Category Archives: Environment

Repeal the Clean Economy Act

by Bill O’Keefe

The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) mandates a plan for the Commonwealth electric grid to become carbon free. It is one of the most ambitious climate policies adopted by any state. Dominion Energy is the primary vehicle for achieving the carbon free goal.

There is only one reason for such an ambitious, costly, and risky policy. The General Assembly and the Governor accept the narrative that climate change is caused by fossil energy use and is a foreseeable existential threat. Is it, and is VCEA the best strategy for responding?

There are strong reasons to doubt that the “Climate Crisis” is in fact an existential crisis or that the Commonwealth has adopted the most efficient and cost-effective strategy for dealing with whatever  climate problem actually exists.

Almost all that policy makers and legislators know about climate change comes from interpretations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) and its periodic reports.  For the most part, decision makers are provided papers and briefings on what the IPCC has concluded, primarily from its Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). It will come as a surprise to learn that the Summary for Policy Makers does not necessarily reflect what is contained in the underlying scientific assessment. Continue reading

Dominion Takes $206M From You Off the Top

by Steve Haner

As of late 2020, Dominion Energy Virginia had forgiven $206 million in unpaid electric bills for customers financially stressed by last year’s COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Those unpaid bills are not being covered by any of the billions in federal COVID emergency funding, nor are stockholders eating a loss.

We, the other Dominion customers, will pay them. As reported last year, this was decided by the Virginia General Assembly. How it happens is about to unfold.

The $206 million figure is prominently featured in Dominion’s initial filing in its pending triennial financial review by the State Corporation Commission, which actually covers a four-year period ending with 2020. The amount of bill relief is directly deducted from any calculation of excess profits, dollars which otherwise might justify rebates or even a rate cut.

This will be the first official review of the company’s cost of service and earnings since 2015, the hiatus being another little gift to the Dominion stockholders from legislators. It is a long and sordid tale how we got here, too often told. Thanks to a bipartisan fondness among legislators for accounting rules that favor Dominion, there may no way the SCC can order the company to pay rebates to us or cut our rates, excess profits notwithstanding. Continue reading

SCC Starts Review of Dominion Wind Proposal

by Steve Haner

Acting on its own initiative, the State Corporation Commission has established a docket to consider the coming application from Dominion Energy Virginia for its massive offshore wind proposal, the centerpiece of Virginia Democrats’ plan to save us all from catastrophic climate change.

Earlier this month, the utility started the federal review process with a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for the project. The clock on the first round of comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management runs out August 2.

If Dominion builds all future planned phases, a full 5,200 megawatts, the sticker price is more than $17 billion, which with profit and financing costs will ding customers in total $37 billion over a few decades.

In its July 26 order establishing the case, the SCC outlined a series of questions the utility will need to answer in its application when it comes. The questions provide just a glimpse into the issues that will develop in what may soon be recognized as the Second Battle of the Virginia Capes.

Cost is front and center:

What is the total cost and the lifetime revenue requirement of the transmission necessary to bring the energy generated by the OSW Project to shore? Of this total lifetime revenue requirement, how much is investment, and how much is the Company’s projected return on equity? Identify the rate recovery mechanism(s) Dominion proposes or will propose to use to recover such costs from eligible customers…. Continue reading

These Two Electric Chargers Ran Out of Gas, So to Speak

Out of Order

I’m just back from a trip to Virginia Beach on a media tour of Dominion Energy’s two experimental offshore wind turbines. I’ll have more to say about them shortly. As for the subject of this post… Driving home, I stopped at the Interstate 64 rest stop between West Point and Richmond. Very conveniently for drivers of electric vehicles, the rest stop sports two EV fast-charging stations. Recharge your car while you’re taking a leak!

Dominion Energy installed the fast-charging station in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2009, according to this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was to be the first of many.

Correction: The original version of this post made the inaccurate assumption that these charging stations were part of a recent Northam administration initiative with Los Angeles-base EVgo funded from a Volkswagen settlement. Bacon’s Rebellion regrets the error. But Bacon’s Rebellion still wonders who paid for the charging stations — Dominion rate payers or shareholders — and how long they have been out of order.

— JAB

With Defeat in Connecticut, Will Virginia Drop TCI?

By Steve Haner

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

Why do Virginia’s leaders run away from the Transportation and Climate Initiative? Could it be because the first state legislature to consider it, in reliably Democratic Connecticut, just adjourned without even taking a vote on the proposed carbon tax compact, despite strong support from Democratic Governor Ned Lamont?

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has called a June 24 public meeting to discuss efforts to ramp down carbon dioxide emissions from transportation sources, but it made no mention of the pending TCI interstate compact. Instead it focused on the General Assembly’s approved 2045 goal of “net zero” emissions in all sectors of the economy, including transportation. Continue reading

Trees and the Chesapeake Bay

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There was a scuffle on this blog a few days ago over the production of more hardwood seedlings by the Department of Forestry. There were some who questioned the efficacy of planting more trees in the attempt to mitigate climate change. Others questioned why the state should be subsidizing the production of seedlings in the first place.

Being an ardent fan of trees, I was intrigued, and I contacted the Department of Forestry to get some more background on the program. After getting the agency’s answers to my questions, I realized there is a bigger issue at play.

The bigger issue is the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The health of the Bay is affected by point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution. We have been able to deal fairly effectively with point source pollution, such as the discharges from wastewater treatment plants. Nonpoint source pollution is much trickier. Agricultural runoff and erosion constitute a large portion of the nonpoint source pollution affecting the Bay. Continue reading

In What World of Crazy Is There a Seedling Shortage?

August Forestry Center manager Josh McLaughlin at state seedling farm. Photo credit: Virginia Mercury

by James A. Bacon

Environmentalists say there are two ways to combat rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to combat change. One is to reduce emissions, the other is to sequester more carbon. Trees are powerful carbon-sequestration devices, and they don’t require a lot of fancy technology. So, environmentalists say Americans should grow more trees.

So far, so good.

“But every tree starts with a seed,” reports The Virginia Mercury. “To sequester carbon in millions of acres of forest proliferate, many forestry experts say the existing supply of seedlings falls short of what will be needed to meet ambitious climate change goals.”

Wait… What? There’s a seedling shortage?

Indeed there is, according to Chandler Van Voorhis, co-founder and managing partner of ACRE Investment Management headquartered in The Plains, in Fauquier County. “What’s become painfully obvious is there’s just not enough hardwood seedling capacity out there. There’s plenty of pine, but pine’s not what people are looking for.” Continue reading

TCI Debate Rages in Comments on Proposed Rule

by Steve Haner

The political wannabes in both parties and the state’s media are continuing to ignore it, but the argument over the proposed motor fuel carbon tax called the Transportation and Climate Initiative rages in comments on the proposal flowing into its advocates.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute has also launched a short video (above), perhaps just the first, to alert the public through more populist means. It features owners of two regional fuel businesses, well known as major local employers and taxpayers. Without doubt, Virginia’s membership in TCI would shrink and perhaps severely damage those businesses.

The video was actually ready to use had the 2021 General Assembly taken up the issue, but Governor Ralph Northam did not ask for legislative permission to join the interstate compact involved. The state remains involved in the planning for the cap and tax and ration scheme, now set for 2023 in the states who agree to the compact.

If put in place, all fuel Virginia wholesalers would need to buy government-issued allowances to sell gasoline or diesel, in effect a carbon tax. The amount of allowances will be frozen to prevent the any growth in fuel sales, and then decline annually to force down consumption, in effect rationing.  Continue reading

Only You Can Prevent Mega Fires

Controlled fire on Summers Mountain in Highland County. Photo credit: Virginia Mercury

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s environmentalists seem determined to out-California California when it comes to fighting global warming and pushing for a zero-carbon economy. But they do seem unlikely to repeat the colossal error that has made the Golden State a cauldron of forest fire infernos. Rather than let understory vegetation grow out of control, Virginia foresters have been practicing “controlled burning” — a practice that is written about approvingly in The Virginia Mercury, which reflects the thinking of the bien pensants in Virginia’s environmental community.

Virginia has many advantages over California when it comes to combating forest fires. We get more rain, and we have fewer and shallower droughts. But our biggest advantage may be that our environmentalists are not insane. Excessively fixated upon climate change, perhaps, but not totally disconnected from reality. Continue reading

Legislative Bamboozle and Blind Faith

Globe on fire

by Bill O’Keefe

The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) establishes a mandatory renewable portfolio standard (RPS) program that requires Dominion Energy to deliver electricity from 100% renewable sources by 2045. Let this sink in. Legislation passed and signed into law in 2020 imposes a mandated outcome for 25 years hence even though the legislators who voted for VCEA had no idea how it was to be achieved. They either believed that the private sector would invent the technology, independent of cost, or that the threat of extinction from climate change was so serious that a way would be found to head it off. More than likely, they didn’t give the “how” question or the question of cost much thought. Theirs was a crusade.

Hair on fire

It is probably true that if cost and cost-effectiveness are ignored Dominion Energy can find a way to satisfy the legislative mandate. Its plan to build the nation’s largest wind farm shows that it knows how to think big and will get its customers to pay the price in terms of higher rates to buy the needed technology. If Dominion can find a way to avoid shuttering it nuclear and natural gas power generation it will at least have a fall back strategy. Pleasing legislators obviously has a higher priority than cost-effect and reliable electric power.

Before it is too late, legislators and Dominion customers might benefit from a dose of reality. Germany which has been a leader in the move from fossil energy to wind and solar may well be the canary in the mine. Continue reading

TCI Model Rule Ready for Study, Comment

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  (Happy birthday, Mr. President.)

Read the governing document for the Transportation and Climate Initiative and it becomes clear there is more going on than just an effort to reduce motor fuel use with a combination of taxes and shrinking caps. That may really be a secondary goal. Continue reading

Virginia Democrats Govern in the Service of Dogma and Power

by James C. Sherlock

Karl Marx

Socialism and communism are so 19th and 20th centuries.  

Under socialism, individuals would still own property. But industrial production, which was the chief means of generating wealth, was to be communally owned and managed by a democratically elected government.

Socialists sought change and reform, but sought to make those changes through democratic processes within the existing social and political structure, not to overthrow that structure.  Socialism was to be based on the consent of the governed. Communism sought the elimination of personal property and the violent overthrow of existing social and political structures.

So what has changed for today’s progressives who have taken over the Democratic party, especially in Virginia? 

A lot. Continue reading

Podcast: How the General Assembly Has Changed

By Peter Galuszka

I haven’t contributed much to BR lately since I am slammed with non-Virginia work. I did manage to help out on a Podcast about how the General Assembly has changed the state over the last two years as Democrats have gained power.

This Podcast is produced by WTJU, the University of Virginia radio station. I do a weekly talk show on state politics and economics and, on occasion, work on Podcasts.

Joining me is Sally Hudson, a delegate from the Charlottesville area. She is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics. Sally studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford and is one of the youngest members of the General Assembly.

I hope you enjoy it.

Surprise! State Underestimated Carbon Tax Cost

by Steve Haner

Virginia has collected its first wave of carbon taxes from the state’s electricity generators, costs which will eventually show up on future bills. The $43.6 million take just about doubles the revenue estimates used when participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was being approved by the Virginia General Assembly last year. Surprise!   Continue reading

Centuries of Energy Already Sitting in Cans

“Slightly Used” Nuclear Fuel Storage Casks.

by Steve Haner

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

If you are serious about making electricity without carbon emissions and also serious about making enough electricity to run a real economy 24-7-365, the discussion keeps coming back to nuclear energy. It is the obvious choice if you believe we must eliminate natural gas soon.  Continue reading