Category Archives: Business and Economy

Injunction to Stop Wind Project Denied

A federal judge in Washington has declined to prevent Dominion Energy Virginia from constructing its offshore wind turbines, but presumably the underlying legal challenge to the federal permitting process will grind on through the court process.   Virginia Mercury reports the basics this morning.

Installation of the first monopiles actually started while the judge was still pondering the petition for an injunction, but getting such an injunction before the actual trial process requires clearing a very high legal hurdle.  The plaintiffs claim the project will cause irreversible harm to marine life in the area, including whales, but the truth is evidence either way is lacking.

You cannot tell from the carcass if a dead whale ended up on the beach because of noise from sonar mapping of this construction site, or construction work on previous projects elsewhere. Likewise those who claim the work won’t harm whales cannot prove that negative.  The federal regulators actually are of the opinion there is risk but claim the mitigations they have imposed will prove sufficient.

Time will tell on that.  What remains is the project’s inordinate cost for the likely energy output, especially if the claimed 25-30 year lifespan proves too optimistic, or the project suffers major damage in some future (and long overdue) mid-Atlantic monster hurricane.  And Dominion’s project is pretty much the only one which still claims it will be built for the advertised cost, thanks to contracts locked in long ago.  Costs are exploding for many other developers. Continue reading

Shown the Door, Petersen Calls Out COVID Fascists

By Steve Haner

Reading Chap Petersen’s biographical “Rebel,” it is pretty easy to understand why a year ago his fellow Democrats threw him out of office in a primary. In fact, the mystery is that he survived as long as he did.

The book tells a history that many would like to ignore or actively suppress. That the Democratic Party in Virginia no longer has a place for Petersen should depress us all. He is not shy in returning like for like, so reward his efforts and buy his book. Then dog ear the good parts for later reference, because that crowd now in charge is just getting started.

Petersen was always hard to pigeonhole, and like all the legislators who have made it to my personal MVP list, delighted in doing the unexpected and doing it with panache. He came to the House of Delegates in 2002 and then the Senate in 2008, defeating Republican incumbents in both elections. Many of the best known struggles of those years are detailed from his point of view in the 300 plus pages. I also engaged in some of them, not always on the same side.

But his biggest fight of all, and the one that finally did him in, is one we are all engaged in. Petersen was one the fiercest opponents of the absolute and needless destruction of commercial and personal freedoms during the panic over COVID-19. He was a patron of successful 2021 legislation supposed to reopen Virginia’s public schools. In reality, the oppression of school kids continued for another year or longer, intensifying the educational losses. Continue reading

Investor in Dominion Wind Buys $150M Island

Experience in Iowa just proved this earlier destruction of an onshore turbine was a harbinger of things to come. See below.

By Steve Haner

One of the leaders of investment firm Stonepeak, which is buying a 50% share in Dominion Energy’s Virginia Virginia Beach wind project, just bought a private island.  The story is reported by the New York Post, which mentions his role in the major investment firm but doesn’t make the connection to the 176 turbines now under construction.

I’d love to share the photos but don’t want to test the copyright limits. Check out the story and luxury home pics on the Post website yourselves.

I’m sorry, aren’t we being told that we have to have that multi-billion dollar boondoggle to protect us from a horrible future destroyed by climate change? That without offshore wind displacing natural gas, the sea will rise faster than a soufflé and hurricanes will be more frequent and far more powerful? This bright guy getting rich off Virginia ratepayer money doesn’t seem to buy that hype.

To be fair, the deal between Dominion and Stonepeak is still under review at the State Corporation Commission. Stonepeak has plenty of other profitable investments that paid for this house. Continue reading

Challenging the Fact-Free Narrative on RGGI

The states still in the Regional Greenhous Gas Initiative. Lawsuits are pending to add Virginia and Pennsylvania.

By Steve Haner

The numerous falsehoods in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch story about the carbon tax so loved by Virginia Democrats start right with the headline.  It states that Virginia’s decision to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative “is costing millions.”

The figure of $150 million per year is then mentioned, apparently simply quoting the Democratic legislators who held a news conference May 21 to pledge their continued fealty to the program. They had sought to order Virginia back into RGGI with a budget provision, which they then agreed to drop in the final compromise.

The $150 million amount they mentioned is blatantly false, far too small.  Were Virginia still part of the 11-state cap and trade compact, RGGI would be costing utility ratepayers as much as $350 million per year, based on the most recent carbon tax amount in the first 2024 RGGI allowance auction.

So, the decision to stay out is not “costing” money but will actually save utility ratepayers as much as $700 million over 2024 and 2025.  Dominion Energy Virginia was the largest Virginia buyer of RGGI carbon allowances under the regulatory regime, and it has been passing along those costs directly to customers on all its monthly bills.

This was the second time in days that the capital city newspaper gave Democrats access to its front page to complain about Governor Glenn Youngkin’s opposition to the carbon tax regulation, and to claim he broke the law in repealing it.  The May 18 story is just as fuzzy about who actually pays the carbon tax. Continue reading

Virginia Beach Budget Will Lower Your Standard of Living

When Councilman John Moss narrowly lost his seat on City Council in a 2022 three-way race, Virginia Beach lost the lone elected official who actually understood municipal budgeting. Moss could be counted on to make city budgeteers squirm as he peppered them with intelligent questions about why they continually funded vacant city jobs and then used the surplus as a slush fund for the pet projects of city cronies. Plus he ALWAYS pressured his colleagues — fruitlessly, as it turned out — to lower the annual real estate tax rate to give homeowners relief from soaring assessments.

John Moss, who was first elected to City Council in 1986, is running for mayor. We asked Mr. Moss for his input on the budget City Council will vote on tonight.

—Kerry Dougherty 

by John Moss 

No Beach family or resident who lives alone needs to be told they are losing control over their economic lives. We all know our purchasing power is in free fall.

Inflation benefits only tax collections.

There is one group in our community that is clearly detached from the economic reality that Beach residents — and all Americans — understand and experience each day.

That group is the Virginia Beach City Council. Continue reading

Fairness + Accountability = Thriving City

by Jon Baliles

The city of Richmond seems to be trying to plug all of the holes in its boat, also known as the U.S.S. Meals Tax Fiasco, that has been taking on water for months. It seems that the city is finally wiping out the erroneous meals tax payments and interest they had charged numerous restaurant accounts in recent years, often amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, without ever telling them the bills were so enormous.

Tyler Layne at CBS6 reported last week that Matt Mullett, the owner of Richbrau Brewing, recently got a call from the city’s Finance Director, who said the city would clear his $50,000 bill that accrued due to bad advice he received four years ago from the Finance Department when they told him he did not need to collect meals taxes on draft beer, even though the department had lost a case just a few years prior.

In addition, Mullet’s business was now finally eligible to receive Enterprise Zone grant money to improve his business. This money had already been approved several years ago, but was not released because the city said they owed all the back meals tax money. Which he didn’t. Nevertheless, Mullet took the high road and was thankful the unnecessary drama and delays were behind him so he can move forward with his business. Continue reading

Congress Values Names More Than Housing for Service Members

Congresswoman Jen Kiggans

by Donald Smith

“Removing the last vestiges of Confederate history from the U.S. military, including renaming nine Army posts, will cost more than $62 million, a congressional commission said Tuesday.” 

That quote is from Alex Horton’s Washington Post article on the recommendations of the Naming Commission, dated September 13th, 2022. “For the base names,” wrote Horton, “the changes will require a complete overhaul for items big and small, from signs outside the main gates to the stamps used to process paperwork for new and departing soldiers.”

One year later, it was crystal-clear that the “Naming” Commission’s recommendations went far, far beyond changing some base names. (Recommendations which, apparently, Congress let pass unchallenged). By September of 2023, cranes had removed statues of Grant and Lee from Reconciliation Plaza, a memorial park gifted to the U.S. Military Academy by the West Point Class of 1961 to commemorate the reconciliation of Union and Confederate West Pointers after the Civil War. Cranes would soon show up in Arlington National Cemetery to remove the Reconciliation Memorial from the center of the Confederate cemetery in Arlington. And, across the nation, street signs were being pulled down, memorial bricks were being pulled out of monuments, software was being rewritten on classified and unclassified computer networks to reflect the new base names, etc. Undoubtedly, little-to-none of this was cheap. 

The Virginia Council, a Virginia heritage defense group created and led by WRVA talk show host John Reid, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of the Army, to see what the total cost of implementing all of the Naming Commission’s sweeping recommendations actually was. Some people I spoke with in the Army, who wish to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, think that the total costs could far exceed $62 million. 

Also in September of 2023, the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report on the quality of housing in military barracks. “In recent years,” the GAO wrote, “there have been concerns about health and safety risks in military housing and DOD’s management of its housing programs. Poor housing conditions negatively affect quality of life.” Continue reading

Give Me this Kind of Accountability

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Frequently, some commenters on this blog complain about politicians not being accountable and hold up the private sector as a model for accountability.  (For purposes of this discussion, we will ignore the fact that politicians have to go before the voters periodically and get reelected.)

Here is a recent example of accountability in the private sector, as reported in The New York Times. Over the last year the stock of Paramount has fallen 48 percent. The CEO did not pursue a possible deal that would have been lucrative for Paramount. The owner of a controlling share of the company is reported to feel that the CEO has not moved with enough urgency to get Paramount on firmer footing. She was unhappy with a long-range plan he had prepared and gave approval to three other senior executives to address the board of directors and express their misgivings about the direction of the company.

Today, Paramount announced that the CEO was stepping down effective immediately. In other words, he was fired.

But there is no need to shed any tears for him. He won’t need to file for unemployment benefits. Reportedly, “he is entitled to a severance package of $50.6 million, with $31 million of that in the form of cash for the two years after his employment is terminated.” Yep, that is some accountability.

Freebees Aren’t Free

by Kerry Dougherty

I can’t be the only Virginia Beach taxpayer sick of watching my real estate taxes climb every year while the city council wastes money on pricey gimmicks like “free” Tesla rides for residents and visitors to the city.

For two years we’ve picked up the tab for a small fleet of Teslas to be summoned to haul swells and drunks around the oceanfront.

The first year, the misnamed “Freebee” program cost taxpayers $500,000. Last year the project cost $1.3 million. According to city officials, 52% of riders who were too cheap to call a cab or Uber were visitors, while 48% were locals suffering from the same freeloading mentality.

Notice a pattern?

Thankfully, City Manager Patrick Duhaney left this free-market-tampering boondoggle out of this year’s proposed city budget, although some of the Beach’s tax-and-spend knuckleheads are lobbying to put it back. Continue reading

Ready for Taxes on Netflix, NFL Sunday Ticket?

By Steve Haner

After a month of unproductive political theater, Virginia’s leaders will finally sit down like adults and negotiate the budget. Better late than never.  The message is “everything is back on the table,” which leaves the door wide open for the tax increase central to the Democrat’s demands. That deserves a quick no.

At this point, Virginians do not pay sales tax on their Netflix, Disney, or sports streaming package subscriptions. That is what they want to tax now. If you just paid an online vendor to file a tax return, next year a sales tax of up to 6 or 7% will be added to that bill. Likewise, any annual subscription for Microsoft Office or One Drive storage, or for an internet security system, will be taxed. Continue reading

Diamonds Aren’t Forever

by Jon Baliles

The entire saga of the development of the Diamond District project in Richmond has come full circle in the last 18 months, as Mayor Levar Stoney, desperate for an economic development win after the failure of his Navy Hill boondoggle and two failed casino referendums, has rounded the bases trying to get a baseball stadium built before the franchise was going to be moved by the powers at Major League Baseball (MLB). Finally scoring a run, however, will come with a cost: $170 million to be exact, because that is how much debt the city will issue  to pay for building the stadium and surrounding infrastructure for the rest of the Diamond District development.

The big news broke last week about the new plan to build the baseball stadium but is also being accompanied by a new financing and development structure and procedures. The announcement unfortunately pre-empted the planned Part 3 of our baseball stadium series, which explained that, at this late date, the only option left to get the stadium built in time and not have MLB yank the franchise was for the city to issue general obligation (G.O.) bonds. That was the only evidence MLB was going to accept to prove the money to build the stadium was actually there and construction could actually begin, because all the talk from the city had been just one missed promise after another, and delay after delay.

The bomb was set to explode and the Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) played the last card they had left. They will put the onus of the debt and risk all on the city’s shoulders, issue the debt quickly and get the shovels turning to meet the deadline. But that is not at all how this process began, and it has changed drastically in the many months the city spent dithering. Continue reading

Will Democrats Shut Down State Over Tax Hike?

By Steve Haner

The fight that is about to occur at the Assembly’s reconvened session on Wednesday is entirely about taxes, not about spending.

An analysis of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposed compromise budget – done by the Democrats’ favorite financial bean counters, not by conservatives – confirms his budget comes extremely close to the spending levels Democrats approved at the end of the General Assembly.  The gap compared to the $188 billion overall budget is little more than a rounding error. Continue reading

Utilities Will Gamble on Nukes With Your $$$

Artist rendering of VOYGR™ SMR plants powered by NuScale Power Module™

By Steve Haner

Standing firm against raising taxes is a fine thing, but it would help if Virginia’s leaders also stopped using people’s electricity bills to fund rent-seeking energy speculations.

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has tweaked, but not vetoed, pending bills that allow both of Virginia’s investor-owned utilities to charge ratepayers for power plants that may not be built. The dream projects involve small modular nuclear technology, proven in military applications but so far speculative for commercial generation. Continue reading

Fighting Over the Check at the Green Power Cafe

By Steve Haner

New power plants are pretty useless unless they are connected by new power lines. The debate over who pays for those tall towers and miles of cable can be just as divisive as the fight over who pays for a proposed nuclear plant or offshore wind turbines.

Bottom line, of course, the customers ultimately pay. But which customers? Should it be those most reliant on that individual transmission line, everybody within the utility, or should it be all the customers within all the utilities inside a regional transmission organization? Continue reading

Jefferson Institute’s Hit List Bills Mostly Gone

By Derrick Max

Monday was not just the near total solar eclipse in Virginia, but also the deadline for Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) to act on the budget and the remaining bills on his desk. As our Steve Haner wrote, in “Governor’s Budget Compromise Eclipses Fears of Stalemate,” we are generally positive about the approximately 230 budget amendments Governor Youngkin made.

The Governor sacrificed two-thirds of his spending priorities while giving Democrats almost all of theirs. He did this while removing any tax increases from the budget and forgoing all of his recommended tax reforms (reductions). This was more than a good faith offer and should be embraced by any member of the General Assembly, Democrat or Republican, serious about getting a budget compromise passed before the end of the fiscal year.

Just before midnight on Monday, Governor Youngkin acted on the last of the 1,046 bills he had been sent this legislative session. The final tally: he signed 777, proposed amendments for 116, and vetoed 153. He will have a second chance to veto bills where his suggested amendments are rejected.

While I am sure much will be made of the record number of vetoes, Democrats in the General Assembly opted to send a wish list of bills to the Governor that they knew would never get his signature. Nor would some have even passed the muster with previous Democratically controlled General Assemblies or liberal Governors around the country. This is due, in part, to the retirement or defeat of the more moderate members of the Democratic caucuses in the General Assembly. Continue reading