McAuliffe Backs Scrapping Deal that Protects Dominion Power from Rate Review

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Thursday said he supports scrapping a two-year-old deal that shields Dominion Power from rate reviews, saying the rationale for protecting the utility will be lost if the Trump Administration does away with the federal Clean Power Plan.

State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Farifax) looks at the vote tally board during the Senate session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) (Steve Helber/AP)

McAuliffe (D) made the remark after Fredericks, who has been broadcasting his show from different locations on Capitol Square during the legislative session, asked him about an already defeated bill on the subject.

“The reason we did this, let’s be fair, I mean, was because of the Clean Power Plan and the increased costs that would come with the Clean Power Plan,” McAuliffe said in an interview on the John Fredericks Show, a conservative talk-radio program. “From what I read and from what I hear from Washington from President Trump and his new proposed EPA administrator, the Clean Power Plan is going to go away. … If we don’t have those increased costs because of the Clean Power Plan, then (protection for Dominion) should be off the table.”

Proposed by state Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax), the measure had been aimed at undoing a 2015 law that froze base electricity rates in Virginia for five years. The law also shields utilities from rate review through 2019 while preserving their ability to seek rate hikes.

Dominion and Appalachian Power Co., the two utilities that supply virtually all electricity in the state, said at the time that they needed rate protection from the anticipated costs of complying then-President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The 2015 protection measure, the subject of a pending lawsuit filed on behalf of rate-payers, was sponsored by state Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach), who is running in a crowded Republican primary for governor.

Dominion is the largest corporate contributor in Virginia, having plowed $4 million into state-level races over the past decade.

McAuliffe had signed the 2015 bill into law, but on Thursday he told Fredericks he agreed with Petersen that those protections will not be needed if the power plan goes away. His comments came as two other candidates running to succeed the term-limited governor – Republican Denver Riggleman and Democrat Tom Perriello — have incorporated populist-style attacks on Dominion into their campaigns.

“I support Chap Petersen on this,” McAuliffe said.

His answer seemed to surprise Petersen, who was part of the conversation because his office served as Fredericks’s makeshift radio studio for the day.

“Oh my God,” Petersen said. “Thank you, governor.”

Dominion spokesman David Botkins said the 2015 legislation also prompted the company to make expansions into solar energy and should stay in place.

“Virginia’s energy plan has provided direct benefits to all customers in the form of an immediate rate cut in 2015 and ongoing assistance to low-income customers, seniors, the disabled, and military veterans,” he said in an email. “The legislation has saved customers millions of dollars in costs while keeping Dominion’s rates well below the national average — lower now than before the energy plan was passed.”

As a practical matter, McAuliffe’s statement of support does nothing to revive Petersen’s bill, which died in committee. Even if Petersen thought the governor’s support would help his cause, it is too late for him to submit a new bill. His only option would be to turn his bill into an amendment that could be attached to another piece of pending legislation, a move that would be open to challenge if his amendment is not germane to the underlying legislation.

As governor, McAuliffe is free to propose legislation at any time. On the radio program, Petersen encouraged him to do just that.

“Governor, you need to send down the legislation,” Petersen said.

McAuliffe asked if Petersen could round up enough votes to pass it.

“I tell you what, you send it down and tell the Democrats what to do, they’ll follow [your] lead,” Petersen said. “They usually do.”

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said later that the governor does not intend to send propose a bill.

Article Courtesy of Laura Vozzella, covering Virginia politics for The Washington Post. Follow @LVozzella

Game On! Perriello Shocks, Northam, VA Dems With Gov. Run

Upends Democratic Race for Virginia Governor

Tom Perriello, Courtesy of AP, Steve Helber

We can only imagine how the now infamous phone call from former Va. Democratic Congressman Tom Periello to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday night went down. It likely went something like this:

Perriello: Hi Ralph, Tom Perriello here. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Northam: Same to you! I’d love to have you come to my big fundraiser headlined by Governor McAuliffe on Saturday night! Can you make it?

Perriello: No Ralph, I’m busy. I have my own fundraiser scheduled. I’m running for governor.

Northam: In 2021? Wow, that’s great planning! Very impressive!

Perriello: Uh, no Ralph. I’m running against you in June.

Northam: [Silence]. Well Merry freaking Christmas.

Regardless of whom you may support, Perriello and his team — starting with Democratic consultant Don Mark — brilliantly executed this political bomb.

It has to go down as one of the most effective non-announcements in Virginia political history.

First, it’s been the best-kept secret in Virginia politics. Knowing this landscape as I do, if a politico so much as goes to the bathroom one too many times, the state’s bevvy of bloggers manages to pick it up. Leaks are commonplace. Nothing is sacred.

So this announcement took the entire state’s insiders by surprise.

No one I talked to saw it coming.

Second, Perriello announces it by first calling Northam personally. Another stellar political move.

Third, the former one-term U.S. House Rep. from Virginia’s 5th congressional district does it a mere five days prior to the start of the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.

Northam, as Lt. governor, can’t fund-raise and he’s essentially campaign handcuffed for 60 days while he has to preside over the state senate, stuck in Richmond with gavel in hand.

Meanwhile, Perriello has two months of free reign where he can play short-term catch up.

This campaign launch should be taught at UVA’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

In fact, it should merit its own chapter in their textbook. We even have the title: “How to undermine the entire Democratic establishment, the DPV, their big donors and the incumbent governor in all one fell swoop” – by Tom Perriello.

 

PERRIELLO IS THE DARLING OF VIRGINIA PROGRESSIVES

Perriello presents a host of challenges for the one time inevitability of the Northam for governor juggernaut.

He is a darling of the Democrats’ progressive wing of the Party, as he stood heroically by President Barack Obama’s agenda during his one House term in Washington.

Throwing caution to the wind after ousting incumbent conservative icon Virgil Goode in the 2008 Obama election wave, Perriello backed Obama’s every policy initiative with fearless vigor while representing a historically Republican district in central and south side Virginia.

He never wavered, and became an Obama favorite.

As a result, Perriello was subsequently defeated by GOP challenger Robert Hurt in the Tea Party election of 2010, helping Republicans to take back control of the House.

Perriello is likely to energize the more progressive non-establishment wing of the Virginia Democratic Party.

They’ve been itching for a fight.

Now they have one.

While Bernie Sanders got pummeled by Hillary Clinton in the Super Tuesday Democrat primary last March, its hard to gauge how much of the center-left Democratic primary coalition vote will be locked in for Northam come June 13.

 

PERRIELLO IS NO ANEESH CHOPRA

Northam came from behind in the 2013 Democratic primary to knock off one-time team Obama Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, who served as an Assistant to the President and Associate Director for Technology in the West Wing.

But that was then and this is now.

Chopra turned out to be a weaker candidate than many of his progressive supporters had hoped. Sometimes standoffish, and not personally engaging, Chopra ran without name recognition and laid claim to no inherent base.

Perriello has none of these flaws. He has strengths in key areas where Chopra showed weakness.

The former state senator from the Eastern Shore and Norfolk also benefited in 2013 from some Republicans, Independents and moderates crossing over to vote in a Democratic primary for Northam – or against Chopra. The Republicans nominated their candidates by way of a statewide convention in May, so they had nothing going on in the June primary.

When the GOP nominated Bishop E.W. Jackson for LG, some Republicans who could not support Jackson saw Northam and as acceptable alternative, in lieu of Chopra.

I know this for a fact. I led “Republicans for Northam” in the 2013 June Democratic primary.

Northam will not have the luxury of those disaffected open primary voters this go around.

Republicans have a hotly contested primary election on the same day and they will be otherwise pre-occupied.

So Northam has to win with only Democrat primary voters.

 

NORTHAM’S ADVANTAGES

The Lt. governor has very few enemies.

He has raised a lot of money, and I’m told by sources close to Northam that their candidate has locked in the support of the entire Democratic General Assembly, as well as Governor Terry McAuliffe and his political big money friends.

Several Democrat state senate caucus members I talked to expressed their displeasure with Perriello’s candidacy.

One member of the Democratic senate caucus leadership who requested anonymity to speak freely, blasted the upstart candidate. “I guess Clinton lost so Tom needs a job. Ralph has locked up our caucus and our big donors. I don’t see the votes for the guy.”

Virginia Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said the Perriello candidacy was going nowhere. “Perriello couldn’t even hold his own Congressional district and both his state senator and his delegate who know him are supporting Ralph Northam.”

 

Bottom Line

Northam is the early chalk for sure, but Perriello is not to be taken lightly.

This has the trappings of a dogfight.