Lawmakers debate utility regulation bill

↓ Advertisement ↓

(WVEC) -- State lawmakers are debating a bill that would repeal rate freeze regulations, which critics said would cause power bills to go up.

The bill proposed by Senator Frank Wagner, District 7, would allow Dominion Energy to divert customer refund money to pay for projects like upgrading the state's electrical grid.

Governor Ralph Northam and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle support the bill, arguing it will save customers more money by investing in energy efficiency.

“We just can’t put power on everywhere without making an investment in the grid that will allow that power to actually flow,” said Senator Wagner on the Senate floor, Thursday. “These investments have to be made.”

↓ Advertisement ↓

However, in a letter sent Wednesday, the State Corporation Commission said the bill would actually lead to billions of additional costs for customers. The agency said the bill will hinder its ability to evaluate whether the projects are cost-effective.

Senator J. Chapman Petersen (D), District 34, tried and failed to make amendments to the bill, Thursday.

“What we’re allowing them to do is a double dip,” argued Petersen. “They avoid paying the refund to the customer plus they put the project into the rate base, so they recover these profits all the way down the line.”

The bill, if passed, will require Dominion Energy to immediately issue customers $200 million dollars in refunds. The bill will go before the Senate floor for a final vote, Friday.