Loading...

Load Error

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

This article was produced in partnership with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

Across the country, electric utilities have worked the levers of power to win favorable treatment from state policymakers.

This week, a Richmond Times-Dispatch and ProPublica investigation found that Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest public utility, successfully lobbied to reshape a major climate bill to cover its massive offshore wind project. The move shifted risk from the company’s shareholders to its ratepayers. As a result of the legislation, a typical residential customer’s bill is projected to increase by nearly $30 per month over the next decade.

Dominion says its wind project is necessary to meet the state’s new renewable energy goals. The utility’s lobbying success underscores its ability to work through the legislative process in Richmond, where special interests have taken on outsized roles in policymaking.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Elsewhere, utilities have gone much further, crossing the line into potentially criminal behavior.

In Illinois, the largest electric utility acknowledged in July it gave jobs and money to associates of the state House speaker in return for favorable legislation, according to a deferred prosecution agreement with the company in federal court.

In Ohio, a power company allegedly funneled $60 million into a slush fund for a legislative leader in exchange for his backing of a bailout of two nuclear plants. The utility has not been charged, but the elected official now faces a racketeering charge in what prosecutors said was “likely the largest bribery,

Given the Biden – Harris tickets previous statements regarding fracking and the fossil fuel industry combined with current poll numbers that indicate they have a solid lead, it seems prudent to consider what effects their win might have on our energy investments.

In doing so however we need to keep in mind that stock prices and underlying cash flows are not necessarily always well correlated, with a significant dichotomy between the two being a potential opportunity. At Cash Flow Kingdom, we attempt to take advantage of such dichotomies. Particularly when current investor sentiment differs from the expected longer-term underlying cash flows.

For instance, despite these previous statements to the contrary, I take Biden’s current statement that there will be no ban on fracking at face value. This is because a complete ban on fracking would almost certainly become a political disaster for the Democratic Party. Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other Midwestern Rust Belt swing states in the Marcellus and Utica regions would almost assuredly turn ‘Republican Red’ in response. An outright fracking ban could thus single handedly deliver to the Republicans both houses in the next midterm election and eliminate any chance of a second term in the White House for Biden or Harris.

Source: The New York Times, Upfront

Nevertheless, lip service is likely to be paid to such an idea to appease those on the left side of the party, and maybe even some sort of tax might be proposed or imposed. This could drive investor sentiment toward the energy sector even more negative than it already is. However, an outright ban, or even a tax substantial enough to prevent significant fracking, is a non-starter. The Democratic Party is not that stupid.

Likewise, retracting existing permits and stopping existing drilling on federal lands is a no-go. This would not

When journalists or watchdog groups scrutinize donations to US politicians, they tend to focus on corporations and special-interest groups. In part this is because contributions from individuals are difficult to track. But it also stems from a widespread perception that contributions from individuals are less problematic.

“In many people’s minds, donations from companies tend to be corrupt, or have the potential to corrupt, while donations from individuals are seen as mostly ideologically driven,” said Edoardo Teso, an assistant professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at the Kellogg School.

But does that common distinction reflect reality? After all, many individuals are linked to companies, and if they’re senior enough in their organization’s hierarchies, they may stand to benefit a good deal from a particular candidate’s victory.

It’s an important question to ask, because donations from individuals make up the majority of campaign contributions — by a long shot. In 2018, more than three-fourths of the money raised by candidates for Congress came from individuals, up from 70% in 2000.

Teso set out to examine how much individual political donations were made in ways meant to strategically help the donor’s company. He did so by determining the share of corporate executives or members of corporate boards who are individual donors, and then sought to isolate the motivations of that subset of donors. Specifically, he wanted to understand whether this group’s financial contributions to members of Congress were driven purely by political ideology, or whether corporate leaders were at times donating with their companies’ interests in mind.

Teso focused on how donations from corporate leaders changed as congresspeople’s power waxed and waned. He found that the likelihood of an individual corporate leader donating to a member of Congress increased by 11% when that legislator received a committee assignment making him or her

More coverage for virtual doctors’ visits. Expanded mental health benefits. Access to on-site health clinics.



a book on a table


© Shutterstock


As employees sign up for job-based coverage for 2021, they’ll find the coronavirus pandemic has changed some of the benefits that their companies are providing, experts said.

Loading...

Load Error

And they’ll also see their premiums and out-of-pocket costs increase about 5%, which is more than wages and inflation have been rising, according to the Business Group on Health, which surveys large employers.

This bump comes on top of a 4% increase in premiums this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual employer health benefits survey. In 2020, the average annual premiums hit nearly $7,500 for single coverage and $21,500 for family coverage. Deductibles stayed roughly the same at about $1,650 for a single person.

One of the biggest changes for 2021 will be a growth in the number and types of virtual care options, said Steve Wojcik, the group’s vice president of public policy. Employers had long offered telehealth, but few of their staffers actually used it.

The pandemic changed all that. Utilization soared as Americans sought medical care from the safety of their homes.

Some 53% of large employers will offer more virtual care options next year, the group found. And they are extending the services to weight management, prenatal care and management of chronic diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Coronavirus, as well as the accompanying economic upheaval, has also greatly affected many Americans’ mental health. Companies plan to bolster their support and make employees more aware of the offerings available to them, said Mark Hope, senior director at Willis Towers Watson.

Some 45% of large employers are planning to work with their insurers to expand mental health provider networks, according to the Business Group on Health report.

Some 91%

The money, which came in the form of a tax refund, helped Antero maintain its lucrative cash dividend payments to investors despite a year of economic upheaval. At the end of April, Antero chief executive Paul Rady and President Glen C. Warren Jr. announced the tax windfall and assured investors that “we’re in good shape, and we feel good about it.” Days later, the pair sold $114.8 million of Antero stock, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Last month, Rady sold an additional $46.4 million.

Antero Midstream, a $2.5 billion company, is one of at least 133 corporations that received help this year from the little-noticed provision of the Cares Act. By the end of June, the companies reported receiving more than $5 billion in Cares Act refunds, according to the newsletter Tax Notes. And while the bill did not say anything explicit about a fossil fuel bailout, as many as 30 percent of publicly traded oil and gas companies said in corporate filings they planned to use this tax provision, according to researchers at the University of Chicago who reviewed hundreds of filings made between March and May. Oil and gas companies were substantially more likely to use the credit than other companies, the researchers found.

And for many of them, the law turned into a gusher.

Marathon Petroleum expects to cash in an extra $411 million in tax refunds this year. Oil States International will get $41.2 million, and Oklahoma-based oil and gas producer Devon Energy $96 million. Valero, the nation’s largest oil refiner, will rake in $110 million.

“Like countless other businesses across the country, including the energy sector which was has been hit especially hard by COVID-related market impacts, Antero Midstream openly and transparently utilized pro-job tax policies within the CARES Act aimed at sustaining