Legislative Committee Opposes Legislation

Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs
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Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
Contact: Merni Fitzgerald, Director of Public Affairs
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Feb. 16, 2007

Board of Supervisors’ Legislative Committee Opposes Electric Utility Service Legislation

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Legislative Committee opposes electric utility legislation being considered by the General Assembly. Committee members say the proposed legislation will not protect consumers’ interests and will adversely impact the environment.

Two bills, Senate Bill 1416, sponsored by Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., of Williamsburg, and House Bill 3068, sponsored by Del. Clarke N. Hogan, of South Boston, as passed by their respective chambers, would advance the expiration date of the capped rate period for electric utility service by two years from Dec. 31, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2008. The bills also would establish a new mechanism for regulating the rates of investor-owned electric utilities and take away the ability of most consumers to shop for competitive electric generation service. 

“Ever since the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, the State Corporation Commission has protected Virginia consumers from exorbitant electricity rates,” said Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “These low electricity rates have fueled strong economic growth and allowed families to get ahead. With legislation introduced less than two weeks before the beginning of the 2007 General Assembly session, special interests in the General Assembly are attempting to eliminate this consumer safeguard.

“These bills would give the electric utilities the most favorable regulatory treatment in the nation and, contrary to public statements made by proponents, these bills are not consumer friendly,” Connolly added.

The bills also are written in such a way that local ratepayers would automatically be charged up to an additional $300 per year, driving utility profits up by about $1 billion. Returns on new construction would be significantly higher than a “fair return,” and such an increase has not been justified. Billions of dollars in new construction will be exempt from effective State Corporation Commission (SCC) regulation.

As written, the bills severely limit the SCC’s regulation and discretion over electric utilities, and they also set a precedent for natural gas companies, which are likely to seek similar treatment in the future. The legislation contains no requirement that electric utility rates be just and reasonable, and the proposals eliminate a current regulatory treatment that balances lower costs in one area with higher costs in another, which will result in much higher rate increases than necessary.

“The Piedmont Environmental Council applauds Chairman Connolly and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in opposing the proposed re-regulation legislation being rushed through the General Assembly,” said Christopher G. Miller, the council’s president. “The proposed legislation guarantees higher electricity rates with no required targets for energy conservation, demand management or use of renewable energy resources. This legislation must not pass. An independent analysis of its impact on ratepayers must be undertaken and statewide public hearings held.” 

The council is sponsoring the “Enlighten Campaign,” focusing on energy conservation. For more information, visit www.enlightenva.org.

In addition to taking exception with the evisceration of the SCC and the increased costs to Virginia consumers, Connolly also expressed concern for the lack of environmental protection offered by either of the proposed bills.

“Dominion has done little or nothing to conserve electricity or manage demand,” Connolly said. “Other states have achieved dramatic energy savings, protecting both consumers and the environment. Conservation should be the first step. We can reduce air pollution, including carbon dioxide emissions, while encouraging economic growth. In passing one of the most anti-consumer pieces of legislation in history, the General Assembly has neglected this critical facet of the electricity solution.”

Connolly asserted that he does support a return to the regulatory status quo ante, along with strong incentives for energy conservation and demand management as was proposed in House Bill 3050, sponsored by Del. Harvey B. Morgan, of Gloucester, which was rejected by the General Assembly.

For more information, contact the office of Chairman Gerald E. Connolly at 703-324-2321, TTY 711.


For more news and information, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news.

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