Author Archives: Steve Haner

Dominion is Keeping Whale Data Secret, Too

Click for expanded view. Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

Secrecy abounds around the monster offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy. In this case the hidden data is about the threat to the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

I earlier reported on the big hidden whale study done by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is doing the Environment Impact Assessment for this huge project.

Digging into Dominion’s filing with BOEM I found something even worse. Dominion has done an actual threat assessment, but it is 100% secret! This is outrageous.

Here is a bit of background so folks can dig for themselves. There is a lot to look at. BOEM has a separate website on this monster OSW project, which would be one of the world’s largest. The project is titled Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind or CVOW. Dominion has submitted a large set of documents in what is called the Construction and Operations Plan or simply the COP. The COP is here.

There is a long main report plus 32 technical appendices. My endangered whale interest was immediately drawn to “Appendix R: Threatened and Endangered Species Review.” It is here, and the title indicates it reports on any and all species on those lists for protection. Continue reading

Next Virginia Tax Reform: Index for Inflation

by Barbara Hollingsworth

Most Virginians are painfully aware ­­­­that it’s becoming much more difficult to make ends meet. Prices for fo­­­­od, housing, gasoline and other necessities have soared. Inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1 percent in June, the largest yearly increase since January 1982. And a recent study from the University of Iowa found that a typical American had to pay $669 more for basic living expenses than they did just two years ago.

All while the Commonwealth of Virginia was pocketing $2 billion in “surplus” revenue that was not anticipated and therefore not included in the two-year $165 billion state budget the General Assembly passed earlier this year. Most of that windfall was the result of the Federal Reserve’s monetary inflation, which made the prices of consumer staples soar because there were suddenly a lot more dollars chasing the same amount of goods and services.

But inflation had another unwelcome effect. It also pushed Virginia taxpayers into higher tax brackets despite the fact that their actual living standards went down, not up.

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to set aside $400 million for tax relief in his revised budget, which he will present to the state legislature in December. But that’s less than a quarter of the total surplus. The budget signed by Youngkin also includes $450 million to pay for potential cost overruns on the commonwealth’s capital projects due to … you guessed it …. inflation. Continue reading

Sinking the Newest Sea Level Rise Exaggerations

NOAA chart of relative sea level rise at Sewell’s Point in Norfolk, showing a rate of 1.56 feet in rise per century, far lower than alarmist modelers project.

by Steve Haner

So, let me get this straight.  If we willingly keep paying the carbon tax on our electric bills, then thousands of parcels of prime Virginia waterfront won’t slip beneath the waves? Was that the point of these parallel prophecies of doom in the September 12 Richmond Times-Dispatch and Virginia Mercury?

Another day, another dire climate catastrophe story meant to scare readers into dumping fossil fuels. This claim was that sea level rise by 2050 will raise the low tide lines along Virginia’s thousands of miles of tidal waterways, including the creeks and rivers, and cover tens of thousands more acres. The RTD translated that into 160 square miles inundated.

Is there relative sea level rise underway? Yes. There has been since before Jamestown was settled, actually since the end of the Ice Age. Is it rising as fast as they claim? No. But exaggeration makes for more scary copy.

In fairness, it was only Sean Sublette with the Times-Dispatch who went on to link this coming financial calamity (Virginia only taxes land to the low tide line, you see) to the fight over the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and its resulting tax revenue. But the digital-only Virginia Mercury is also working overtime to prevent Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) from removing the state from that taxing compact. More on RGGI later. This column is to dispel the nonsense about the sea swallowing Virginia so rapidly. Continue reading

SCC Can Set CVOW Wind Performance Standard

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Despite Dominion Energy Virginia’s complaints that the Virginia State Corporation Commission has exceeded its authority, a legal analysis provided by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy finds that the SCC’s proposed performance standard for an offshore wind project is proper.

The analysis was provided by Institute Senior Fellow Dr. David W. Schnare, an attorney and scientist with long regulatory and litigation experience.

The SCC has approved Dominion’s application for permission to build the $10 billion, 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, but added a condition the utility is opposing. It would protect the utility’s customers from paying any additional costs that result from the project failing to meet its promised power output. The target would be an average capacity factor of 42% over three year periods.

Dominion has asked the SCC to reconsider the performance standard and potential financial penalty, and the SCC is accepting additional legal briefs from the parties to the case. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) and several environmental organizations proposed the performance standard which the Commission adopted, which was more stringent than its own staff had proposed.

Miyares through his staff also asked for a reconsideration, on the question of when the performance standard would go into effect. The Attorney General is proposing the date Dominion set as its target for full operations, February 4, 2027, as the start of the first performance period. That sets up the utility for additional costs due to construction delays or permitting delays due to litigation, costs it might not be able to send along to ratepayers. Continue reading

Consequences of the Zero Carbon Fantasy

By Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginians may finally be waking up to the consequences of the headlong rush to adopt utopian energy policies under our previous governor. The issues are getting more attention than ever before, and now people need to realize that all the issues are really just one issue.

  • A California regulatory board’s decision to ban new gasoline vehicle sales by 2035 is finally being widely reported as binding on Virginia. This has angered many but was actually old news. Under a 2021 Virginia law, our Air Pollution Control Board had already imposed the future sales restrictions, and it was some new amendments that sparked the news coverage. Various political leaders have now promised to stop it but a bill to reverse it died in the 2022 General Assembly when Democrats rallied to save the mandate.
  • Our dominant electric utility has finally acknowledged that its planned $10 billion offshore wind facility is a gigantic financial risk and is now refusing to build it unless the State Corporation Commission (SCC) places 100 percent of the construction and performance risk on its customers. Dominion Energy Virginia knows many things about this proposal it has not told us.
  • Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) is trying to remove Virginia from an interstate compact that mandates a carbon tax on electricity, imposed under former Governor Ralph Northam (D). Advocates for the tax are pushing back and will fight, delay and likely sue to preserve the tax, which costs Virginians $300 million per year at current levels and will continue to rise. Without explanation, the Governor did not keep his initial promise to promulgate an emergency regulation that could remove it quickly, so the tax lingers.
  • Governor Youngkin has opened the process for developing a revised statewide energy plan document, a political process to produce what in the past has been merely a political document. The public comment portal has already become an ideological fistfight. Northam’s 2018 plan had no engineering or economic detail.  It simply praised the legislative efforts to erase fossil fuels which had been adopted to that point and outlined the next steps his administration would take (couched as recommendations.)

Continue reading

When Politicians Run Power Companies

Elements of Dominion Energy Virginia’s residential cost, effective July 1 and pending increases. Source: SCC Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Residential customers of Dominion Energy Virginia will soon be paying 55% more for electricity than they were when the Virginia General Assembly took over micromanaging utility regulation in 2007. The Western Virginia customers of Appalachian Power will have seen their electric bills rise by 92%.  Underlying inflation for the period has been about 43%.

If that customer uses a steady 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, buying that from Dominion costs $600 more per year than it did in 2007 and buying it from Appalachian costs $736 more. Continue reading

Secret Wind Case Documents Are Key to Appeal

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.

by Steve Haner

Now comes applicant Dominion Energy Virginia, petitioning the Virginia State Corporation Commission to reverse its recent decision to impose actual financial risk on the company and its stockholders. If a hurricane blows down its planned offshore wind farm in a few years, the related costs should be imposed 100% on its captive ratepayers, Dominion demands.

Imagine that: expecting a monopoly with a guaranteed right to earn in excess of 10% profit on a $10 billion project forced to face actual risk. What is the world coming to? Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: Wind Approved “Under Duress”

by Steve Haner

With an editorial published yesterday, The Wall Street Journal has now given its readers more insight into the risks inherent in Dominion Energy Virginia’s coming wind project than any Virginia newspaper or broadcast outlet has. It is not the kind of national spotlight Virginia should crave.

It noted that the recent approval of the project by the State Corporation Commission was “under obvious duress” and then went on to cite many of the dangers and potential cost consequences outlined  in the SCC’s own order. This is nothing new to readers here at Bacon’s Rebellion who read this about the decision already, or this earlier column on the reasons why the project should be rejected.

The WSJ does focus on one detail not available when those were written, comments by Dominion CEO Bob Blue on the firm’s most recent investor conference call. From the editorial:

Dominion could appeal. “We are extremely disappointed in the commission’s requirement of a performance guarantee,” CEO Robert Blue said on an earnings call. He griped that it would effectively require the company “to financially guarantee the weather, among other factors beyond its control, for the life of the project.” Exactly. Since no one can control mother nature, who should bear the risks? Dominion’s answer is not Dominion.

Continue reading

What Surplus? Virginia Doesn’t Allow Surpluses!

Secretary of Finance Stephen Cumming’s slide showing most of the final surge of unexpected revenue before June 30 came from payments from business owners and investors. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Does last week’s glowing report on Virginia’s state tax collections presage additional tax relief for struggling families? The first question is, was the news really glowing? Continue reading

Wind: SCC Rejects Deal Signed By Its Staff

Click for larger view. Source: Dominion

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Rejecting an agreement that its own staff reached with Dominion Energy Virginia, the State Corporation Commission has imposed at least some level of financial risk on the utility’s shareholders should its $10 billion offshore wind project fail to match the company’s promised performance.

Lest you think that means the ratepayers can relax, the long final order issued August 5 once again highlights all the things that could go wrong with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, scheduled to be fully operational by 2027. The regulators also wash their hands of any responsibility and record for posterity that the Virginia General Assembly made them approve this. Continue reading

Delayed Fuel Costs May Include Interest Now

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia wants its customers, not its shareholders, to pay an interest penalty for the privilege of taking three years to pay off the recent explosion in its fuel costs. The company is paying  about $1 billion more for fuel than it planned when the fuel portion of bills was set a year ago. Continue reading

Salvation for the Mountain Valley Pipeline?

MVP route map. Click for larger view. Source: MVP

by Steve Haner

And now, from our “I’ll believe it when I see it” department, comes the expectation that passage of President Joe Biden’s new corporate tax hike and green energy incentives package will be followed by a smooth path to completion for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for natural gas.

The topic is everywhere today because Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., included it as a deal point on a summary of what he sees as agreed outcomes from his decision to support the package. But the massive bill does not (and could not) include blanket approval of the pipeline among its provisions. Continue reading

Wojick on Whales III: The Noisy Driving of Piles

Tethys, wife of Oceanus and mother of the river gods.

by David Wojick

The Virginia wind-versus-whales story has taken a turn for the worse. Worse for the severely endangered Right Whales that is. My research has found what may be some really bad news.

Meet Tethys. Not the real Tethys, the mythical Greek Titan of the sea, but the U.S. Department of Energy’s center for reporting research on the environmental impact of energy technology on sea life, including whales. This is the science side of DOE (where I used to work), not the Ocean Energy development side. Continue reading

Solar Development Continues to Erode VA Farmland

by Barbara Hollingsworth

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginia lost about 2,000 acres of productive farmland per week in 2021, according to data released in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are many reasons why farmers sell off their land, including development pressures, lack of interest by younger members of farming families, and the difficulties of turning a profit in the face of ever-changing market and weather conditions.

But there is now a new threat to Virginia’s agricultural base, which has a $70 billion economic impact on the commonwealth annually, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau. Continue reading

Bill to Bury Fauquier Powerline Comes to You

Various proposed power line routes from Warrenton’s Blackwell Road substation. Dominion illustration. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

One of the key skills in politics is to make your constituents happy with money provided from those far, far away. It is happening again as Fauquier County’s leaders want the General Assembly to force all Dominion Energy Virginia’s ratepayers to pay to bury a 230-kv power line out of sight from their voters.  Continue reading