Several bills that would have held utility monopolies accountable for ripping off their customers were shot down by a state Senate committee this February. I was equally outraged and dismayed watching Senators from both sides of the aisle vote to allow Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to continue to pocket the money of ratepayers unethically. Environmental justice advocates and regular folks with utility bills were optimistic that this would finally be the year that Virginia legislators would stand up to politically powerful utility monopolies. Sadly, it did not happen.
The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee let down hardworking people in Virginia when they sided with utility monopolies over their constituents during this year’s legislative session. Allowing huge corporations to overcharge and then lobby their way out is never a good look. During a pandemic when people across the commonwealth struggle to keep the lights on, their refusal to put people over profit is appalling . We deserve legislators who put our best interests above corporate greed. Instead, we have Senators who killed bills that specifically dealt with rate reform and would have kept more money in the pockets of working people in our community.
The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee missed multiple opportunities to stop the insanity of ratepayers paying the price for corporate greed. We already pay the sixth-highest electricity bills in the nation. In the past three years alone, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power have overcharged their customers to the tune of more than $500 million since 2017. The rate reform bills would have lowered rates and forced refunds to people who have been overcharged for too long.
Money is not the only thing these utility companies are stealing from us. If our elected officials had simply voted for utility companies to return our money from overcharges, we could afford to pay our current bills and our rent or mortgage. We would have more time to spend with our families instead of more hours working to pay bonuses to CEOs who profit on the backs of hardworking people.
The defeat of the rate reform bills was a huge disappointment to so many, but we must continue to strive to get a different outcome. With Dominion Power alone contributing over 1.3 million dollars to Virginia legislators, we face an uphill battle, but it is one we must win.
So what can we do between now and the next General Assembly session? I’m glad you asked. We must ensure that our neighbors know that the utility companies are overcharging them and that change is possible. Let your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else who will listen that the overcharges from utility companies in Virginia are unjust, unfair, and unacceptable.
Then, we need to hold our elected officials accountable for putting corporate and/or personal greed above the voters’ interests. Find out if they accepted money from Dominion Power (check here) and ask them who they are representing—them or us. Show up at their events and tell them how you feel and what they are doing to our community. Write them, call them. Demand better.
If all else fails, use the power of your vote. If they vote against us, we vote against them.
Read our other blog posts about Dominion Energy:
• Virginians Share Stories on the Necessity of Climate Justice in Virginia