Author Archives: Steve Haner

Is Dominion Campaigning Behind a Front Again?

By Steve Haner

An electric power industry lobbying and public relations group which has been financially supported by Dominion Energy Virginia is mailing out flyers to voters praising legislative incumbents who helped Dominion pass favorable legislation this year.

A mailer supporting incumbent Fairfax Democratic Senator George Barker caused the Democrat blog Blue Virginia to respond with anger Friday. What appeared to be the same message appeared in mailboxes in the district of Henrico Republican Senator Siobhan Dunnavant. How many other incumbents received the mailer may not be known until the group reports its campaign spending.

If it actually does report the mailers as campaign donations.  Barker is in a very contested party primary June 20, but Dunnavant is not on the ballot until November. The mailer merely “thanks” them for “delivering energy savings for Virginia.” Votes are not directly solicited.

If anybody has received the mailer in support of a Virginia legislator who did not seek a new term, please note that in the comment section. Odds are only legislators seeking new terms got the flyer, one more sign it’s basically a campaign donation, not a legitimate “thank you.”

The group is called Power for Tomorrow and is based in Arlington. The Energy and Policy Institute, a non-profit that often clashes with the utilities over policy, notes that a donation of about $800,000 to Power for Tomorrow appears on a 2021 Dominion disclosure form. A few years back Power for Tomorrow apparently sent out mail in Virginia focused on energy regulation issues, but without using the names or photographs of individual candidates. That drew fire from Ivy Main of the Sierra Club, also reported in 2021 on Blue Virginia. Continue reading

First Lawsuit Over Whales and Wind Dismissed

Vineyard Wind 1, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

A federal district judge in Massachusetts has rejected an effort to stop an offshore wind project near Nantucket Island on the basis of danger to whales, apparently the first court test of similar claims being raised against wind turbine proposals along the U.S. eastern seaboard, including here in Virginia.

On May 17, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani granted a motion for summary judgement to the federal agency that approved the Vineyard Wind One project. With a planned 84 turbines, the project is about half the size of Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned project off Virginia Beach. Both are just the first phases of larger planned buildouts.

Plaintiffs, mainly a group of residents of the islands near the project, had also cross-filed for summary judgement and that motion was denied. Other court challenges to the project, including one brought by fishing industry interests claiming potential economic harm, are pending, but work on the project has not stopped.  Major turbine components are starting to arrive for work to begin. Continue reading

The Subversive Power of Doughnuts

Clever Republicans have found a new tool for destroying our schools.

by Steve Haner

Let me get this straight. An elected member of the General Assembly comes to school buildings to give doughnuts to teachers in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week and the leftist Democrat agitators of the teachers’ union are “triggered”? They whine about her generosity to the gutless school management, which then caves to the weak-minded and bans any future acts of kindness?

In Virginia?

Apparently true, and get this, it wasn’t Fox News telling the story, but Virginia’s new media outlet of record, the lefty online Virginia Mercury. Graham Moomaw reported it, in a fairly straight article yesterday. I waited for someone else to post and comment here, but then recalled our namesake host (this is his kind of story) is otherwise engaged. I won’t mention where but be jealous.

Del. Amanda Batten

Amanda Batten, who worked in the Capitol as a legislative aide before winning the seat when her boss retired, is just nice. I’ve known her for years.  She’s nice. She brought a pile of doughnut boxes to schools in her district, yes with her name on the boxes, and yes, she used campaign dollars to pay for them. Plenty of legislators across the state have made small charitable donations out of those accounts, and that should be allowed. Yes, it is partly a name ID gimmick. So what?

That of course became a focus for Virginia Mercury, what reporters call the hook, the campaign dollar issue. It has to keep up its lefty, Pecksniffian credentials. But the real story is that licensed, educated, professional teachers, presumably adults, actually went into spasms of fear and loathing because a (gasp) Republican legislator entered the building and provided a treat. That is what “triggered” means, right? Perhaps her being a parent made it worse?

From Moomaw’s story: Continue reading

Dominion Seeks Permit to Harass 100s of Whales

Click for larger view. BOEM map of Right Whale density noting offshore wind lease areas. Dominion’s CVOW and Avangrid’s Kitty Hawk Wind are the southernmost mapped.

By David Wojick

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking public comments on a massive proposal to harass large numbers of whales and other marine mammals off Virginia by building a huge offshore wind complex. There is supposed to be an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed harassment, but it is not there with the proposal.

We are told it is elsewhere, but after searching we find that it simply does not exist. Like a shell game where the pea has been palmed, there is nothing to be found.

First, the bureaucratic background. The wind project is Dominion Energy Virginia’s 176-turbine offshore Virginia facility, which if built would be the world’s biggest to date. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to issue a five-year harassment authorization for the construction of this monster. This is about an enormous amount of pile driving, not just a sonar site survey, although there is more of that too.

Technically this is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Here is the announcement:

NMFS has received a request from the Virginia Electric and Power Company, doing business as Dominion Energy Virginia (Dominion Energy), for Incidental Take Regulations (ITR) and an associated Letter of Authorization (LOA) pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

There is a handy comment button at the beginning, with the comment period ending June 5. I urge people to comment, especially along the lines discussed below. Continue reading

Renewables? Fossil Fuels? Americans Want Both.

by Steve Haner

Given a choice between an energy future that is dependent on a) generation using sun, wind or falling water; or b) thermal generation sources using fossil fuels or uranium; or c) a combination of both, which do Americans prefer? Should it surprise anybody that the answer is both?

Reliance on both, the need for at least a substantial amount of electricity not depending on weather, is at the heart of the recommendations coming at Virginians from many directions. It came recently from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including the Virginian on that panel, Mark Christie. It is the premise for both Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s (R) 2022 Energy Plan and Dominion Energy Virginia’s new integrated resource plan.

The message is being disputed by advocates for the rapid retirement of existing coal and natural gas generation, many of whom are (sadly) also strongly anti-nuclear. But a recent poll shared with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy indicates the message of maintaining traditional baseload strongly resonates. It does so across party lines.

The American people are receptive to the message because they already believe that fossil fuels will continue to be around, and surprising percentages of them would like to see their use expanded. The number of Americans dubious of reaching the poorly defined target of “net zero” by 2050 – a shibboleth among Democrats — is higher than the percentage who believe it possible.

A recent poll by Hearts + Minds Strategies of Reston, with the Thomas Jefferson Institute an invited listener to the discussion (watch it in full or read a summary here), underscores this assertion. This was not a confab of climate catastrophe skeptics. Quite the opposite. Continue reading

Christie Using FERC Pulpit for Dire Prophecy

FERC Commissioner Mark Christie

by Steve Haner

Virginian Mark Christie is using his position on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a national pulpit to preach a message of energy reliability doom, and he is being heard.

It helps that he is not alone in spreading the alarm. It also helps that he is basing his warning on actual instances of energy shortages, from Texas’s deadly experience two years ago to the problems in the eastern United States just before Christmas 2022, which merely came close to catastrophe.

“The United States is heading for a very catastrophic situation in terms of reliability,” Christie told a United States Senate hearing May 4. “The arithmetic doesn’t work…. This problem is coming. It’s coming quickly. The red lights are flashing.”

Christie joined the FERC panel in January 2021, after 17 years as a member (and often chairman) of Virginia’s energy regulator, the State Corporation Commission. Prior to that he had a career as a lawyer, lobbyist and then advisor to Governor George Allen (R) and Virginia’s Republican state legislators. Continue reading

CVOW on Schedule and Budget, Utility Reports

Dominion’s proposed offshore wind project.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s first wave of offshore wind remains on schedule, and within the announced capital cost of $9.8 billion; and the cost per unit of the energy from the turbines will be lower than initially projected, the utility reported last week.

Details? Well, many of those are secrets. Much of the brief report the utility filed with State Corporation Commission remains redacted, with large blocks covered by black ink. The redacted data involves reports from an affiliate corporation, Blue Ocean Energy Marine LLC. There apparently is also another document “filed under seal under separate cover.”

Finally, Dominion refers to an Excel file that includes all the data on the new levelized cost of energy (LCOE) calculations which was posted to a shared eRoom. The password is available only to the SCC and case parties who signed non-disclosure agreements, reports the SCC’s communications director in response to a query about access for Bacon’s Rebellion.

Among the interesting items which are on the record: Continue reading

Hearing Held, No Vote Taken on Beach Wind Cables

Joe Bourne of Protect Sandbridge Beach opens the May 4 hearing on the Kitty Hawk North request to bring major power lines ashore in Virginia Beach.

by Steve Haner

One four-hour public hearing was not enough. Virginia Beach City Council wants another such debate before it votes on a wind company’s request to bring power cables ashore at Sandbridge Beach.

Last week’s hearing on Kitty Hawk North’s application for an easement to bury cables apparently was not covered by any Hampton Roads news media. Almost half of the time (watch it here) was used by the company’s speakers, both before and after the public spoke. Parent firm Avangrid Renewables LLC personnel were at the podium for so long because of questions from council members.

The representative for that part of the city, Barbara Henley, was the most pointed.

“We’ve heard a lot tonight from Avangrid, but in all this time, this is the first time we’ve heard it,” she complained.  “I think we all deserve answers to all of the questions before we make a decision.” Information she’d heard that evening seemed to contradict previous things she was told by city staff, she claimed. She also said city staff at one point told her of the project: “It’s not going to be viable. Don’t worry about it.”

Henley said the Sandbridge residents have been “shortchanged” so far, and also worried that nobody in the room spoke for the residents along the nine-mile route the power cables will take before connecting to the main electric grid at Corporate Landing.

Her comment came right before the meeting ended. She did not indicate how she might vote and included in her comments general support for offshore wind and the economic dream of creating a wind energy industry hub in the region. “None of that depends on where this project lands,” she said.

She was followed by Mayor Robert “Bobby” Dyer, who announced the intention for council to host another hearing “but not have a vote that night.” No date was announced. Continue reading

Combining RACs in Base Rates May Be “Bill Relief”

by Steve Haner

Simpler is usually better.  Monthly electric bills for many Virginians are about to get less complex, and in the short run also lower.  Will that lower cost be long term?  It is too soon to tell.

On July 1 Dominion Virginia Power will stop collecting separate monthly payments on its bills for three of its newer power plants, all now covered by their own stand-alone rate adjustment clauses or RACs.  This change flows from the major regulatory revision the General Assembly recently adopted and does not need State Corporation Commission approval.  Dominion instead notified the SCC of this change.

This is a different filing than the one about collecting its unpredicted fuel costs, and while they were announced together on May 1, really needed its own analysis. Continue reading

Putting Off Paying Your Debt is Not “Bill Relief”

In this case, for us along with Popeye’s friend, “Tuesday” translates into “after the next election.”

by Steve Haner

Whether customers pay a lot more for one year starting this July, or just a little bit more for ten years starting next winter, Dominion Energy Virginia’s entire backlog of accumulated fuel costs from prior years will be paid in full.   Every dollar will come from customers, with annual interest tacked on in the case of the long-term approach.

The second approach, the “put it on the credit card and pay the minimum” approach, is not bill relief.  Paying less now in order to pay more for ten years is not bill relief.  It is bad enough that a major newspaper is helping to sell the con.  The story was then shared on Twitter as an example of “Republican-led utility reform,” and Democrats are likely to seek to claim credit, as well. Continue reading

Dominion’s New Plan Abandons Carbon Free Goal

Rendering of a GE combined-cycle natural gas-burning plant.  Despite demands from some for carbon free electricity, Dominion wants to add more gas generation in Virginia.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia has long been warning, albeit somewhat quietly, that the dream of running Virginia’s economy on nothing but solar, wind and battery power was not based on reality.  With the filing of its most recent integrated resource plan (IRP) on May 1, proposing how to meet customer needs out 25 years, it has made those warnings concrete.

The alternative plan that the company points to as preferred includes adding natural gas generation as early as 2028, an idea not even hinted at in the previous plan just a year ago. It wants to add 2,900 megawatts of new gas plants in all.  That proposal will prove anathema to the climate alarmism movement that imposed the Virginia Clean Economy Act just three years ago, demanding carbon-emissions-free electricity by 2045. Continue reading

Marking Five Years: My Most Read Posts

by Steve Haner

With the end of April, five years have passed since Jim Bacon gave me a password for Bacon’s Rebellion and the semi-honorary title of contributing editor, probably no longer applicable.  Subscribers numbered one-sixth of what they are now, but it has been clear  from the beginning that some of the state’s political leadership followed the blog.

Here are ten headlines of mine (out of 650, including my posts of guest contributors) that have reached into the top 200 or so Rebellion posts of all time, in order of total page views recorded on the administration page: Continue reading

Residents Ask VA Beach to Reject Wind Easement

Source: John Locke Foundation. Click to expand.

By Steve Haner

Opposition to offshore wind is stirring in Virginia Beach, but the focus is on a North Carolina proposal that would bring its power ashore at Sandbridge Beach, not the Dominion Energy Virginia project which is closer to the state’s largest city.

Private energy developer Avangrid Renewables LLC still needs a key easement from Virginia Beach City Council to proceed with its plans.  That vote was delayed earlier this year and the company was asked to increase its local outreach and engagement.  A public meeting which is part of that effort will take place Thursday, May 4 at Municipal Center Building 1. Continue reading

Gas Taxes, EV Fees Will Rise Again July 1

Add the retail tax and storage tank fee in the first table to the wholesale tax in the second table to get the total tax per gallon.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Virginia motor fuel taxes will rise again July 1, to just over 39 cents per gallon on gasoline and just over 40 cents per gallon on diesel. This will be the second automatic increase in gas taxes since the 2020 General Assembly voted to index the gas tax to inflation. Continue reading

Math SOLs Up First for New Superintendent Coons

Figure 1. Average scores in numeracy for age 16-34 (bars) and age 16-24 (red dots): OECD PIAAC 2012. (From Goodman et al. 2015, Data © OECD 2012. Used with permission.)  Click for larger view.

by Eric (Rick) Nelson

In K-12 education, can Virginia lead the nation? If that’s the goal, in my view as a career educator, Dr. Lisa Coons is the best possible choice as our new state Superintendent. As Chief Academic Officer in Tennessee, the programs she guided to help teachers improve reading instruction are among the best in the nation.

But in Virginia, challenge #1 is mathematics. The department Dr. Coons now leads is tentatively scheduled in June to submit to the state Board of Education a proposed revision of our K-12 math Standards of Learning (SOLs). Workforce math skills are vital for our nation’s prosperity and defense, but current standards, in both our state and nation, are failing to teach mathematics effectively.

The evidence? On national standards, much of it can be found in the International Journal of Mathematics Education, among other places.

  • On a 2012 international test of numeracy skills for citizens aged 16 to 34, among 22 tested nations, the United States ranked dead last;
  • Since 2012? In national NAEP LTT testing in January 2020, before the U.S. arrival of Covid-19, math scores were lower than in 2012 for nearly every student group;
  • As noted by columnist George Will, “About 76,000 students each year receive from U.S. universities advanced degrees in engineering disciplines …. Of those graduates, about 43 percent are U.S. citizens….”;
  • Electrical engineering (EE) is an especially important field in the competitive world economy. Of EE doctorates awarded by U.S. universities, the proportion going to non-U.S. citizens rose from 62% in 2010 to 70% in 2019. Almost as many U.S. EE Ph.D.’s went to citizens of China as to U.S. citizens.

Many of these “best and brightest” from around the globe stay in the U.S. and contribute disproportionately to our economy. But one wonders: how long will U.S. taxpayers support higher education their children are not being prepared to enter? Continue reading