Author Archives: Steve Haner

Nantucket Wind Suit May Have Virginia Echoes

Source: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

by Steve Haner

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

A group of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts residents have filed suit challenging the pre-construction environmental review on a massive offshore wind complex planned off its shores. The issues raised may have a direct impact on the similar wind energy project planned off Virginia Beach, which is only now beginning its environmental impact process. Continue reading

Correction: Vaccination Advantage Exaggerated

by Steve Haner

Twenty to one?  Where did that math challenged fellow get that?  Oh, wait, I am the math challenged fellow and I have to offer a big correction to my post from yesterday.  Yes, the advantage to being vaccinated is evident in that new data set on the Virginia Department of Health dashboard, but the advantage is not that large.

Over the period measured, January 17 to February 14, a vaccinated person had about a 15 to one advantage over an unvaccinated person (2 versus 31 out of 100,000) when considering risk of death, and slightly better than ten to one (9 versus 98 out of 100,000) when considering risk of hospitalization.   The blatant error I made probably reflected a bias to see that advantage, having gotten the shots and hoping the hesitant will come around.

Still pretty dramatic, you say.  There is more bad news.  The data is week by week, and looking at the most recent weeks, those gaps have dropped substantially.  One week’s data is a small snapshot but looking at all the weeks in July (probably fairly complete now) a trend of smaller gaps is evident.    Continue reading

VDH Data: Vaccinated Improve Odds by 20 to 1

Virginia Department of Health

According to the Virginia Department of Health’s count, just more than 400 fully-vaccinated patients have ended up in a Virginia hospital with a case of COVID-19, and 83 have died. This was the count for the period of January 17 to August 14 and represented five percent or less of the total hospital cases and deaths in that period. The percentages are even smaller when compared to the pool of 4.7 million fully vaccinated people.

So. being vaccinated is safer than being unvaccinated by a factor of about 20. Your odds of staying out of the hospital or morgue improve 20 to one. Out of every 100,000 vaccinated Virginians, nine ended up in the hospital and two died. Among the millions of unvaccinated and partially vaccinated, 164 per 100,000 went to the hospital and 55 died. Partial vaccination is not that useful.

The website is proving glitchy today, probably swamped with visitors. VDH had promised an update for this data set last Friday, but then delayed the release to today. As it is it is still a week behind, but weekly updates are promised. Death stats in particular are slow to arrive. Apparently, they are cross referencing with the state database of vaccinated individuals, and a previous Bacon’s Rebellion post raised other issues about that. Continue reading

An Energy Reform Agenda for Virginia

Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, St. Paul, VA. Dominion Photo.  Always a good political investment, never a good energy investment.

By Steve Haner

What should Virginia’s energy policy be?  What should the next Governor and General Assembly do? What should candidates be promising?

Based on what has now been my 15 years of close observation and direct involvement, here is the policy outline I would suggest to any candidate who asks (not that the phone is ringing).  Continue reading

Solar Industry Poll Favors (Surprise) Solar Industry

by Steve Haner

You will never find a better example of blatant question bias in a poll:

“Do you agree or disagree that solar farms are better than other types of development because they do not pollute the environment and help lower the cost of electricity for homes and businesses?”

They “do not pollute” and “help lower the cost for electricity.”  With a tilt like that in the question, the amazing thing is that only 56% of a sample of Virginia voters said sure, I agree, and a full 20% still disagreed, the rest unsure.

There are other examples of biased question design in the poll, released a couple of days ago by a solar industry front group with the convenient and laughable name of “Conservatives for Clean Energy.” Sure, a bunch of conservatives looked up from the latest Tucker Carlson rant, passed on another discussion of the stolen election, and decided instead to pool their money on a poll focused on:

  • The Virginia Clean Economy Act
  • Attitudes about Virginia woods and farmlands being converted to miles and miles of solar panels
  • Virginia’s continued participation in the PJM Interconnection grid

No, this is an industry backed operation, definitely tied to solar developers but the fine hand of a utility might be discerned, as well. Only somebody totally in bed with the solar industry or less than honest would accept this at face value as coming from disinterested “conservatives.” Continue reading

Kendi Blames Capitalism, Prescribes Discrimination

By Steve Haner

The book was one the local librarian chose to display on the new acquisitions shelf, my curiosity was high, and by all accounts some  leaders in Virginia’s educational establishment are taken with and listening to the author. So I read Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.”

I will largely let the author, who graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, speak for himself below. It was possible the critics were exaggerating. His own words below indicate otherwise.

I recommend the book to anybody really interested in this ongoing debate. Is this being directly taught to K-12 school children?  I doubt it, but maybe. Is it being taught to the next generation of teachers and is it at the heart of much of current in-service teacher training? Apparently. Continue reading

DMV Still Hiding Full Gas Tax Amounts

by Steve Haner

The Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles is now hiding only 22% of the state’s existing motor fuels tax with misleading website data, not the 26% it was hiding when I wrote about this last year.

In the chart you first find searching DMV on motor fuel tax rates, set out below, there is no reference to a statewide wholesale tax of 7.6 cents per gallon on gasoline. It is MIA, leaving the chart reporting a tax of only 26.2 cents. (That is up 5 cents from a year ago, and that is why the percentage “hidden” dropped.) Continue reading

RGGI Tax Appears on Dominion Bills in September

Goodreads edition.

by Steve Haner

In a polite but clear “the emperor has no clothes” message, a member of the State Corporation Commission has questioned the need to impose a carbon tax to cut carbon emissions from electric generation by 30%, when the General Assembly has passed another law requiring a 100% reduction with no tax.

Judge Judith Jagdmann concurred with, but added her own comments to, an SCC opinion issued Wednesday that authorized another additional charge on Dominion Energy Virginia bills to cover the carbon credits demanded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  A party-line vote in 2020 brought Virginia into that compact, and electricity generators have been buying carbon credits already for their coal and natural gas usage. Continue reading

Got $26,000 To Replace All Your Gas Appliances?

States in blue have seen localities restrict or ban natural gas in homes and businesses, and those in red have preempted the push by banning such bans. From S&P Global Intelligence story linked below.

by Steve Haner

Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon the War on Fossil Fuels will be fought in the equipment room or garage of your house. A push to prohibit new natural gas connections and remove existing home gas services is inevitable if Virginia’s current leaders are serious about zero carbon within 20 to 30 years.

Refitting a home with natural gas appliances to all-electric, the dream of some utilities who need not be named, is likely to cost well over $20,000. That figure has been helpfully compiled in a state-by-state analysis by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), with a fact sheet specifically on Virginia. Continue reading

Local Unions Are Recognized Before Workers Vote?

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

Local government leaders are negotiating with union executives who have not been officially recognized by public employees they claim to represent.

Counties in northern Virginia are taking steps to allow public sector collective bargaining. But they are doing it with the support of union executives – not a groundswell of voter or public employee support. Continue reading

SCC Hikes Electricity Bills For New PIPP Subsidy

By Steve Haner

All customers of Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power in Virginia will begin soon to pay an extra monthly charge related to the coming Percentage of Income Payment Program, the General Assembly’s new electricity cost subsidy for low-income residential customers.

The PIPP was initially created in the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act and then revised with a bill in 2021, but just when then bill subsidies begin is still to be determined. The Department of Social Services, which will determine eligibility, still needs to devise the program. No start date is specified in the law. Continue reading

Vital COVID Issue: Paid Student Athletes?

by Steve Haner

I warned everybody to watch for extraneous issues buried in the new budget bill pending at the special session which starts tomorrow. Who knew that regulating the potential income of student athletes was a vital COVID emergency issue that couldn’t wait for the regular General Assembly meetings in January?

What follows should have been a stand-alone bill, but that would have opened the door to plenty of other issues. Clearly this is a response to the recent court decisions opening this door, and the new NCAA rules on the subject.

Herewith the provision, as it appears in Governor Ralph Northam’s introduced bill: 

18.a. That no institution or an agent thereof; athletic association; athletic conference; or other organization with authority over intercollegiate athletics shall:

1. Provide a prospective or current student-athlete with compensation for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness;

2. Prohibit or prevent a student-athlete from earning compensation for the use of his or her name, image, or likeness, except as set forth in this subsection; Continue reading

Dominion Takes $206M From You Off the Top

by Steve Haner

As of late 2020, Dominion Energy Virginia had forgiven $206 million in unpaid electric bills for customers financially stressed by last year’s COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Those unpaid bills are not being covered by any of the billions in federal COVID emergency funding, nor are stockholders eating a loss.

We, the other Dominion customers, will pay them. As reported last year, this was decided by the Virginia General Assembly. How it happens is about to unfold.

The $206 million figure is prominently featured in Dominion’s initial filing in its pending triennial financial review by the State Corporation Commission, which actually covers a four-year period ending with 2020. The amount of bill relief is directly deducted from any calculation of excess profits, dollars which otherwise might justify rebates or even a rate cut.

This will be the first official review of the company’s cost of service and earnings since 2015, the hiatus being another little gift to the Dominion stockholders from legislators. It is a long and sordid tale how we got here, too often told. Thanks to a bipartisan fondness among legislators for accounting rules that favor Dominion, there may no way the SCC can order the company to pay rebates to us or cut our rates, excess profits notwithstanding. Continue reading

SCC Starts Review of Dominion Wind Proposal

by Steve Haner

Acting on its own initiative, the State Corporation Commission has established a docket to consider the coming application from Dominion Energy Virginia for its massive offshore wind proposal, the centerpiece of Virginia Democrats’ plan to save us all from catastrophic climate change.

Earlier this month, the utility started the federal review process with a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the project. The clock on the first round of comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management runs out August 2.

If Dominion builds all future planned phases, a full 5,200 megawatts, the sticker price is more than $17 billion, which with profit and financing costs will ding customers in total $37 billion over a few decades. Continue reading

If No Better Ideas Emerge, Go With These

By Steve Haner

First published Tuesday by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

In 1972, a Virginia taxpayer needed a taxable income of $12,000 before the state’s maximum income tax rate kicked in. Adjusted for inflation, that threshold should be $78,000 today.

There has been one adjustment since, to $17,000 in income before the maximum rate is now applied. Adjusting that for inflation since 1987, when last amended, that should now be $40,000. In Virginia today, even a lower middle-income couple can be paying the same maximum tax rate as the richest Virginians on parts of their income.  Continue reading