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RICHMOND – Every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train, according to Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to rail safety education. During Rail Safety Week – September 19-25, 2022 – the State Corporation Commission (SCC) is pleased to join forces with OLI, state Operation Lifesaver programs and other rail safety partners throughout North America to raise awareness about the need for pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists and others to stay safe around railroad tracks and crossings.

Lauren Govoni, director of the SCC’s Division of Utility and Railroad Safety (Division), and Virginia Operation Lifesaver Coordinator Tracey Lamb encourage Virginians to stay alert, use caution and obey signals around railroad tracks, and to always expect a train. “Rail safety is much more than just a single tip or slogan,” Govoni said. “It’s a set of guidelines for different groups of people, including children, first responders, media professionals, photographers, personal and professional drivers, and more.”

As part of this annual nationwide campaign, the SCC will partner with law enforcement and organizations throughout the state to promote daily Rail Safety Week themes that include commuter and transit safety, crossing safety and professional drivers, trespass prevention, and photographer safety. It will also share potentially life-saving information on its website and social media pages.

While the 76 percent decrease in collisions nationwide at highway-rail grade crossings during the past 50 years is encouraging, “there is still more rail safety awareness work to do,” Lamb said. “Trains can take a mile or more to come to a complete stop. If your vehicle ever stalls on the track, exit your vehicle immediately and call the phone number on the blue Emergency Notification System sign located at the crossing or call 911,” she said.

Virginia Operation Lifesaver is administered by the SCC’s Division of Utility and Railroad Safety, which offers education sessions, and can be reached at 804-371-1588. To learn more about railroad safety and railroad regulation in Virginia, visit scc.virginia.gov/pages/Railroad-Regulation or oli.org.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved an increase to the fuel rate for customers of Dominion Energy Virginia that includes a mitigation proposal that would spread the recovery of the $1.020 billion projected fuel deferral over three years. The Commission also approved a stipulation under which Dominion Energy agreed to waive recovery of one-half of its incremental carrying costs arising from the three-year mitigation proposal, approximately $27.5 million.

The rate increase became effective on an interim basis, subject to further modification, on July 1, 2022.

For a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, it represented an increase to the average weighted monthly bill of $14.93.

The fuel rate is the portion of the electric bill that pays for the fuel used to generate electricity and costs associated with power purchased by the utility company to serve its customers.

In its final order, the Commission stated: “the Commission notes its awareness of the ongoing rise in gas prices, inflation, and other economic pressures that are impacting all utility customers. We are sensitive to the effects of rate increases, especially in times such as these. The Commission, however, must follow the laws applicable to this case, as well as the findings of fact supported by the evidence in the record. This is what we have done herein.”

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

Order Establishing 2022-2023 Fuel Factor

RICHMOND – What would you do if your business is flooded, or a fire or powerful winds destroyed your building? Natural disasters can take a severe toll on businesses, knocking them out of commission for days, weeks or months and curtailing even the best laid plans. Some businesses never reopen following a natural disaster, and others that can reopen may fail within one year after disaster strikes.

Even natural disasters far away - including hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes – can impact your business by disrupting supply chains and communications. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to natural disasters since they often have fewer resources, locations and employees to help them become operational again.

"How you plan for and respond to disasters can determine whether your business survives," said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Protect yourself and your business against the unexpected by having the insurance coverage you need and updating it regularly.”

The State Corporation Commission's (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) urges businesses to undertake advance planning – both physical and financial – to safeguard employees, protect assets and minimize business disruptions. To get your business running again as quickly as possible after a disaster, here are some steps you can take now:

  • Understand risks, including the potential danger of natural disasters;
  • Have emergency disaster and business continuity plans in place;
  • Make sure your insurance coverage is up-to-date by reviewing policies and making adjustments as needed; and
  • Know how to respond if disaster strikes.

The Bureau specifically urges you to educate yourself on what your insurance policies cover and how much money you may need to make repairs and pay employees, creditors and yourself in the event of a disaster. Consider:

  • What your deductibles, coverage limits and exclusions are;
  • Whether additional or separate coverages are needed, such as coverage for damage related to floods or earthquakes, which are not usually covered by standard business insurance policies;
  • Whether you need to buy separate automobile insurance for business vehicles;
  • Whether your business and its contents are insured for current replacement cost; and
  • If you need business interruption insurance to cover loss of income that your business may suffer after a disaster.

Additional steps small business owners can take include the following:

  • Share business continuity plans with employees that include current employee contact information, backup vendors or suppliers and a temporary relocation site;
  • Develop a communication plan and procedures for work processes and payroll during a disaster or business interruption;
  • Keep preparedness items onsite at your workplace – including disaster provisions, maps with evacuation routes and access to a working radio and mobile apps for emergency instructions;
  • Compile and safely store an inventory of assets and equipment (including computer hardware), as well as back up all personal and company data regularly in case information is lost during a disaster;
  • Keep physical copies of important records (such as building plans, insurance policies, bank accounts and employee contact information) in a safe, waterproof and fireproof place;
  • After a disaster strikes your business, contact your insurance agent or company immediately and ask what information is needed to file a claim.

The Bureau of Insurance offers free consumer guides specifically geared to businesses. To learn more, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9185 or visit scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

For additional emergency preparedness information relating to disasters, visit vaemergency.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is recognizing Lifeline Awareness Week, September 12-16, 2022, to bring attention to an important communications resource for low-income Virginians. Lifeline, administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, provides a monthly discount of up to $9.25 on qualifying voice and broadband services for eligible subscribers.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought remote work, education, and medical care to the forefront, underscoring the need for all Virginians to stay digitally connected. You could be eligible for Lifeline if your income falls below a certain level – at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines – or if you participate in one of the following federal assistance programs:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

Participating companies can help with enrollment. You can also use a new option – the National Verifier – to check your eligibility and sign up for Lifeline. Since not all companies are required to offer Lifeline service, it’s a good idea to contact area providers to see if they participate.

To learn more about Lifeline and the National Verifier, and to see if you are eligible, call 1-800-234-9473 or email lifelinesupport@usac.org or visit www.lifelinesupport.org or the FCC website at  www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers. You may also contact the Universal Service Administrative Co. at LifelineProgram@usac.org.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Fueled by rising interest in investing, reliance on apps and social media for investing information is replacing more traditional sources of such information, such as brokerage or investment advisory firms. Increasingly, Virginians rely on social media to find investment advice and connect with financial advisors.

This trend has introduced financial influencers or “finfluencers” – celebrities or other well-known online personalities who use social media (such as Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook or other sites) – to promote investment opportunities or offer financial advice. These finfluencers may or may not have a background in the financial services industry, and sometimes receive compensation by the business offering the investment, the social media platform on which the message appears, or some other undisclosed source with an interest in the promoted investment or financial service.

“When it comes to investing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, individuals should consider whether an investment fits their particular needs,” said Ron Thomas, director of the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Division of Securities and Retail Franchising (Division). Thomas encourages Virginians to review financial opportunities on social media carefully and investigate them thoroughly. “Understand the risks and benefits of any investment and never invest more than you can afford to lose,” he said.

The financial services industry is highly regulated, with strict rules about statements concerning an investment’s performance and disclosures regarding compensation and potential conflicts of interest. Investment promoters typically must provide potential investors with all information relevant to making an informed investment decision.

Thomas offers the following tips:

  • Consider investment opportunities or advice from finfluencers with caution and independently conduct your own due diligence before investing or taking advice.
  • Be wary of content on social media or elsewhere promoting investment opportunities with big or guaranteed returns with little or no risk. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • As part of your due diligence, independently verify who is offering an investment and the details of any offers. Keep in mind that individuals offering investments are obligated to disclose all material facts regarding an investment, and they must disclose the risks associated with each product.
  • Make sure any investment and the person offering it are properly registered. In Virginia, contact the Division at 804-371-9051 or toll-free at 1-800-552-7945, or email SRF_General@scc.virginia.gov.

For more information, visit the Division’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Consumer-Investments or the NASAA website at nasaa.org/64940/informed-investor-advisory-finfluencers/?qoid=investor-advisories.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

 

RICHMOND – When a family member dies – particularly if they are a wage earner – their survivors may suffer financial loss, or even hardship. Life insurance is designed to protect loved ones against the loss of an individual’s income or services. During Life Insurance Awareness Month (September), the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians that there are many factors to consider when determining if life insurance is right for you and your family.

“When considering your family’s financial future, review your existing financial resources, debts and other liabilities, as well as your family’s needs and goals,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott White. “Understand the different types of life insurance and shop around to compare prices and coverage.”

White encourages Virginians who already have life insurance to review their policies regularly and update their policies and beneficiaries to ensure their coverage keeps pace with their changing circumstances. Life events – such as a birth, divorce, remarriage, or other changes affecting your finances (such as a new mortgage or a new job) – may trigger a need to update your life insurance policy.

When determining whether to purchase life insurance and how much coverage you may need, evaluate your existing resources and your family’s likely financial situation following a death. Consider the following: Does your spouse work? Do you have any sources of income other than salary? Do you have life insurance through your job?

Also think about financial obligations that may fall upon family members if you die, such as mortgage or rent payments, business expenses, medical expenses, car loans or student loans. Also consider your family’s short-term and long-term goals – such as your spouse’s retirement, providing care for a loved one or your children’s education.

Understand the types of life insurance available – term life or permanent – and how benefits are paid if you die. What you pay for life insurance (premiums) depends largely on the type of policy chosen, your health status, age, gender, occupation, family health history and lifestyle. Be sure to compare premiums, coverage and claims service when considering life insurance options.

Contact the Bureau in Richmond at 804-371-9741 or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 for questions or to make sure the company or individual offering the coverage is licensed and in good standing. The Bureau offers a free Virginia Life Insurance Consumer Guide with answers to many life insurance questions on its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Tips,-Guides-Publications.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a free Life Insurance Policy Locator Service that can help consumers find lost life insurance policies and annuity contracts. To learn more about the Locator Service, visit https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – If you are covered under Medicare, or will soon be eligible for Medicare coverage, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) offers a helpful tool for you: the Medigap Premium Finder. This tool allows you to search and compare annual premiums for Medicare Supplement plans. These optional plans, also known as “Medigap” and offered by private insurance companies, are designed to help pay deductibles, copayments and some out-of-pocket costs, and provide other benefits that Medicare does not cover. Medigap policy premiums are separate from any other premiums consumers pay for Medicare coverage.

There are 12 different Medigap plans – A through N – from which consumers can select. Premiums can vary significantly depending on the insurance company and plan you choose. While comparison shopping for prices, benefits, and services can seem daunting, the Medigap Premium Finder helps simplify this task. This one-stop shopping tool allows you to search by ZIP Code to see the names and contact information for insurance companies writing Medigap insurance in your area, as well as those companies’ coverage options and annual premiums.

Comparison shopping can result in considerable cost savings and help consumers find a company and policy that best suits their needs. The Bureau encourages Virginians to comparison shop before selecting a specific Medigap plan.

Consumers can access the Medigap Premium Finder at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Med-Premium-Finder. The website also includes the Virginia Medigap Guide and other valuable consumer insurance information.

The Bureau’s Life and Health Division also has specially trained staff who can help with your questions regarding Medigap insurance. To contact them, call 804-371-9691 in Richmond or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or email the Bureau at BureauofInsurance@scc.virginia.gov.

Additionally, the Bureau offers free consumer outreach programs on a number of insurance-related topics, including Medigap. Speakers are available to talk to your group or organization on the insurance topics of your choice and can provide answers to general questions regarding insurance. For more information, contact the Bureau’s Outreach Section at 804-371-9389 or e-mail ConsumerOutreach@scc.virginia.gov.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – September is National Preparedness Month, an annual observance to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. This also marks the midpoint of the Atlantic hurricane season, the peak period when potentially deadly tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic Ocean. As such, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) is urging Virginians to think ahead and act now to protect themselves and their families.

“It’s critical to ensure that your insurance coverage is up-to-date so you can minimize any financial damage,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Take time to review each of your insurance policies so you know exactly what is – and is not – covered.”

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. Once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic, it may be difficult to find an insurance company willing to write coverage until after the storm threat passes.

Keep in mind that hurricane damage is often caused by flooding, not high winds. Standard homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not provide coverage for damage from floods, surface water or storm surges. Coverage for flood damage is available to homeowners, renters and business owners in eligible communities through the National Flood Insurance Program. If you think you may need flood insurance, it’s important to prepare ahead of time since there is typically a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy takes effect. To learn more, visit www.floodsmart.gov/.

Creating an inventory of your personal property including photos, videotapes and serial numbers will help you prepare for emergencies. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners' free smartphone app — NAIC Home Inventory — makes creating a home inventory quick and easy. Keep this inventory and your insurance policies in a safe place and take them with you if you evacuate. Your policy contains the policy number and insurance company’s phone number if you have questions or need to file a claim.

For information about these or other insurance-related topics, contact the Virginia Bureau of Insurance in Richmond at (804) 371-9741 or toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or visit its website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Insurance.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – August 11 (811 Day) is the day recognized in the Commonwealth to remind Virginians of the importance of always contacting Virginia 811 before you dig. Virginia 811 is the one-call notification center created by Virginia’s utilities to protect their underground facilities.

Contacting Virginia 811 to have your underground utilities located is a simple, no-cost process. If your digging project is taking place at a single address, go online at www.va811.com to enter your request. This online service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You may also call 8-1-1 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding state and national holidays. Emergency notification service is available 24/7, 365 days a year as well. Know What’s Below, contact Virginia 811 before you dig and Dig with C.A.R.E!

C.A.R.E. means:

  • Contact Virginia 811 before you dig.
  • Allow the required time for marking.
  • Respect and protect the marks.
  • Excavate carefully.

Help keep Virginia’s underground utility infrastructure damage-free and our communities, business districts and environment safe by taking this important first step.

To learn more about “Digging with C.A.R.E.” and Virginia’s underground utility damage prevention program, contact the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Utility and Railroad Safety at 804-371-9980 or visit scc.virginia.gov/pages/Utility-Railroad-Safety.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

 

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved an application by Dominion Energy Virginia for cost recovery associated with its proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project (CVOW). The project consists of 176 wind turbines, each designed to generate 14.7 megawatts, to be located approximately 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. The project is expected to have a capital cost of $9.8 billion and will likely be the largest capital investment, and single largest project, in the history of Dominion Energy Virginia.

The Commission also approved the electric interconnection and transmission facilities to connect CVOW reliably with the existing transmission system.

The Commission approved a revenue requirement of $78.702 million for the rate year of September 1, 2022, to August 31, 2023, to be recovered through a new rate adjustment clause (Rider OSW). Over the projected 35-year lifetime of the project, for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, Rider OSW is projected to result in an average monthly bill increase of $4.72 and a peak monthly bill increase of $14.22 in 2027. The rate adjustment clause is effective for usage on and after September 1, 2022.

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) that declared in order to meet the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals prior to December 31, 2034, the construction or purchase by a public utility of one or more wind generation facilities off the state’s Atlantic shoreline is in the public interest.

Following a full proceeding, the Commission found, as directed by the General Assembly, that construction of CVOW is in the public interest.

In its final order, the SCC stated: “In so finding that these costs must be recovered from customers, the Commission is also keenly aware of the ongoing rise in gas prices, inflation, and other economic pressures that are impacting all utility customers. This is a prescriptive statute, and we applied it based on the record in this case.”

The Commission further stated that significant concerns were raised throughout the proceeding regarding the affordability of the project and the financial risk to ratepayers. With a project of this magnitude, the SCC ordered the following consumer protections:

  • Dominion shall file a notice with the SCC within 30 calendar days if it determines that the total project costs are expected to exceed the current estimate, or if the final turbine installation is expected to be delayed beyond February 4, 2027.
  • Each annual Rider OSW update application filed by Dominion prior to the project’s commercial operation shall include any material changes to the project, the most recent biannual project update, and a written explanation as to the reason for any cost overruns above the most recent estimate provided by the company to include the reasonableness and prudence of the additional costs.
  • Beginning with the commercial operation and extending for the life of the project, customers shall be held harmless for any shortfall in energy production below an annual net capacity factor of 42 percent, as measured on a three-year rolling average.

In a concurring opinion, Commissioner Jagdmann wrote that she agrees with the Final Order in all respects. She emphasized:

  • This is a legislatively favored Project. If the elements of Code § 56 585.1:11 are met, the costs of the Project are presumed "reasonable and prudent" – which means, in effect, "ratepayers pay." While no case participants oppose this Project – most urge the Commission to enact ratepayer protections given the high cost of this Project and its significant risk.... [T]he Commission has added specific protections – those being a requirement for regular reporting and a requirement (referred to as the "performance standard") that Dominion fund the cost of replacement power if the Project doesn't run or produce the quantity of power projected in the Company's analysis. But these protections do not address the Project's already high projected cost or the fact that the projected price could well [increase].... These protections also do not completely address potential Project abandonment risks. Importantly, the General Assembly has effectively maintained its ability to implement additional protections – for example through funding mechanisms such as general fund appropriation or other means, such as implementing new legislation designating the consumer-funded proceeds from Dominion's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative ("RGGI") be used to lessen the cost of the CVOW Project.... Such action may be appropriate given the public policy support for and economic development aspects of this Project.

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Contact: Andy Farmer or Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

Case Number PUR-2021-00142 – Application of Dominion Energy Virginia for approval and certification of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Commercial Project and Rider Offshore Wind
View Final Order

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