Mar 1, 2023 - Politics

Virginia's new energy politics

Illustration of an electrical power tower in the shape of a lightning bolt.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is getting credit for helping nail down a slate of utility reforms that are projected to save residents money on their Dominion bills.

Why it matters: Advocates say the legislation will restore full regulatory oversight of the monopoly, which lawmakers had rolled back significantly over the past two decades.

  • "This marks the end of Dominion's ability to wantonly manipulate their oversight through the legislature," Brennan Gilmore, the director of Clean Virginia, tells Axios.

The other side: Dominion, too, declared victory, saying it supported the final compromise.

  • "This legislation is a win for consumers and regulatory oversight," the company said in a statement.

Zoom in: The exact impact on electric bills is TBD, but the legislation could save residential customers as much as $20 a month, per the Washington Post.

  • That's because lawmakers previously limited regulators’ authority to review rates and require refunds.

Yes, but: That might just end up meaning bills don't go up quite as much as they would have otherwise, Albert Pollard, who lobbied on behalf of consumers for the Virginia Poverty Law Center, tells Axios.

What they’re saying: “For too long, our utilities have been regulated in our General Assembly,” Youngkin told reporters last week.

  • A spokeswoman told Axios Youngkin met personally with Dominion CEO Bob Blue on the legislation.

Between the lines: Dominion didn't exactly start on the best political footing with Youngkin.

  • The company funded a PAC during the 2021 election that attempted to suppress GOP turnout by running ads questioning Youngkin's support of gun rights.
  • Youngkin in turn criticized Dominion for overcharging customers and promised to stand up to the company as governor.

Proponents of the reforms say his support of the legislation was critical to shoring up Republican support, but they doubt the governor was primarily motivated by revenge.

  • Gilmore at Clean Virginia theorized that Youngkin's financial background meant "he could easily understand — and capably push back on — the sweetheart deal that Dominion lobbyists had written into Virginia's code over the past decade."
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