Dominion countered that changing oversight now would be dangerous when the state is embarking on a major shift to renewable energy, with the company needing to make huge investments in wind and solar production facilities.
The bill authorizing the regulatory review had passed the full House of Delegates — a rare example of legislation advancing over the objections of Dominion, which continues to exert deep influence in Richmond despite Democrats pledging to fight the company’s power during elections last fall.
But on Monday night, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted 8 to 7 to table it indefinitely.
“This is about protecting the consumer,” Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones (D-Norfolk), the bill’s co-sponsor, told members of the committee before the vote.
His unlikely partner — conservative Republican Del. Lee Ware (Powhatan) — argued that restoring oversight of electricity rates would not harm Dominion’s projects.
“As we stand on the edge of this transition, I think it’s important that we have a baseline” of what’s fair for consumers to pay, Ware said.
Both chambers of the General Assembly have passed versions of omnibus energy legislation mandating that Dominion deliver carbon-free electricity by 2045. Differences are being ironed out in a conference committee, but the overhaul would require phasing out old fossil-fuel plants and bringing new wind and solar online — all while preserving Dominion’s monopoly and ability to earn a profit.
At Monday night’s hearing, interest groups speaking in favor of the bill included associations representing manufacturers, data centers and real estate interests, as well as environmentalists, consumer advocates and faith-based organizations. Dominion countered that the proposed bill was actually a patchwork of regulatory models from across the years and that it would harm the utility’s prospects to get financing.
“In terms of borrowing money . . . what we look for is regulatory certainty. [This] makes it difficult to do that,” Dominion Senior Vice President William Murray told the committee.
The vote to table the legislation cut across party lines.