RICHMOND, Va. – Dominion Resources Inc. will no longer add the cost of some charitable donations to customers' electric bills.
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The energy giant, which owns the state's largest electric utility, said in a recent regulatory filing with the Virginia State Corporation Commission that it won't try and recover more than $2 million related to the company's charitable contributions from 2013 and 2014. Spokesman David Botkins said Thursday the company will not seek to include charitable giving in customers' bills in future years as well.
The Associated Press reported last month that Dominion's customers have been billed tens of thousands of dollars to pay for part of donations to politically connected charities. Those donations include a $40,000 donation to a tort reform group that pushed for business-friendly legislation with the help of a longtime Dominion lobbyist and a $10,000 gift to a college that was solicited by a powerful state lawmaker who is also the school's paid fundraiser.
Dominion Virginia Power President Paul D. Koonce said in filed testimony that the company's rate-payer subsidized charitable giving amounts to less than a penny a month on a typical residential customer's bill and only accounts for a small percent of the company's overall charitable giving.
"Some have cynically suggested that certain charitable organizations to which we have contributed are motivated not by the civic good but instead by political considerations. We do not agree with those suggestions or that our charitable giving practices are anything other than well-intentioned," Koonce said.
He added that the company won't include its charitable giving as part of its base rates — which make up the majority of a customer's bill — in order to protect the reputations of the groups that have received those donations.
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Adding the cost of certain charitable contributions to electricity consumers' monthly bills is legal under longstanding regulatory rulings. The SCC's three commissioners revisited the issue most recently in 2011, where they split 2 to 1 over whether charitable contributions should be included in the cost of service.
SCC's staff recently filed testimony arguing that Dominion shouldn't be able to include any charitable contributions for 2013 and 2014 in part because "many of the donations made by the company were to organizations that conduct political or lobbying efforts."
Koonce's testimony also defended the company's current base rates, which he said are at an appropriate level. Attorney General Mark Herring's office and SCC staff have testified that Dominion's rates were too high in 2013 and 2014 and are currently too high. Koonce said the main disagreements over rates center on the timing of when Dominion should incur costs associated with cleaning up coal ash ponds and building a potential new nuclear power plant.
The SCC's commissioners will decide later this year whether Dominion's rates for 2013 and 2014 were too high and whether customers should get a partial refund.