Democrats deal Dominion a blow in debate over Virginia utility reform
- The Virginia House of Representatives on Monday voted to overhaul the rate-setting process for Dominion, and included an amendment with additional limits and customer protections designed to address the concern that the utility would "double dip" on its investments.
- The version that passed the Senate, and which Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has said he supports, did not contain provisions to ensure Dominion does not charge customers twice. However, not all lawmakers agree that those protections are necessary.
- The House's version passed 96-1, but only after Republicans called for a re-vote after Democrats and a few Republicans won the first vote 55-41.
The version of this bill passed in the Senate calls for state regulators to review Dominion's rates every three years. In between those reviews, if the utility overcharges customers, it would be allowed to invest that excess money in efficiency, renewables and grid upgrades.
But once those projects are added to Dominion's rate base, the utility would earn a return on them. To some lawmakers, that looks like Dominion would be getting paid twice for overcharging customers.
The House approved an amendment that would block Dominion from recovering the cost of projects funded with the customer overcharges.
The amended version will still need to pass in the Senate, and there could be more changes.
Lawmakers in 2015 froze rates for Dominion and Appalachian Power to shield customers from possible rate shocks related to compliance with the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. But with President Trump withdrawing those regulations, lawmakers want to shift authority back to the State Corporation Commission to oversee Dominion's rates.
The law allowed Dominion to charge customers $425 million more last year than it would have without the freeze, The Richmond Times-Dispatch estimates. The Senate bill would have Dominion refund $200 million to customers.
- Associated Press House changes utility rewrite bill to prevent double dipping
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