The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) is not a well-known state agency, but it wields significant power in the Commonwealth. It regulates everything from state-chartered financial institutions to insurance to limited liability companies. But, most importantly, it also has the authority to regulate utilities, which, in the state of Virginia, includes Dominion Power and Appalachian Power. This means that the SCC reviews and approves electricity rates, and also has the power to reject rate increases if they prove to be unjust or unreasonable. This will be particularly important in the coming years due to the recent enactment of the Grid Transformation and Security Act, which will allow Dominion to recover the costs of implementing renewable energy projects and modernizing the grid. The SCC has the incredibly important task of safeguarding consumer interests in the face of state-sanctioned monopolies like Dominion. Vital to that task are commissioners of the SCC who understand the energy markets and the need for modernization. In February of this year, Commissioner James Dimitri retired, leaving the General Assembly tasked with appointing his replacement. Commissioner Dimitri, in his opinions and questions from the bench, is understood to have had a ratepayer perspective and to have been an effective advocate for their interests.
Senator Chap Peterson recently wrote an op-ed detailing the importance of this appointment and the characteristics he would like to see in the next commissioner. Read more here.
A number of candidates have been identified and considered for this position, many of whom do not have any track record of protecting the interests of consumers or ratepayers. David Clarke, an identified favorite in the House of Delegates, has been a lobbyist in Richmond for many years and has served clients such as the Virginia Oil & Gas Association. Another widely touted candidate is Phil Abraham, also a long-time lobbyist who has represented PJM Interconnection, the regional wholesale electric transmission organization, of which Virginia is a part. On the other hand, a young attorney with deep experience in energy regulation and clean energy development has recently surfaced as a candidate. His name is Will Reisinger. Mr. Reisinger also represented ratepayers when he worked in the Office of Attorney General.
It is important for the legislature to choose a candidate who is well qualified, but it is equally important that he or she is not biased by past dealings and understands the importance diversifying energy in Virginia. Possessing a ratepayer perspective, similar to Judge Dimitri, is also clearly needed.
There has been some disagreement among Senators as to whether the vacancy will be filled in the coming months or whether more candidates will be considered. Powered by Facts will be watching this appointment process closely and will provide updates as new information emerges.
Call to Action:
Contact your Senator and Delegate to express the importance of appointing a qualified commissioner. Virginians need an SCC commissioner who:
- Takes seriously the rights of consumers in Virginia;
- Understands the importance and long-term value of renewables and clean energy; and
- Supports utilities in instances where the best interests of all Virginians are being served, particularly when they are being innovative and undertaking clean energy projects.