Home 2017 Races : Citizens Demand Fair Electric Rates, Rate Reviews, and Refunds

[URGENT ACTION]: Citizens Demand Fair Electric Rates, Rate Reviews, and Refunds

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By Josh Stanfield of Activate Virginia

Electric rates in Virginia are too high, and that’s because the General Assembly has enabled utilities to overcharge. We need to pass a repeal of SB 1349 (2015), allow the SCC to review rates soon, and demand refunds to ratepayers across Virginia.

Urgency

The repeal bill, SB 9, has been introduced by State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and is likely to be heard tomorrow (Monday, 1.15.18) in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. The Committee meets 15 minutes after adjournment in Senate Room A, Pocahontas Building.

There is a high probability that SB 9 will be defeated or passed by indefinitely tomorrow. We need to emphasize that regardless of committee action, there are procedural ways to resurrect the bill this session. But the odds of doing so and getting it passed depend on immediate citizen feedback and – if the bill is killed in committee – outrage.

Background

In 2015, Virginia’s General Assembly passed SB 1349, the infamous “rate freeze” bill. This legislation suspended regulatory reviews of electric rates. According to an SCC report, Dominion Energy has pocketed over a quarter of a billion dollars that – in part – should have been refunded to ratepayers since. Governor McAuliffe claimed he would have supported a repeal bill if it made it to his desk.

You can read objections to the 2015 “rate freeze” bill from the Richmond-Times Dispatch Editorial Board, former Democratic Attorney General Andrew Miller, former Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Jeff Schapiro at RTD, and AG Mark Herring.

State Senator Chap Petersen has introduced SB 9 for this 2018 session. We’re now trying to get this bill to Governor Northam’s desk.

Action

Please contact your state legislators ASAP and voice support for SB 9 and the fair electric rates, empowered SCC, and refunds ratepayers deserve.

Find your legislator here. Additional contact information for delegates and state senators can be found in the corresponding tabs of this spreadsheet.

On top of contacting your own representatives, you might consider contacting the members of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee:

Wagner (R), Saslaw (D), Norment (R), Obenshain (R), Stuart (R), Stanely (R), Cosgrove (R), Chafin (R), Dance (D), Lucas (D), McDougle (R), Black (R), Sturtevant (R), Spruill (D).

Easy copy/paste of their respective (official) email addresses:

district07@senate.virginia.gov, district35@senate.virginia.gov, district03@senate.virginia.gov, district26@senate.virginia.gov, district28@senate.virginia.gov, district20@senate.virginia.gov, district14@senate.virginia.gov, district38@senate.virginia.gov, district16@senate.virginia.gov, district18@senate.virginia.gov, district04@senate.virginia.gov, district13@senate.virginia.gov, district10@senate.virginia.gov, district05@senate.virginia.gov

Media Clips to Share:

Dominion owes you $130 million and counting,” Baker-Branstetter, RTD, 10.7.17.

“If you’re a Dominion Energy customer, odds are you’ve been overpaying for electricity and should be given a refund. But you’re unlikely to get that refund any time soon, thanks to a 2015 law that prevents it.

According to a report by the commonwealth’s State Corporation Commission (SCC), Dominion Energy owes its customers $133 million today, which could grow to $1 billion by 2020.

How is Dominion able to get away with this? In 2015, Dominion lobbied to pass a bill in the state legislature called SB 1349. Under SB 1349, the SCC, which is responsible for regulating electric utilities, can no longer order refunds even when it finds that Dominion has collected revenues in excess of the generous 10 percent guaranteed profit that the SCC has approved.

Dominion claimed this legislation would freeze utility rates in the name of protecting consumers from any rate hikes that might result from the Clean Power Plan (a federal program to reduce carbon emissions from power plants). But in reality, Dominion’s costs for producing electricity have gone down, not up.

Consumers should be getting refunds because they were overcharged, but SB 1349 took away the state’s power to order refunds, allowing Dominion to keep overpayments from consumers instead.”

Dominion’s rate freeze gouges Virginians,” Former VA Attorney General Andrew Miller, WaPo, 4.18.17.

“Under the state constitution, only the commission can set Dominion’s electric rates. The General Assembly usurped that power and set rates so high that Dominion is reaping approximately $300 million in unjustified profits per year. Virginia’s elected representatives should end this charade and return electric ratemaking to the commission. It is the only effective way to protect you, the ratepayer, from being charged too much for electricity. And you can continue to search for the lowest price groceries you can find.”

After two years of defending rate freeze, Dominion says it’s ‘time to transition away’ from controversial 2015 law,” Zullo & Martz, RTD, 12.4.17.

“After two years of defending a controversial law that froze base rates for Virginia’s two largest electric utilities as a hedge against carbon regulation, Dominion Energy officials said Monday that it’s “time to transition away” from the 2015 rate freeze, which also prevented state regulators from ordering refunds to customers.

The State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, has found that the 2015 law has allowed Dominion and Appalachian Power to pocket millions that they would have otherwise had to return to ratepayers.

In September, the SCC said Dominion, which serves 67 percent of the state’s electric customers, would owe ratepayers between $133 million and nearly $176 million for 2015 and 2016 if rate reviews were in place.”

It’s time for the General Assembly to help consumers and fix its flawed Dominion bill,” Haner, RTD, 12.16.17.

“So absent the 2015 law, we would have received refunds and we might be paying lower base rates for 2018. Combined, that might have been $400-500 million in lower bills in one year. It would have been noticeable on every residential bill, and saved substantial sums for local and state government, schools and hospitals, small and large businesses. Electricity costs, like taxes, snake all through the economy.”

Bill to undo controversial utility rate freeze faces unfriendly panel Monday as Dominion-favored plan is developed,” Zullo, RTD, 1.13.18. 

Repeal of Dominion’s rate freeze doesn’t go far enough,” Town, Virginian-Pilot, 1.14.17.

Dominion Energy’s $1 Billion Ripoff, Part II (2018),” Besa, Blue Virginia, 1.12.18.

State lawmakers are the reason we can’t have nice rebates,RTD Editorial Board, 9.5.17.

Here’s why your electric bill’s too high,” Cuccinelli & Miller, RTD, 9.18.17.

Democratic legislation targets Dominion Energy rate freeze,” Koma, InsideNoVa, 12.14.17.  

Dominion’s updated view of rate freeze makes it almost unanimous,” RTD Editorial Board, 12.5.17.

Times-Dispatch articles expose Dominion’s manipulation of government for its own enrichment—and that ain’t the half of it,” Ivy Main, Power for the People, 10.18.17.

Big win for one of Va.’s big boys,” Schapiro, RTD, 9.16.17.

Virginia Senate panel spikes bill that would restore utility rate reviews,” Zullo, RTD, 1.16.17.

Consumer advocates argue in Va. Supreme Court against law that froze Dominion’s rates,” Wilson, Daily Progress, 4.21.17.