Category Archives: General Assembly

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

Budget Earmarks for Nonstate Entities

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

For many years, the most interesting and fun portion of the state Appropriation Act was a section near the end entitled, “State Grants to Nonstate Entities-Nonstate Agencies.” The 2000 Appropriation Act, appropriating almost $36 million for these nonstate entities, is a good example. It included funding for historic courthouses, local museums and historical societies, and the houses of Founding Fathers, as well as for larger, statewide museums and organizations.

Most of the amounts provided were small, especially in the context of the overall Appropriation Act. However, they were important to the local recipients and served to add to the political capital of the local legislators who sponsored the appropriations.

In 2011, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli threw what seemed to be a monkey wrench into this process. In an official opinion, he declared that such appropriations, although they may “serve noble purposes,” were in violation of the state constitution. Article IV, Section 16, of the Virginia Constitution plainly prohibits “any appropriation of public funds, personal property, or real estate…to any charitable institution which is not owned or controlled by the Commonwealth.” For years the legislature had operated under the legal fiction that such appropriations were not to “charitable” organizations, but for “historical” or “cultural” ones. Indeed the title of the budget program used for these appropriations is “Financial Assistance for Cultural and Artistic Affairs.” The Attorney General’s opinion ended that charade. 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

When Politicians Run Power Companies

Elements of Dominion Energy Virginia’s residential cost, effective July 1 and pending increases. Source: SCC Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Residential customers of Dominion Energy Virginia will soon be paying 55% more for electricity than they were when the Virginia General Assembly took over micromanaging utility regulation in 2007. The Western Virginia customers of Appalachian Power will have seen their electric bills rise by 92%.  Underlying inflation for the period has been about 43%.

If that customer uses a steady 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, buying that from Dominion costs $600 more per year than it did in 2007 and buying it from Appalachian costs $736 more. Continue reading

Secret Wind Case Documents Are Key to Appeal

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.

by Steve Haner

Now comes applicant Dominion Energy Virginia, petitioning the Virginia State Corporation Commission to reverse its recent decision to impose actual financial risk on the company and its stockholders. If a hurricane blows down its planned offshore wind farm in a few years, the related costs should be imposed 100% on its captive ratepayers, Dominion demands.

Imagine that: expecting a monopoly with a guaranteed right to earn in excess of 10% profit on a $10 billion project forced to face actual risk. What is the world coming to? Continue reading

Getting Rid of the Bad Apples

Photo credit: ABC News

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There is a tendency in government to enact reform or establish new programs and then move on. Often, there is little or no circling back, by government or the media, to examine how the changes have been implemented or what effect they have had.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I intend to discuss the implementation of some of the changes in the criminal justice system enacted by the 2020 General Assembly. As with any major changes in a complex system, two years will have been insufficient time for many major effects to become evident. However, it is fair to examine how well their implementation is progressing.

Of all the criminal justice and law-enforcement reforms considered by the General Assembly in its 2020 Special Session, the need to get the “bad apples” out of law enforcement probably was the one that attracted the most support from all factions, including the law enforcement community. Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: Wind Approved “Under Duress”

by Steve Haner

With an editorial published yesterday, The Wall Street Journal has now given its readers more insight into the risks inherent in Dominion Energy Virginia’s coming wind project than any Virginia newspaper or broadcast outlet has. It is not the kind of national spotlight Virginia should crave. Continue reading

What Surplus? Virginia Doesn’t Allow Surpluses!

Secretary of Finance Stephen Cumming’s slide showing most of the final surge of unexpected revenue before June 30 came from payments from business owners and investors. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

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

Does last week’s glowing report on Virginia’s state tax collections presage additional tax relief for struggling families? The first question is, was the news really glowing? Continue reading

The Left Never Rests (Part 3,783) – Vote Democratic

by James C. Sherlock

We have a glimpse into the near future in Virginia.

For those of my readers who thought that the left in the U.K. would sit still while the Cass Commission examines and reports on transgender care in Britain, think again.

Some transgender activists oppose the requirement for a clinical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before getting access to gender-altering drugs. They also oppose the participation of endocrinologists in the prescription of those drugs.

Takes too long. Too expensive. They might say no.

They have gotten in the U.K. what they demand. Witness a new U.K. National Health System “scheme,” as it is called, that is undoubtedly headed to the Virginia General Assembly.

It removes psychologists and psychiatrists from the loop in gender dysphoria diagnoses and gives the job to general practitioners, who can then directly prescribe hormone therapies without the participation of endocrinologists.

I reported that the Northam Administration added transgender services coverage to Medicaid on its last days in office. Is there anyone at all who doubts this new “scheme” will be added to Virginia Medicaid if the left gets in charge again? Continue reading

Higher Ed to General Assembly: More, More, More

Rendering of new Va. Tech. Data and Digital Sciences Building, (authorized 2020) Photo credit: Va Tech

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2022-2024 biennial state budget that became effective on July 1 included more than $1 billion in general fund appropriation for capital projects for institutions of higher education. This was in addition to at least $1 billion in general fund-supported appropriations in the previous biennial budget.

One would think that more than $2 billion in the last two biennial budgets would be enough to satisfy the capital needs of higher ed, at least for a while. But, as my colleagues in the Department of Planning and Budget were prone to say, “There is no satisfying higher ed.”

The ink was hardly dry on the governor’s signature on the new budget bill when higher ed institutions submitted capital budget requests totaling $3.2 billion for the amended budget to be submitted to the 2023 General Assembly, of which $2.6 billion would come from the general fund or be supported by general fund-backed bonds. Continue reading

Zombie Legislation

by Jim McCarthy

Zombies, having become popular in filmdom and TV, are finding resonance in the nation’s legislative sausage making. Generally, the term zombie legislation applies to statutes negated or consigned to death, often by federal or state court decisions, that remain on the books due to legislative lethargy. Currently, the phenomenon has become more apparent and pertinent following the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision in Dobbs v Jackson, reviving concern about related privacy precedents.

As a matter of fact, however, zombie statutes have an even older presence than 2022.

The post-Civil War amendments intended to emancipate slaves and affirm the principle that all are created equal. The Thirteenth (in precatory language) declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States,” and the Fifteenth guaranteed that the right to vote shall not be denied. Declaring slavery shall not exist as a precatory statement is not the equivalent of outlawing the practice. Just over three decades later, at the opening of the 1900s, Virginia convened a constitutional convention. One of its prominent leaders, Carter Glass (later U.S. Senator), in responding to questions about some provisions in the document as discriminatory, proclaimed:

Discrimination! What that is exactly what we propose. To remove every negro voter who can be gotten rid of, legally, without materially impairing the numerical strength of the white electorate.

Continue reading

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

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

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

Hospitals Continue to Cut Labor and Delivery and NICU Services

Credit Kylie Johnson Photography

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia and the nation continue to see the results of the baby bust.

I wrote yesterday of the baby cliff, the 15% decline in live births that started in the great recession of 2007-09. It continues. And it continues to drive change, much of it not good.

I have written here about such important hospital changes as:

  • the closing of labor and delivery services at Virginia Beach General Hospital and elsewhere in the state; and
  • the consolidation of Neo-natal ICU (NICU) services with the integration of two hospital systems into Ballad Health in Southwestern Virginia and Northeastern Tennessee.

That too is a continuing national trend.

Today’s young people of child-bearing age will find not only fewer places to deliver a child than their parents did, but also to provide specialized care if the baby needs it. Continue reading