We Can’t Count On Virginia’s State Government To Force Dominion To Decarbonize

An objection that is sometimes raised to municipalization: Why do we need to go through all this effort? Isn’t this a problem for the state legislature? Shouldn’t we just focus on electing the right people to the state legislature and governorship, and let them pass laws forcing Dominion to clean up their act?

Republicans have controlled the state legislature for the last 4 years and have passed no climate change legislation. So assuming Democrats take both the state house and senate in 2019, let’s look at who will be in charge.

Governor Ralph Northam: Northam takes in a huge amount of money from Dominion. Northam has also incorrectly maintained that the state does not have the power to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline – a de facto approval of the pipelines construction. Northam went and replaced two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board who expressed misgivings about approving the construction of a compressor station for the pipeline. He even wrote a baffling opinion piece where he mentioned the IPCC 1.5c report, and then bragged that Virginia had set a goal of a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030, which is far short of the 45% the IPCC report mandates. Last spring he failed to veto a budget provision that blocked funding for carbon-cutting regulations.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (probable Senate Majority Leader): Saslaw is widely known as being a reliable Dominion booster. He is the top recipient of Dominion money in the state senate. He has consistently voted for less oversight over Dominion and against energy efficiency standards. Saslaw received a D on the Sierra Club’s climate and energy report card in 2018, lower than some Republicans.

House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (Probable House Speaker): Continues to take money from Dominion. Voted in favor of SB966, which reduced the state’s ability to regulate Dominion and was opposed by progressives. That bill is partly responsible for Dominion’s excessive profit-taking. (To be fair, Filler-Corn is not alone here, most house Dems voted for SB966)

Unfortunately, this is bipartisan problem. Regardless of what party controls the state legislature in 2020, Dominion’s influence will remain strong and it is incredibly unlikely we will see meaningful movement towards aggressive decarbonization. It is conceivable that some day, the public opinion on climate change will move so much that real action will happen at the state level. We simply don’t have the time for that. We have to push!

Municipalizing would free us from Dominion and its political influence. Arlingtonians, not the Virginia State Legislature, would control the priorities and policies of its electric utility and could make sure they align with our values. Additionally, it would reduce the power of Dominion at the state level. Less customers means less money to spend on lobbying. And if other localities were to take Arlington’s lead, its influence could be reduced even further!