Democrats on a Senate committee killed a House bill on Monday that would have restored State Corporation Commission oversight over the bonanza of energy projects approved in a 2020 law.
The bill from Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, would have amended the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the legislation Democrats passed in 2020 to transition Virginia off the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation and promote the use of solar and wind energy.
That 2020 legislation restricted the ability of the regulators at the State Corporation Commission to determine if large new projects are necessary and cost effective, and directed commissioners to approve close to $10 billion in costs for a large offshore wind farm planned by Dominion Energy.
Ware’s goal with the bill was to remove the provisions of the Clean Economy Act that are projected to lead to a significant increase in residential power bills.
Republicans passed it in the House on a party-line vote. But the bill faced significant opposition and its defeat by a 9-5 vote in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee was not a surprise.
Dominion Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, stands to make significant profits from the Clean Economy Act and opposed Ware’s bill. So did the Spanish company Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, which is planning to build a $200 million facility at Portsmouth Marine Terminal to build wind turbine blades. And environmental groups like the Sierra Club also opposed the bill.
Ware said after Monday’s hearing that he wanted to remove language from the code that equates to the General Assembly putting “our thumb on the scale and saying to the State Corporation Commission, ‘We don’t want you to make a decision about its suitability, about it being the most economical way to get to a clean economy, we’re going to tell you that this is the way and you shall approve this.’ “
Lawmakers this year also killed legislation that was aimed at repealing the entire Clean Economy Act, and Senate Democrats stopped GOP legislation designed to remove Virginia from a program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which Democrats also passed in 2020 when they controlled both chambers of the legislature.
Democrats say that program is essential to limiting fossil fuel emissions from the production of electricity and to protect the environment, while Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin calls the program an unnecessary tax.
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