Category Archives: Business and Economy

Northam Plastics Order Will Backfire

Vassey

by Brett Vassey

Governor Northam recently issued Executive Order 77 (EO 77) mandating all state agencies (including colleges and universities) to ban purchasing or using certain plastics products (primarily foodservice and trash bags) by October 2021, ban plastic bottled water, phase out all single-use plastic items by 2025, source and use non-plastic alternatives, and compost or recycle alternative products.

EO 77 falsely assumes that alternatives to plastics will always be environmentally preferable — which is not the case. In fact, we can demonstrate that EO 77 will lead to increased landfilling, more greenhouse gas emissions, less food safety, fewer healthy food/beverage choices, accessibility barriers for the differently abled, and increased littering.

The mandate to use and procure only non-plastic alternatives does not require assessments of their environmental impacts, costs to taxpayers or consumers, recyclability, compostability, increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, small business impacts, accessibility impacts, or the unintended consequences because EO 77 bypassed public participation by sidestepping compliance with the Virginia Administrative Process Act.

We estimate that replacing 14.4 million metric tons of plastic packaging would result in more than 64 million tons of other material. This would result in a significant increase in total energy demand, water consumption, solid waste by weight and by volume, global warming potential, acidification, eutrophication, smog formation, and ozone depletion. Not exactly a net environmental benefit. Continue reading

Why Virginia Job Growth Lags Region, Nation

Chesapeake Climate Action Network webpage boasting about the defeat of a gas pipeline expansion, a signal seen by location managers all around the U.S.

by Steve Haner

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation… Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months… I’m proud of our roaring economic growth…”

So claimed Governor Ralph Northam (D) in a September 17 news release.

It came just after Virginia’s economy showed especially anemic results in August employment data, capping a period of poor performance effectively described in a recent Bacon’s Rebellion post by Richmond economist A. Fletcher Mangum.  Virginia’s job growth this spring and summer has trailed the vast majority of other states, with the August data placing us at a shameful 47th out of 50. Simply achieving the national average growth rate that month would have meant 75,000 more jobs. Continue reading

McAuliffe Promise to Accelerate VCEA Schedule Will Accelerate VCEA Consumer Bill Increases

2020 SCC staff projection of monthly residential bill increases by 2030 for Dominion Energy Virginia customers, mainly tied to a rapid retreat from fossil fuels.

by Steve Haner

When a State Corporation Commission staff analysis warned last year of $808 annual increases in Dominion Energy Virginia residential bills by 2030, that 58% increase was based on the existing deadlines set for Dominion’s conversion away from using fossil fuels.

Change the deadlines, change the cost. Shorten the deadlines by half, as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is promising to do, and 2030 electricity costs will grow even higher.  Continue reading

Of Course Tax Hikes Grew the State Surpluses

Senate Finance Committee data illustrated the expected state revenue boost caused by 2017 federal changes. Predicted and seen in 2019 and 2020, it carried over into 2021.

by Steve Haner

At Tuesday night’s debate Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe dismissed the 2021 $2.6 billion general fund revenue surplus as entirely due to extra federal COVID relief funds, which is absurd on its face. By definition, every dollar is general fund state tax revenue. It came from some form of state tax.

Why do Virginia Democrats continue to deny that recent state tax law changes are in part responsible for almost-embarrassing large cash surpluses recently announced? At the time the deeds were done, nobody was denying the big revenue impacts. The really big hit was a totally bipartisan decision, so Democrats can share the credit or blame.   Continue reading

Virginia Job Growth Trails U.S. Averages

Click for larger view.

by A. Fletcher Mangum

A. Fletcher Mangum

Virginia’s employment growth has been underperforming the national economy for quite some time. As shown in Figure 1, soon after the recovery from the Great Recession began in earnest in 2011 Virginia’s year-over-year growth in total employment uncharacteristically fell behind the national economy and even briefly went negative in 2014.

Then in early 2020, just as in the rest of the country, economic conditions in Virginia changed drastically when the governors’ lockdowns of economic activity were imposed in response to the pandemic. Between March and April of that year nearly 20 million jobs were lost nationally (or approximately one out of every eight jobs in the country), while in Virginia the employment loss was 428,000 jobs (or approximately one out of every nine jobs in the state). Virginia was not as badly hit as the nation as a whole because of its heavy dependence on federal employment and contracting (which were not significantly impacted by the lockdowns) and disproportionate employment in the Professional and Business Services sector (where people were better able to work remotely).

However, history is now repeating itself as Virginia once again falls behind the nation in the recovery and that trend is getting worse. In April of this year, when year-over-year employment growth turned the corner and moved into positive territory nationally, Virginia trailed the pack and continues to do so. In April Virginia ranked 41st among the states in year-over-year total employment growth, gained ground to hit 32nd in May and 30th in June , and then fell back to 39th in July and all the way to 47th in August. Continue reading

More Ignored News: Bag Tax Coming to Richmond

From American Progressive Bag Alliance flyer opposing local bag taxes.

by Steve Haner

The plastic bag tax recently approved in Roanoke and several Northern Virginia localities, created by the General Assembly in 2020 as a local option, is also coming to the City of Richmond. It was promised in the same September 13 Richmond City Council “climate crisis” resolution that implied a future closure of the Richmond Gas WorksContinue reading

SCC Staff: Dominion Should Refund $312M, Cut Rates, Due to $1.14B Excess Profits

SCC Staff summary showing how $1.14 billion in Dominion Energy Virginia excess profits get whittled down to only a possible $312 million refund.  Step one, not shown, is the law allows the company to keep the first 70 basis points of excess profit no questions asked.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Customers of Dominion Energy Virginia are due a refund of $312 million and the company’s future base rates should be reduced by another $50 million annually, the utility accounting staff at the State Corporation Commission concluded in testimony filed September 17.

Patrick W. Carr, deputy director of the division of utility accounting and finance, was joined in filing testimony by ten other members of that staff, but he provided the baseline result in his opening summary.

In the staff’s opinion, Dominion earned $1.143 billion of profit in excess of its allowed 9.2% return on equity during the four year period it reviewed, 2017 through 2020. The company will vigorously dispute those claims in rebuttal testimony, it is safe to predict.

The State Corporation Commission is entering the key phase of its so-called “triennial review,” which in Dominion’s case covers an extra year because that is what it asked of the Virginia General Assembly, and the Assembly seldom declines DEV’s requests. This is the first full audit of the company’s finances since 2015, which covered the two prior years of 2013 and 2014. Continue reading

Virginia Has a Rising Sea Problem, Relatively

Ninety years of relative sea level rise (SLR) at Norfolk’s Sewells Point gauge, with mean lines added by Kip Hansen. It is about two-third due to sinking land, one-third due to long term absolute SLR, and in no way due to modern CO2 emissions.

by Steve Haner and Kip Hansen

When discussing sea level rise, on Virginia’s coast or anywhere else, watch the terms being used very carefully. Absolute sea level is the height of the ocean compared to the center of the Earth. Relative sea level is the height of the ocean compared to a specific point on the shore. They are not the same. Continue reading

There’s Gold in Them Thar… Press Releases?

by Jock Yellott

It seems there is a vein of quartz underground in Buckingham County sparkling with gold. The General Assembly almost prohibited mining it, but then backed off. This time.

A string of historic gold mines going back to the 19th Century appear as red dots on the county geological survey map like chigger bites on the skin of the land. Exploratory drilling by a Canadian company, Aston Bay Holdings, found significant new quantities of gold there.

From about the depth of a water well — 150 to 300 feet– Aston Bay’s diamond drills pulled up broken columns of translucent white quartz flecked with yellow metal. They drilled and drilled again for about 200 yards, two dozen holes, rarely drilling without finding more quartz glinting with gold. Continue reading

310 Virginia Companies in the Inc 5000 This Year

Charis Jones, CEO of Sassy Jones, No. 75 in the Inc. 5000

And now for a bit of good news. Virginia’s entrepreneurial economy is faring very well, thank you. This year 310 Virginia companies are ranked in the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies. Five were ranked in the Top 100.

How does that compare nationally? In very rough numbers, Virginia accounts for one out of every 40 Americans and one out of every 40 dollars of U.S. GDP. But one out of 16 private fast-growth companies is located here.

As always, the entrepreneurial ferment is concentrated in Northern Virginia, which has the best developed venture capital network, the most highly educated workforce, and a deep reservoir of IT talent. Nearly 75% of Virginia’s Inc. 5000 — 227 companies — reside in the Virginia portion of the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The Richmond metro (44 companies) and Charlottesville metro (6 companies) also punch above their weight. Continue reading

Covid Benefits – Yet Another Massive Government Program Gone Awry

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Stolen without a gun. NBC News is reporting that hackers and scammers have pulled off “an epic theft” of COVID benefits. Foreign and domestic criminals have looted tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars. As reported, “The federal government cannot say for sure how much of the more than $900 billion in pandemic-related unemployment relief has been stolen, but credible estimates range from $87 million to $400 billion — at least half of which went to foreign criminals, law enforcement officials say.” In other words, more money could have been stolen from the jobless benefits program than the U.S. spends on K-12 education in a year. Continue reading

Herring Sues Minority Gas Station Owners for Price-Gouging

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Mark Herring has filed a lawsuit against the owners of a Springfield gas station for charging “unconscionable” prices for gasoline after the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline in May.

“Bad actors will take advantage of times of crises to unreasonably increase prices for necessary goods, like gasoline,” said Herring in a press release. “During a disaster or crisis, Virginians should never have to worry about whether they are paying a fair price for something they truly need.”

That’s one way of looking at Herring’s action. Here’s another way: he is persecuting a minority-owned small business enterprise in order to score a talking point in his re-election campaign.

Here follow the facts. You decide which interpretation is more plausible. 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

Virginia Next-to-Last in Motley Fool Ranking

Crescent Dunes solar project near Tonopah, NV. Photo:  Wikipedia

by Steve Haner

If you need another reason to break into peals of laughter over the recent CNBC “Top States for Business” ranking, consider this.

In the story about the infrastructure rankings, while praising the state of Nevada, the illustration provided was the aerial shot of the Tonopah Solar Energy facility. The failed, now-in-bankruptcy (also here) Tonopah Solar Facility. Shades of Virginia’s clean energy future to come? But I digress.  Continue reading

Freedom From Union Dues Hangs on Warner

Washington Post photo of a cake delivered to Virginia Senator Mark Warner in May, encouraging his support for the pending PRO Act. So far he is not supporting it.

By Vincent Vernuccio 

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

A bill under active consideration in Congress would allow unions to get Virginia workers fired for not paying union fees. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, among many other things would end right-to-work laws in Virginia and in 26 other states.

According to a recent report by the Institute for the American Worker, 89,000 Virginia workers are unionized and currently protected if they change their minds by our state’s right-to-work law.  Those who have chosen not to join a union would be forced to pay union fees if the PRO Act passes. Those who are already members would lose the ability to choose to opt-out and stop paying union fees if they feel they are not getting good representation.

Another 2,971,327 Virginians could be forced to pay union fees if unions organize their workplace and the PRO Act kills right-to-work.  Continue reading