Monday, March 5, 2018

Episode 410 (3-5-18): Virginia Electricity Regulation and Water

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:42).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 3-2-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of March 5, 2018.

SOUND AND VOICE – ~8 sec – “It is a huge piece of legislation. It is monumental.”

That’s the sound of an electricity transmission line and a comment heard on February 8, 2018, in the Commerce and Labor Committee of the Virginia House of Delegates, where the “huge and monumental” legislation under discussion was House Bill 1558, on regulation of electric utilities.  What’s the water story to this big and important bill about electric utility regulation?

The answer starts with connections between water and energy in general.  Here are four.   First, substantial water is used in producing energy.  Second, energy is used in providing water.  Third, energy production can generate solid or liquid wastes that affect water.  And fourth, fossil fuel-based energy production generates air pollutants that can eventually affect water.  All of these water impacts are affected the energy source used to produce electricity, whether it’s fossil fuels, nuclear, solar, wind, hydropower, or something else.

Now, back to electricity regulation.  In Virginia, this involves regulation primarily of two companies, Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power, which are allowed exclusive service territories in the Commonwealth, and are therefore considered regulated monopolies.  Regulation is by the State Corporation Commission, or SCC, and the General Asssembly sets the laws that determine the SCC’s authority.  A key part of that authority is the timing of SCC reviews of the rates, charges, facilities, and service provision of the regulated monopolies.  Those reviews involve the determination of what the SCC is to consider in the “public interest,” and the determination of what costs by the utilities are “reasonable and prudent.”

House Bill 1558, and the companion bill, Senate Bill 966, change the review periods that were set in legislation passed in 2015. The bills also make public interest or reasonable cost determinations on three issues relevant to connections between water and energy: investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency (including weatherization), and grid modernization, including putting transmission lines underground to protect against storm damage.  Much of the discussion of these bills centered on how utility investments in those areas would be addressed in SCC review of electricity rates and potential refunds to customers.

As of March 1, House Bill 1558 had passed both houses but with somewhat different versions; and Senate Bill 966 had passed both houses in the same version.  The long and complicated bills attracted lots of attention, proposals for changes, and contrasting assessments, and they’ll likely be among the most significant legislation of this General Assembly.  For more information about these bills, visit the Virginia Legislative Information System, online at; or contact your local delegate or state senator.

We close with one more comment from the February 8 House committee discussion, which helps explain why utility rate bills get so much attention:

CLOSE – ~8 sec – “Monopoly utility rate-making is an esoteric area of the law, but it has a profound impact on the lives and pocket-books of Virginians.”


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.   In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Voices heard in this episode were from speakers at the February 8, 2018, meeting of the Virginia House of Delegates’ Committee on Commerce and Labor.  The audio excerpts were derived from posted video of the meeting, online at  In that video, discussion of HB 1558 begins at about 3:28 p.m. (the time of day is shown under the video) and the discussion of this bill continues for about 1 hour and 27 minutes.

The first voice heard in this episode of Virginia Water Radio is that of Dana Wiggins of the Southern Poverty Law Center, from her testimony beginning at about 4:18:08 p.m.   The second voice heard in this episode is that of Virginia Deputy Attorney General Samuel Towell, from his testimony beginning at about 4:07:35 p.m.

A 26 min./13 sec. audio excerpt (produced by Virginia Water Radio) of that discussion is available at this link.

Archives of all video from the Commerce and Labor Committee in 2018 are available online at  For more on video from the Virginia General Assembly, please see below under “Sources/For More Information about the Virginia General Assembly.”

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at

Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1st) ) (center) preparing to testify on HB 1558 (which he sponsored) at the Virginia House of Delegates Commerce and Labor Committee meeting on February 8, 2018. Image captured from Virginia General Asesmbly video of the meeting, online at


Information on HB 1558 is online at; information on SB 966 is online at  Summaries of the bills are available at those links.

HB 1558 passed the House on February 13, 2018; a somewhat different version passed the Senate on March 1.

SB 966 passed the Senate on February 9; a somewhat different version passed the House on February 26, and the House version was passed by the Senate on February 28.  As passed by both houses, this bill differed somewhat from HB 1558 as passed by the House on February 13.

These bills would change the electric utility review structure for the State Corporation Commission that is currently in effect (as of March 2018) that was established by the 2015 Virginia General Assembly in SB 1349, Electric utility regulation; suspension of regulatory reviews of utility earnings.  The 2015 bill barred the SCC from conducting a biennial review of Dominion Virginia Power for the five test periods beginning January 1, 2015, and ending December 31, 2019, and of Appalachian Power for the four test periods beginning January 1, 2014, and ending December 31, 2017 (those time periods are known as “the Transitional Rate Period”).


Used for Audio

Appalachian Power Company, online at

Evans B. Brasfield, “Regulation of Electric Utilities by the State Corporation Commission,” William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 14/Issue 3 (1973), available online at  The specific link to the PDF is

Dominion Energy, online at

Virginia Legislative Information System, online at  This site provides access to all bills considered by the Virginia General Assembly in 2018 and in past sessions back to 1994.

Virginia State Corporation Commission/Division of Public Utility Reguation, “Energy Regulation in Virginia,” online at; and “Electric Companies Regulated by the SCC,” online at

News Media Items on Electric Utility Rate Bills in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly
(listed from most recent to oldest)

With few remaining detractors, bill overhauling utility regulation advances, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/26/18.

Pending Va. law will affect utility bills for a decade. Here’s what you need to know, Washington Post, 2/21/18.

Utility overhaul passes House, but with a big amendment to address “double dip,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, as published by Roanoke Times, 2/13/18.

Electric utility regulation bill advances in both chambers, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/8/18.

State regulators say proposed utility overhaul still limits ability to issue refunds, lower rates, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/7/18.

Utility bill a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma [commentary], Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/6/18.

‘White smoke’ on Dominion Energy regulatory overhaul; bill could advance quickly, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/5/18.

Bill to undo controversial utility rate freeze faces unfriendly panel Monday as Dominion-favored plan is developed, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/13/18.

For More Information about the Virginia General Assembly

The General Assembly’s Web site,, offers several useful features, including member lists, session calendars, live video of floor sessions, and information on legislative processes.

The Legislative Information System (LIS) Web site,, provides lists and summaries of all bills, searchable by topic, member, committee, etc.

Live video streams and archived video of floor sessions are available at for the House and for the Senate.

Committees are key parts of the General Assembly process. Legislation about water or about activities that can affect water may be assigned to any of several standing committees, most of which meet weekly during the General Assembly session.  As of 2018, live streaming and archived video of committee meetings are available.  Information on live streaming of House committee meetings is online at; archives of previous meetings are available via the Web pages for each committee, which can accessed via the LIS site.  Video of Senate committee meetings (both current and archived) is available online online at

Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts relevant to the Virginia General Assembly are available online at  A post about the electric utility regulation legislation in the 2018 Assembly is online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (

Following are links to previous episodes on the Virginia General Assembly:
Episode143, 1/7/13 – Music for the Past and Present of the Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 147, 2/4/13
– Committees Guide the Flow of Bills in the Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 196, 1/13/14
– The Virginia Legislature on its 396th Opening Day, January 8, 2014;
Episode 247, 1/5/15
– January Means State Budget Time in the Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 252, 2/9/15
– Voting on Water in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 297, 1/4/16 – Water’s on the Agenda—along with a Whole Lot Else—When the Virginia General Assembly Convenes;
Episode 302, 2/8/16 – Voting on Water in the 2016 Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 350, 1/9/17 – Old English Music Helps Preview the Old Dominion’s 2017 General Assembly;
Episode 353, 1/30/17 – Voting on Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 359, 3/13/17 – Subcommittees are Where Many Proposed Virginia Laws Start to Float or Sink;
Episode 402, 1/8/18 – The Virginia Legislature Begins Its 400th Year in 2018;
Episode 405, 1/29/18 – Voting on Water in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly.

Following are links to some other episodes on connections between water and energy:
American Power Suite – Episode 316, 5/16/16;
Hydroelectric power – Episode 170, 7/15/13;
Natural gas – Episode 380, 8/7/17;
Solid-waste recycling, energy, and water – Episode 240, 11/17/14;
Water quality and coal – Episode 97, 1/30/12; Episode 98, 2/6/12; Episode 99, 2/13/12.


This episode may help with the following 2010 Science SOLs.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
6.9 – public policy decisions regarding the environment.

Earth Science Course
ES.6 – renewable vs. non-renewable resources (including energy resources).

The episode may also help with the following 2015 Social Studies SOLs.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.1 – social studies skills that responsible citizenship requires.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

Government Course
GOVT.1 – social studies skills that responsible citizenship requires.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.15 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels:
Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade;
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten;
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade;
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school;
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.