Virginia Energy Consumer Trust
The Virginia Energy Consumer Trust is a pro-gas front group based in Virginia. The group is closely associated with the Virginia Manufacturers Association, an influential industry trade and lobbying group. VECT is also linked to the Consumer Energy Alliance, a national front group promoting fracked gas.
Virginia Energy Consumer Trust first appeared publicly in May 2021. According to its website, VECT “was established to amplify the voice of energy consumers” living in Virginia – yet it largely promotes fracked gas while attacking renewable energy. The group links to a PragerU video undermining wind and solar, and promotes the website of a group named Virginians for Responsible Energy that opposes wind energy development. The right-wing PragerU has emerged as a prominent purveyor of climate change denial and other misinformation in recent years.
Using the slogan “electric-economy charges too much!,” VECT plans to deploy an anti-electrification campaign, attacking a key climate solution to wean entire sectors of the economy off of fossil fuels. VECT also calls for repealing the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a bill legislating the transition of the state to zero carbon by mid-century.
The Virginia Manufacturers Association Link
While the group does not list its members or its funders on its website, a December 2021 filing with the Virginia Secretary of State reveals that the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA) exerts a large influence over the group. According to the filing, which establishes VECT as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Chief Executive Officer of the VMA appoints the VECT’s Class A Directors. The VMA may also remove the group’s Class A Directors and fill vacancies on the Board.
Neither VECT’s website nor its initial filing with the state of Virginia lists the group’s directors. But a hearing at the Virginia legislature in September 2021 revealed that one of the directors is David Delguercio. Delguercio, a past executive with chemical manufacturer Evonik and formerly a director on the VMA’s board, presented alongside VECT’s Executive Director David Hudgins before the Virginia Manufacturing Development Commission. Delguercio presented himself as a director of VECT.
Website analytics shows that VECT’s site is hosted on VMA’s internet server, indicating a close relationship between the two groups.
A VECT report touting improvements in several of Virginia’s environmental metrics also credits the VMA for its contributions to the report.
VECT did not respond to the Energy and Policy Institute’s questions about members, funders, or if it wished to clarify its ties to VMA. VMA also did not respond to EPI’s questions about its connection with VECT.
Other Fossil Fuel Ties
Virginia’s largest and most influential utility, Dominion Energy, sits on VMA’s Board of Directors, but the group’s connections to energy and fossil fuel interests doesn’t end there. The VMA’s current CEO, Brett Vassey – who appoints VECT’s Class A Directors – chairs the Board of Directors of the Consumer Energy Alliance, a national pro-gas front group run by Houston-based lobbying firm HBW Resources. CEA, which is supported by some of the biggest fossil fuel and utility corporations in the country, uses a variety of political and grassroots influence campaigns to promote oil and gas pipelines and LNG facilities while fighting electrification and renewable energy proposals.
According to VECT’s incorporation filings, its registered agent is Meade Spotts of the legal and lobbying firm Spotts Fain PC. Spotts is registered to lobby for, among others, Shell Energy North America and the PJM Power Providers Group, an organization of large independent power producers including Calpine, Vistra, NRG, and Talen Energy.
VECT’s Executive Director David Hudgins is a former lobbyist for Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), which provides wholesale electric generation to 11 member cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Over a decade ago, Hudgins butted heads with environmentalists in Virginia over ODEC’s proposal to build a coal plant in Isle of Wight county.
In a 2010 op-ed, he blamed opponents to investments in “traditional base load energy production by coal and nuclear” as believers of “junk science and unproven theories.” According to Hudgins, “They would have Virginians believe our electricity energy needs for the future would be adequately served through government-mandated energy efficiency measures and “rationing,” in combination with wind power generation.”
ODEC never built the plant.