Author Archives: Steve Haner

The Virginia War On Fossil Fuels

by Steve Haner

First published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star Feb. 26 then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  

The lesson of the Texas grid collapse is not just about electricity. Imagine the week Texans would have had if once the power went out and stayed out, they had no gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas to fall back on. How much worse would their plight have been without natural gas heating homes and businesses, propane space heaters and grills, and gasoline or diesel-powered cars and trucks to get where they needed to go?  Continue reading

Updates: PPP, PIPP, Dominion’s School Buses

by Steve Haner

Tax on Paycheck Protection Program Grants

The General Assembly session deadlines require final decisions on various revenue bills before the final budget bill is adopted, in theory keeping the two issues separate. What is good tax policy should not be driven by the need or greed of the appropriators.  Continue reading

Enviros Help Kill Dominion EV School Bus Bill

School bus? Storage battery? No, utility profit center.

by Steve Haner

When the Senate bill that allowed Dominion Energy Virginia to buy a fleet of electric school buses with ratepayer dollars was up for discussion last week, three environmentalist lobbyists spoke against it. They focused on the excessive cost and questioned whether it was a reasonable way to develop useful battery storage.

The counterattack was immediate and fierce and came from a Hampton Roads Democratic delegate.  “I can’t believe environmentalists are testifying that electric school buses are bad for the environment!” he shouted into his computer’s microphone. He ignored what they actually said and attacked on a false front, seeking to force them back into their accustomed swim lane.  Continue reading

Your PIPP Tax Will Buy Heat Pumps For Poor

by Steve Haner

Lower-income Virginians who are customers of the two largest electricity providers may begin to receive subsidies on their residential bills in March 2022 under legislation moving forward in the General Assembly. The money for the subsidies will come from their fellow customers.  Continue reading

Dominion Electric Bus Scheme Back, With More

EV School bus? Storage battery? No, utility profit center.

by Steve Haner

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

The ultimate goal of the Transportation and Climate Initiative with its tax and rationing scheme is to eliminate fossil fuels for transportation and get us into electric vehicles. That is something advocates have admitted and critics have pointed out. While Virginia TCI participation is on hold in this statewide election year, the 2021 General Assembly is following other pathways to the utopian EV future.

The House of Delegates has sent the Virginia Senate a bill to create a state financial incentive of $2,500 for purchase of a new or used electric vehicle. An additional $2,000 rebate is offered to a low- and middle-income buyer of a new car and $500 if that buyer choses a used EV.

The House has also passed legislation empowering the state’s Air Pollution Control Board to adopt state regulations on vehicle fleet fuel economy and to model California’s existing program forcing manufacturers to offer more zero- and low-emission vehicle sales in the state. This bill sets no goals but puts an accelerated process in motion, bypassing the full regulatory review, with a goal of regulating the 2025 model year vehicles offered in the state. Continue reading

Senate Taxes Less PPP, House Bill Almost All

by Steve Haner

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

Majorities in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly agree with Governor Ralph Northam and have voted to tax the federal Payroll Protection Plan grants that saved Virginia jobs in the pandemic. They only remain at odds over how much to tax.

The Virginia Senate has passed a bill 39-0 that allows employers, who used the money to maintain their workforce, to exempt the first $100,000 of their PPP grant from 2020. The rest is taxed. The bipartisan compromise allowed the bill to pass with the emergency clause it needs to go into effect immediately upon approval, in time for this tax filing season.

The average Virginia PPP grant was about $107,000, state officials reported. More than 20,000 employers would still see some taxes on their grants under the Senate bill. This state and its localities have received multiple billions of dollars of direct federal funding during the COVID pandemic, with more on the way, yet Governor Northam also wants to skim 6% off the top of what Virginia employers received.

It is that simple. Continue reading

Dominion VCEA Plan Review Ends with Questions

by Steve Haner

A near year-long review of Dominion Energy Virginia’s plans to meet service obligations while abandoning fossil-fueled energy has ended with a pile of data, a list of unanswered questions, no real decision and plenty of reason to fear future electricity cost increases.

The review of Dominion’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) started March 9, 2020, and the State Corporation Commission issued a final order February 1:  The Commission, however, cannot conclude … that Dominion’s 2020 IRP, as filed, is reasonable and in the public interest for purposes of a planning document.”   Continue reading

One Third of House GOP Backs Stronger SCC

Delegate Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield

by Steve Haner

Five interrelated bills that will strengthen the State Corporation Commission’s oversight during Dominion Energy Virginia’s next rate case advanced out of the House of Delegates Friday, with the two strongest receiving either 12 or 10 Republican aye votes.

All received at least some Republican votes, and four of the five had Democrats voting in opposition. After I made a pitch (elsewhere) for Republicans to do this, a report on the outcome is in order. A major Dominion rate case begins in April and may be reaching a conclusion around Election Day, and by then the impact of all the restraints put on the SCC in past years may be painfully clear to millions of Dominion customers.  Continue reading

State Tax on PPP Grants Reduced Only Slightly

by Steve Haner

A Senate Committee voted today to reduce the amount of tax that Virginia will impose on the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) grants that saved Virginia jobs, but not by much. It remains clear many legislators think employers owe Virginia tax on those dollars.

Declining to tax the entire amount is being packaged as a gracious concession on the state’s part.  Continue reading

A Great First Inning: Reformers 6, Utilities 0

by Steve Haner

Six bills which reverse 15 years of Dominion Energy Virginia legislative dominance advanced out of a House of Delegates subcommittee today, setting up the strongest challenge to the utility’s profits and power in decades.

Most in one form or another restore authority to the State Corporation Commission to use its own discretion in reviewing the company’s earnings, profits, and accounting decisions in a rate case due to begin in April. It will be the first such review since 2015 and will cover four years of company operations, 2017 through 2020.  Continue reading

Dominion $$ Overwhelm Clean VA’s in Committees

Click for clear view. Dominion Energy Virginia donations to legislators on the House Labor and Commerce Committee, compiled by Energy and Policy Institute from VPAP reports.

by Steve Haner

The first major showdown over last-ditch efforts to change the rules on the coming Dominion Energy Virginia rate case occurs Monday in a subcommittee where six delegates received a total of $80,000 from the utility in 2020, and four received $67,500 from its self-appointed watchdog Clean Virginia.

The chair of the subcommittee, Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan of Arlington, received $15,000 from Clean Virginia, but the chair of the full Labor and Commerce Committee, Del. Jeion Ward of Newport News, might sit in the meeting, as is within her authority. Dominion contributed $50,000 to her campaign in 2020. Both are Democrats. (If Ward is there, the total Dominion donations in the room will reach $130,000.)  Continue reading

PPP Tax May Focus on Larger Employers Only

by Steve Haner

A week ago, Governor Ralph Northam’s Administration was adamant that it would be unfair, in fact a double tax benefit, to allow Virginia employers with forgiven Paycheck Protection Plan loans to also deduct any expenses used to qualify for forgiveness.

This week, the position changed. Maybe it would make sense to allow it for some employers. Perhaps those employers could keep the first $100,000 from the grants free from tax. What was a firm assertion of fair tax policy is now a typical legislative horse trade, with smaller businesses considered “deserving” and larger businesses not.

Northam and his secretary of finance, Aubrey Layne, built the introduced state budget on a key assumption: Any Virginia employer that received some of the $12 billion in PPP money which flowed into Virginia, and had that loan forgiven, would be denied a tax deduction on the expenses which qualified it for forgiveness. (Mostly employers qualified by keeping employees on the job, so the deduction would be payroll dollars that supported them and their families.) Continue reading

Cats Win Round One Over Birds At Assembly

by Steve Haner

Organized efforts to trap and sterilize feral cats, and then return them to roaming free, operate in legal limbo in Virginia. It is against the law to abandon a companion animal that you have taken into care. The latest attempt to change that has divided animal advocates into snarling camps.

Senate Bill 1390 is offered by Eastern Shore Senator Lynwood Lewis, and Tuesday received the approval of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, 11-4. It will be on the full Senate floor this week. Lewis said the purpose is to make it clear that the programs, usually run by volunteers but sometimes by professional shelter operations, are legal.

In subcommittee testimony Monday afternoon, the animal care community split right down the middle once again, basically along the same lines that form when the issue is euthanasia. An unsuccessful anti-euthanasia, or “no-kill,” bill was the fault line in last year’s earthquake, as reported on Bacon’s Rebellion. This year, it is feral cats again. Continue reading

Industrial Escape from Green Energy Costs Blocked

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s major energy-intensive industries will not get a requested path to avoid some of the coming cost shock from the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The bill that sought them a lifeline was tied to an anvil and sunk in a House of Delegates subcommittee today.

It didn’t even help when the Virginia Manufacturing Association’s president mentioned that California is seeing the same problem for its manufacturers and is working on similar relief. Virginia companies were admonished that “they don’t want to pay their fair share,” a phrase used by opponents more than once. A Dominion Energy lobbyist said that about her best customers. Continue reading

Election Law Transformation Continues Apace

The status of the National Popular Vote Compact, which goes into effect once enough states have signed on to let the national totals determine their electoral votes.

By Steve Haner

As I’ve explained too many times to people who won’t believe it, President Joe Biden won Nov. 3. While there remains no evidence of widespread fraud or error, election law changes achieved by Democrats in key states were a major contributing factor to that outcome.

That transformation started here in Virginia in 2020, was boosted by the pandemic, and is continuing into the 2021 General Assembly. Here are some of the key proposals pending which Democrats believe – with reason – will bolster their electoral successes. I also point to a good idea to restore public confidence, which they quickly defeated. These are just some on an incredible list of election bills this year, and that list seems to miss some.  Continue reading