Dominion Energy is one of the biggest U S utility companies and wields outsized political power in its home state of Virginia, where it has designed the rules that oversee its operations, padding its profits and threatening the climate with a renewed commitment to fossil fuels. Dominion Energy’s coal-fired power plant legacy has polluted local communities and spewed climate-destroying greenhouse gases.
Today, Dominion Energy and its subsidiaries and affiliates (Dominion) are aggressively pushing another fossil fuel — natural gas — to slowly replace the company's coal-fired operations. Dominion promotes the controversial hydraulic fracturing (fracking) gas drilling technique that has threatened communities near drilling rigs with water pollution, air emissions and ecosystem degradation. Natural gas is no climate solution: gas-fired power plants emit greenhouse gases, and natural gas infrastructure like pipelines and power plants leaks the potent greenhouse gas methane that warms the climate. Dominion has bought, constructed and is continuing to build major fracked gas infrastructure across the country including the Cove Point liquefied natural gas export terminal in Maryland, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina, and gas storage and processing facilities across the Marcellus and Utica shale basins in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The company’s Wexpro subsidiaries in the Rocky Mountains even operated nearly 1,400 gas wells — mostly relying on fracking.
This growing portfolio of natural gas assets locks the United States into a fracked gas future that threatens the climate, destroys the environment along pipeline routes and perpetuates the corrosive impacts of fracking Dominion’s other lowlights include:
- Dominion has lavished politicians with at least $59 million over the past two decades: Dominion has spent at least $59 million since 1998 on campaign contributions, lobbying and gifts to influence Virginia legislators and officials, the U S Congress and other states across the country where it has operated Nowhere is that more evident than in Virginia, where Dominion has long been the biggest corporate contributor to political campaigns, a dominant lobbying force and a generous gift-giver to legislators and officials. Dominion gave Virginia legislators over $430,000 in meals, cocktails, conferences, sporting events and hunting trips from 2008 to 2016, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project — including nearly $122,000 for Washington Redskins games
- Dominion has repeatedly successfully crafted — and recrafted — Virginia’s electric utility rules to benefit Dominion while driving up electric bills: Dominion exercised its political power to repeatedly reshape Virginia’s electric utility regula- tion over its key subsidiary Virginia Power, largely to pad its profits by preventing the state regulator from protecting ratepayers from high electricity costs.
- Dominion’s legacy of pollution continues to threaten communities: Dominion’s power plants have been significant polluters, and the company has amassed millions of dollars in settlements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act Coal continues to account for one-fifth of Dominion’s power capacity, emitting climate-altering gases and dangerous air pollutants. The company’s decades of coal combustion have generated mountains of coal ash waste that can pose environmental and public health risks. Environmental testing has found that Dominion’s coal ash ponds have leaked potentially toxic coal residues into nearby water bodies.
- Dominion’s climbing climate emissions: Despite Dominion’s slow shedding of dirty coal-fired power plants, it is building more gas-fired power plants, and its total climate emissions from its fleet of power plants have been rising steadily. Dominion’s carbon dioxide emissions from its current coal, gas, oil and biomass power plants have been trending upward, and in 2018 it purchased South Carolina utility SCANA, adding to its coal and gas power plant portfolio.
The urgency of climate change requires a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels, but not only is Dominion increasing investments in gas-fired power plants and gas pipelines, it has only modestly invested in wind and solar power — and mostly outside of Virginia. Only 0.3 percent of Dominion’s Virginia Power utility capacity comes from solar energy, and although the company has a pilot offshore wind project in the works, its massive gas-fired power plant under construction in Greensville County is over 100 times bigger than its wind project.
Virginia and the nation must chart a decisive new energy future that rapidly shifts to wind, solar, tidal and geothermal energy sources that have zero greenhouse gas emissions. The entrenched political power of Dominion is the single greatest obstacle to charting a clean energy future in the Commonwealth.