By Freeda Cathcart, Dominion shareholder & energy investor
Shareholders have submitted a resolution calling on Dominion Energy to fully disclose its lobbying efforts. The resolution will be voted on Wednesday morning at Dominion’s annual meeting. When Dominion released a statement encouraging shareholders to oppose the resolution, the shareholders responded with a 12 page memo explaining why they should vote yes on Item #4 Dominion’s Report on Lobbying.
The memo includes a deep dive into Dominion’s involvement with organizations associated with fraud, corruption and the recent rally before the insurrection attempt on January 6 at the US Capitol Building. From the memo:
“Proponents believe Dominion’s trade associations’ activities are jeopardizing our Company’s reputation. The stories regarding fraudulent emails in South Carolina and fake support for the Atlantic Coast pipeline are inconsistent with Dominion’s core values, one of which is ethics – Dominion states on its “Values, Ethics & Compliance” webpage: “Ethical behavior matters, and our reputation depends on it.”
Dominion’s trade associations have also lobbied in ways that seem inconsistent with its stated positions creating another avenue for reputational risk. For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $1.6 billion since 1998, and has frequently opposed climate change related legislation. The efforts made by the Chamber stand in stark contrast to the position Dominion has charted when it comes to climate change. Dominion states: “climate change is one of the most challenging issues of our time, and Dominion Energy is committed to doing our part to reduce carbon and methane emissions.”
Dominion is well aware of the potential reputational impact of misalignment between its trade associations and Company positions.”
Shareholders in Virginia have noticed the dismal reputation Dominion for influencing our General Assembly. From the memo:
“The proposals request that Dominion disclose its membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation. This includes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a controversial 501(c)(3) organization that has attracted negative attention for its role in promoting bills that undermine regulations to address issues like climate change, workplace safety and workers’ rights. With its 2020 Report of Contributions, Dominion included disclosure of its contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations for payments greater than $50,000.
However, Dominion’s 2020 disclosures do not include its contributions to ALEC. Previous reporting found Dominion to be a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force and Dominion’s CEO has previously acknowledged at annual shareholder meetings that Dominion is an ALEC member. And even more recent connections exist. For example, in West Virginia, Dominion and its trade associations West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) “spent months working behind the scenes” to ensure the passage of anti-protest legislation that mimicked ALEC model legislation. And AFPM “helped author the ALEC model legislation that has served as a template for anti-protest measures across the country.” Thus it seems likely that Dominion is still a supporter of ALEC.
The concern around ALEC is that it has been linked in press accounts to a number of controversial issues that are inconsistent with Dominion’s positions and values. Again, focusing on climate change, ALEC has provided misinformation on climate-science to legislators at its conferences, and its model bills and other lobbying efforts have sought to delay or obstruct renewable energy and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Groups have called on Dominion to cease its funding and membership in ALEC.
- Many large corporations have left ALEC in recent years including American Electric Power Company, Entergy, Xcel Energy, Alliant Energy, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, PG&E, Shell, BP, Emerson Electric, Entergy, NV Energy, Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Intuit, IBM, Intel, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Dell, General Motors, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Southern California Edison. In some instances companies specifically noted ALEC’s positions on greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change as a basis for leaving.”
Footnote 1: On May 20, 2021, Dominion emailed the Center for Media and Democracy, “We are not members of ALEC and have not paid dues in many years.” However Dominion Energy is still on the list of organizations supporting ALEC according to Common Cause, Fair Fight Action, and over 300 organizations demanding large corporations, including Dominion Energy cut financial ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over its support of voter suppression legislation throughout the country.
Shareholders should have the right to see where Dominion is spending its money. Ratepayers should have the right to see where a monopoly is spending its money as well. Help to spread the word that on Wednesday, shareholders can vote yes on Item #4 Report on Lobbying.