by Todd Smyth
Dominion Energy is in the middle of a multi-billion-dollar heist, and Virginia Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw is helping them do it. If they fail, Dominion still makes a fortune and sticks us with the bill. If it succeeds, Dominion makes a much bigger fortune and helps destroy the planet in the process. Let’s take a look.
According to the Coalition for Integrity, 2018 SWAMP Index, Virginia is ranked 9th most corrupt state in the U.S. because we have some of the worst campaign finance and ethics laws in the country. CFI measured whether each state has independent ethics agency oversight with strong penalties, strong rules against gifts, strong reporting and disclosure requirements and Virginia came up behind Alabama and Mississippi because we have none of the above, plus we have no limits on donations.
For forty years, Dick Saslaw has been one of the biggest opponents to campaign finance and ethics reform in Virginia. Saslaw has stated recently, Virginia doesn’t have a problem with corporate money or gifts and that we can’t legislate ethics, essentially laws don’t work so why bother? Saslaw has mocked other states like Maryland for having campaign finance laws as a way of stopping any discussion of campaign finance and ethics laws in Virginia.
In addition to being Dominion Energy’s biggest recipient of campaign money, Saslaw uses a network of PACs, law firms, corporate executives and trade associations to direct millions of dollars to other elected officials to make sure they vote the way Dominion wants.
“Saslaw, one of Virginia’s most influential elected Democrats, quickly apologized [to Dominion] and criticized the state party for not doing its “homework” on “how generous Dominion has been to me” … “The company and its executives have given about $350,000 to Saslaw in the last 15 years, by far his biggest source of campaign funds.” – AP News
Dominion has become an untouchable monopoly, thanks in significant part to Saslaw, and now the company is paying itself over $12 billion of ratepayer money to build massive and destructive fracked-gas pipelines that Virginia does not need. Dominion is doing it so the company can make a fortune exporting the gas. The company’s executives don’t care who gets hurt or killed in the explosions and leaks, or if the project even gets finished because, they are making a fortune building the pipelines and they are using our money to pay for it. They don’t care that utility-scale wind and solar are less expensive than gas, and they certainly don’t care that fracked gas is as bad or worse than coal for the environment. Also see:
- Dominion delays U.S. Atlantic Coast Natgas pipe, boosts costs to $7.5 billion;
- Estimated cost of Mountain Valley Pipeline increased to $4.6 billion;
- List of pipeline accidents in the United States;
- 10 Reasons to Stop the MVP & ACP Pipelines;
- Want the Cheapest Electricity? Build Solar and Wind Farms – Forbes;
- Renewable Energy Consistently Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels By 2020 – Forbes;
- Solar and Batteries are Beating Natural Gas – Bloomberg;
- Why Natural Gas Makes Global Warming Worse – Bill McKibben;
- Pipeline Payday: How Builders Win Big, Whether More Gas Is Needed or Not
We aren’t allowed to know what the actual pipeline capacity is in Virginia because we have no real oversight. But the U.S. Department of Energy found that average capacity utilization between 1998 and 2013 was about 54 percent, and is expected to increase to about 57 percent by 2030. We don’t need the additional capacity and we could handle all future growth and replace all of our coal plants with energy efficiency, wind, solar and storage, which are less expensive than gas but are also clean. But then Dominion wouldn’t be able to make as big of a fortune as the company would from exporting massive amounts of gas to Europe.
Dick Saslaw keeps claiming he got 5,000 megawatts of solar out of Dominion (SB 966) but there is no mandate in the law and according to Dominion’s last shareholder report (PDF), the company still has the same 240 megawatts on the grid that it had two years ago – and there is no real commitment to anything more than this.
Just like the big banks, who claim they are doing everything they can to support a clean energy economy, while they double down on fossil fuel investments, Dominion and Dick Saslaw are telling us one thing and doing another.
Virginia is still ranked 38th in solar energy with a “D” rating, while Maryland has moved up to 4th and DC is 5th in the latest rankings, both Maryland and DC have “A” ratings.
And of course, the cheapest source of electricity is energy efficiency – the energy you never have to produce in the first place – yet Dominion is ranked second-to-worst in the U.S. on that front.
The bottom line is that Dominion is slow walking less expensive clean, renewable energy, while it stampedes the building of more expensive fracked gas pipelines, so the company can make a fortune exporting that gas. If Dominion fails to finish the pipelines, it has a back-up plan. Dominion will still make a fortune paying itself for the construction. To make sure it also destroys the planet in the process, Dominion is paying itself $300 million to keep many of Virginia’s coal fired power plants open for decades. The point is not that it’s not illegal in Virginia. The point is that it should be illegal.
Recently, in a League of Women Voters candidate forum in Falls Church, Dick Saslaw attacked the Green New Deal, repeating fossil fuel industry and right-wing-media talking points, claiming (falsely) that if the Green New Deal passes, we will be in the dark for 16 hours a day. Saslaw also nodded in agreement when called out for supporting the fracked-gas pipelines – as well as for helping bring back the death penalty to Virginia. And Saslaw proudly admitted his acceptance of Dominion and other corporate money and the funneling of money to other elected officials.
The Democratic primary is just 8 weeks away, on June 11. To win a race like this, a candidate has to build a team of volunteers to help them knock on thousands of doors and talk to thousands of voters to introduce the candidate, answer questions and ask people in person for their vote. It takes months of hard work, and Yasmine Taeb’s campaign has been doing all of this since last December. They have already talked to thousands of voters, and most of them want a change in the 35th district. Yasmine Taeb is running to get corporate money out of politics and break Dominion’s grip on Richmond, so we can pass a Green New Deal, create thousands of clean energy jobs and move Virginia forward. Please join Yasmine’s campaign and remind your friends and family in the 35th district to vote for Yasmine Taeb, in the Democratic Primary on June 11th.