Category Archives: Regulation

Finally, Virginia’s Political Class Starts Thinking about Grid Reliability

by James A. Bacon

At last — a serious discussion has occurred about the reliability of Virginia’s electric grid as the state moves toward zero-carbon electricity generation by 2050 (and 2045 in the Dominion Energy service territory).

Reliability was a prime topic of conversation at the third Virginia Clean Energy Summit Tuesday. A panel discussion — “Can Texas Happen in Virginia?” — focused on an issue that has gone long ignored in Virginia. (I base my commentary upon the article posted by Virginia Mercury reporter Sarah Vogelsong who attended the event.)

What happened in Texas during a deep freeze in February most likely would not happen here, panelists agreed. Virginia is different. First, its electric utilities are more tightly regulated. Second, Virginia belongs to a regional transmission organization, PJM, which would allow the state’s power companies to import electricity from outside the state should the need arise.

Some of the arguments presented are valid. Virginia has backstops that Texas did not. But Texas may not be the most valid point of comparison. Perhaps we should be looking at the calamity that is California, which also has a tightly regulated electric power industry and also imports electricity from outside the state. Indeed, when Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Younkin has warned about blackouts and brownouts in Virginia’s energy future, he was alluding to the example not of Texas but California. Continue reading

Climate Rationality Preached in a UVA Pulpit

Jason S. Johnston, Professor, University of Virginia School of Law

by Steve Haner

Efforts to rapidly expand our reliance on wind and solar generation for electricity, while at the same time closing baseload natural gas generation with similar haste, makes no sense economically. “The only explanation for that policy is you want to shut down the economy.”

Another voice of reason has emerged to challenge the climate alarmist orthodoxy, a Virginia voice,  Professor Jason S. Johnston at the University of Virginia School of Law. He brings to the discussion the experience and analysis of a regulatory law expert and economist, distilled into a somewhat daunting 656-page book published by Cambridge University Press in August.

“Climate Rationality: From Bias to Balance” (available through Amazon here) focuses at length on the legal precautionary principle behind most climate regulatory schemes, with little or no consideration taken of either the economic costs or unintended environmental consequences. He writes in an excerpt from his introduction:

The precautionary principle says little if anything about how such costs should be weighed in designing policy. But, given the highly uncertain and unpredictable future impacts of rising atmospheric GHG concentrations and the unprecedented cost of reducing GHG emissions, any rational regulatory response to curbing human GHG emissions must surely closely scrutinize the case for decarbonization. The purpose of this book is to provide precisely such an examination…

Precautionary US climate policy has already cost lives, damaged the environment, and increased costs for the basic life necessities, such as electricity, in ways that are felt most acutely by the poorest American households.

Continue reading

Dominion and Despicable Voter Suppression

So it was Dominion Energy paying for campaign ads opposing gun regulation! Here is why.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s knowing participation in an effort to suppress the November 2 vote, aimed mainly at Western Virginia Republicans, is a truly despicable act. It should enrage all Virginians, without regard to party. This is a state-created and regulated monopoly and the $200,000 it spent on this underhanded activity was provided by captive customers.

I further assert that in previous election cycles, as heavily as Dominion funded various candidates, this type of expense would not have been approved by the management, including the late Thomas Farrell. But Farrell is dead and the political deciders at the top now are both long-time partisan Democrats who fully understood they were paying for voter suppression.

I would be expressing no anger whatsoever if Dominion had merely donated $200,000 directly and openly to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. It would have been a logical move to support a former governor who strongly backed its failed natural gas pipeline project, and now has pledged to deeply enrich the company by accelerating the transition to unreliable renewable generation instead.

McAuliffe is nothing if not flexible. I used another word to describe his subservience to Dominion on Twitter yesterday and got blocked for 12 hours. Continue reading

Northam Plastics Order Will Backfire

Vassey

by Brett Vassey

Governor Northam recently issued Executive Order 77 (EO 77) mandating all state agencies (including colleges and universities) to ban purchasing or using certain plastics products (primarily foodservice and trash bags) by October 2021, ban plastic bottled water, phase out all single-use plastic items by 2025, source and use non-plastic alternatives, and compost or recycle alternative products.

EO 77 falsely assumes that alternatives to plastics will always be environmentally preferable — which is not the case. In fact, we can demonstrate that EO 77 will lead to increased landfilling, more greenhouse gas emissions, less food safety, fewer healthy food/beverage choices, accessibility barriers for the differently abled, and increased littering.

The mandate to use and procure only non-plastic alternatives does not require assessments of their environmental impacts, costs to taxpayers or consumers, recyclability, compostability, increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, small business impacts, accessibility impacts, or the unintended consequences because EO 77 bypassed public participation by sidestepping compliance with the Virginia Administrative Process Act.

We estimate that replacing 14.4 million metric tons of plastic packaging would result in more than 64 million tons of other material. This would result in a significant increase in total energy demand, water consumption, solid waste by weight and by volume, global warming potential, acidification, eutrophication, smog formation, and ozone depletion. Not exactly a net environmental benefit. Continue reading

McAuliffe Promise to Accelerate VCEA Schedule Will Accelerate VCEA Consumer Bill Increases

2020 SCC staff projection of monthly residential bill increases by 2030 for Dominion Energy Virginia customers, mainly tied to a rapid retreat from fossil fuels.

by Steve Haner

When a State Corporation Commission staff analysis warned last year of $808 annual increases in Dominion Energy Virginia residential bills by 2030, that 58% increase was based on the existing deadlines set for Dominion’s conversion away from using fossil fuels.

Change the deadlines, change the cost. Shorten the deadlines by half, as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is promising to do, and 2030 electricity costs will grow even higher.  Continue reading

Virginia’s Self-Inflicted Nursing Home Crisis – Part 3 – McAuliffe & Herring

by James C. Sherlock

In the first two parts of this series, I wrote about the shortage of state inspectors for nursing homes in the Virginia Department of Health Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC)  and the continuing danger it poses to Virginia patients.

The problem, unfortunately, is much wider than just nursing homes.  So is the scandal.

That same office inspects every type of medical facility including home care agencies as well as managed care plans. Except it cannot meet the statutory requirements because it does not have sufficient personnel or money. And it have been telling the world about it for years.

Terence Richard McAuliffe was the 72nd governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. Mark Herring has been Attorney General since 2014.

We will trace below that they can reasonably be called the founding fathers of overdue inspections of medical facilities in Virginia.

VDH has been short of health inspectors since McAuliffe and Herring took office and still is .

Both of them know it. And they know that lack of inspections demonstrably causes unnecessary suffering and death.

Continue reading

A Malicious Prosecution

by Carol J. Bova

During the Bob McDonnell administration, the Commonwealth of Virginia preserved 232,000 acres through conservation easements or donations, falling short of the governor’s 400,000-acre goal because of the tight economy. Seizing on the deficit in his 2013 gubernatorial campaign, Terry McAuliffe promised that he would “preserve at least 400,000 acres of open space.” He repeated the number in his first speech to the General Assembly after taking office in 2014.

By 2015, it became obvious McAuliffe could not meet his goal. Scrambling to save face, he announced in April 2015 the launch of “Virginia Treasures,” a strategy for conserving land and expanding access to public outdoor recreation. The goal was to identify, conserve, and protect at least 1,000 “treasures” by the end of his term.

It soon became apparent to many residents of Mathews County that their property and their homes fell within the pale, blue-coded areas of the map where McAuliffe hoped to find his Virginia Treasures. And so began a seven-year nightmare for the Eubank family as the local government tried to bully them, in what they saw as a grotesque abuse of bureaucratic power, to diminish the value of their private land so that it could be acquired for a public access site. Continue reading

Henrico, Chesterfield Users of Richmond Gas Unprotected by SCC, State Law

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

Sec. 13.10. No sale or lease of utilities except when approved by referendum. There shall be no sale or lease of the water, wastewater, gas or electric utilities unless the proposal for such sale or lease shall first be submitted to the qualified voters of the city at a general election and be approved by a majority of all votes cast at such election.

That provision is in the charter for the City of Richmond, part of the Code of Virginia. Note it does not require the city’s leaders to consult with the people before closing a city-owned utility, just before the sale or lease.  Continue reading

SCC Staff: Dominion Should Refund $312M, Cut Rates, Due to $1.14B Excess Profits

SCC Staff summary showing how $1.14 billion in Dominion Energy Virginia excess profits get whittled down to only a possible $312 million refund.  Step one, not shown, is the law allows the company to keep the first 70 basis points of excess profit no questions asked.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Customers of Dominion Energy Virginia are due a refund of $312 million and the company’s future base rates should be reduced by another $50 million annually, the utility accounting staff at the State Corporation Commission concluded in testimony filed September 17.

Patrick W. Carr, deputy director of the division of utility accounting and finance, was joined in filing testimony by ten other members of that staff, but he provided the baseline result in his opening summary.

In the staff’s opinion, Dominion earned $1.143 billion of profit in excess of its allowed 9.2% return on equity during the four year period it reviewed, 2017 through 2020. The company will vigorously dispute those claims in rebuttal testimony, it is safe to predict.

The State Corporation Commission is entering the key phase of its so-called “triennial review,” which in Dominion’s case covers an extra year because that is what it asked of the Virginia General Assembly, and the Assembly seldom declines DEV’s requests. This is the first full audit of the company’s finances since 2015, which covered the two prior years of 2013 and 2014. Continue reading

Follow the Science. Yeah, Right

by Kerry Dougherty

Ever since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic I’ve been wondering what it would take for Americans to finally say they’d had enough.

Enough of absurd and ineffective regulations imposed on them by leaders hiding behind claims that they were simply “following the science.”

I was furious early in the spring of 2020, when Virginia’s governor — who was “following the science” — forbade SITTING ON THE BEACH. Remember that slice of crazy? It was OK to walk, run or fish on the beach, but no sitting.

That was followed by even more “follow the science “ idiocy: no football or volleyball on beaches. No loud music. No umbrellas. The constant wiping down of handrails to the beach with disinfectant, even though we knew the virus couldn’t survive in summer heat and direct sunlight.

Then came football season, and the governor ordered “crowds” at outdoor events be limited to 250 spectators, regardless of the size of the venue.

Hey, he was just following the science. Continue reading

Richmond Wants to Kill Its Gas Utility, Also Ending Service in Henrico, Chesterfield

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the (Richmond) Council hereby commits to working with the City’s Administration on an equitable plan to phase out reliance on gas and shift to accelerated investment in City-owned renewable energy and hereby recognizes that the continued operation of the City’s gas utility is an obstacle to the City’s goal of Net-Zero emissions in accordance Resolution No. 2020-R024, adopted June 8, 2020.

Translation:  The Richmond Gas Works, a municipal owned public service utility, is targeted for closure.   Council sees its continued operation as “an obstacle.”  The 117,600 customers (as of 2018) will need to run their lives and businesses without natural gas.  Those customers are not confined to the city itself but are also located in Henrico and Chesterfield counties.  Continue reading

Conference Explores VA Rush to Copy CA Energy

by Steve Haner

Californians were again this week under an electricity “flex alert,” a conservation order required because of its reliance on unreliable solar and wind energy. They often cannot keep up with demand on the hotter days. Is this Virginia’s future? The government is telling Californians:

  • Set your thermostat at 78° or higher
  • Avoid using major appliances
  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Use fans for cooling
  • Unplug unused items.

The return of this power shortfall comes just days before Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall vote, with this growing crisis being cited by some of his opponents. It is also a distant cloud on Virginia’s horizon as early voting begins here next week in the elections for statewide offices and the House of Delegates.

Virginia has rushed to copy California’s climate-fear and rent-seeking driven solar and wind energy scheme. Continue reading

Nantucket Wind Suit May Have Virginia Echoes

Source: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

by Steve Haner

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

A group of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts residents have filed suit challenging the pre-construction environmental review on a massive offshore wind complex planned off its shores. The issues raised may have a direct impact on the similar wind energy project planned off Virginia Beach, which is only now beginning its environmental impact process. Continue reading

There’s Gold in Them Thar… Press Releases?

by Jock Yellott

It seems there is a vein of quartz underground in Buckingham County sparkling with gold. The General Assembly almost prohibited mining it, but then backed off. This time.

A string of historic gold mines going back to the 19th Century appear as red dots on the county geological survey map like chigger bites on the skin of the land. Exploratory drilling by a Canadian company, Aston Bay Holdings, found significant new quantities of gold there.

From about the depth of a water well — 150 to 300 feet– Aston Bay’s diamond drills pulled up broken columns of translucent white quartz flecked with yellow metal. They drilled and drilled again for about 200 yards, two dozen holes, rarely drilling without finding more quartz glinting with gold. Continue reading

An Energy Reform Agenda for Virginia

Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, St. Paul, VA. Dominion Photo.  Always a good political investment, never a good energy investment.

By Steve Haner

What should Virginia’s energy policy be?  What should the next Governor and General Assembly do? What should candidates be promising?

Based on what has now been my 15 years of close observation and direct involvement, here is the policy outline I would suggest to any candidate who asks (not that the phone is ringing).  Continue reading