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Court decision gives Dominion customers an electric bill break

Friday - 11/2/2012, 7:12am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - There's a bit of irony in a week when millions have been without electricity across the Northeast and thousands of Virginians lost power.

A decision by Virginia's Supreme Court could strengthen the state's newly imposed regulations on electric rates.

The court upheld a State Corporation Commission ruling denying a $35 million increase in a "return on investment" for Dominion Power under the new rules.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says by itself it doesn't sound like much, but it will have an impact on future rate cases.

"Because there are so many small elements on these rates, we obviously dig in and fight on these because these small pieces do add up," says Cuccinelli.

Dominion Power has 2 million customers. The average rate payer will save only $17 because of the decision.

But Cuccinelli says this type of victory makes it harder for the utility companies to get rate hikes they can't justify by operating costs of investment in new generating capacity.

The increase was not supposed to take effect until 2013. A spokesman for Dominion Power says the company won't know the impact on customers until its next rate hike request next year.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)