Home Dominion Power Virginia Del. Mark Keam “Breaks Up” With Dominion, Says It’s “Inappropriate” for...

Virginia Del. Mark Keam “Breaks Up” With Dominion, Says It’s “Inappropriate” for Monopoly Utility to “make political contributions to legislators it lobbies”

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Del.. Mark Keam (D-Fairfax) nails it in his Washington  Post op-ed, which went online this morning. I encourage everyone to read the entire thing, and to listen to what Del. Keam has to say. Here are a few highlights.

  • Del. Keam correctly points out that Dominion’s arguments in 2015 for the “rate freeze” were completely “nonsensical” from the beginning, and that they never should have been accepted.
  • *The reason it was “nonsensical” is simple, in Del. Keam’s words: “Why can’t this giant monopoly comply simultaneously with both federal and state regulations? Why should customers be stuck with an artificially set electric rate when energy prices could go down?”
  • *But of course, god forbid Dominion would just admit it was (wildly) wrong and acquiesce in the repeal of the 2015 law (and refund of overcharges to consumers). Instead, Dominion being Dominion, the company “launched an all-out lobbying campaign to push for a different result.” Ugh.
  • *Dominion, as is its wont, lobbied legislators – who it has, totally coincidentally I’m sure (snark), donated HEAVILY to over many years. The company also, as it’s done many times in the past, actually “drafted its own bill” and rammed it down legislators’ throats.
  • *To “attract Democrats,” Dominion “offered millions in solar and wind energies and energy efficiencies.” As people who actually know something about energy, like Ivy Main, have argued repeatedly, the amount of solar and wind – let alone energy efficiency – Dominion graciously “offered” is completely inadequate, and not even mandatory! A complete joke, in other words.
  • *Del. Keam says he “came to Richmond with an open mind about working with Dominion,” but after watching how things went down in the General Assembly since 2010, he concluded – 100% correctly – “that our political and regulatory systems are clearly broken.”
  • *One of the many, many bad aspects of this legislation is that, as Keam says, it “effectively defangs the [State Corporation Commission -SCC]’s authority to ever again fully regulate Dominion.”
  • *The bottom line, in Del. Keam’s view (again, 100% correct), is that: a) “it is inappropriate for the company to make political contributions to legislators it lobbies to circumvent the SCC’s authority“; b) “Until the General Assembly adopts such a prohibition [on campaign contributions from Dominion], I will not accept direct political donations from Dominion.”

I hope that many others will join Del. Keam and “break up” with Dominion as well. It will be a long-overdue divorce, to put it mildly.

  • Harry Byrd

    Good make-up call after the hammer & sickle stunt.

    But is it enough or should Keam still retire or resign?

    • No he shouldn’t resign for one silly prank. I say this as somebody who completely supported Lee Carter in the election.

      This is a good thing and shows Mark is responsive to his constituents and values them more than Dominion donations.

      • E. Warren

        Keam is no kid (50s?) and he’s been a Verizon lobbyist most of his tenure; aka a real DLCer.

        We can’t find a real liberal for that Vienna seat?

        Seriously?

      • Rich Johnson

        You still going to say that when the picture appears in Campaign literature against Lee? That stunt was unforgivable.

        • JReynolds79

          I fail to see what was “unforgivable.” Carter is a socialist, and staffed his campaign with D.C. socialists. While the stunt may have lacked tact, a legitimate conversation needs to be had about the historical failure of this ideology, and the danger it presents when cast as legitimate merely because people throw the “democratic” moniker in front of it.

          • Rich Johnson

            Umm, he held a hammer and sickle flag behind him. That’s Communism (or more accurately, Authoritarianism) not socialism. Was that supposed to begin a conversation? And just what socialist programs would you want to converse about; Social Security, Medicare, or public schools?

          • JReynolds79

            Where do I begin? First, the hammer and sickle’s most prominent use was by the U.S.S.R. (and I think we both know what one of those “S”’s stood for). Second, both Marx and Engels assert that socialism is the last stage of “evolution” prior to society’s foray into communism. And third, if you’re parsing the differences between communism and socialism, you’re obviously out-of-touch with American history as our founding documents are deeply rooted in Lockean theory—wherein private property rights are sacrosanct.

            As for your dangling straw-man on social safety nets, no one
            is contending those are socialism. Rather, the argument is that Carter is a self-identified socialist who recruited members of the DC Socialists of America to campaign in Virginia—both
            factually correct (and seemingly inconvenient) statements.

  • Superb comment by Steve Haner over at the Dominion blog, rebutting said blog’s creative spin on what went down with the rate freeze, Clean Power Plan,Trump’s election, Dominion, etc. Haner, by the way, is a decades-long veteran of Richmond who most certainly is NOT a flaming liberal (e.g., he was Exec. Director of the Joint Republican Caucus of the Virginia General Assembly; Director of Administration for Attorney General Mark Earley (R), VP of Government Affairs for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, etc.). So as you read this scathing critique of Dominion’s slimy ways and also the “General Assembly it controls like a tame dog on a leash.” Wow. Bolding added by me for emphasis, btw…

    I appreciate you posting the link to Keam’s column. I had a piece pending with the Post, too, but quickly asked them to spike it because his opinion matters more.

    The reason I do not accept your interpretation of the history is you do not go back far enough and you ignore a clear pattern. Starting just a few years after the passage of the 2007 regulatory scheme it became clear Dominion was not going to play by the rules it had just agreed to. Its goal for a decade has been: Protect excessive base rates from any SCC decision to reduce them, and minimize refunds of excess profits. Find a way to move that money from ratepayers to stockholders.

    In 2010 Dominion short-circuited the first SCC review of its rates, which was intended to test whether base rates were too high, by offering a whopping $726 million in cash rebates to buy a settlement that delayed addressing that question until 2013.

    Then it short-circuited the 2013 SCC review by asking the 2013 General Assembly to change the accounting rules, to allow it to claim in full the entire cost of various plant closings and the repair of the Derecho wind damage. Normal accounting rules would have led the SCC to amortize those costs over say five years, and with that adjustment the SCC might have found the utility had excessive base rates and lowered them. But with all those costs lumped into a single period the SCC did not find excess earnings.

    Next comes 2015, and in order to cook the books on that one a new tactic was chosen. In 2014 the utility asked for another variation from traditional accounting, seeking more than $300 million from ratepayers to pay for a new nuclear plant. Company officials promised (but not under oath) that they would be building plant so ratepayers would be buy value. They lied. Lied. That is the correct word.

    Having watched the process closely to that point, knowing these were not honest people, I was convinced that the drive to suspend SCC oversight in 2015 was a sham. Why didn’t the bill simply prevent a rate hike, if that was the fear? Why not leave intact SCC authority to order refunds or rate hikes if the feared costs did not materialize? If preventing higher prices was really the goal, why not also suspend creation of new rate adjustment clauses? No, the goal of the 2015 legislation was to stop cold any chance that excessive base rates might be corrected. Remember, the introduced bill also suspended the 2015 rate case – covering costs incurred long in advance of the possible CPP adjustments.

    But the best proof, to me, is the following: In this 2018 bill they are doing all the things they said they feared to do in 2015. They are planning the same kind of renewable investments as the CPP might have required (and many have been in their plan all along). Only now instead of saying how bad it will be for consumers, they say it will be an energy nirvana. The boogie men of 2015 (those enviro whackos!) are the best buds of 2018 – and their disdain for the consumer is just as high.

    The only consistent thread has been – reduce SCC authority, short-circuit any decision to cut rates, prevent refunds. Convert possible refunds into stockholder value. The new law is an abomination, a travesty. Yes, Dominion is now regulated again, but it is regulated by a General Assembly it controls like a tame dog on a leash. The fault lies entirely with the legislature. Hooray for the 44 in both houses who opposed it.

    • More great stuff from Haner:

      Yep! I don’t know how I forgot this (write in haste, correct at leisure) but here is the best proof that that 2015 bill was a total sham from the beginning. The cost of CPP compliance, had it turned out to be that high, would have come from new renewable or nuclear generation! It would have been paid for by adding to or creating new rate adjustment clauses! (RACs). This year they added the cockamamie idea of using my refund to pay for the renewable, but no such promise was made in 2015. In 2015 it was pure bait and switch – there was ZERO chance base rates would go up because of the CPP, and the bill fully allowed the CPP to cause RAC payments to go up. Any claim that the bill protected consumers was an L…I…E. There was zero downside risk. Zero.

      SCC staff testified to that but was ignored.

      And since my post I’ve refreshed my recollection that the $6 billion “SCC” estimate actually was provided by Dominion, which of course knew when it provided it how it intended to use it later….I never said they were not clever. Just not honest.

  • Satirical Alexandria

    Politicians don’t usually get donations that they didn’t request. Assuming this was the case with Delegate Keam, what he should say is “I won’t request any more contributions from Dominion.” Not that it really matters anyway, as this is already over. If he was looking for something to deflect from the hammer and sickle stunt, he should have chosen another topic. Gun violence prevention, reproductive rights, or anything else the GOP is constantly trying to block.