Social justice groups, clean energy advocates, and state legislators including Delegate Sam Rasoul (District 11) and Delegate Elizabeth Guzmán (District 31) joined Food & Water Watch at the Capitol to announce visionary legislation to move Off Fossil Fuels (OFF) by 2035 in Virginia, as well as a new assessment of Dominion Energy’s well-funded power play to successfully influence Virginia politics and energy policy.
The report, “Dominion Energy’s Power Grab,” outlines the company’s long-standing lobbying muscle in Richmond, its ploy to slowly replace coal with another dirty fossil fuel, natural gas, at the expense of a healthy environmental future as Dominion’s climate emissions are trending upwards. In response, groups elevate the Virginia OFF bill as an opportune solution to the associated environmental degradation occurring in the state and country.
Food & Water Watch found that Dominion has repeatedly successfully crafted — and recrafted — Virginia’s electric utility rules to benefit Dominion while driving up electric bills for residents. This control of the utility regulation was fostered by a powerful presence in Richmond. Dominion and its employees funneled over $10 million to Virginia politicians’ campaign coffers over the past two decades and lavished over $430,000 in gifts, sporting events and trips to Virginia legislators and officials. Dominion has spent even more nationally and in other states where the company does business. The study’s appendix lists every member of Virginia’s state assembly, its Dominion campaign contributions and how they voted on five key votes that affected Dominion’s business.
"Virginia has the opportunity to take a major step towards protecting its residents from the escalating destruction caused by fossil fuels,” said Delegate Sam Rasoul (District 11). “With a complete understanding of the power Dominion Energy has in our state, it’s up to us, as elected officials, to push forward meaningful work and proactive legislation that will urgently move our state on to 100% clean, renewable energy as soon as possible. We can’t wait any longer to act, we need to join the fight for a cleaner future for our state."
“The time is now to transform our energy from fossil fuels such as oil and coal to a direction that eliminates our usage of these fuels; we need renewable energy to power our grid now by using wind, solar and geothermal. Climate change is real and is the single greatest threat to the continuation of our species. I am ready to combat it with every fiber of my being to protect this world for my children and our future generation of Americans,” said Delegate Elizabeth Guzmán (District 31).
The groups including NAACP, People Demanding Action, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and others called on Virginia’s General Assembly to combat the environmental damage from fossil fuels use by supporting the OFF bill. The bill is being officially introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul. It calls for the state to make a swift and just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2035. Just as notably, the bill establishes a moratorium on state agency approval of any fossil fuel projects like the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“Dominion’s stranglehold over politics, energy, and infrastructure in the state of Virginia is a travesty to democratic values,” said Jorge Aguilar, Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director. “Such a legacy of pollution continues to threaten communities with major fracked gas infrastructure, climbing climate emissions, and controversial projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Cove Point export terminal, power plants and electric transmission lines. It is up to our elected officials to halt dirty fossil fuel development and flip the switch on dirty energy by committing to rapidly shifting to 100 percent clean renewable energy now.”
“Virginia State Conference NAACP whole-heartedly stand in solidarity with our partners in the call for future development of clean and renewable energy and demand Dominion Energy and other Virginia utility companies proactively reach out and help create thousands of opportunities for careers among those who have been hurt and suffered the most,” said Jesse Frierson, political director of the Virginia NAACP.
“This report shows why it's time to end the Virginia way of unlimited contributions to legislators,” said Andrea Miller, executive director of People Demanding Action. “It's time for legislators to stop voting their money and start voting in the best interest of the people of Virginia. Our lives and our environment are at stake.”
"Climate change exacerbates the issues that people of faith are already working on, such as hunger, clean water, immigration and refugees, and global conflict,” said Kendyl Crawford, executive director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. “Many Virginians aren’t aware of the negative consequences of our energy choices as a society. Cutting dangerous carbon pollution and greenhouse gases will save lives."
“It’s abundantly clear that Virginians, our representatives, and our regulatory boards, must stand up to Dominion and its dangerous policies, including by denying the air permit being sought for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s Buckingham compressor station,” said Stacy Lovelace, co-founder of the Virginia Pipeline Resisters. “Virginians should support any bill like the OFF Act that stops projects like this fracked gas compressor station, which would emit tons of toxic air pollutants, produce constant noise, create an ever-present threat of explosion, and do all of that in the mostly African-American community of Union Hill.”
Top findings of the report:
- In 2017, about two-thirds of Dominion’s total power plant capacity still came from fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas. In contrast, solar power was less than 5 percent of Dominion’s total capacity, and the company had built no wind power in the Commonwealth.
- Dominion has racked up substantial profits that have risen about 60 percent over the past decade, from $ 1.8 billion in 2008 to $2.9 billion in 2017.
- In 2016, Virginia released more pollution per square mile than most other states, releasing 39 million pounds in 2016 339 Three Dominion plants were among the 10 largest polluters and were responsible for 11 percent of pollution in Virginia.
- Dominion’s chief executive and chairman Thomas Farrell’s total compensation from Dominion was almost $15 5 million in 2017 (including nearly $100,000 worth of private travel in the company airplane) — 50 percent more than he received in 2015.
- Food & Water Watch estimated that since 1998 Dominion has spent at least $59 million on campaign contributions, lobbying and gifts to influence Virginia, the U.S. Congress and states across the country where it has operated.
- Dominion facilities are often the single biggest source of local tax revenue, which encourages boosterism by local officials.
- From 2017 to 2018, Dominion increased its Virginia lobbying, gift and advertising expenditures 10-fold while successfully pushing to enact a law that was expected to substantially increase customers’ electric bills.
- From 1998 to mid-2018, Dominion’s political action committee (PAC) and employees contributed over $10 million to Virginia candidates, campaigns and causes.
- Dominion has also poured approximately $31 million into federal lobbying since 1999.
- Dominion has lavished gifts, entertainment and trips on the Virginia legislature Between 2008 and 2016, the company spent over $430,000 on meals, cocktails, conferences, sporting events and hunting trips, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.