Dominion Power says it doesn’t play politics with donations

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Dominion Power says it does not donate to charitable groups based on politics, in response to an investigative report by the Associated Press.

The AP report published over the weekend says the utility billed tens of thousands of dollars to pay for donations to politically connected charities, including lawmakers and groups that lobby for legislation favorable to Dominion.

10 On Your Side asked Dominion how it chooses the beneficiaries of its charitable donations.

“We have several criteria we consider before deciding which organizations to support, including education, the environment, and critical community needs,” said spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris in Norfolk. “Politics is not one of them.”

The State Corporation Commission sets rates and guidelines for utilities. An SCC spokesman says under current policy, Dominion can legally earmark part of its billing to customers for charitable donations.

Dominion says last year the amount of charitable contributions paid for by customers was less than five percent of Dominion’s overall giving. Total Dominion donations were $18.5 million. The amount came from customer billing was about $740,000.

“That equates to about a penny a month for the average customer bill of $109,” Billingsley Harris said.

The donations are not itemized on a customer’s statement. They are lumped in to what regulators call the “base rate” of what they permit Dominion to charge.

The policy goes under review by the SCC beginning September 9. The commissioners will get input from several sources, including Dominion, the office of Attorney General Mark Herring, SCC staff members, and Dominion’s largest industrial customers.

Delegate Daun Sessoms Hester of Norfolk told WAVY News Monday that she appreciates “Attorney General Herring’s diligence and advocacy on behalf of [Dominion’s] ratepayers.”

“A regulated monopoly is an industry model which requires an equal balance of public service and business management,” Sessoms said in an email. “The trust of customers and stake holders, as well as the confidence of stock holders, is vital to the balance.”

Dominion gave this partial list of local charities that receive donations from the company:

  • Numerous local schools, colleges and universities
  • American Cancer Society
  • Elizabeth River Project
  • The Urban League
  • The USO of Hampton Roads
  • The Virginia Aquarium

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