Category Archives: Regulation

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

Don’t Blame Northam for Virginia Medicine’s Structural Flaws

Governor Northam when announcing stay-at-home order this morning.

by James C. Sherlock

I have to give Governor Ralph Northam a partial pass on a key issue. Much of the criticism directed at him is for actions or inactions that are based on incomplete data and, as a a consequence, incompletely informed staff assessments concerning the business of healthcare in this state. That is a structural problem in state government, not a leadership problem.

The Department of Health is not designed as a crisis action agency and has no authority to oversee Virginia’s healthcare system as an industry. It administers Certificate of Public Need regulations and oversees the practice of medicine, not the business of medicine. No agency regulates that business except in the narrowly focused and demonstrably failed COPN system. There is no such regulation because Virginia’s integrated health systems don’t want their businesses to be regulated, and not any other reason.

Virginia’s Board of Health is not designed or populated to function in a crisis and it hasn’t in this one (See this post from Feb. 22). The public health issues addressed by the Virginia State Board of Health include the prevention and control of chronic disease, not pandemics. 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

Options Available for Waiving Federal Healthcare Laws

James C. Sherlock

I provide here an update on the status of waivers of federal health care laws in response to the COVID-19 crisis. All of the source materials are official government websites.

On March 13, President Trump declared a public health emergency under the authority vested in him by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the National Emergencies Act.

Under that proclamation, the Secretary of HHS has exercised the authority under section 1135 of the SSA to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule throughout the duration of the public health emergency declared in response to the COVID‑19 outbreak. Continue reading

Worst Possible Time for a Minimum Wage Hike

by James A. Bacon

As Virginia businesses contend with event cancellations, widespread self-isolation, and other fallout from the COVID-19 epidemic, Governor Ralph Northam has a critical decision to make: Does he sign minimum wage legislation into law or not?

Even as the epidemic began spreading in the United States earlier this month, the General Assembly saw fit to pass a law that will increase the state minimum wage in increments from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2023. Business lobbies opposed the legislation on the grounds that it would impose a crushing burden on many businesses, especially those that employed low-skilled workers.

Now, some two weeks later, public concern about the epidemic is focusing on the economic impact of the social-distancing strategies pursued to contain the spread of the virus. Here in Virginia the hospitality, retail, and restaurant industries are expected to get hammered as people curtail travel and dining out, and as emergency measures severely restrict business operations. Continue reading

Another Critical Coronavirus Graph

By DJ Rippert

Timing. As Jim Bacon wrote, “Now comes COVID-19. Everyone is in a blind panic. The concern may be overwrought, whipped up by the media. Or maybe things could get worse than anyone could imagine. Nobody knows. Uncertainty reigns.” Jim is right. Uncertainty does reign. But what are the costs of indecision if things do get worse than anybody can imagine? The graph at the left qualitatively describes how early action can change the shape of the infection curve and avoid a peak that overwhelms our health care system. Do Virginia’s leaders understand this?

Continue reading

Electric Yellow School Buses? Pure Green Grease

By Steve Haner

Having voted to give Dominion Energy Virginia a blank check to spend billions of your money on offshore wind turbines, the Virginia House of Delegates will vote today to provide hundreds of millions more from your pockets for electric school buses.

Last week the House defeated a similar bill, twice. It received only 35 votes the first time and 44 votes the second. The response from the utility and the Senate patron was to introduce a new bill “Thursday,” after she received unanimous consent from her fellow senators.  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

Why the Supply Shortage of Virginia Docs and Nurses?

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s political class ignores the severe shortage of doctors and nurses in Virginia — except when it actively works to make the problem worse. This essay will illuminate both the issue and the votes that rejected proven solutions in the 2020 General Assembly.

Virginia data – 2019 State Physician Workforce Report .

Physician Workforce Profile
• Virginia Population: 8,517,685
• Active physicians: 22,419
• Primary care physicians: 7,691
• Total MD or DO students: 3677
• Total Residents: 2457
• General surgeons: 623 / over age 60 – 30%
• Neurosurgeons: 132 / over age 60 – 29%
• Orthopedic surgeons: 461 / over age 60 – 43%
• Plastic surgeons: 189 / over age 60 – 41%
• Thoracic surgeons: 94 / over age 60 – 34%
• Vascular surgeons: 96 / over age 60 – 22%
• Pathologists: 258 / over age 60 – 57%
• Neurologists: 338 / over age 60 – 42%
• Preventive medicine: 229 / over age 60 – 52%
• Pulmonologists: 117 / over age 60 – 71% Continue reading

How Virginia Blocks Healthcare Innovation

Crushing innovation

by James C. Sherlock

Jason Hwang and Clay Christensen in 2008 published “Disruptive Innovation In Health Care Delivery: A Framework For Business-Model Innovation.”[1] They observed, “Health care remains expensive and inaccessible to many because of the lack of business-model innovation.”

They further wrote: “It is almost requisite that any discussion about the future of health care begin with a reference to the unsustainable growth rate of U.S. medical spending. Charts and graphs expound on health care’s accelerating share of gross domestic product (GDP), depicting a voracious beast that threatens to swallow what little money remains for other vital services.”[2]

The regional monopolies that dominate Virginia healthcare are motivated by their bottom lines, not yours or the government’s. Innovation has been blocked in the Commonwealth for two familiar reasons: the high stone wall of COPN and the economic and political power of the regional monopolies that COPN has built and protects.

“In health care, most technological enablers have failed to bring about lower costs, higher quality, and greater accessibility,” Hwang and Christensen observed. “Legacy institutions of health care delivery are jumbled mixtures of multiple business models struggling to delivery value out of chaos.”[3]

The most profound examples of conflicting business models in healthcare are vertically integrated health systems. 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

Virginia’s Top Employment Cop Adds Enforcers

Virginia’s Powerful Top Employment Cop, Attorney General Mark R. Herring

By Steve Haner

The final state budget is still in negotiation, but it could add as many as five new enforcement staff to the Office of the Attorney General to seek out and prosecute discrimination in Virginia’s workplaces, using old and new definitions of what is prohibited. The price tag looks to be about $600,000 per year.

The Virginia Senate proposed budget amendments to that agency’s budget for three new people to enforce two pending Senate bills. The House of Delegates budget added five new lawyers and staff, based on its versions of those same two bills plus two additional bills granting the Attorney General new tasks and powers.

Some of the bills have been discussed previously on Bacon’s Rebellion. Both the House and Senate are passing versions of the Virginia Values Act (such as House Bill 1663 ) and both have bills to prohibit and punish discrimination against pregnant workers (see House Bill 827). That bill has not been discussed, but it creates the same opportunities for the aggrieved to sue in court for actual and punitive damages.  Continue reading

The Legal Corruption of COPN

Sentara: Monolith

by James C. Sherlock

I have been asked to give examples of the corruption of administration of the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law and show how it has created and supports regional monopolies. I have chosen as my example COPN Planning District 20 which is my home area of south Hampton Roads, the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk and Portsmouth, home to more than 1.2 million people.

Sentara Health and its massive vertically integrated health system thoroughly dominate this area and the COPN process here.

Sentara has five general hospitals in south Hampton Roads: two in Norfolk, two in Virginia Beach and one in Suffolk. Portsmouth’s hospital is Bon Secours Maryview. Bon Secours also operates DePaul hospital in Norfolk. Chesapeake’s general hospital is state-chartered Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.

Bon Secours and Chesapeake Regional combined have lost money for years on their hospital operations here while Sentara hospitals have operated at double digit margins. In 2017, Sentara’s five hospitals made 87% of the operating revenue of the entire corporation. Continue reading

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