McAuliffe Defends Signing Dominion Bill

Photo by Stephen M. Katz, Virginia Pilot
Photo by Stephen M. Katz, Virginia Pilot

By Patrick Wilson, Virginian Pilot

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday defended his signing of a bill that put a timeout on the state’s ability to adjust Dominion Virginia Power’s electric rates if the company earns too much profit.

McAuliffe on Tuesday signed SB1349, which freezes base electric rates but also stops the State Corporation Commission from conducting two-year reviews of those rates to determine whether they brought Dominion, a monopoly, too much in profit.

McAuliffe said he tried to negotiate a compromise with Dominion.

“It was clear to Dominion that at the end of the day, a veto would have been devastating for them,” he told reporters in the Capitol. “I think we wanted to get to a common place. There were four specific items I asked for. There was some very onerous language… gratuitous slaps at President Obama I didn’t think needed to be in the language.”

McAuliffe said he asked Dominion to accept amendments in the bill that would expand solar energy in Virginia and require the company to offer energy assistance programs for low-income, disabled and elderly people.

“I said, ‘This is what I need,’ and they did it,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe met with Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell II while the General Assembly was debating the bill, at Farrell’s request.

“I spent hours and hours on this even before I met with Tom Farrell with my policy team,” the governor said. “Obviously this was one of the most complex bills that we had to deal with.”

Dominion and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, said the bill would provide stability for the company and consumers as the state awaits final rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will require Virginia to reduce its carbon emissions. Dominion officials say they might have to close coal plants.

Bill opponents said the EPA actions had no bearing on whether the State Corporation Commission should retain the ability to review Dominion’s base electricity rates – about 60 percent of a typical residential customer’s bill – and order refunds if the rates were deemed too high.

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