RICHMOND — Two state lawmakers unveiled a bipartisan effort on Thursday to reclaim the state’s authority to set electric rates, a sign that the incoming Democratic-controlled legislature may take on Virginia’s biggest utility, Dominion Energy.

Dels. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) and Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones (D-Norfolk) said their proposal is a “common sense” effort to restore protections for consumers.

Called the Fair Energy Bills Act, the measure would reinstate the authority of the State Corporation Commission to review electricity base rates and set profit levels for Dominion.

Much of that authority was stripped away in 2015 when the General Assembly agreed to freeze base rates and prevent the commission from ordering the utilities to return excess profits to ratepayers.

New Virginia law shields Dominion from financial reviews
At the time, Dominion had argued that it needed the freeze because the uncertainty of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan threatened its financial stability. The Trump administration killed the Clean Power Plan, but the seven-year freeze on base rates remained in place.

Ware and Jones said they want the commission to have full authority to examine base rates and order refunds when it conducts a four-year review in 2021.
“This bill is aimed at ensuring there will be a clean rate case and no overcharging by public utilities,” said Ware, who introduced a measure in the 2019 General Assembly session that would have prevented Dominion from charging consumers for building its $7 billion Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline. The bill passed the GOP-controlled House of Delegates but died in the Senate, which was also controlled by Republicans.

“I’m not sure there was an appetite for legislation of this nature,” Jones said, “but with these historic elections the last couple of cycles, I think we’ve gotten to the point where there is an overwhelming appetite for some reform.”

Read more at the Washington Post

By Gregory S. Schneider 
Dec. 12, 2019 at 3:48 p.m. EST

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