RICHMOND — For a second year, state senators killed legislation from the House of Delegates aimed at stopping over-earnings by the state’s largest electric utility, Dominion Energy, and restoring control to state regulators on setting future rates.
Led by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, a mix of Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday rejected the package of House bills. The closest bill to passing was from Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, which lost 8-7.
Most debate on the legislation took place Friday in a subcommittee, which did not recommend any of the bills pass.
The discussion comes after the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, projected last year that Dominion earned about $500 million from 2017 to 2019 above the fair profit the utility agrees to in exchange for its monopoly. Dominion will file paperwork by March 31 for state regulators to take a look at its books this year for the first time in years after lawmakers put a pause on that process.
“We want to let these experts do what they are trained to do, what we trust them to do, which is to offer their opinion as to where the rate should be set,” Del. Jay Jones, D- Norfolk, said of the SCC while pushing for his bill Friday. The same Senate committee in 2020 killed a similar bill from Jones aimed at restoring SCC oversight.
The Attorney General’s Office and a list of environmental and consumer groups such as the Virginia Poverty Law Center backed the bills, which were sponsored by Democrats but had some Republican co-sponsors.
Clean Virginia, the advocacy organization started by wealthy investor Michael Bills to fund candidates who challenge Dominion, issued a statement after the hearing saying the eight senators who voted against Helmer’s bill had accepted a combined $1.2 million in campaign donations from Dominion and Appalachian Power.