Holding Dominion Energy accountable for actions

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

If it seemed like the whole world was out to get Dominion Energy last week, it was for good reason. Locking Virginia into unneeded fossil fuel infrastructure, misleading regulators and cheating customers were just a few of the very valid complaints hurled at Dominion in legal proceedings, shareholder meetings and headlines.

Let’s recap:

  • The world’s leading tech companies — including Apple, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft — demanded Dominion Energy drop Atlantic Coast Pipeline plans and invest in renewable energy to meet demand from Virginia data centers.
  • The State Corporation Commission called out Dominion for some funny business in its integrated resource plan filing and slammed the utility for its lack of transparency. Dominion told the regulatory agency that it planned to spend $8.26 billion on new projects, but told Wall Street it would spend more than double that amount. Did Dominion think nobody would notice that $8.25 billion turned into $17 billion in just weeks?
  • Dominion’s shareholders also had a bone to pick regarding Dominion’s failure to plan for climate change and the utility’s board oversight. In a rebuke to current CEO and board chair Thomas Farrell, nearly half of the votes cast at Dominion’s shareholder meeting supported the creation of an independent board chair.
  • An unprecedented coalition of unlikely allies launched a vision to reform Virginia’s energy market. The Virginia Energy Reform Coalition includes groups from across the policy spectrum. The coalition laid out a course for breaking up electric monopolies to lower energy prices, increase consumer choices and make Virginia a leader in the transition to a 21st-century energy sector.

Responding to months of similar bad news, Dominion recently launched a (ratepayer-subsidized) advertising campaign with the tagline “Actions Speak Louder.” Thankfully for Virginia, regulators and ratepayers are finally holding Dominion to account for theirs.

Brennan Gilmore,

Executive Director,

Clean Virginia.

Single-payer system can help reduce charges

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The recent op-ed column “Single payer is no panacea,” by Robert Samuelson, criticizes the single-payer system for health care as being too costly despite the claims of its increasing number of proponents. However, a study reported last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association has strongly claimed otherwise. In that report, health care spending in the U.S. in 2016 totaled twice as much as in 10 other high-income nations that had some form of single-payer system while we actually performed a little less well on patient outcomes. Health care spending require 17.8% of our GDP compared to 9.6%-12.4 % for all these other nations. Why this striking difference?

The extent of health care utilization was similar in the U.S. to all of these lower-cost nations but the current “charges” in the U.S. (as opposed to “costs”) for drugs, goods, services and “administration” were 8% of GDP as opposed to 3% for all these other nations. This apparent overcharging in our health care industry was clearly documented by Steven Brill in a detailed study in 2013 reported in Time magazine. Although physician charges are currently negotiated down by the various insurances, other profitable services, drugs and equipment charges are usually paid in full by insurances and then passed on to the public by increasing premiums. Where a single-payer system can help in controlling what appears to be an overcharging health care system is its ability to more effectively negotiate these charges down to realistic levels nearer to the cost of providing the service. While doing so, a fringe benefit of this system is the provision of more complete care for all our citizens. After more than 70 years of practice as a physician in various settings, this seems like a “win-win” to me.

Walter Lawrence Jr.

Richmond.

Something’s not right about rights in America

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

I am very concerned about what is considered a “right” in this country. In his op-ed column, Robert Samuelson wrote that, “It’s very hard to control costs when all health spending is considered a ‘right.’” If I’m not mistaken, school (K-12) is considered a “right” and somehow costs seem to be managed.

If a person is sick or unhealthy, attending school (a right) becomes problematic, if not impossible at times. Therefore, which is a “right” and which is an “option?” Children have the right to go to school, but not the right to be healthy, and more importantly, remain that way. Someone please help me understand this.

June Hoye.

Henrico.

Retiming of lights compounds traffic jams

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

I’ve had enough. Is anyone else fed up?

I refer to the great volume of northbound Belvidere Street traffic needing to turn left onto westbound Broad Street. For the past six months or so, ever since the city retimed the traffic lights at this intersection, there has been only 10 seconds of left-turn signal-time available — that’s 10 seconds from green through yellow to red. Barely four cars for each of the two left-turn lanes can make it through during this brief interval. Left-turn traffic often is backed up to, and beyond, Franklin Street. This is intolerable.

Traffic Engineering tells me it can’t lengthen this left-turn interval to a more adequate 20 seconds because the Pulse buses complicate things too much. Why? Is it because they’re being given a priority green signal for their straight-through Broad Street operation? If so, the price it too high. They’ll just have to wait their regular turn like the rest of Broad Street traffic at this busiest intersection in the entire city. Northbound Belvidere Street traffic has no place else — not one — to turn west to a major through-street. We’re important, too.

Steve Tarrant.

Richmond.

Time has come to break U.S.-China trade impasse

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

To quote Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over til it’s over.” Now is the time for the leaders of the United States and China to agree to a reasonable deal so that both sides can save face. A half a loaf is better than no loaf.

Paul Schoenbaum.

Henrico.

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