Virginia Government Forces Residents To Cover Amazon’s $172M Electric Bills

BAILEY T. STEEN | FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2018

You don’t get to be a multi-billion dollar corporation like Amazon without some penny-pinching behaviour along the way. It appears the home delivery empire is back to their old tricks of manipulating government for their own corporate self-interests. This time, however, the company are taking aim at the humble residents of the Virginia expected to cover their $172M in electrical bills, as per a Bloomberg report published earlier this week.

According to journalist Mya Frazier, the small town of Gainesville, Virginia only saw a short-lived victory against Amazon when local protesters successfully fought against the installation of a controversial power line through their lands. Dominion Energy Inc. — the largest electrical company in the state — intended to install the above ground power line in order to reach a nearby data centre run by an Amazon subsidiary. This plan, however, required construction throughout a Civil War memorial site and the private homes of their Virginian residents, such as the article’s highlighted Rosie Thomas (87), without any evidence of due reimbursements to come.

Following three years of persistent activism, from petitions to organised protests in front of the restricted Amazon data centre, where residents were met with guard dogs and police resistance, the deal was soon buried into obscurity. This didn’t last, of course. As Silicon Valley’s de facto mobsters, Amazon doesn’t ask when they want something — they just fucking take it. And the government, scared of their wrath, play ball.

Within a months time, Virginia’s own House of Delegates approved Dominion’s proposal for residents to cover the cost of the replacement venture with $172M in higher electrical bills. Instead of these corporations — through their sheer force of will and wealth — thrusting their power line into lands of which they have no right, now the replacement will be bought and paid for by people who nearly had their land infringed upon in the first place. Excuse me, but I don’t recall the part of the First Amendment where peaceful assembly and petitions of grievance were punished with an artificial annoyance tax from the lords at Amazon INC.

“That’s de facto cost-­shifting,” says Ned Hill, an economist who teaches economic development policy at Ohio State University, who spoke with Bloomberg. “Other businesses and households are now bearing all the costs.”

“Lord, have mercy,” Thomas told neighbours upon learning of increased electrical fees, according to Bloomberg. She continued to explain she’s already struggling to maintain her family home under current monthly payments of $170. Any increase would surely leave lower income residents in a financial wreck, which can’t be said of their new debtors. “Amazon’s got all the money they ever needed,” she proclaimed. “They don’t need any more.”

This reality doesn’t matter to Amazon, however, given that Amazon Web Services, their largest branch, turned a $6.11B in profits for their second quarter. This is on top of the $1.2 billion in state and municipal tax incentives that Bezos’ company has received over the past decade by complicit governments. Feudalists, regardless of status, will always get their money from the less fortunate masses. What an absolute joke.

This isn’t the first time Amazon have manipulated the state for their own means. In December, The Seattle Times journalist Danny Westneat uncovered staggering details of how city and state governments were trying to court Amazon as the host of their 50,000-employee hub known as HQ2.

TrigTent reported the details of how some government bureaucrats, such as those in Chula Vista, California, went as far as to offer Amazon over 85 acres of land (valued at over $100M) for no cost and granting a 30 year write-off for all property taxes. Chicago, Illinois offered Amazon pocket over $1.32 billion in income taxes from their own workers. The most disturbing was from Fresno, California where government officials would allow the company have “special authority”over how their company’s taxes are spent.

It should be noted they’re not the only company to have such pervasive influence over governmental policy, but they’re among the most powerful with a known interest in using that power. In this sense, the power companies and the politicians have their bias toward Amazon. As Frazier argued, the two do share the common practice of “shifting costs from businesses to poor residents who already pay about three times more of their income on utility bills than do wealthy households,” citing a 2016 ACEEE prices study.

Their best argument is this is a government investment for the greater good of job growth. This, however, was debunked in the same study. “When you attracted the steel mill years ago, you got 2,000 employees,” Hill continued to explain. “When you attract a data centre, you get maybe 50.”

Should Virginians truly have to pay the cost of Amazon’s private ventures when their lavish profits more than pay for their whims? President Donald Trump is right in calling out the company as just another example of the “great damage” being inflicted by big business. I trust he’d act, saying the forgotten man shouldn’t be forgotten again, but don’t hold your breath.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, designer and film critic residing in the heart of Victoria, Australia. He’s also a proud Putin Puppet on occasion.

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