Still Alive? The northern part of the Header Improvement Project. Source: VNG Application.
By Steve Haner
Another proposal to build a pipeline pumping wealth and prosperity into the Virginia economy has been brought down. That is my impression of what the impact would be of expanding natural gas supply to our state – added wealth and prosperity. This beneficial project is not to be.
Virginia Natural Gas has notified (read it here) the State Corporation Commission that it is abandoning plans for the Header Improvement Project, a major expansion connecting existing major transportation pipelines with its Hampton Roads service territory. That also ends its plans to provide service to two merchant electricity generating plants in Charles City County that would have been served by the additional supply.
The dispute over the expansion was discussed here earlier this year. The project drew the usual environmental objections, based on their firm belief that natural gas pipelines deliver death, but the SCC itself sank the plans over its skepticism that one of the electric generation plants would actually get built and need the supply. Writes VNG through counsel:
by James C. Sherlock
Nobody asked, me, but I offer my Wednesday morning initial assessment of the elections in Virginia. In no particular order, here they are.
Until there is a Republican Party of Virginia, not the current Republican Party of me, the party candidates will remain eclectic to the point of statewide incoherence. Not sure who has the juice to pull that together.
It looks at this point like Abigail Spanberger lost to Nick Freitas by about 3,000 votes with 100% counted. I suspect there will be a recount. The rest of the House races were pretty one-sided. Redistricting by the new commission established by the new constitutional amendment will be crucial.
Northern Virginia is the bedroom of the federal government. It has been a long time since there were a significant number of Republicans in the career bureaucracy. Dispersing the offices of those bureaucrats around the country, generically a good idea, may not help the Republicans in swing states.
One question with a potential huge impact on Virginia legislation: Will the Virginia Supreme court take cases that result in an assertive role for that court in assessing new laws for constitutionality?
by James C. Sherlock
There was a story — “Could EVMS merge with ODU, Sentara?” – in the Virginian Pilot this morning. It was well done and rendered a major public service.
A private study is “assessing” a regional merger of Sentara, ODU, EVMS and Norfolk State. “Its task will be to provide recommendations to Gov. Ralph Northam on new ways the schools and hospital system could combine.” Not whether they should, or if there are any better options.
The study is paid for by the hopeful merger candidates, so no one will be waiting breathlessly for the findings, except apparently the Governor.
Northam has already announced that the results “may lead to significant changes for Hampton Roads’ “health care ecosystem,” which serves more than 1 million people.
The whole project reeks of Sentara self interest. The merger being studied will not be optimized for the good of the people of Hampton Roads.
Sentara wants the state to award it because the merger otherwise cannot withstand federal antitrust review.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., and wife Becki
By Peter Galuszka
The resignation of Jerry Falwell Jr. amid a series of scandals may have a strong impact in Virginia where his late father built an extraordinary, ultra-conservative evangelical university in Lynchburg that later became highly politicized lightning rod supporting President Donald Trump.
Falwell has been caught up in a number of controversies including limiting speech on campus, going after The New York Times for trespassing when it reported he insisted that student ignore wearing anti-viral pandemic masks and so on.
What happened with Falwell Jr is as an American story as apple pie topped with a Cross. It might have some straight out of the pages of Elmer Gantry.
After touting strict school policies that forbid students from drinking alcohol, watching “R”-rated movies or engaging in pre-marital sex, Falwell was pictured aboard a NASCAR mogul’s yacht half dressed with a semi-clad, pregnant woman who was said to be his wife Becki’s assistant. Falwell was holding a wine glass with a liquid in it but Falwell said it wasn’t wine.
Shortly afterwards, he gave an interview to the right-leaning Washington Examiner stating that his wife had been involved with a multi-year sexual affair with Giancarlo Granda, a former Miami Beach pool boy whom Falwell funded to set up a hostel business. Continue reading
Posted in Children and families, Commentary, Consumer protection, Culture wars, Economic development, Education (higher ed), Governance, Individual rights, Media, Money in politics, Property rights, Public corruption, Scandals
Future Dominion price increases. Source: SCC. Actually, 1000 kWh per month is a bit low for the average residential customer, so many Virginians will be paying much more. Click for large view.
By Steve Haner
You will be shocked to learn that we customers of Dominion Energy Virginia did not pay it enough money in 2019. The shareholders did not get the profit margin they were due, the utility reported to the State Corporation Commission, which subsequently reported it to us on August 18.
Actually, these guys were not utility accountants, but they were on the right track.
We’ve entered the realm of energy comedy. The utility accounting process now mirrors the famous movie “The Producers,” with the goal being to book little or no actual profit so high rates can be maintained or even made higher. There is honest accounting, show-biz accounting, but for real whiz bang results there is utility accounting.
The SCC’s annual report to the General Assembly on utility accounting, now including projections of future rate costs, normally comes out closer to September. I was tipped to expect it early by a Dominion big wig, which should have told me it was a report they wanted publicized. This is Dominion playing the long game, preparing for the 2021 showdown on its rates and profits in a formal SCC audit and rate case.
The rules for this long game have been rigged in the utility’s favor over several years by a compliant General Assembly. This is not news to Bacon’s Rebellion readers. But here we go again. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
College students should be reimbursed if they don’t receive the full benefits they pay for in tuition, fees, room, and board, declares the Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust.
“COVID-19 has illuminated the long over-due need for basic consumer protections for those who are struggling to pay for the cost of college,” said Partners president James Toscano in a statement launching the Tuition Payer Bill of Rights. “As we saw in the spring when campuses were forced to close, colleges and universities cannot guarantee delivery of the quality of instruction, services and benefits they advertise. Still, very few are offering tuition discounts or are refunding fees, and in fact, some are actually raising their tuition.”
Over 100 class action lawsuits have been filed against institutions across the country for breach of services delivered. Toscano believes the litigation would be unnecessary if consumer protection policies existed. “For any other investment the size of college tuition, there are fundamental consumer rights in place to make sure that consumers are fully informed of the cost and benefits of the services for which they are paying, and they have a recourse if these are not delivered.”
The situation in Virginia is in flux as public and private universities receive an influx of college students for the new academic year. Higher-ed institutions are adopting an array of measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, including frequent testing, contact tracing, and social distancing. Athletic events are being canceled. More classes are being taught online. While the policy mix varies from institution to institution, campus life will not be the same, and in many cases neither will the learning experience. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue, a double lane, tree lined thoroughfare, has been the epicenter of the Black Lives Matter campaign that has focused on the statues of several Confederate figures one the road, including Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis.
All are up for removal, but the same foot-dragging that has for years protected the statues that some consider racist is at work today. Protestors have torn down Davis and have defaced the rest. On Sunday night, they nearly ripped down the Stuart statue as two city council members urged that it be removed on an emergency basis.
Lee’s statue has been ordered down by Gov. Ralph Northam, but the effort has been tied up in lawsuits by several property owners. One claims either that the original deed that gave the state the site for Lee included language that it could not be removed. Other plaintiffs, most anonymous, claim that removing the statues would hurt their property values and their special tax status.
If anything smacks of white privilege and entitlement, this is it. But for more perspective, this article in The Atlantic neatly sums up the history behind the statues and the Avenue, noting that the issue has everything to do with rewriting Richmond’s history and making a marketing play to sell expensive and exclusive real estate decades after the Confederacy was suppressed. Continue reading
Posted in Blogs and blog administration, Commentary, Consumer protection, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Demographics, Electoral process, Federal, Housing, Labor & workforce, Money in politics, News, Politics, Poverty & income gap, Property rights, Public safety & health, Race and race relations, Transportation
By Steve Haner
This was published this morning in The Roanoke Times and then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
There may be a second wave of COVID-19 disease coming, but the secondary effects of various pandemic economic decisions may hit us sooner. Rent and utility bills customers can delay paying because of the crisis will eventually come due.But for whom?
The Legal Aid Justice Center looked at U.S. Census survey data that indicated many Virginians have fallen behind on their rent and did not expect to pay their next bill. It predicted an “eviction catastrophe” as eviction and foreclosure bans end, and lenders and landlords rush into newly reopened courts for judgments.
“The Governor should use emergency powers to immediately enact a moratorium on evictions or should allow localities to enact their own until the General Assembly can address tenants’ mounting debt. The General Assembly should create relief for tenants who are significantly behind in rent payments through a waiver or rent cancellation plan,” the advocacy group asserted.
Governor Ralph Northam took up the call, and the Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to hold off eviction proceedings a few more weeks, until June 28. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
On Wednesday, I was standing next to the Capitol grounds in Richmond watching brightly decorated cars and pickups drive on 9th Street, their horns blaring.
I was attending the drive by protest rally on assignment for Style Weekly and happened to speak to Jason Roberge, a Spotsylvania County resident who is one of several Republicans hoping to oust U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a former covert CIA officer who represents the 7th Congressional district.
Roberge was there to protest what he says is Gov. Ralph Northam’s “terrible job” in temporarily shutting down businesses to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus. The rally was part of a series of protests across the country that are being set up on cue from right-wing activists.
Roberge told me: ”I hear he’s (Northam’s) down on North Carolina beach while this is going on.” As he spoke the House of Delegates was holding a special session under an outdoor tent nearby while the Senate presided at the Science Museum of Virginia.
Northam at the beach? It turns out that the conservative echo chamber has been peddling a story, firmly denied by Northam’s office, that he was at his house in Manteo, N.C. not far from the beaches at Nags Head during the special General Assembly session. Continue reading
Posted in Business and Economy, Consumer protection, Courts and law, Culture wars, Economic development, General Assembly, Governance, Government Oversight, Money in politics, News, Politics, Property rights, Scandals
Tagged COVID-19, Peter Galuszka
By Peter Galuszka
This week is the tenth anniversary of one of the worst coal mine disasters in recent U.S. history. The massive explosion at the Upper Big Branch at Montcoal, W.Va. on the afternoon of April 5, 2010 killed 29 miners, the largest number in 40 years.
The disaster meant the undoing of Massey Energy, a Richmond-based company that had been widely called out for its safety violations and mountain-top removal mining practices.
I wrote a book about the firm and Central Appalachian coal that was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2012. West Virginia University Press bought paperback rights to the book and we published an expanded and updated version in 2016.
Today, I have a remembrance in today’s Washington Post. It will be in print this Sunday on the Local Opinions page in the Metro section.
For many years, Massey Energy and its predecessor firm, A.T. Massey, operated a headquarters in a chunky building in downtown Richmond. The Massey family has been generous with its local donations and has helped such institutions as the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
The Massey family was notorious for breaking labor unions but during the two years it took to research the book, I learned that miners felt the firm listened to them and tried to take care of them.
Then a stocky man with a moustache, Don Blankenship, took over. He became notorious for skimping on safety and micro-managing. He served a year in federal prison for ignoring safety at UBB. Continue reading
Statue of Gov. Harry F. Byrd on the state capitol grounds.
By Peter Galuszka
Right-wingers in Virginia have been apoplectic for months that Democrats finally captured the General Assembly after years of Republican control.
They also were enraged that the legislature this winter passed a number of reforms that would draw Virginia into the 21st Century such raising the minimum wage, boosting collective bargaining, tightening rules on carbon pollution and raising taxes for cigarettes, a deadly product.
Now such conservatives are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to throttle or delay such needed reforms. They have banded into groups such as the Coalition fort a Strong Virginia Economy. They have used the Virginia Municipal League’s complaints against the reforms, claiming they cost too much, as a way to derail new measures.
According to the left-leaning blog site Blue Virginia, one of the more extreme advocates for scrambling changes is Dave LaRock, a far-right Republican delegate from Loudoun County. A pronounced gay-basher, LaRock wants to squelch all of the reforms made by the more progressive General Assembly. Continue reading
Posted in Blogs and blog administration, Budgets, Business and Economy, Commentary, Consumer protection, Culture wars, Demographics, Economic development, Energy, Entitlements, Environment, Federal, Finance (government), General Assembly, Governance, Government Oversight, Gun rights, Health Care, Individual rights, Infrastructure, Labor & workforce, Media, Money in politics, News, Taxes, Transparency
Tagged Peter Galuszka