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    Electric bill break for big users crosses hurdleElectric bill break for big users crosses hurdleElectric bill break for big users crosses first key hurdle (copy)

    January 13, 2023 - DAVE RESSRichmond Times-Dispatch


      RICHMOND-A proposal to give some of Virginia's biggest electricity users a break on their bills passed a first critical hurdle in the General Assembly on Thursday.

      The bill sets up a pilot program that would exempt those companies from costs arising from Virginia utilities' obligation to cut carbon emissions.

      "This is for companies that are losing business because of high energy costs," said the sponsor, Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan.

      "I know there are concerns about cost-shifting and I worry about that but, at the same time, we are talking about employers that are mainstays of their communities, that thousands of people depend on," he said.

      But that cost-shifting worried Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, who is joining with Ware on another bill that would return regulatory oversight of utilities' base rates to the State Corporation Commission, reversing years of Dominion-based moves to do just the opposite.

      "We just don't know what the impact would be on small ratepayers," he said.

      Critics also said it would undermine the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which requires Dominion to move to net zero emissions of carbon by 2045, and Appalachian Power to do so by 2050.

      "We think some of the biggest users should help pay for the cost of clean energy, to address climate change and clear our air," said Chris Leyen, senior policy manager for the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

      "Everyone should shoulder the responsibility," he said.

      Ware said the bill includes protections for ratepayers-basically, the limited five-year term for the break and that it would be open to only a small number of the largest electricity users.

      That includes companies in Dominion's territory that use 200 megawatts of electricity or more-enough to power 180,000 homes. The limit for Appalachian Power's territory would be firms that use 40 megawatts or more.

      Those firms would also be those identified as companies that can't pass on carbon costs to customers without losing business to foreign firms, as identified under the North American Industry Classification System and defined by the Obama administration's American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Companies identified as critical to national defense, such as Newport News Shipbuilding, would also be eligible for the exemption.

      Companies that could be covered include steel mills, such as the Gerdau Chaparral plant in Petersburg, as well as textile firms, chemical manufacturers and electronics firms, said Brett Vassey, president and CEO of the Virginia Manufacturers Association.

      The bill now moves to the House of Delegates after the Commerce and Energy Committee recommended it on a 12-10 party-line vote.


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