Site map for the first phase and cable connection route for the proposed Kitty Hawk Wind project.
by Steve Haner
The political leaders of the City of Virginia Beach have informed an offshore wind developer that they oppose its plan to bring power cables ashore at Sandbridge Beach. No formal vote was taken on the application, however, according to media reports.
The story appeared in The Virginian-Pilot and on local television station WAVY around Thanksgiving. When Bacon’s Rebellion last visited this matter, Virginia Beach City Council had conducted a May public hearing at which most speakers strongly opposed the power cable location.
European energy developer Avangrid controls the wind lease space off the shores of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, but the most efficient plan to bring power ashore brought the cables north to Sandbridge Beach in Virginia. The exact landing location proposed was under a city-owned parking lot that serves the commercial section of the popular beach neighborhood.
From there the cables would have run along mostly public highway right of way to connect with the main electrical grid. A similar plan to bring cables ashore from Dominion Energy Virginia’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project involves the state’s military reservation (no longer named for Confederate artillerist William Pendleton) so is not near commercial or residential properties. No similar local opposition has developed to CVOW’s cables.
The city leaders reportedly informed the developer of their stance in a private meeting and then later announced it. The company is free to continue to try to change minds, since no formal vote was taken, and also free to look for another route to the grid. Continue reading
By Nancy Almasi
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had a real and persistent impact on our children’s education. Learning loss continues to be the subject of daily news reports, with SAT and ACT test scores at an all-time low. Overall, math and reading scores on standardized tests are at their lowest level in decades and the college admissions process was thrown into a tailspin when lockdown regulations made taking the traditional SAT and ACT tests difficult.
Colleges and universities are now pivoting away from standardized tests by making SAT and ACT scores optional when it comes to admissions. Virginia colleges and universities have been, for the most part, ahead of the trend:
- University of Virginia – Will make the SAT, ACT, AP, and IB tests optional beginning in the 2024-2025 academic year.
- Virginia Tech – Will make the SAT and ACT tests optional for admissions beginning in 2025.
- College of William and Mary – Has been test-optional since 2020
- Virginia Commonwealth University – Test optional unless applicants are applying for the Honors College program or the Guaranteed Admissions Program.
- George Mason University – Has been test optional since 2007 but has other requirements in lieu of SAT or ACT scores such as grade point average, the number of rigorous honors or AP classes taken, and extracurricular activities.
- James Madison University – No longer requires the SAT nor ACT scores for admission.
- Hampton University – This HBCU makes submitting standardized scores optional if the applicant has a minimum of 3.30 GPA or is in the top 10% of his or her high school class. However, a student who wishes to apply for a merit-based scholarship must submit SAT or ACT test scores.
- Hollins University – The small, private, liberal arts women’s college (and the author’s alma mater) is test optional.
By Steve Haner
The long struggle to prevent Dominion Energy Virginia from earning excess profits in its base rates year after year appears to be over and consumers finally won. That is the main takeaway as the first general review of its base rates since the 2023 regulatory re-write is moving toward a quick settlement.
The complicated changes in the regulatory structure included wins and losses for consumers, but the impact on this first rate case review is proving to be net positive for the 2.6 million customer accounts. Most of the various parties who have been dissecting the company’s accounts and forward projections are now willing to end the case with a settlement.
Another reason the case is proving less contentious than previous reviews is that many important decisions – such as the company’s allowed profit margin for the future – were predetermined by the legislation. The first ever politically dictated profit level will be 9.7% for the next two years, just as underlying interest rates elsewhere in the economy collapse.
A draft stipulation was filed by the parties November 14 with the State Corporation Commission. It leaves the utility’s base rates intact. It also includes a $15 million rebate to consumers, perhaps $2 for a residential customer, which caused the Richmond Times-Dispatch to announce the deal with a banner front page headline. Don’t spend it all in one place. In fact, expect to spend it immediately on other parts of your Dominion bill, something the newspaper (again) failed to report.
The base rates are the largest element of Dominion’s bill but are only part of it. The company continues to pay for many of its newer generation projects and non-generation programs with rate adjustment clauses that are separate from base rates, so the share customers spend on base rates is shrinking.
Stable base rates for 2024 or 2025 do not mean the total bill will not rise. You also have to also watch those rate adjustment clauses. As reported here just the other day, the rate adjustment clause dedicated to paying for Dominion’s offshore wind project may almost double next summer, another $4 per month for homeowners. The so-called Rider OSW will likely rise again in 2025. Continue reading
The first eight monopile bases for Dominion Energy’s CVOW project arrive on the Portsmouth waterfront. But a planned German-owned wind turbine blade factory nearby ist kaput.
by Steve Haner
Two national activist groups on energy and environmental issues, both with connections to Virginia, have taken the first legal steps to challenge the recent federal approvals for Virginia’s planned offshore wind complex. Most of what follows is directly from their announcement dated November 14.
The Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) are filing with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) a 60 Day Notice of Intent to Sue letter for a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The violation is contained in a defective “biological opinion,” which authorizes the construction of Dominion Energy Virginia’s Virginia Offshore Wind Project (VOW).
There have been two other important developments related to the wind project.
- Dominion has applied to the State Corporation Commission to increase the amounts its ratepayers will be contributing to the construction costs. For residential customers that is currently $4.74 for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage and Dominion want to increase it to $8.63 as of next summer. It is still not in compliance with the state law that gave an exemption from that charge to low income customers, claiming it lacks a list of such customers.
- Dominion’s principal turbine supplier, Europe’s Siemens Gamesa, has abandoned its plans to site a factory supporting the United States wind expansion in Portsmouth. That is a huge blow to Virginia’s dream of being an industry hub. (News was withheld by the state until after the election.) Both the company and many American projects are under huge financial pressure, as the press release on the possible lawsuit notes below. Today we learn German taxpayers may bail out Virginia’s ratepayers.
From Virginia to Germany, Danke Schoen.
By Steve Haner
Dominion Energy Virginia has increased its donations to Virginia state politicians six-fold in just four years. The other major donors in the energy regulation arena, Clean Virginia Fund and its founder, have done much the same. They are donating five times more in the 2023 election cycle than they did in the similar 2019 cycle.
The two political behemoths have donated about $23 million between them, compared to about $4 million four years ago. The totals really won’t be known until the final reports are due after Tuesday’s election.
Virginia’s election laws are so porous, the real spending won’t be clear even then. Here in the last weekend another round of mailings in favor of various candidates has appeared from an advocacy group called Power for Tomorrow. It sent similar mailings out just before the June primary.
Reporting at that time noted that Dominion had provided funding for Power for Tomorrow, which basically is praising candidates who had voted for Dominion’s 2023 regulatory bill. There is every reason to believe it is acting at Dominion’s behest, and no question these mailers are intended to promote the candidates.
No data on who received them or what they cost, for either the primary or general election mailers, can be found at Virginia Public Access Project. The text does not actually say to vote for the candidate in focus, which may be the claimed loophole.
The mailer that appeared in Henrico County mailboxes praising Senator Siobahn Dunnavant used exactly the same talking points that Dominion has used through the year to describe that bill, which had its good and bad points. The mailer appeared just one day after the State Corporation Commission implemented part of that bill, allowing Dominion to convert two years of unpaid fuel bills into a bond, and then make its ratepayers pay off the bond over 7 years. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
The Virginia State Corporation Commission has approved Dominion Energy Virginia’s request to stretch out the back payments on $1.3 billion in old fuel bills from previous years over more than seven years. While the ultimate dollar cost to customers is millions higher because of interest charges, even the SCC news release touted the move as “rate relief.”
The final decision was issued mid-afternoon on November 3, just a few days before the November 7 elections will choose all 140 General Assembly members. Dominion will claim the idea to spread out the payments came from the legislature, but the 2023 bill that made it possible was written by the utility and put forward by friendly legislators.
Dominion has a stable of friendly legislators in Virginia, well rewarded for their efforts. It has never rewarded them better than in this most recent election cycle. Some of the same friendly legislators filed remarks in this case supportive of this financing scheme.
From the SCC news release:
Dominion estimated that, as approved, customers would pay approximately $3.10 per month over 7.25 years rather than up to $14.72 per month under the traditional methodology. Final terms will not be known until the bonds are marketed and priced and are subject to change.
The states currently in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative tax compact. Pennsylvania will remain conspicuously absent, and Virginia departs in two months.
by Steve Haner
A state court in Pennsylvania has ruled that the regulatory decision to enroll that state in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) exceeded the authority of state regulators. It ruled RGGI is a tax that could only be lawfully imposed by the legislature.
It was the Republican majority in one of the state’s legislative chambers that brought the legal challenge, so unless or until the political balance changes in that state, a vote to join the interstate carbon dioxide capping program is unlikely.
Adding Pennsylvania would have been a major expansion of the 11-state RGGI compact. Its many fossil fuel power plants would need to buy $400 million or more worth of CO2 allowance credits per year, a third or more than Virginia’s power plants are being taxed.
It is also one of the larger states in the PJM Interconnect regional power marketplace (it is the P) where the power plants do not pay into RGGI, lowering the relative cost of its power when it flows into other PJM states. Virginia electric customers are often using electrons from elsewhere in PJM.
That the money the utilities must pay for operating their fossil fuel plants is a tax is something most RGGI proponents, including those in Virginia, vehemently deny. That was one of the key disputes in the challenge in Pennsylvania, where joining RGGI was a regulatory step initiated by its then-Governor Tom Wolf (D). Continue reading
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot photo of the first eight monopiles for Dominion’s offshore wind project, celebrated at a ceremony last Thursday upon their delivery.
The Biden Administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has issued final approval for the construction of Dominion Energy Virginia’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. Here is the release. A few more steps remain and should be completed by late January, according to BOEM.
The announcement, fully expected since all previous U.S. projects have been similarly approved, followed by a few days the arrival of the first set of gigantic monopiles, the first eight of the 176 structures Dominion will build about 27 miles or more off Virginia Beach.
The only coverage of their arrival was provided by The Virginian-Pilot. Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) attended and has praised the project all along. The paper provided only an indirect quote from his remarks:
The project is also at the heart of Virginia’s all-of-the-above approach to energy production, which aims to make energy cheap and plentiful by employing fossil fuels, nuclear and growing green energy, said Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who attended the event.
by Derrick Max
In two weeks, the people of Virginia will decide on two competing visions for the future of Virginia. Will they elect a General Assembly favoring Governor Glenn Youngkin’s more freedom-oriented policy vision, or will they elect a General Assembly returning the Commonwealth to the statist policy vision of former governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam?
While much of the current debate in the Commonwealth has focused almost solely on abortion, the number of issues “on the ballot” in this election is much broader and ought to be more closely considered by voters. If readers want a deeper dive into these issues, links to the Thomas Jefferson Institute’s work in these areas are included.
Surpluses are on the ballot in Virginia.
Earlier this year, faced with an historic $5.1 billion surplus, Governor Youngkin and Democrats in the Virginia Senate reached a deal to cut $1.05 billion in taxes and allocate $3.7 billion in new, one-time spending. This $3 in new spending for every $1 in tax cuts is backward.
Budget officials in Virginia just reported that in the first quarter of this fiscal year, surpluses are continuing to be amassed in Richmond. Coupled with the official projections for spending and revenue for the next few years, the next General Assembly will almost certainly be faced with large cash surpluses. Continue reading
American Institute of CPA’s map of states with a pass through entity tax rule as of this past July. Many of those that haven’t have no state income tax anyway. Click for larger view.
By Steve Haner
When the General Assembly was briefed on the state’s financial status last week, the $412 million in unexpected revenue growth was dismissed as potentially misleading because of some new quirk in Virginia tax law called the Pass Through Entity Tax or PTET. PTET keeps coming up in these discussions.
Approval of the Pass Through Entity Tax in 2022, with some tweaks to the rules in 2023, has indeed scrambled the state’s financial forecasting. Virginia is one of 36 states now offering this tax strategy. The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee got a briefing on it October 17. Before the boring nuts and bolts, here are the headlines.
First, PTET is popularly seen as a way to undermine the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s limitation on the deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT). If you seek itemized deductions on a federal tax return, the limit for state and local taxes paid is $10,000. Now that Virginia and so many other states have adopted PTET, the big loser is the federal government. PTET adds to the federal deficit. Continue reading
Finance Secretary Cummings showed this chart to legislators this week and noted the deceleration in job growth, citing that as another reason he and Governor Glenn Youngkin remain cautious despite strong revenues. Click for larger view.
by Steve Haner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
Virginia’s state budget grew 90% in the past decade, far faster than in previous decades. After adjusting for inflation and population changes, spending still jumped 4% each year, a high rate of compound real growth. At the same time, the state continues to see explosive growth in its revenue, pointing to cash surpluses continuing for some time.
These facts emerged from two presentations to the Virginia General Assembly this week. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) issued its annual report on state spending growth on Monday. That same day, Secretary of Finance Stephen Cummings reported on the revenue results from July through September, the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2024.
In just those three months, revenue exceeded the revenue estimates by more than $412 million. Other months, with larger pots of projected revenue, are still ahead. Should this revenue trend hold, surpluses similar to the historic surpluses of Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023 could result next June.
During the elections two years ago, Virginia’s flush financial condition was inspiring debates about tax reductions and tax reform. Some, but not all, of the proposals went on to pass. But with General Assembly elections just over two weeks away, few candidates in either party are promising more tax reform or reduction efforts in the next session. Continue reading
Illustration of planned Equinor offshore wind installation off the coast of New York State. Equinor was one of the developers asking for a price increase, which was rejected.
By Steve Haner
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) last week told several offshore wind developers it would not approve changes in their state contracts, putting several planned ocean turbine projects into jeopardy. The story is important for its contrast to how Virginia faces the same future. Continue reading
By Chris Braunlich
Subscribers to Netflix will soon see rate increases because of the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA Hollywood strikes. Buyers of new and used cars will, as a result of the United Auto Workers strike, see prices go up as supply dwindles and costs rise.
The current spate of labor actions – involving more than 420,000 employees – is a response to higher inflation. However, it will also drive prices even higher, both through lost productivity and higher costs to pay for higher wages. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
Virginia’s new electricity bill subsidy program for customers of Dominion Energy Virginia has cleared its final hurdle at the State Corporation Commission and will begin enrolling participants in time for this coming winter. It is largely following the schedule previously outlined.
In a final order issued October 13, the Commission set the rate adjustment clause amount that will be added to Dominion customer bills at 73 cents per 1,000 kilowatt hours. For most residential customers it will add between 50 cents and a dollar per month to their bills. Continue reading
The states currently in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative tax compact.
By Steve Haner
Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) is defending the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s decision to exit a multi-state carbon cap and tax compact as within the regulatory agency’s authority. He has also claimed to the circuit court hearing an appeal of that decision that the plaintiffs were not affected by the action directly and thus have no standing to sue.
The four plaintiffs, all associations, filed a 138-page petition in the Circuit Court of Fairfax County in late August. Miyares’ office used just ten pages total for two responses dated September 13. Continue reading