by Glen Besa
Despite all the bad press coverage Governor Ralph Northam has been getting because of his close association with Dominion Energy, Northam shows zero interest in assuring Virginia voters that his energy policy is not bought and paid for by Dominion.
Last Friday, we learned that Dominion heavy hitters are hosting a fundraiser for the Governor on January 3. Dominion Energy Virginia President Bob Blue and “retired” Executive Vice President of Public Policy and Corporate Communications Eva Teig Hardy are hosting the event, along with other corporate leaders, at the offices of McGuire Woods, the powerful law firm that represents Dominion and has been called the “shadow government” of Virginia. From past elections, we know that Dominion Energy has contributed $72,795 Northam’s campaign efforts – and that amount doesn’t even include contributions by Dominion executives. Nor does it include the $52,000 Dominion gifted to Governor Northam’s Inaugural Party in 2018.
Governor Northam’s quid pro quo relationship with Dominion Energy is an exemplar of the unseemly nature of campaign finance and ethics in Virginia. Last January, the same month he was sworn in as Governor, Northam met with Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell and endorsed Dominion’s Grid Modernization legislation, without any apparent due diligence as to the impact of the bill on rate payers.
The Grid Mod bill, as originally drafted, gave Dominion a blank check for any projects it deemed “modernization,” with that check drawn on its customers’ accounts – that’s you and me. Closer scrutiny during the 2018 General Assembly session led to some improvements, but overall the Northam/Dominion Grid Mod legislation promised Dominion billions in charges for “improvements” with little oversight by the State Corporation Commission, the state body that is supposed to review and sign off on rate increases.
Even more egregious during 2018 was the Governor’s ongoing intervention in and interference with the State Air Pollution Control Board, firing two members who questioned a key permit for Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline — the proposed fracked-gas compressor station in the historic African-American community of Union Hill. With three of the remaining four Air Board members still questioning the permit, Northam’s Department of Environmental Quality was compelled to reopen it for public comments, but decided that most of that comment period would take place over the Christmas break, when most people are focused on the holidays and/or out of town.
Despite charges that Dominion’s decision to locate the compressor in Union Hill and the Governor’s embrace of the project represents environmental racism, Northam is only too happy to take more campaign money from Dominion, no matter how unseemly it appears to voters.
As long as Governor Northam aids and abets the construction of unneeded pipelines, he can expect to see protestors at most of his public and not-so-public events. Case in point: a demonstration is planned outside the offices of McGuire Woods, 800 E, Canal Street, Richmond, VA 23219, the location of Northam’s Dominion-sponsored campaign fundraiser on Thursday, January 3rd, beginning at 5:30 pm. Hope to see you there!