Author Archives: Steve Haner

Injunction to Stop Wind Project Denied

A federal judge in Washington has declined to prevent Dominion Energy Virginia from constructing its offshore wind turbines, but presumably the underlying legal challenge to the federal permitting process will grind on through the court process.   Virginia Mercury reports the basics this morning.

Installation of the first monopiles actually started while the judge was still pondering the petition for an injunction, but getting such an injunction before the actual trial process requires clearing a very high legal hurdle.  The plaintiffs claim the project will cause irreversible harm to marine life in the area, including whales, but the truth is evidence either way is lacking.

You cannot tell from the carcass if a dead whale ended up on the beach because of noise from sonar mapping of this construction site, or construction work on previous projects elsewhere. Likewise those who claim the work won’t harm whales cannot prove that negative.  The federal regulators actually are of the opinion there is risk but claim the mitigations they have imposed will prove sufficient.

Time will tell on that.  What remains is the project’s inordinate cost for the likely energy output, especially if the claimed 25-30 year lifespan proves too optimistic, or the project suffers major damage in some future (and long overdue) mid-Atlantic monster hurricane.  And Dominion’s project is pretty much the only one which still claims it will be built for the advertised cost, thanks to contracts locked in long ago.  Costs are exploding for many other developers. Continue reading

Shown the Door, Petersen Calls Out COVID Fascists

By Steve Haner

Reading Chap Petersen’s biographical “Rebel,” it is pretty easy to understand why a year ago his fellow Democrats threw him out of office in a primary. In fact, the mystery is that he survived as long as he did.

The book tells a history that many would like to ignore or actively suppress. That the Democratic Party in Virginia no longer has a place for Petersen should depress us all. He is not shy in returning like for like, so reward his efforts and buy his book. Then dog ear the good parts for later reference, because that crowd now in charge is just getting started.

Petersen was always hard to pigeonhole, and like all the legislators who have made it to my personal MVP list, delighted in doing the unexpected and doing it with panache. He came to the House of Delegates in 2002 and then the Senate in 2008, defeating Republican incumbents in both elections. Many of the best known struggles of those years are detailed from his point of view in the 300 plus pages. I also engaged in some of them, not always on the same side.

But his biggest fight of all, and the one that finally did him in, is one we are all engaged in. Petersen was one the fiercest opponents of the absolute and needless destruction of commercial and personal freedoms during the panic over COVID-19. He was a patron of successful 2021 legislation supposed to reopen Virginia’s public schools. In reality, the oppression of school kids continued for another year or longer, intensifying the educational losses. Continue reading

Investor in Dominion Wind Buys $150M Island

Experience in Iowa just proved this earlier destruction of an onshore turbine was a harbinger of things to come. See below.

By Steve Haner

One of the leaders of investment firm Stonepeak, which is buying a 50% share in Dominion Energy’s Virginia Virginia Beach wind project, just bought a private island.  The story is reported by the New York Post, which mentions his role in the major investment firm but doesn’t make the connection to the 176 turbines now under construction.

I’d love to share the photos but don’t want to test the copyright limits. Check out the story and luxury home pics on the Post website yourselves.

I’m sorry, aren’t we being told that we have to have that multi-billion dollar boondoggle to protect us from a horrible future destroyed by climate change? That without offshore wind displacing natural gas, the sea will rise faster than a soufflé and hurricanes will be more frequent and far more powerful? This bright guy getting rich off Virginia ratepayer money doesn’t seem to buy that hype.

To be fair, the deal between Dominion and Stonepeak is still under review at the State Corporation Commission. Stonepeak has plenty of other profitable investments that paid for this house. Continue reading

Four Years In, Energy Subsidy Helping Very Few

From Dominion’s brochure on the PIPP program.

By Steve Haner

Four years after approval, a state program to provide lower electricity costs to low income families is still struggling to get going.  Administrative costs have far exceeded any actual benefits to utility customers to date.

It is called the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP) and was created by the 2020 General Assembly as part of the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Almost three years ago, both Appalachian Power Company and Dominion Energy Virginia received permission to charge extra on their customer monthly bills to fund it.

Both companies have now filed updates with the State Corporation Commission and are seeking to adjust the amount they collect from general customers.  Dominion, which had enrolled 8,600 PIPP beneficiary accounts as of late March, is seeking to eliminate its monthly charge for a while. Appalachian, which still had zero customers enrolled by the time of its report, has applied to raise its surcharge.

Both are relatively tiny amounts so far. Just how large and how expensive the program might become over time remains anybody’s guess, but as utility costs grow so will the total amount of subsidies and surcharges. The intention is to limit a poor family’s electric bill to 10 percent of income if they use electricity for heat, and 6 percent if they use some other heating source.

So, another cost driver for the long term will be the continued push from government to eliminate the use of anything but electricity for heat. Natural gas and heating oil are squarely in the crosshairs of the Biden Administration and others who accept the climate catastrophe narrative and blame it on carbon-based fuels. Continue reading

Challenging the Fact-Free Narrative on RGGI

The states still in the Regional Greenhous Gas Initiative. Lawsuits are pending to add Virginia and Pennsylvania.

By Steve Haner

The numerous falsehoods in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch story about the carbon tax so loved by Virginia Democrats start right with the headline.  It states that Virginia’s decision to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative “is costing millions.”

The figure of $150 million per year is then mentioned, apparently simply quoting the Democratic legislators who held a news conference May 21 to pledge their continued fealty to the program. They had sought to order Virginia back into RGGI with a budget provision, which they then agreed to drop in the final compromise.

The $150 million amount they mentioned is blatantly false, far too small.  Were Virginia still part of the 11-state cap and trade compact, RGGI would be costing utility ratepayers as much as $350 million per year, based on the most recent carbon tax amount in the first 2024 RGGI allowance auction.

So, the decision to stay out is not “costing” money but will actually save utility ratepayers as much as $700 million over 2024 and 2025.  Dominion Energy Virginia was the largest Virginia buyer of RGGI carbon allowances under the regulatory regime, and it has been passing along those costs directly to customers on all its monthly bills.

This was the second time in days that the capital city newspaper gave Democrats access to its front page to complain about Governor Glenn Youngkin’s opposition to the carbon tax regulation, and to claim he broke the law in repealing it.  The May 18 story is just as fuzzy about who actually pays the carbon tax. Continue reading

Youngkin Kills Tax Hikes, Still Gets Record Budget

Governor Glenn Youngkin

By Steve Haner

After much political theater, the Virginia General Assembly and Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) have now compromised on a $188 billion state budget based simply on the revenue projected from current tax law, with neither tax hikes nor tax reductions. Making those revenue projections slightly more optimistic eased the path.  

With both sides backing off their desire to change the tax rules, it became clear there was less controversy over how to spend the state’s money in the new biennial budget from July 2024 to June 2026. The top shared priorities of legislators in both parties include education, public employee salaries and benefits, transportation, mental health services, and capital improvements. Medicaid is also a huge budget growth driver which the Assembly really does not control.     

The Democrats in the majority in both chambers will celebrate that the plan achieves the spending they included in the budget they passed in March. Youngkin will celebrate that it did so without either the sales tax or carbon tax provisions that budget included. His success looks even more impressive when you recall the two other major tax hikes Democrats approved and he vetoed this year, one to impose a massive payroll tax and the other to allow localities to hike the general sales tax.  

With a slight hint of sour grapes, a budget summary from the House Appropriations Committee opens with: “The adoption of the digital economy modernization was not driven by a systematic look at Virginia’s tax structure.” That is a euphemism for the expansion of the state’s sales tax to digital transactions, which just a few weeks ago was deemed by Democrats to be vital to the Commonwealth’s future. 

The idea is hardly dead. One provision in this final budget, which was not included in previous versions, directs a 12-member legislative study committee to revisit the digital tax. It is also directed to review “existing sales and use tax exemptions” and evaluate “efforts to increase the progressivity of the income tax.” The goal is a tax package with some actual consensus behind it to consider in 2025. Continue reading

Views on Tobacco Disqualify Defender of Whales?

By Steve Haner

It was disappointing to the see the Richmond Times-Dispatch stoop to a weak ad hominem argument on its front page on May 6, seeking to discredit a legal challenge to the Dominion Energy Virginia wind project by labeling the plaintiffs as “climate deniers” and defenders of tobacco. Continue reading

Ready for Taxes on Netflix, NFL Sunday Ticket?

By Steve Haner

After a month of unproductive political theater, Virginia’s leaders will finally sit down like adults and negotiate the budget. Better late than never.  The message is “everything is back on the table,” which leaves the door wide open for the tax increase central to the Democrat’s demands. That deserves a quick no.

At this point, Virginians do not pay sales tax on their Netflix, Disney, or sports streaming package subscriptions. That is what they want to tax now. If you just paid an online vendor to file a tax return, next year a sales tax of up to 6 or 7% will be added to that bill. Likewise, any annual subscription for Microsoft Office or One Drive storage, or for an internet security system, will be taxed. Continue reading

Will Democrats Shut Down State Over Tax Hike?

By Steve Haner

The fight that is about to occur at the Assembly’s reconvened session on Wednesday is entirely about taxes, not about spending.

An analysis of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposed compromise budget – done by the Democrats’ favorite financial bean counters, not by conservatives – confirms his budget comes extremely close to the spending levels Democrats approved at the end of the General Assembly.  The gap compared to the $188 billion overall budget is little more than a rounding error. Continue reading

Utilities Will Gamble on Nukes With Your $$$

Artist rendering of VOYGR™ SMR plants powered by NuScale Power Module™

By Steve Haner

Standing firm against raising taxes is a fine thing, but it would help if Virginia’s leaders also stopped using people’s electricity bills to fund rent-seeking energy speculations.

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has tweaked, but not vetoed, pending bills that allow both of Virginia’s investor-owned utilities to charge ratepayers for power plants that may not be built. The dream projects involve small modular nuclear technology, proven in military applications but so far speculative for commercial generation. Continue reading

Fighting Over the Check at the Green Power Cafe

By Steve Haner

New power plants are pretty useless unless they are connected by new power lines. The debate over who pays for those tall towers and miles of cable can be just as divisive as the fight over who pays for a proposed nuclear plant or offshore wind turbines.

Bottom line, of course, the customers ultimately pay. But which customers? Should it be those most reliant on that individual transmission line, everybody within the utility, or should it be all the customers within all the utilities inside a regional transmission organization? Continue reading

Jefferson Institute’s Hit List Bills Mostly Gone

By Derrick Max

Monday was not just the near total solar eclipse in Virginia, but also the deadline for Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) to act on the budget and the remaining bills on his desk. As our Steve Haner wrote, in “Governor’s Budget Compromise Eclipses Fears of Stalemate,” we are generally positive about the approximately 230 budget amendments Governor Youngkin made.

The Governor sacrificed two-thirds of his spending priorities while giving Democrats almost all of theirs. He did this while removing any tax increases from the budget and forgoing all of his recommended tax reforms (reductions). This was more than a good faith offer and should be embraced by any member of the General Assembly, Democrat or Republican, serious about getting a budget compromise passed before the end of the fiscal year.

Just before midnight on Monday, Governor Youngkin acted on the last of the 1,046 bills he had been sent this legislative session. The final tally: he signed 777, proposed amendments for 116, and vetoed 153. He will have a second chance to veto bills where his suggested amendments are rejected.

While I am sure much will be made of the record number of vetoes, Democrats in the General Assembly opted to send a wish list of bills to the Governor that they knew would never get his signature. Nor would some have even passed the muster with previous Democratically controlled General Assemblies or liberal Governors around the country. This is due, in part, to the retirement or defeat of the more moderate members of the Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly. Continue reading

Compromise Budget Can Eclipse Stalemate

Gov. Glenn Youngkin

By Steve Haner

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) is offering a compromise on the disputed state budget that gives Virginia’s Democratic legislators most of the spending they were initially demanding, especially for local schools and early childhood education. The Governor is also offering a quick path to a resolution that avoids additional months of budget stalemate and political division.

“On a day when Virginians were thrilled to witness an 80% eclipse of the sun, they should also cheer a budget compromise where a Republican governor moved about that far in the direction of meeting the Democrats’ stated goals without added taxes,” stated Derrick Max, President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute. “This is a more than reasonable good faith offer, recognizing that in a divided government, compromise is key.” Continue reading

Will Consumers Come First in VCEA Review?

FERC Commissioner Mark Christie of Virginia

By Steve Haner

“If we always keep as our focus what is best for consumers, in getting them reliable power for the least cost, then I think that’s the main guidepost we ought to follow.”

That was Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Mark Christie’s opening quote on a PBS broadcast on energy issues due to air April 9, but the 26- minute program can already be found on the network’s website and Christie distributed it via X today. Continue reading

Dominion Program to Bury Lines Halfway to Goal

By Steve Haner

Just over a decade ago, Dominion Energy Virginia announced plans to spend about $1.75 billion of its ratepayers’ dollars on a program to bury about 4,000 miles of its residential service lines underground. As of the end of last year, the tally was just over 2,000 miles buried at a total cost of $994 million.

The original goal was reported by Jim Bacon, who was initially favorable to the idea. The update comes from an annual report dated March 29 and posted by the State Corporation Commission. This reporter, who admittedly already lived in neighborhoods with underground lines installed at the cost of the developer, was skeptical of paying to bury somebody else’s lines, and this new report doesn’t ease the irritation. Continue reading