Category Archives: Environment

Wind: SCC Rejects Deal Signed By Its Staff

Click for larger view. Source: Dominion

by Steve Haner

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

Rejecting an agreement that its own staff reached with Dominion Energy Virginia, the State Corporation Commission has imposed at least some level of financial risk on the utility’s shareholders should its $10 billion offshore wind project fail to match the company’s promised performance.

Lest you think that means the ratepayers can relax, the long final order issued August 5 once again highlights all the things that could go wrong with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, scheduled to be fully operational by 2027. The regulators also wash their hands of any responsibility and record for posterity that the Virginia General Assembly made them approve this. Continue reading

Blue Crabs Smiling

by Jim McCarthy

The image of Nero fiddling while Rome was ablaze may be apocryphal, but the moral is clear: pay attention to your surroundings. It’s been nearly four weeks since the announcement that the sperm capacity of Chesapeake blue crabs has been found to be in decline, threatening the viability (motility?) of the crustacean’s population. However, not a word has been reported in the interim on BR while its diverse contributors and commenters bloviate about favored topics and clever names to call those who dare to offer their versions of bloggery wisdom. Lesser such crises have been sufficient to call a special session of the General Assembly.

Fourteen years ago, JAB wistfully mourned childhood memories about blue crab fishing as two state governors – Tim Kaine and Martin O’Malley – announced that the Chesapeake crab population had sustained a significant decline. The BR appeal drew not a single comment from readers although the platform was already six years old at the time.

Thirty years ago, Maryland officially adopted Callinectes sapidus (Greek for beautiful swimmer) as the state crustacean and honors that nomination by providing license plates with a crab image. Over time, Virginia’s neighbor has developed a well-orchestrated campaign to ensure its imprimatur upon the blue crab, at times relegating the Old Dominion to the status of a lesser attractive jurisdiction. Continue reading

Salvation for the Mountain Valley Pipeline?

MVP route map. Click for larger view. Source: MVP

by Steve Haner

And now, from our “I’ll believe it when I see it” department, comes the expectation that passage of President Joe Biden’s new corporate tax hike and green energy incentives package will be followed by a smooth path to completion for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for natural gas.

The topic is everywhere today because Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., included it as a deal point on a summary of what he sees as agreed outcomes from his decision to support the package. But the massive bill does not (and could not) include blanket approval of the pipeline among its provisions.

Instead there is reportedly a side agreement, and future legislation and administrative actions are expected to smooth federal permitting processes for energy projects, including the fossil fuel projects hated by the climate- catastrophe priesthood. A key element would remove the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals from hearing the multitude of pipeline lawsuits and move them to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The 303-mile pipeline stretching from gas fields in West Virginia to Chatham, Virginia, where it ties into an existing natural gas trunk line, is largely complete but is still fighting for permits to cross various wetlands and federal properties. Already about four years behind schedule, the developers are asking for another four years to get the job done. Continue reading

Wojick on Whales III: The Noisy Driving of Piles

Tethys, wife of Oceanus and mother of the river gods.

by David Wojick

The Virginia wind-versus-whales story has taken a turn for the worse. Worse for the severely endangered Right Whales that is. My research has found what may be some really bad news.

Meet Tethys. Not the real Tethys, the mythical Greek Titan of the sea, but the U.S. Department of Energy’s center for reporting research on the environmental impact of energy technology on sea life, including whales. This is the science side of DOE (where I used to work), not the Ocean Energy development side. Continue reading

Solar Development Continues to Erode VA Farmland

by Barbara Hollingsworth

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginia lost about 2,000 acres of productive farmland per week in 2021, according to data released in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are many reasons why farmers sell off their land, including development pressures, lack of interest by younger members of farming families, and the difficulties of turning a profit in the face of ever-changing market and weather conditions.

But there is now a new threat to Virginia’s agricultural base, which has a $70 billion economic impact on the commonwealth annually, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau. Continue reading

Bill to Bury Fauquier Powerline Comes to You

Various proposed power line routes from Warrenton’s Blackwell Road substation. Dominion illustration. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

One of the key skills in politics is to make your constituents happy with money provided from those far, far away. It is happening again as Fauquier County’s leaders want the General Assembly to force all Dominion Energy Virginia’s ratepayers to pay to bury a 230-kv power line out of sight from their voters.  Continue reading

Wojick on Whales II: Missing BOEM Report?

by David Wojick

In my previous article I raised this question: what is the potential adverse impact of Virginia’s massive offshore wind project on the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales? Answering this basic question should be a central feature of the upcoming Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) required for the wind project by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The 70-ton North Atlantic Right Whales migrate through Virginia’s offshore waters twice a year, making the impact of these proposed huge offshore wind projects a serious question. I have been doing some digging, and the results are puzzling. We may have some secret science going on.

To begin with, while there has been a lot of research on these whales, it has almost all been done in their northern and southern habitat zones. There is almost nothing on migration, even though migration is especially dangerous for any critters that do it, whales included.

So, it is not clear that we even have a clear picture of how they migrate through the waters where these massive wind projects are proposed. A lot of the risk depends on how they migrate, and we seem not to know much about that.

I say we “seem not to know” because someone in the federal government may actually know more than they are prepared to divulge. This is where it gets puzzling, as follows. Continue reading

How’s Your Climate Emergency Going? Hanging In?

by Steve Haner

How is your climate emergency going so far? We seem to be hanging in well at my house.

The media hype around this fairly typical July hot spell has been off the charts, but my favorite headline of the season appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (home of at least one climate jeremiad per day) weeks ago: “Extreme weather hits every U.S. region and won’t let up.” Such an honest example of the game being played demands recognition. Continue reading

Five Reasons to Reject Offshore Wind

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Researchers at the University of Virginia are part of an ongoing effort to redesign wind turbines to be both more efficient and better protected from storm-scale winds, as described in this video you can find on a university website.

What is the problem to be addressed? Says one of the engineers:

As you get these larger wind turbines, your blades end up becoming more flexible and if you’re upwind then when the wind comes in and hits those blades, they can curve backwards and then it can hit that tower and destroy the entire turbine.

 You can see an example of that happening on the video. It is not just theory. Continue reading

Wind Farm Threat to Whales is Next Big Argument

Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

The massive offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy may pose a serious threat to the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale population. A comprehensive environmental impact assessment is required to determine the extent of this threat and the mitigation it might require. The same is true for the other proposed Mid-Atlantic OSW projects.

The North Atlantic Right Whale is reported to be the world’s most endangered large whale, with an estimated population of just a few hundred critters. They winter off of Florida and Georgia, but summer off New England.  They migrate through the coastal waters off of Virginia twice a year, including that year’s baby whales. They can grow to over 50 feet in length and weigh more than 70 tons. Protecting them is a major challenge.  Continue reading

Can Dominion Be Made To Stand Behind Promises?

Perhaps the biggest weather risk to the performance of Dominion’s planned offshore wind project. In all the briefs about mitigating risk, the word hurricane appears once.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. Second of two articles.

In promoting its proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, Dominion Energy Virginia has made many specific projections about its costs and performance. The State Corporation Commission is now being advised to convert one or more of them into binding promises, with financial consequences for the utility and its shareholders if the 176 turbines fail to meet expectations.

As noted in previous discussions, including part one yesterday, Dominion’s 2.6 million Virginia customers are fully exposed to any additional costs created if the construction schedule falters, if material costs explode, tax credits disappear, or if the amount of energy provided over the next 25-30 years fails to meet targets. As also previously reported, no other similar project on the U.S. East Coast is structured to put full risk on customers. Continue reading

Offshore Wind Risks Stressed in SCC Briefs

The footprint for Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, 27 miles off Virginia Beach.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. First of two articles, with the second coming tomorrow.  

Virginia’s State Corporation Commission has now received a series of legal briefs offering opinions on what steps, under the law, it can take to protect Dominion Energy Virginia consumers from the massive risks facing its proposed offshore wind facility. Those risks range from cost overruns to poor energy output to failure.

All the parties asked responded that the SCC did have some authority to act and somewhat shift the risk. The utility had a more limited view. But the legal question is truly secondary, and the real question is whether two judges will take actions to protect consumers when their elected representatives openly and knowingly left them so exposed. Continue reading

Hurricanes: Dominion’s Big Bet With Our Money

By David Wojick

My regular readers know that I have been fussing about the threat of hurricanes destroying proposed Atlantic coast offshore wind arrays. The issue arises because the offshore wind industry is based in Europe, which does not get hurricanes. My focus has been Dominion’s massive project off Virginia, but the whole East Coast is hurricane alley.

Now I have found some research that actually quantifies the threat and it is very real. It looks like wind generators will have to be redesigned specifically to withstand hurricanes. In fact, that work is underway. In the meantime we should not be building conventional offshore wind towers. Continue reading

Youngkin Now All-In on Offshore Wind

Gov. Glenn Youngkin

by Steve Haner

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s media spokesperson has told the Associated Press that not only is he committed to the current Dominion Energy Virginia offshore wind project, now under State Corporation Commission review, he is also willing to consider additional turbines off Virginia’s coast.

The Republican had campaigned a year ago expressing concerns for the consumer price impact of the mandatory renewable energy conversions in the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020.  The offshore wind proposal, currently slated to cost $10 billion for just the first tranche, is the largest driver of that expected consumer cost increase.  Continue reading

California Proposing More EV Rules for Virginia

Now the powerful regulator of Virginia’s vehicles sales and emissions, thanks to the General Assembly.

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s auto industry overlords in California have a new set of proposed mandates for both electric and internal combustion vehicles which, once adopted, will automatically apply here in the Commonwealth.  They do not advance the date for banning the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles earlier than 2035 but do increase the incremental targets for percentage of EV sales in earlier years. Continue reading