombard the “regulators” even more, attend the big anti-pipeline rally in Richmond this Saturday, etc., etc., while Dominion representatives are busy attending secret gatherings of fossil fuel industry muckety-mucks and whining about how unfair life is. Break out the tiny violins!