By Steve Haner
One sentence, if it’s the proper sentence, can upset the machinations of the highly effective. Two payments pending within the 2023 Virginia Normal Meeting include such a sentence, and it might upset the plans of Dominion Vitality Virginia.
Right here is the sentence on the coronary heart of each payments:
…if the (State Company) Fee determines in its sole discretion that the utility’s current base charges will, on a going-forward foundation, produce unreasonable revenues in extra of the utility’s approved price of return, then, however any provisions of subsection A 8 of § 56-585.1, the Fee could order any reductions to such base charges that it deems applicable to make sure the ensuing base charges (i) are simply and affordable and (ii) present the utility a possibility to get well its prices and earn a good price of return.
The Home model of the invoice, Home Invoice 1604, has bipartisan sponsorship. The Senate model, Senate Invoice 1321 has three Democrats listed as sponsors. It’s the Senate model which at the very least has been aired in an open Senate subcommittee assembly, and the main Dominion lobbyist within the room was not coy about his considerations. To date, the Home model slumbers and has not been heard.
Throughout the Senate dialogue, William Murray, the agency’s senior vp for company affairs, famous the presence within the invoice of “sturdy phrases” which he mentioned included “however” and “any.” He warned the legislators within the assembly that “our concern could be should you simply mooted every thing you probably did in Senator Saslaw’s invoice.” The Richard Saslaw-sponsored invoice he referred to is Dominion’s primary effort to recast its regulatory surroundings, which had simply been mentioned in the identical assembly on January 18. It was first reported right here.
Murray failed to say the strongest phrases of all: “sole discretion.” However he’s appropriate that the phrase “however” tells a decide that this authority overpowers all the opposite locations within the lengthy regulatory statute the place the legislature has dictated numerous insurance policies to the SCC.
Stopping the SCC from having and exercising “sole discretion” over the corporate’s charges and income has been the purpose of nearly each legislative initiative the utility has undertaken in years, beginning with its return to regulation in 2007 with a regulatory construction not seen in some other state.
Within the pending Saslaw invoice, and the companion Home measure, the legislature is requested to intervene with the SCC’s discretion (once more) on issues akin to tips on how to calculate the utility’s allowed return on fairness, which peer utilities to check it with, tips on how to account for the ratio of debt to fairness in its capital construction, and tips on how to cost ratepayers for the speed adjustment clauses that are impartial of its base charges.
Within the assembly final week, Dominion’s Murray indicated a willingness to amend the language in Senate Invoice 1321 to “reconcile” any dissonance between the 2. No proposed modifications to the language have surfaced, however the identical Senate subcommittee meets once more tomorrow. At the least one senior Republican, Steve Newman (R-Forest), felt like approving SB 1321 together with the Saslaw invoice meant the Senate could be “sending out two completely different insurance policies.”
Effectively, it wouldn’t be the primary time, however sure. As famous within the earlier article centered on the primary Dominion invoice, this language to offer the SCC the ultimate say and “sole discretion” is the precise reverse of what Dominion is making an attempt to do.
A coalition of 9 environmental and liberal activist teams, starting from the unions to Clear Virginia and the Sierra Membership, is spending vital assets to advertise the 2 payments. The Vitality Burden Coalition web site has the complete listing of members. They’ve additionally paid for efficient and engaging mailers into numerous legislator’s districts, and a digital promoting marketing campaign is underway. Their advert popped up on a Republican information and commentary web site, and it was not Bacon’s Insurrection.
On the opposite aspect of the political spectrum, Individuals for Prosperity has additionally endorsed and is spending political capital on the 2 payments.
GOP legislators who have a look at the coalition listing are more likely to recoil, however they need to ignore that reflex and assist the invoice. Woe be unto them if GOP votes kill both of those good payments.