Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
Department of Energy
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9/16/22  4:02 pm
Commenter: Mike O'Connor, Virginia Petroleum & Convenience Marketers Association

VPCMA Comments on Energy Plan

Virginia Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association (VPCMA) is a non-profit statewide trade association, founded in 1948, representing the state’s petroleum and convenience marketing industries. The association is guided by a 14-member board of directors, each of whom is a Virginia resident. VPCMA members operate or supply the overwhelming majority of the 3,474 locations in the state that sell gasoline and diesel to consumers. Virginia businesses collected and remitted over $1 billion dollars in motor fuels taxes to the state last year.
The convenience store industry employs 67,560 Virginians. 13,957 additional Virginians are employed in the fuels sector including distribution, transportation and logistics, bulk storage, and home heating oil.

We are pleased to submit comments on the 2022 energy plan. Four years ago, during the last iteration of this process, we attended most public participation events and submitted our comments as instructed on a timely basis. While the net cast to invite stakeholders to watch the show was indeed extensive, comments submitted by the private sector, particularly from those representing petroleum and propane marketers, convenience stores, and other Virginia domiciled energy providers were dismissed as out of hand and omitted from the final report. It became apparent that those drafting the 2018 energy plan and their sympathizers were only interested in publishing comments from those they agreed with, and that their ultimate goal was to develop a manifesto supporting passage of what came to be known as the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
We look forward to working with all stakeholders in a more open process to achieve our shared goals of a clean environment and vibrant economy.

Motor Fuel Supply in Emergency Situations

In May 2021, cyberterrorists disrupted petroleum supply on much of the east coast by hacking and holding hostage the Colonial petroleum pipeline. This pipeline supplies about 70 percent of the petroleum products sold in Virginia. Because Virginia refines no crude oil and has no waterborne terminals, our state is especially dependent upon pipelines to transport gasoline and diesel from refineries along the Gulf Coast to the Commonwealth. In-state storage at bulk plants and terminals is only sufficient to provide about one week’s supply under normal circumstances. Last year, as the pipeline shutdown continued and the impending gasoline shortage became likely, we witnessed some gasoline and diesel sellers staging transport trucks at their retail locations and draining their underground tanks in rapid fashion. Unsurprisingly, these practices became the focus of media and public attention and caused runouts and panic buying to occur. We believe that Virginia’s energy policy should examine whether it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to allow these practices, with particular attention focused on those sellers that charge Virginia consumers admission to their establishments.

Virginia Petroleum Storage Tank Fund

For more than 40 years, the Virginia Petroleum Storage Tank Fund has existed as a shining example of one of the best public/private collaborations in Virginia history. Under the code, 6/10th cent per gallon of every gallon of petroleum products sold goes to DEQ, thru DMV, to clean up leaking or abandoned petroleum storage tanks. This fund has since provided over a quarter billion dollars for cleanups since inception. While new tank technology and mandatory tank monitoring have reduced risk substantially, approximately $23 million dollars is provided for this purpose annually, and the program should be recognized for the tremendous success it has achieved. We urge that the 2022 plan recognize the importance of the tank fund, the dedication of DEQ employees who administer it, and the role of the private sector in effectuating cleanups.

Volkswagen Settlement

As part of the Volkswagen Dirty diesel settlement, Virginia was awarded $93 million dollars. The previous administration awarded $14 million of that amount to electric vehicle chargers. However, only two of the awards were made to locations also providing motor fuels and other motorist services including seating, food service and restrooms.

In light of a FOIA request to the Department of Environmental Quality, we have learned that:

• There is no data on how many charges have taken place at each location.
• There is no data on the utilization rate for each in a seven day timeframe.
• There is no information on whether those charging their vehicles actually pay for the service, and if so where does the money go?
• There is no information on if there is backup power to these chargers, and if so, how is it provided?

Given the Biden Administration’s clear directive that interstate locations are to be a priority for electrification and the importance of these locations in times of emergency, we believe that the award of $14 million dollars should be independently reviewed, to determine why it was made, by whom, and who benefited.

Unfair Competition

As a part of our comments, we would endorse and attach the comments of the Charge Ahead Partnership on the future expansion of EV charging in the Commonwealth. For the women and men of the petroleum marketing and convenience store industries of the Commonwealth, business expansion, upgrades, and new investments are totally self-funded. We believe that competition makes businesses stronger and benefits consumers. That can only be true when competition is fair. Allowing monopolistic utilities to subsidize their expansion plans thru ratepayer subsidization or thru legislation deeming such practices as “in the public interest” will be opposed at every turn.

The Charge Ahead Partnership letter can be found here.

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity comment on the Virginia Energy Plan.

CommentID: 128745