It’s quite possible that, after many years as lord and master of all it wields “dominion” over (i.e., the Virginia General Assembly), Dominion Energy’s influence might be waning in the Virginia Capitol. But you’d never know it from the following back-and-forth on the Virginia Senate floor yesterday (see video, below) between Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax/Dominion) and Sen. Ben Chafin (R-SW Virginia and also Dominion) over potential closure dates for Dominion’s coal-fired (er, “hybrid” – of coal, coal “gob” piles/”spoil” and dirty biomass) “Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center” – “VCHEC” – power plant in Wise County.
And yes, we’re talking about the same, stupid coal (er, “hybrid”)-fired power plant that folks like Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and yours truly (back in the “Raising Kaine” days) fought tooth-and-nail, only to lose out to then-all-powerful Dominion Energy and, for whatever ridiculous reasons, the Kaine administration, which pushed that Wise County plant *hard*. Well, now, we’ve got this little thing you might have heard of called “the climate crisis?” Also now, we’ve got another little thing you might have heard of called “cheap clean energy,” which means that the coal (er, coal-“gob” piles-biomass “hybrid”) power plant no longer makes much if any economic sense, even after just being commissioned in 2012…so it’s only been operating for 7+ years (out of a decades-long potential lifespan). Brilliant, huh? Maybe they should have listened to those of us who opposed this idiotic power plant back in 2007/2008?
Anyway, as you can see in the following video, Sen. Ben Chafin (R-“coal country”/Dominion) proposed an amendment to the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) to phase out Dominion’s “hybrid” (coal/“gob” piles/biomass) VCHEC power plant by 2050, instead of by 2030, as with all of Dominion’s other coal-fired power plants, as specified in the VCEA. Among other things, Chafin claimed that the “hybrid” plant, which he said is “magnificent” and barely “out of its diapers” (that latter point is true), is playing a role in cleaning up the “gob piles” of Southwest Virginia, providing revenues to the schools, etc. Which all might actually be the case, but on the other hand, it’s still dirty when the stuff is burned…including not just CO2 emissions but also a lot of other bad stuff in the “gob,” not to mention the dirty “biomass.”
With that background, check out the exchange between Chafin and Saslaw, as it’s quite amusing.
Saslaw: “I would ask that we reject the amendment. This 2030 date was the result of negotiations with all the concerned people, including Dominion…this is what you see in this bill is what was worked out with all the interested parties. You may not like what’s in the bill, but this was what everyone agreed on. This bill is a compromise, okay? And so I understand what the the senator is saying, but the fact is this this was a date that was agreed on agreed upon by the utility. And I would ask that you reject the amendment. We’ve got environmental problems in this country, and you’re not going to solve them by keeping… prolong[ing], you know, closing these kinds of plants. But, as I pointed out, this was agreed to by all the interested parties.”
Chafin: “I would ask the the gentleman from Fairfax if in fact Southwest Virginia was part of this interested party group that had some input or focus about this plant?”
Saslaw: “I would say to the gentleman, I don’t know whether they were or they weren’t, but Southwest Virginia doesn’t own the plant – Dominion does.”
Chafin: “I would ask the gentleman how it is that Dominion would have provided… to this senator these talking pieces, this information [holds up Dominion talking points] and indeed participated in, spent numerous hours preparing and helping prepare this amendment?”
Saslaw: “You’d have to ask them, but this was this was what was agreed upon by all of the parties involved.”
UPDATE: Later on, Sen. Chafin said, “I have been steadily supplied information…by the team, with Dominion, in order to equip me to argue this amendment, this very amendment here today…in order to put forth the tools that I needed in order to make the case…I just know that they are producing energy.” LOL, is that a classic, corrupt “Virginia Way” comment if you ever heard one?
Let’s parse this a bit. Basically, Saslaw’s argument is that the 2030 date was agreed to by Dominion, so…there you have it. Chafin’s response was that, yes, he *also* has “talking pieces” from Dominion, in his case backing up Chafin’s amendment to extent the date of the “hybrid” power plant’s closure, from 2030 to 2050. And Saslaw’s response to that, again, was that “this was what was agreed upon by all of the parties involved” (aka, Dominion) and that “you’d have to ask them.” In short, it appears that Dominion gave contradictory information/”talking pieces” to each of its agents – Saslaw and Chafin – then left them both hanging out to dry somewhat. It would be amusing if it weren’t so slimy.
But why would Dominion do this? What does the once-all-powerful, still-very-powerful-if-somewhat-diminished behemoth want here, anyway? In this case, it appears that they might be trying to placate Republicans, who have been a rock-solid (“gob”-solid? LOL) voting block for them for ages, as long as they can tap into the idiotic, fact-free “war-on-coal” mentality propagated by the coal industry and its (mostly Republican) allies. But, apparently, Dominion didn’t think that its double-dealing/double-crossing would be exposed so publicly, as it was yesterday by Saslaw (“but this is what Dominion *told us to do*!“) and Chafin (“here are my Dominion ‘talking pieces” right here!“) on the Virginia State Senate floor. The big surprise is that Dominion would be surprised (“gob”-smacked, one might say, lol) by literally *anytihng*, given that – from what I’m told – they have registered an unprecedented 30 lobbyists this session, including Dominion CEO Tom Farrell himself. On the other hand, I guess even the original Star Wars “Death Star” had chinks in its armor, so…
P.S. Of course, Dominion will do just fine no matter what, as is usually the case in Virginia, and will – as Sen. Chap Petersen pointed out – simply “accelerate their own stranded costs, their own return on equity…they’re going to get back their stranded costs with a return on equity…they’re going to get their money out.” Very true.
P.P.S. In the end, Chafin’s amendment passed…without a recorded vote, natch.