Virginia Utility Regulators MUST Support Clean Energy Policies

Climate group calls for VA General Assembly to pick unbiased candidates

The Virginia General Assembly must only elect utility commissioners during the 2024 legislative session who have not represented or have a recent history of receiving campaign donations from utilities, and who are ready on day one to hold utilities accountable to state climate policy, according to a statement from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) Action Fund. Virginia needs a State Corporation Commission (SCC) that is fully committed to clean energy policies and opposed to the fossil fuel expansion now proposed by Dominion Energy.

After years of partisan gridlock, the General Assembly will finally have the opportunity to fill two vacancies on the SCC, which regulates utilities and issues final approval for major energy projects. The newly elected judges would be charged with considering Dominion’s intent to build new fossil fuel generators, as outlined in its 2023 Integrated Resource Plan and demonstrated by a proposal for a 1000-megawatt methane gas plant in Chesterfield County. The 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) prohibits Dominion from building new carbon-emitting facilities unless the company can demonstrate that they are necessary to ensure grid reliability.

“It is essential that the General Assembly choose candidates who are committed to fully implementing our legislative mandate to realize a zero-carbon grid at the lowest cost to ratepayers,” said Mike Tidwell, Executive Director for CCAN Action Fund. “The SCC wields enormous power over the clean energy transition. At the very least, it should be disqualifying to have a recent record of receiving donations from or working on behalf of regulated monopolies like Dominion. We urge leadership to ensure these essential roles are filled by candidates that will hold big corporations accountable to meeting our climate goals.”

Dominion would also need to seek approval from the SCC for relief from fossil fuel generator retirement requirements, including most coal plants by the end of 2024. The company and Governor Glenn Youngkin sought to weaken the fossil fuel retirement mandate in the 2023 legislative session, despite Dominion’s pre-existing ability within the confines of the VCEA to petition for relief on a case-by-case basis in the event that grid reliability or security is at risk. 

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