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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/8/19

Democratic Sweep Sets Up Confrontation With Corporate Giant That Has Loomed Over Virginia Politics For A Century

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From The Intercept

(Image by Dominion Energy)   Details   DMCA

THE STUNNING VICTORY on Tuesday by Virginia Democrats, seizing control of both chambers of the state legislature and bringing the state under unified party control, sets up a new confrontation with a powerful adversary: Dominion Energy.

Dominion Energy, the privately owned utility company, has long cast a shadow across the state, buying favor in both parties as the most generous donor in state history, writing its own lax regulatory rules, and funneling consumer bills into billions of dollars of investor dividends and executive compensation.

The election results mark a turning point that will likely transform into a brutal legislative fight in 2020 over the future of energy policy, corporate consolidation, and climate change. Virginia Democrats were once just as loyal to the energy giant as Republicans, dutifully passing nine-figure tax breaks year after year for Dominion, alongside other giveaways directly requested by the company's lobbyists. Dominion lobbyists have crushed attempts to allow consumers to use "net metering," or the use of rooftop solar power to send electricity back to the grid in exchange for credits, and passed laws specifically crafted to dodge limits on pollution by coal power plants.

Over the last two election cycles, however, an increasing number of General Assembly Democrats have declared that they will reject campaign donations from Dominion and Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of another utility giant, AEP. Since 2017, the Democratic Party of Virginia has rejected Dominion money as well. In order to force the company to return money to consumers and comply with the demand to eventually generate all of its energy from carbon-free sources, Democratic legislators say they need to break free of Dominion's political grip.

Gov. Ralph Northam has called for standards this year that would require utilities to eventually source 100 percent renewable energy over the next three decades. Now, with his first Democratic legislature, that may finally be feasible and enforced through law.

Clean Virginia, an advocacy group, boasted after the results last night that nearly 50 candidates who rejected Dominion money won elections, including many running in competitive seats.

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