Tag Archives: Stephen D. Haner

Catholic Bashing No Disqualification for Northam?

Gail Gordon Donegan and Unidentified Friend

by Steve Haner

Try this thought experiment. Imagine a headline in the state capitol newspaper reading: “Appointee’s posts disparage Republicans and others on the web.” Or swap Democrats for Republicans.  Would anybody bat an eye?

Instead, of course, the story in the Richmond Times Dispatch is about Governor Ralph Northam’s recent appointment of a vicious Catholic-hating Democratic activist from Alexandria to the Virginia Council on Women. If her appointment is not withdrawn and her rhetoric not repudiated by first Mass on Sunday morning, shame on Governor Northam.

Whoever vetted the appointment should go with her. If reporter Patrick Wilson found all his examples, or they were fed to him within a short time, there no excuse for the Secretary of the Commonwealth missing them. One must assume the office did not. This should blow up into as large a blot on Northam’s record as the yearbook photo and his dithering responses, some of which must have been lies. Continue reading

Dominion Must Move Customers To Competitors

by Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission Wednesday granted motions by two competitive service providers and ordered Dominion Energy Virginia to hand over various customers.  The two companies, Direct Energy Business LLC and Calpine Energy Solutions LLC, offer a 100 percent renewable energy option in the monopoly utility’s territory.

“The Commission has found that: (a) absent the instant order, Direct Energy and Calpine will suffer irreparable harm; (b) Direct Energy and Calpine have no adequate remedy at law; and (c) the Commission is satisfied of Direct Energy’s and Calpine’s equity,” reads a footnote in the order (here). Continue reading

Surplus? How About $455 Million Windfall Tax Hike

Income breakdown and average “windfall” tax in 2018 on the taxpayers who paid more. All averaged more than $220. Source: Secretary of Finance and Ernst & Young. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

Virginia ended the last fiscal year with about $797 million more in revenue than projected, and the Northam Administration credits $455 million of that to higher taxes on about 30% of taxpayers caused by conforming to the new federal tax law. More than 700,000 tax returns stopped claiming state itemized deductions, accounting for much of that.

The tax conformity windfall amount was calculated by outside consultant Ernst and Young, Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne told a meeting of the combined legislative money committees Tuesday. That is not the same firm hired last year to project the state tax impact of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Layne said he wanted a different team looking at the results.

The E&Y report is the final 23 pages of Layne’s slide presentation to the committees, here. Continue reading

Best Gun Violence Idea Not Proposed in VA?

Grandstanding with guns on the House of Delegates floor. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

by Steve Haner

The most effective gun violence prevention idea presented to the Virginia State Crime Commission Monday was one seldom discussed in the state:  Add violent misdemeanors to the list of convictions that prevent gun purchases from a licensed dealer.

Four states, including Maryland, have that provision and a Boston University study found it has lowered the firearms homicide rate better than 25 percent in those states. Right now, extending the ban from felons to violent misdemeanants is not among the scores of bills pending at Virginia’s special session on gun violence.

One of the least effective proposals, but one always at the top of many lists?  Prohibiting the sale of so-called assault or assault-style rifles.  The research on that is clear, Boston University research fellow Claire Boine said in one of the most useful evidence-based presentations from the long day. You can see her slides here and the full study hereContinue reading

Fungible (and Vintage?) Green Virtue, For A Fee

Renewable energy certificates can have a vintage? Some might prefer fresh solar or wind power.

by Steve Haner

Like most major electric utilities now, Dominion Energy Virginia has a certain amount of energy generated by processes now designated “renewable.”  Hydro power has been around for a long time, and now that is supplemented by a growing number of solar generators – owned by the company or under contract to it.

All Dominion customers are getting some of their electricity from those sources.  Everyone is a little bit green.  But for an extra $4.21 per 1,000 kilowatt hours, some other customer can take away your green power and leave you less green or totally not green, at least on paper.  Overall the utility’s output stays the same, but it might pick up a few more dollars per month from up to 50,000 of its customers.  Continue reading

Gun Issues Return to Capitol Monday, Tuesday

by Steve Haner

Proposed firearms regulations will pack a General Assembly meeting room Monday and Tuesday, and for that portion of the population not already locked into an ideological position either way, it could be useful to pay attention.

The Republican majorities have taken some political bashing for failing to act on the flood of proposals, many previously seen and rejected, that showed up when Governor Ralph Northam sought to railroad them through a hasty special session after the Virginia Beach shooting.  But the ideas are going to get a better hearing at the Crime Commission next week than they would have when introduced.  Continue reading

What Does Dominion Lose When Customers Leave?

With a competitive service provider, you pay it and not the utility for generation, transmission and fuel – the elements of electricity supply service.

When you use a competitive service provider (CSP) instead of the monopoly electricity company, what does the monopoly provider stop collecting?  Just what part of the electric bill are big customers such as Costco and Kroger and Walmart seeking to avoid by leaving Dominion Energy Virginia?

The answer is most of it, everything covered under the bill heading “Electricity Supply Service” on the sample bill illustrated above.  With a CSP, customers would stop paying Dominion for generation, transmission and fuel.  If future legislation makes retail choice the rule in Virginia, customers could leave the utility and pay a CSP for their energy and the cost to make or buy it and get it to Virginia’s local grid.  Continue reading

Medicare for All? Medicare for Us Is Different

Power (And Free Stuff) For the People!

Blame this one on four wasted evenings watching the Democratic presidential debates.  As Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and the rest were describing their promise of “Medicare for All,” my wife and I were deep in the process of learning about and registering for “Medicare for Us,” which kicked in this month.

The big discrepancies between the two inspired my column (here) in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The debate over health care policy and payment systems is a perfectly valid one for national politics.  Everyone sees the problems.  Like it or not the country is about half-way, perhaps more than half-way, to a fully federalized health care system.  Medicare, Medicaid and the military-related programs covered about 33 percent of Virginians in 2018, and federal regulations including but not limited to the Affordable Care Act dictate many policies for the rest of that sector.   Both political parties have added to the structure.  Continue reading

Dominion Protecting Renewable Energy Buyers?!

Dominion Energy Virginia is simply trying to protect the unsuspecting public from environmental fraudsters, you understand.  Companies like Costco Wholesale and The Kroger Company lack the energy expertise to decide for themselves if a competitive service provider really is providing 100 percent renewable energy. They are being denied that service by Dominion for their own good.

That’s the basic argument Dominion has advanced for its refusal to allow willing customers of Direct Energy Business or Calpine Energy Solutions to switch.  It has said so in briefs filed at the State Corporation Commission and repeated it during hearings on the two companies’ efforts to force Dominion to accept the various applications for competitive supply.  Continue reading

Bacon Bits: The Rules, California is Crazy, Rider E

The message is clear, the messenger not on this flyer attacking Emmett Hanger during the primary. There was a logo on the other side, but no disclaimer. Click for larger view.

This is the simple stuff, people.  Delegate Nick Freitas doesn’t seem to be the only person in the Republican camp complaining that the rules are a problem, at least when enforced.  A conservative activist group that went after state Senator Emmett Hanger in the June primary is now screaming “bloody murder” because Hanger filed a complaint with the Board of Elections over some handouts that lacked the state’s required disclaimer statements.  It is a simple rule we’ve all worked with for decades, and the penalty is a civil fine that might get up to $2,500, but probably won’t go near that high.  Yet here is the heated rhetoric being spouted, with a heavy push for funds: “This is nothing less than an elected official attempting to squash free speech and shut down our grassroots PAC. We will fight this effort for it endangers all voters of Virginia for the benefit of the political class.”  No, it’s just the rules. You already have a formal PAC, so you know about the rules.  By filing a complaint Hanger gave you the spotlight again for ten seconds, but that was his choice. 

Organic Carbon Capture Device

If you thought $20 for an LED bulb is nuts…Sarah Vogelsong over at Virginia Mercury (we shared a row at an SCC hearing Wednesday) has this story about how forest conservation groups in Virginia are being paid for the CO2 being absorbed by their trees.  Pay a carbon credit to a Virginia conservation group and your plant can pump out more carbon in the LA basin!  Without doubt 1) Californians can be talked into anything, simply anything, with the right green pitch, 2) this is truly a religion with Virginia reaping the indulgence payments for forgiveness of sins and 3) these people are not really serious about removing CO2 from the atmosphere if they think this does any good.  Continue reading

Saving the Planet Sometime Soon After Never

$20 a pop to give our neighbors one of these, buried on our electric bill.

What feeds persistent skepticism about those highly touted energy efficiency programs that we utility ratepayers get billed for? The actual reports on their costs and outcomes do not help.

Case in point: A quarterly report from Dominion Energy Virginia about its on-going efforts to reduce energy usage for low income or elderly residential customers. The utility spent more than $450 per household, a total of more than $713,000 to go into 1,568 homes, mostly apartments.  Continue reading

A Ray of Hope Ends a Troubled Week

State Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax

Just when hope has largely departed, a ray of sunshine.  Senator Chap Petersen of the 34th District in Fairfax showed up in my inbox with a nice message on why he was pleased to attend this week’s festivities in Jamestown.

Why did he feel the need to explain, I wondered?  I didn’t have to wonder long, as this screed appeared on the Arbiter of Leftist Political Correctness, Blue Virginia, casting Petersen into Democratic purgatory.  Blue Virginia, of course, is a perfect showcase for that strain of potty-mouth Democrats who taught Donald Trump his political manners. Resistance?  No, just rude and crude and nasty.  Ibraheem Samirah is their hero of the week, Petersen the goat.  Continue reading

Court Backs Little Debbie In Tax Dispute

McKee Foods’ Little Debbie

Don’t underestimate Little Debbie – the spunky tyke took on the Augusta County tax collectors and won.  But the county still has her money.

The Virginia Supreme Court has sided with manufacturer McKee Foods Corporation, which makes the Little Debbie snack products, in a dispute over the tax assessment on its 828,000-square-foot factory in Augusta County. The July 18 opinion by Chief Justice Donald Lemons (here) reverses a lower court decision, rejects the county’s existing valuations and sends the dispute back to the local circuit court for another look.  Continue reading

No Appeal Filed on RGGI Regulation, Now In Force

Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is now fully authorized under a new state regulation, and the deadline to appeal that regulation has now passed with no appeal filed.  The text of the regulation is here.

Language inserted by General Assembly Republicans into the current state budget merely puts RGGI membership and its related carbon tax on hold.  It did not overturn the regulation, which went into effect June 26. The outcome of the November election will likely determine whether that roadblock remains in place beyond next summer, when the current budget provisions expire.   Continue reading

$7 More on Dominion Bills for Transmission

Two of seventeen towers supporting the new 500kv transmission line across the James River, paid for through Rider T on your bills. Dominion photo.

Electricity bills for Dominion Energy Virginia customers jump again in September – almost $7 monthly for a residential customer using 1000 kilowatt hours – as it begins to collect on $845 million in transmission system investments over the past year.  A similar level of investment is planned for next year.

The rate hike will appear on the bills in the transmission charge, Rider T, following approval of the annual Rider T update by the State Corporation Commission July 25.  The final order is hereContinue reading