Author Archives: Steve Haner

War on Fossil Fuels Reaches Court of Appeals

By Steve Haner

A climate alarmism publicity stunt masquerading as serious litigation had a hearing in front of the Virginia Court of Appeals on Monday, seeking to revive its rejected petition to shut down the fossil fuel industry in Virginia. Why? Because some of the plaintiffs suffered from heat exhaustion while exercising on summer days, and two of them got Lyme Disease after tick bites.

The suit was last discussed on Bacon’s Rebellion when it was filed in 2022. Later that year a Richmond City Circuit Court judge accepted the state’s motion to dismiss it on summary judgement, citing the doctrine of sovereign immunity. It was an appeal of that dismissal which was before a panel of the appeals judges, covered only by Brad Kutner of Radio IQ.

The appeals court is being asked to reinstate the case, which is seeking aggressive if poorly defined relief. Basically, the original petition seeks to repeal Virginia’s Gas and Oil Act and reverse long-standing policy decisions in favor of developing energy resources. It seeks to prevent the state regulatory agencies from allowing any new fossil fuel infrastructure of any kind, presumably from pipelines to coal mines to gas stations to power plants.

The stages and pleadings of the Virginia case are documented by a website tracking it and a handful of similar cases around the nation, with the same basic arguments and a common set of lawyers. So far, the plaintiffs have seen some initial success only in Montana and Hawaii. Their federal level suit is being actively opposed by the Biden Department of Justice. Continue reading

Correction: SMR Bills Cover Both Utilities

Friday’s report that the General Assembly voted to allow early cost recovery on small modular reactors only for Appalachian Power Company was in error.  The Senate version of the bill approved March 7 was language applicable solely to Dominion Energy Virginia. A substitute that removed Dominion from the bill was rejected.

The error was entirely due to inattention on my part. Frankly, it is a message I need to stop trying to write about live legislation if I am not on the ground at the Capitol or glued to the broadcasts. Two other reports on digital outlets which I had questioned (in the comments) got it right while I got it wrong. For that most of all, I apologize. Continue reading

The Sausage Factory Taxes the Digital Economy

By Steve Haner

The Virginia General Assembly has now jumped into the brave new world of taxing the digital economy, but the sales tax provisions it adopted in the budget conference report Saturday are not the same ones that appeared in earlier budget versions. The cabal of tax raisers in the secret final negotiation got creative.    Continue reading

See, Hear, Speak No Evil on Four Whale Deaths

The Daily Press credits Jennette’s Pier for these two photos it published.

Another whale has turned up dead on a beach, the fourth found on Virginia or North Carolina beaches within one week, several within sight of Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore turbine project.  This one was identified as a juvenile sperm whale and is the furthest from the project site.

In all the news coverage so far, no intrepid reporter has told their viewers or readers what (if anything) is going on out in the ocean on the construction site. Dominion’s federal license allowing “incidental take” of marine mammals began its five-year effective period in early February. It would be fair to ask the utility if contractors are actively surveying the sea floor with sonar at this time or doing any preliminary pile driving. Continue reading

Is Dominion-Stonepeak Deal a Partnership Flip?

By Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia insists that its decision to sell a half-interest in the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project “won’t impact ratepayers.” The problem is, perhaps it should. Perhaps Dominion is creating additional value for its shareholders that instead should benefit ratepayers. Continue reading

EPA Told CVOW Wake Has Air Quality Impacts

One of two dead whales washed onto Virginia Beach so far this month, just onshore from the CVOW project. WAVY reports on it.

By David Wojick

In formal comments, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess the adverse impact of the giant Virginia offshore wind project on air and water quality. The issue is far-reaching because all big offshore wind facilities could have these adverse effects. Continue reading

Killing the Digital Goose for Its Golden Egg

Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation

By Steve Haner

The last time the General Assembly made a similar mistake with the Virginia tax code was 20 years ago. It was 2004, and the complaints that business was not “paying its fair share” came from Republicans in the House. They introduced and quickly pushed through a bill that stripped sales tax exemptions from multiple categories of business. Sound familiar?

Twenty years later the only thing that has changed is that the bad idea is now coming from Senate Democrats. The anti-business rhetoric sounds the same. The sales or use taxes of up to 6-7% they seek to impose on business-to-business digital transactions (goods and services) will reach into every Virginia company, large and small. It will simply be passed along in higher prices. The only winners are their out-of-state competitors who have no such taxes in their states. Continue reading

Bait and Switch: Reform Reverts to Mo’ Money

By Chris Braunlich

Some years back, I ran into a friend, a Virginia Education Association unit chair, outside the General Assembly building, there to lobby on behalf of a state-wide teacher salary increase. Continue reading

A Never Again Trumper’s Take on Haley’s Event

Nikki Haley thanks Virginia campaign chair Susan Allen for her introduction this afternoon.

By Steve Haner

We’ve already voted, but my wife and I were in the Henrico County crowd today to hear Nikki Haley make her case for support in Tuesday’s Virginia GOP primary. Early voting continues through Saturday, but if you wait until Tuesday and come to Henrico’s Maybeury Elementary, I’ll be there asking which ballot you want. Identify yourself as a reader and I may sneak you two….

Remember, it is an open primary. No party registration is required, a fact that clearly irritates former President Donald Trump. He whined about it on WRVA this morning as he was interviewed by adoring host John Reid. But isn’t the point picking a candidate who can win in the general election, not just a party primary? Independents decide elections. Continue reading

Governor May Get Two Different Nuclear Bills

Small modular reactor illustrated

By Steve Haner

A Virginia Senate committee voted Monday to approve a House of Delegates bill designed to finance a small modular nuclear reactor in Southwest Virginia, contradicting its own earlier vote for a much broader bill that had statewide application.

Two different bills on the same topic might now pass the Virginia Senate.  If the House does the same thing with the Senate bill, now alive in front of its Labor and Commerce Committee, Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) could have two very different bills to choose from. Continue reading

A Veto-Proof Local Tax Hike Nearly Approved

Virginia sales tax rates: Light blue, 5.3%, green, 6%, dark blue, 6.3% and yellow 7%. All but the localities in dark blue would be allowed to add another 1% under this pending legislation. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

A bill likely to produce $1.6 billion or more in local sales tax increases is moving through the General Assembly with enough bipartisan votes to block any veto from the Governor, but differences remain between the House of Delegates and Senate versions. Continue reading

Democrats Lose Concerns About Taxing the Poor

Econ 101 Quiz. Virginia Democrats are poised to raise the sales tax 1% in most localities, add digital products to the taxed services, and create a new payroll tax. How will those changes impact that chart? Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

A piece of Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s tax package has survived after all, but only the part that increases the sales tax base to collect about $1 billion or so more per year from citizens. Democrats who recently complained that sales tax increases were unfair to the poor are suddenly embracing them. 

On Sunday, both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates budget committees approved Youngkin’s budget language to impose the sales tax on a host of digital products and services, adding 6% or more to the prices of downloads, streaming services, and online data storage. The full range of newly taxed transactions is not yet clear. 

The Senate then increased the gain to the treasury by making sure the new taxes will also cover business-to-business transactions, something the governor sought to exempt and something which is just passed along in higher prices.  

The risk of including that tax policy initiative inside Youngkin’s introduced budget bill was obvious from the start, and General Assembly Democrats have now pounced on the opportunity to capture that revenue. The tax increase is now wrapped in with all the state spending for two years, a hard bill to vote against.   Continue reading

Floyd Judge Ponders Order to Return RGGI Tax

The states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative tax compact before Virginia withdrew.

By Steve Haner

A circuit court judge in Floyd County may soon order Virginia to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and to reimpose the related carbon tax on Virginia’s electricity consumers.

Judge Kenneth “Mike” Fleenor Jr. ruled earlier this month that a suit seeking reinstatement of RGGI could continue and held a hearing on February 5 on the question of “immediate relief.”  The plaintiff, a group of energy efficiency and insulation contractors using the RGGI tax dollars for their programs, has claimed it will suffer immediate and irreparable harm unless Virginia returns to collecting a carbon tax on coal and natural gas used by utilities. Continue reading

Four Major Progressive Goals Still Advancing

By Steve Haner

The aggressive progressive agenda working its way through the 2024 Virginia General Assembly has lost some steam at the halfway point, but at least four of the major Democratic goals discussed earlier are still advancing.   

The two bills which will have the greatest impact on the Virginia economy are the proposed minimum wage increase and a new state-managed employee benefit for workers taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The two other bills the Democratic majorities in both the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have now approved are a major expansion of procurement preferences for minority vendors and allowing class actions in civil litigation.   Continue reading

If Assembly Wants SMR Bill, Then Fix It

By Steve Haner

This is progress. Only twenty members of the Virginia Senate voted Tuesday to ignore a key tenet of utility ratemaking and put utility stockholders and profits ahead of consumer protection. Usually when the utilities persuade the General Assembly to do that to Virginia consumers, they get a bigger vote margin than 20-16.*

Senate Bill 454 allows Virginia’s two monopoly electricity providers to spend undetermined millions of dollars on planning and developing small modular nuclear reactor projects and get it all paid by consumers, with a profit margin. But there is no guarantee any such plants will ever be built, and no other power plants built in Virginia have gotten this kind of up-front financial guarantee before the State Corporation Commission ruled them in the public interest. Continue reading