Category Archives: Environment

No Climate Crisis. Very Little Climate Change.

NOAA data, and NOAA notes that pre-1900 data is probably missing some storms. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Wednesday’s climate propaganda sermon in the Richmond Times-Dispatch focused on the most recent failure of alarmist media messaging concerning the now-completed Atlantic hurricane season, which turned out to be average. It was predicted to be far more active than average, so once again the prophets of doom were wrong.

Folks in Florida certainly had a bad year, with two of the eight U.S. hurricanes hitting vulnerable and heavily populated beaches and barrier islands. But in the Atlantic region overall, looking at decades of records, it was a typical year. There is no sign in long-range data of any increase in storm activity or intensity over time.

Predicting increased extreme weather is now the go-to move for the alarmist media. Just about every local or wire story about flood or drought or fire, extended hot days or record snows, includes a claim that climate change will bring more extreme weather. In every case, the long-term trends do not agree.  Sometimes the trend lines are down, as is the case with wildfires.

You will never read that admission about wildfires. The fact that the Times-Dispatch revisited and sought to explain away the failed hurricane prediction displayed more honesty than is usual in the media. But, then, it used an illustration that shamelessly started the storm count in the 1980s, intending to mislead readers by ignoring the whole data set you see above. Continue reading

Batting Zero on Virginia Energy Policy Reset

by Steve Haner

One year later, a series of energy policy goals for Virginia proposed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy remains just as valid and also remain unaccomplished. Gridlock has favored the flawed status quo.

Compared to a year ago, more Virginians have awakened to the reality that they will soon be forced into electric vehicles they may not want. They may be prevented from using reliable and efficient natural gas in a furnace or stove. Their monthly electric bill is growing with charges for unreliable solar and wind projects that do not work more hours than they do.

And despite all that, the weather will remain as it is, and the millennia-long relative sea level rise will stay its inexorable course. Our self-imposed energy poverty won’t stop any of that. We can rush toward that stark future or change course, the sooner the better. The checklist remains the same.

The opening paragraph of the document a year ago noted that Dominion Energy Virginia had just admitted its 176-turbine offshore wind project was going up in cost to almost $10 billion. Debate over the project and possible forms of consumer protection continues, but the dollar figures under discussion have risen again. Consumers may now be on the hook now for a share of $11.3 billion or more, amortized over decades. A total project cost of almost $14 billion is now hinted at. Continue reading

SCC Urged To Focus on Wind Construction Risk

by Steve Haner

Advocates made their case Monday for a proposed settlement that offers Virginia consumers some protection from construction cost overruns on Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed offshore wind project. Not everybody said it was superior to an earlier proposal that protected consumers from future operational failures, but all saw it as unlikely to kill the project.

The earlier approach, placing the risk of operational failure over 30 years on the utility, was going to kill the project, the utility claimed. The utility stood by that threat in the hearing in front of the Virginia State Corporation Commission. But the company is willing to risk its shareholders’ money on its ability to complete the project on time and on budget, its attorney told the Commission.

There was no indication during the hearing when a decision would come. The two judges could leave their original order unchanged or issue a new one based on the proposed agreement between Dominion, Attorney General Jason Miyares (R), two environmental groups and Walmart, one of Dominion’s largest commercial customers.

Other parties, including representatives for major industry and the SCC staff, didn’t sign the stipulation. Nor did they oppose it, and Commissioner Judith Jagdmann polled them one by one.

Two conclusions are evident from the hearing. First, all the parties to the new approach took Dominion’s threat to kill the project at face value and that is what backed them down, including Miyares. He had Deputy Attorney General Steven Popps appear at the hearing, not just consumer section chief Meade Browder, to emphasize his (Miyares’) desire to save the project in a closing statement. Continue reading

East Coast Ocean Wind Projects Faltering

Not an offshore wind project. Just a cool picture from Germany last week.

by Steve Haner

In recent days several proposed offshore wind projects, which unlike Virginia’s are not guaranteed by captive ratepayers, are showing cracks in their pylons.

Multinational developer Avangrid recently told Massachusetts regulators that its proposed 1.2 gigawatt Commonwealth Wind project is no longer economically viable. It seems to be seeking to renegotiate the power purchase agreement for more money because the electricity price it promised in the contract is being eroded by rising costs and interest rates.

Then the developer of a smaller Massachusetts project, 400 megawatt Mayflower Wind, made a similar announcement. An EE News Energy Wire story on both can be found here and included this:

Avangrid’s warning — echoed in part days later by Mayflower Wind, the developer of the state’s other upcoming offshore wind project — is the strongest signal yet that a chilling trend on renewable energy projects may migrate into the offshore wind sector.

Continue reading

Miyares Retreats from Wind Performance Standard

Dominion’s proposed wind project off Virginia Beach.. Scale is correct and a second tranche is planned.

by Steve Haner

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

The big risk with Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned offshore wind extravaganza has always been that either the wind out in the Atlantic blows too little or it blows too much. Too little and the ratepayers are paying an inordinate amount for intermittent electricity; too much (a major hurricane say) and the turbines could be damaged or destroyed.

Because the monopoly utility will own the project, not a third party energy developer, all that risk lands on its ratepayers. The State Corporation Commission sought to protect Virginia ratepayers from the risk. That was the point of its imposition of a performance standard on the project tied to its overall energy output.

That is the risk Dominion’s leadership refused to accept, threatening to kill the $9.8 billion project entirely. It was not an idle threat.

Now Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) has a new proposal which protects Dominion and its shareholders from that risk after all, putting it back squarely on the utility’s 2.5 million customers. Instead, the person charged by law as the protector of Virginia consumers is focused on the risk of construction cost overruns. Continue reading

Good Energy Plan But It Needs to Pass

The energy cliff created if Virginia actually closes all its natural gas plants as the current law requires. Source: Youngkin’s Energy Plan using Dominion Energy data.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

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

In his newly released energy plan, Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) makes it clear he sees the economic abyss created by the unrealistic and ideological green utopia demanded by his predecessor. Seeing a looming disaster and stopping it are two different things.

The new document is not a full 180-degree change from the previous plan concocted by former Governor Ralph Northam (D). For example, Youngkin is not reversing his previous endorsement of Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned $10 billion offshore wind project, a central part of the Northam plan. Also, Youngkin apparently is sufficiently convinced that carbon dioxide is harmful that he wants to spend your money on carbon capture and storage.

Nor does Youngkin call for outright repeal of the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), but rather he endorses removing its rigid mandates as to how rapidly to retire fossil fuel energy generation, and its mandatory replacement with wind, solar and related battery technology. The problem is that even tweaks require amending state law, and previous efforts to do that were thwarted by the Democrats who still control the Virginia Senate and who still accept the Green New Deal catechism in full. Continue reading

Solar Farms Trump Environmental Justice in Virginia

Dominion’s Amazon Solar Farm in Pittsylvania County – Courtesy New York Times.

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia is a solar energy boom state.

The Commonwealth ranked 4th in total generating capacity of new solar installations in 2020. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in 2021 ranked Virginia 6th nationally for projected growth in solar capacity over the next 5 years.

The left is consumed by concern for environmental justice. Except when it isn’t. Like when it wants green energy.

Take the location of utility-scale (>5 MW) solar farms in Virginia. Virtually all of them were sited during the administrations of Democratic governors. Each was subject to environmental reviews by multiple agencies of the state government, coordinated by the Department of Environmental Quality.

And yet let’s look where they have been built and are planned.

Places like Emporia. Places like Essex, Buckingham, Charlotte and Lunenburg Counties where new solar farms are under development.

Environmental justice did not make the cut during the Northam and McAuliffe administrations’ rush for green energy.

Poor, rural Black people, and Republicans, apparently needed to take one for the team. Continue reading

Progressive Initiatives in Virginia to be Blocked by Environmental Laws?

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes we are too clever for our own good.

American environmentalists have been hugely successful and have done a great deal of good. We have them to thank for cleaner water and air.

But traditional environmentalists, supported by legal interests, incorporated two features in America’s environmental laws that may prove as fatal to progressive goals going forward as they were to major polluters in the past:

  1. They required environmental reviews by regulators; and
  2. They allowed (encouraged, actually) citizen lawsuits to challenge in federal court the findings of regulators they thought they could not always trust to shut down “bad” projects. Laws permitting citizen lawsuits include, among others, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Traditional environmentalists — those who sought clean water and air and protection for endangered species — did not foresee the trouble that would come from both government bureaucracies and the courts to threaten modern-day progressive climate-change projects.

The legal interests foresaw spectacular profits in the lawsuits, regardless of outcomes. These were civil cases, in which attorneys billed not-for-profit plaintiffs by the hour regardless of outcome, because there are no civil damages available. But, unsurprisingly, attorneys fees are recoverable.

Now Virginia is ground zero as those features for traditional environmentalists have turned into bugs for progressives. Continue reading

Legislators MIA on Wind Performance Standard

Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax

by Steve Haner

In the ongoing debate over Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed $10 billion offshore wind project, focus should remain on the people truly responsible for undercutting State Corporation Commission authority to protect consumers: the legislators who passed provisions in the code the utility interprets as a rubber stamp for its proposals.  Continue reading

Coalition Exploring Lawsuit to Challenge CVOW

The following news release has been issued by the Thomas Jefferson Institute along with other coalition partners. 

A coalition of public interest groups – The Heartland Institute, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), and the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP) – announced in late September that it has hired counsel to explore a lawsuit protecting the right whale from Dominion Energy Virginia’s efforts to place an offshore wind (OSW) project directly in their habitat off the coast of Virginia. Continue reading

The Greens, Their Quiet Partners, and Trains

by James C. Sherlock

I love trains. Always have.

Took my first train ride at a very young age with my mother and brother from D.C. to Birmingham to visit mom’s family.

After the Navy, my private sector work was based in McLean. I had regular business in New York  I took Amtrak whenever feasible.

Trains on the eastern corridor of Amtrak are powered by electricity currently provided by gas-fired power plants. There is a faltering and breathtakingly expensive attempt in California to create a high-speed electric rail system. That is pretty much it for electric trains other than short-haul commuters.

But the freight rail locomotives that transport 43% of America’s long-haul freight and Amtrak passenger locomotives outside Amtrak’s Northeast corridor are powered by diesel. Lots of it.

Axios reported in August that “High-speed rail remains a faraway dream in Virginia.” In dreamy progressive fashion, that article reported “costs” of overseas high-speed train trips as if they included only the costs of the passenger tickets.

Nice try.

The damn-the-torpedoes greens, and the commercial interests that hope to get unimaginably wealthy feeding their obsessions, will leave no stone unturned or dollar unspent to transform trains to electric.

Virginia, of course, has its own “not-for-profit” pushing the profitable part of that agenda. Continue reading

Dominion is Keeping Whale Data Secret, Too

Click for expanded view. Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

Secrecy abounds around the monster offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy. In this case the hidden data is about the threat to the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

I earlier reported on the big hidden whale study done by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is doing the Environment Impact Assessment for this huge project.

Digging into Dominion’s filing with BOEM I found something even worse. Dominion has done an actual threat assessment, but it is 100% secret! This is outrageous.

Here is a bit of background so folks can dig for themselves. There is a lot to look at. BOEM has a separate website on this monster OSW project, which would be one of the world’s largest. The project is titled Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind or CVOW. Dominion has submitted a large set of documents in what is called the Construction and Operations Plan or simply the COP. The COP is here.

There is a long main report plus 32 technical appendices. My endangered whale interest was immediately drawn to “Appendix R: Threatened and Endangered Species Review.” It is here, and the title indicates it reports on any and all species on those lists for protection. Continue reading

Sinking the Newest Sea Level Rise Exaggerations

NOAA chart of relative sea level rise at Sewell’s Point in Norfolk, showing a rate of 1.56 feet in rise per century, far lower than alarmist modelers project.

by Steve Haner

So, let me get this straight.  If we willingly keep paying the carbon tax on our electric bills, then thousands of parcels of prime Virginia waterfront won’t slip beneath the waves? Was that the point of these parallel prophecies of doom in the September 12 Richmond Times-Dispatch and Virginia Mercury? Continue reading

SCC Can Set CVOW Wind Performance Standard

by Steve Haner

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

Despite Dominion Energy Virginia’s complaints that the Virginia State Corporation Commission has exceeded its authority, a legal analysis provided by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy finds that the SCC’s proposed performance standard for an offshore wind project is proper. Continue reading

Consequences of the Zero Carbon Fantasy

By Steve Haner

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

Virginians may finally be waking up to the consequences of the headlong rush to adopt utopian energy policies under our previous governor. The issues are getting more attention than ever before, and now people need to realize that all the issues are really just one issue.

  • A California regulatory board’s decision to ban new gasoline vehicle sales by 2035 is finally being widely reported as binding on Virginia. This has angered many but was actually old news. Under a 2021 Virginia law, our Air Pollution Control Board had already imposed the future sales restrictions, and it was some new amendments that sparked the news coverage. Various political leaders have now promised to stop it but a bill to reverse it died in the 2022 General Assembly when Democrats rallied to save the mandate.
  • Our dominant electric utility has finally acknowledged that its planned $10 billion offshore wind facility is a gigantic financial risk and is now refusing to build it unless the State Corporation Commission (SCC) places 100 percent of the construction and performance risk on its customers. Dominion Energy Virginia knows many things about this proposal it has not told us.
  • Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) is trying to remove Virginia from an interstate compact that mandates a carbon tax on electricity, imposed under former Governor Ralph Northam (D). Advocates for the tax are pushing back and will fight, delay and likely sue to preserve the tax, which costs Virginians $300 million per year at current levels and will continue to rise. Without explanation, the Governor did not keep his initial promise to promulgate an emergency regulation that could remove it quickly, so the tax lingers.
  • Governor Youngkin has opened the process for developing a revised statewide energy plan document, a political process to produce what in the past has been merely a political document. The public comment portal has already become an ideological fistfight. Northam’s 2018 plan had no engineering or economic detail.  It simply praised the legislative efforts to erase fossil fuels which had been adopted to that point and outlined the next steps his administration would take (couched as recommendations.)

Continue reading