Category Archives: Environment

Photo Project Spotlights Pipeline Impact


By Peter Galuszka

Veteran photographer Karen Kasmauski, who grew up in Norfolk, has a brilliant online project that shows the human and environmental impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

She is a senior fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, a non-profit group that funded her project that centers mostly in rural Nelson and Buckingham Counties that would be dissected by the natural gas pipeline.

She combines spectacular aerial photos with deep close ups of people.

One of her subjects is Ella Rose, a retiree who lives in a small house in Union Hill. She was living a quiet happy life in her natural setting until she got a letter from Dominion Energy stating that they would be routing the ACP about 150-feet from her house.

Union Hill is a touchpoint for pipeline controversy since it is largely African-American community that ACP officials have selected for a compressor station. It is one of similar localities that seem to be targeted with other loud and disruptive equipment along the pipeline route. Continue reading

Is It the Death Knell For Dominion’s Pipeline?

By Peter Galuszka

For more than a decade, hydraulic fracturing drilling for natural gas and oil has transformed the American energy picture, leading to big revivals in such energy fields such as Marcellus in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and the Bakken field in the Dakotas.

It has prompted Dominion Energy and its utility partners to push forward with an $8 billion or so Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will take Marcellus gas through Virginia all the way to South Carolina. The project, tied up in court fights, has been enormously divisive as property owners have protested the utilities’ strong arm methods of securing rights of way.

But now there’s clear evidence that the fracking boom is over, and that has huge implications for the ACL project. The reason? Oil and gas prices have dropped thanks to a perfect storm of issues. There’s the coronavirus pandemic tanking the U.S. economy, bitter energy wars between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and the fact that fracking gas and oil rigs are enormously expensive and wells can produce for only a short period.

The Hill reported last week: “Oil sank to $23 (a barrel) from a high of $53 in mid-February, far below the break even point that producers need to drill new wells to maintain supply, and with volumes rapidly diminishing at existing wells.”

The newspaper points out that a fracking well can cost more than $10 million while a traditional well is only $2 million. As price pressure mounts, the number of wells nationally has plummeted from 790 to 772 in one week.  At the Bakken field, reports The Washington Post, producers are cutting costs.

The situation has clear implications for the ACL project which was conceived at the height of the Marcellus boom. Dominion claimed that the gas would be badly needed in coming years while others claimed there isn’t enough demand. Continue reading

This is the Green New Deal Economy. Enjoy.

Source: Energy Information Agency.  Click for larger view. LCOE, LACE and Value-Cost Ratio explained below.

By Steve Haner

If all else fails in achieving your green energy dreams, you can always hope for a depression.

In Italy, the COVID-19 depression has already dropped electricity demand by about 18-21%, as reported recently by Utility Dive. The regional transmission organizations around the United States are seeing declines, as well, and I’ve been told (no data, but a reliable source) that PJM’s load is approaching a 10% drop.  Past recessions have included electricity usage declines.  Continue reading

A Look at Richmond and COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Here is a roundup story I wrote for Style Weekly that was published today that explains the effects of COVID-19 on the Richmond area. Hopefully, BR readers will find it of interest.

It was a tough piece to report. The impacts of the deadly virus are very complicated and multi-faceted. An especially hard part was trying to keep with the fast-changing news, notably the number of new cases and deaths. We were updating right up until the story closed Monday afternoon. It was hard to talk to people with social-distancing and closings.

The experience shows the delicate balancing act between taking tough measures to stem the contagion and keeping the economy going. My view is that tough measures are needed because without them, it will all be much worse, particularly more illness and death as the experience in Italy has shown.

Incredibly, our utterly incompetent president, Donald Trump, now wants to focus on the economy more than taking necessary containment steps. It’s far too soon for that. Regrettably, a number of Bacon’s Rebellion commenters are sounding the same irresponsible tune in keeping with their big business and anti-regulation laud of free market capitalism. Continue reading

Freeman Dyson, Scientific Consensus and Virginia Politics

Freeman Dyson. What’s a “scientific consensus” without him?

by Irfan K. Ali

One of the most brilliant scientists of the 20th century, Freeman Dyson, recently passed away. This most unassuming man hobnobbed with the likes of Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John von Neumann, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and other giants of science and technology. He was a true giant in the world of science.

The excerpt below from The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), where he worked until his death at age 96, describes his greatest contribution to science:

In the spring of 1948, Dyson accompanied [Richard] Feynman on a fabled cross-country road trip that culminated in one of the most remarkable breakthroughs of 20th century physics. After being steeped in the work of Feynman for months and spending six weeks listening to Julian Schwinger’s ideas in Ann Arbor, Dyson was able to prove the equivalency of their two competing theories of quantum electrodynamics (QED), which describes how light and matter interact. Dyson recalled the moment of discovery as a “flash of illumination on the Greyhound bus.” He had been traveling alone for more than 48 hours, making his way to Princeton, NJ to begin his first Membership at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Dyson wanted to have nothing to do with the so called “scientific consensus”. Had he lived in the times of Giordano Bruno, a brilliant 17th century scientist, he may have met a similar fate of being burned at the stake for his unapologetic skepticism about the notion of man-made climate change. Continue reading

Is Northam Up to the COVID-19 Challenge?

By Peter Galuszka

Governor Ralph Northam has approached the COVID-19 pandemic  with a light touch that has drawn criticism for doing too little too late.

He has declared a state of emergency, banned gatherings of more than 100 people and closed schools until well into April. But he’s also not closed restaurants and businesses or done much to make sure that Virginian’s health workers have enough testing kits and respirators and personal protective equipment, such as masks and hazardous material suits.

Consequently, health workers have been slicing up bandanas or reusing face masks against manufacturers’ warnings to protect themselves from the deadly virus.

The Washington Post has compared the responses of regional leaders in an article this morning. Larry Hogan, Maryland’s Republican governor, got high marks for his pro-active, can-do attitude that saw him taking tougher policies earlier on. The Post gave Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser a little below Hogan in her response.

But, the Post reported, “If you’ve got Maryland and D.C. shutting down, but we aren’t, that cuts down tremendously on what Mayor Bowser and Governor Hogan are trying to do,” said Libby Garvey, a Democrat and board chair of Arlington County.

A Northam spokesman said that the lighter approach is appropriate because it doesn’t strangle Virginia’s economy and the state is more rural and spread out than Maryland or Washington. Continue reading

Energy Updates: Signs of Resistance After All

The Main Clean Energy Bill. Both General Assembly chambers have now approved a single substitute version of the omnibus clean energy bill, on largely (but not totally) party line votes. In a further compromise on their plan to save the world, proponents decided not to force closure of a Southwest Virginia coal-burning plant and were rewarded with the votes of one Southwest Virginia Republican: Del. Terry Kilgore. (Correction: The initial post incorrectly reported Sen. Ben Chafin as having voted aye. It was Republican Sen. Jill Vogel.)

Kilgore’s vote mattered as the House had only 51 aye’s. The House roll calls are not posted yet, just the vote totals.  Senate Bill 851  is now on its way to Governor Ralph Northam. Odds are further changes will be coming and another vote will be taken at the Reconvened Session on April 22. The House version was heading for a conference committee which is now not needed.  Continue reading

Dominion’s Base Rates Like Cable You Can’t Cancel

By Steve Haner

The 2020 effort to bring Dominion Energy Virginia back under full State Corporation Commission regulation failed because too many of the loudest advocates are two-faced hypocrites. If they truly cared about ratepayers and the proper balance in utility regulation, they wouldn’t be pushing that other bill, the one that further guts the SCC and adds substantial customer costs in the name of green virtue.

During the hearing Monday night State Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford, was quite open in chastising the various environmental advocates for talking out of both sides of their mouths, worrying about the ratepayer in one discussion but not the other. He was right. If you want Virginia energy regulation done correctly, it needs to be done correctly in all instances.  Continue reading

Bacon Bits on the Bay

Trophy rockfish from the good old days

By DJ Rippert

Political action regarding the Chesapeake Bay is increasing.  Here is a summary of some key issues ….

Menhaden victory. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports, “The Virginia House and Senate have passed bipartisan legislation to transfer management of Virginia’s menhaden fisheries from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).”  The long-running battle over who should regulate Virginia’s menhaden fishery has been extensively covered by Bacon’s Rebellion. You can read some of the more recent posts here, here and here. This change in regulatory venue has been long demanded by environmentalists and opposed by reduction fishery Goliath Omega Protein.

Commentary: This is a very positive change for the Chesapeake Bay. Menhaden will still be caught in Virginia waters but the regulation of that fishery will now be scientifically managed by the VMRC. The simple fact is that the Democrats have removed one corrupt burr from under the saddle of Virginia’s state government. This change in attitude was catalyzed by aggressive federal action by the Trump Administration. Good for both Virginia’s Democrats and Trump’s Commerce Department. Specific kudos to state Senator Linwood Lewis, D-Accomack, Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, Senate committee chair Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, Governor Ralph Northam, and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Continue reading

Finally Catching Up With Bacon’s Rebellion

It has taken a while, but the Washington Post has finally begin to catch on to what Steve Haner and others have been saying about the omnibus energy bill making its way through the General Assembly:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/va-democrats-push-environmental-change–but-still-in-concert-with-dominion/2020/03/01/ed0c634e-5a40-11ea-9b35-def5a027d470_story.html

SCC Raises Estimate of Clean Energy Bill Costs

By Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission staff popped up in a House of Delegates Committee Tuesday to provide another unwelcome lecture, with revised estimates on the likely cost to Dominion Energy Virginia customers of the pending omnibus clean energy legislation.

The numbers it provided to the House Labor and Commerce Committee Tuesday afternoon were higher than the estimate it provided in a Senate Committee two weeks before. That first document provided a range of from $23 to $31 per month more on 1,000 kilowatt hours of residential use. Now the SCC is saying the range is $28 to $36 per month, or $334 to $432 per year. Here’s the sheet, which looks much like the prior one. The big addition is an estimate of $4-6 per month for future energy storage.  Continue reading

Getting to a Greener World with a Win-Win Agenda

by James A. Bacon

Climate Change Alarmism is out of control. We’re being told that we have ten years to re-engineer the global energy economy or the world will reach a tipping point after which it will inevitably descend into an apocalyptic climate meltdown. A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post published an article observing that “Kids are terrified, anxious, and depressed about climate change.” Climate Alarm is feeding the anxieties of an entire generation of Greta Thunbergs, who think they have no future worth living.

There’s just no escaping it. Today we read in the Washington Post an op-ed by Parris N. Glendening, a former Maryland governor and now president of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, arguing that states (including Virginia) in the Northeast should joint the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. His rhetoric isn’t alarmist, but he advances a sweeping agenda. Not only does Glendening want more bike lanes, more walkable communities, more mass transit, and more charging stations for Electric Vehicles, he wants Americans to pay more to get them sooner than we otherwise might. Continue reading

With Friends Like These, Ratepayers in Big Trouble

By Steve Haner

If your main concern is that people pay a fair price for electricity, the best outcome of Monday’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting would be approval of the bill changing the rules on Dominion Energy Virginia’s 2021 rate review, followed by defeat or delay of the highly touted Virginia Clean Energy Act. That is also the outcome which preserves the independent authority of the State Corporation Commission.

Looks like it will be the other way around.  Continue reading

Moderation? Senate Holds Back House On Issues

By Steve Haner

With two weeks remaining in the 2020 General Assembly session, the tendency to procrastinate (and perhaps some buyer’s remorse) has several key issues still pending. Here is an update on some  previously discussed on Bacon’s Rebellion.

The moderating impact of the narrow 21-19 split in the Virginia Senate, with several of those Democrats needing to be sensitive to more rural constituencies, is on full display. The defeat of the assault weapons ban is not the only example, just the most reported example.  Continue reading

Net-Zero vs. Zero Carbon

by James A. Bacon

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an organization advocating market-based solutions to environmental issues, has taken a close look at Dominion Energy’s pledge to become a “net-zero” company by 2050. The Institute sees the company’s commitment as a positive step forward, but concludes there is less than meets the eye.

Dominion’s net-zero pledge is to significantly curtail CO2 and methane emissions from its gas-pipeline and electricity-generating operations, and to offset what remains through outside initiatives, such as capturing methane from hog and dairy farms. (For background see, “Has Dominion Gone Full Climate Change Warrior?”)

On the positive side, RMI describes Dominion’s plan as “a novel development” that extends beyond CO2, which gets most of the attention as a greenhouse gas, by addressing leaks of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas, from its roughly 100,000 miles of gas pipelines. Also worthy is the promise to invest hundreds of millions of dollars capturing methane from farm production, a source that has received little attention to date.

However, concludes the think tank, “It is important to not let Dominion’s work on methane leaks cloud larger issues. The utility’s plan to reach net zero is not the same as the zero-carbon pledges of electric utilities. … Even if Dominion plugs all the leaks in its transmission and distribution networks, its operations will still result in emissions at the point of combustion.” Continue reading