Va. Supreme Court to Decide Utility Rate Challenge

WASHINGTON — The Virginia Supreme Court will decide whether a 2015 law that freezes electric rates and protects power companies from rate reviews by state regulators is constitutional.

State. Sen. Chap Petersen a Democrat who represents Fairfax City and parts of Fairfax County, says the law is hurting consumers.

Petersen has been fighting to roll back the law. But his efforts to pass legislation in the Virginia General Assembly have not garnered support. And he has unsuccessfully lobbied the governor to use his authority to repeal the law.

“It is significant that the Virginia Supreme Court has heard the challenge to the rate freeze law,” Petersen said.

He called the law the “The Refund Freeze Law” because he said it enables Dominion Virginia Power to avoid paying refunds to customers. “And thus saves (Dominion) several hundred million dollars a year which are actually excess profits to them,” he said.

Some critics call the law a giveaway to Dominion because it bans power customers in Virginia from receiving refunds when electric companies earn excessive profits.

The law is costing a typical Dominion residential customer an extra $68 a year on their bill, according to one group’s calculations, The Associated Press reported.

The Virginia law was enacted in reaction to the Obama Administration’s federal carbon emission rules and the financial burdens it was expected to bring to power companies that use fossil fuels. But the Obama plan was never put in place because it was tied up in federal courts before being repealed by an executive order by President Donald Trump. But the Virginia law remains in place.

The Virginia Supreme Court could render a decision in the case within a few months.

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