Category Archives: Regulation

GOP Group Seeks Repeal of 2020 Energy Omnibus

Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility.

By Steve Haner

A Virginia GOP activist group aimed at suburban voters will be advocating repeal of the Virginia Clean Economy Act by the 2021 General Assembly, seeking to return a herd of cows that is well out of the barn and busting down the pasture fence.

The Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition has produced a short video (here) and is mounting a petition drive (here), both of which might have been helpful a year ago. Of course, a year ago the VCEA was just a bunch of closed conversations to which only Climate Crisis True Believers were invited. The final bill appeared out of thin air just before it got voted on.

The video focuses on just one aspect of the coming energy conversion, the plans to destroy 490 square miles of forests and farmland to cover the land with up to 30,000 megawatts-worth of solar panels. That may indeed be the least popular aspect with suburban Virginians, but the most expensive and risky part of the plan involves the coming offshore wind turbines.

On a parallel track in the opposite direction, the Climate Crisis True Believers are arguing that it was President-elect Joe Biden’s deep commitment to their cause that got him elected. A recent column in Virginia Mercury argued: Continue reading

Thanksgiving Secrets

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s a little like Mao’s Cultural Revolution, with cranberry sauce. I’m talking about Americans and their secret plans for Thanksgiving.

Everywhere I go I bump into people whispering about where they’ll be and who they’ll be with this Thursday.

Thanks to despotic governors and other meddling government officials, Thanksgiving shaming is a thing this year.

Confess that you’re getting together with family and friends and you’re accused of risking lives instead of being praised for being an adult, with the ability to weigh the risks and rewards of your own behavior.

Yes, by now everyone knows that the Centers for Disease Control has warned that traveling increases the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 and that staying home is the best way to be safe.

Well, the head of the CDC also said children in grades K to 12 were safest in school and no one’s paying attention to THAT advice, so why would the travel advisory be any different? Continue reading

AG Mark Herring Takes Aim at Gun Show

by Kerry Dougherty

Mark Herring is so proud of himself that he took to Twitter yesterday to do a little preening.

Virginia’s attorney general even put those silly flashing light icons at the top of his post so you’d know this was really big news.

Yep, Herring’s chuffed because he successfully stopped Virginians from buying firearms this weekend. A big victory for Richmond’s anti-gun crowd.

This had nothing to do with COVID-19. The pandemic was just a convenient excuse.

Herring essentially shut down a popular three-day Northern Virginia gun show that had already put into place rules for reduced capacity, masks and social distancing, as they had for two earlier shows this year. Continue reading

RGGI Carbon Tax Hits Dominion Bills Next Summer

By Steve Haner

Beginning August 1 of next year, Dominion Energy Virginia proposes to begin to collect the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon tax from its customers, collecting $168 million during the first year through yet another of those proliferating rate adjustment clauses (or “RACs”).

It will get it by charging a flat $.002388 per kilowatt hour, or $2.39 on every 1,000 kWh. The same charge will be imposed on residential, business, industrial and even non-profit customers. The full case file is here.

Is the universal flat rate a break for residential customers or a break for the largest users? Usually, there are complicated differences in their tariffs. Look for example at the RAC charge for other environmental projects at the utility, Rider E. Residential customers pay $1.68 per 1,000 kWh for that, while large industrial accounts pay from $1.25 (GS-1) down to around 70 cents (Schedule 10).  Continue reading

Another VA Gas Pipeline Project Dies Under Fire

Still Alive? The northern part of the Header Improvement Project. Source: VNG Application.

By Steve Haner

Another proposal to build a pipeline pumping wealth and prosperity into the Virginia economy has been brought down. That is my impression of what the impact would be of expanding natural gas supply to our state – added wealth and prosperity. This beneficial project is not to be.

Virginia Natural Gas has notified (read it here) the State Corporation Commission that it is abandoning plans for the Header Improvement Project, a major expansion connecting existing major transportation pipelines with its Hampton Roads service territory. That also ends its plans to provide service to two merchant electricity generating plants in Charles City County that would have been served by the additional supply.

The dispute over the expansion was discussed here earlier this year. The project drew the usual environmental objections, based on their firm belief that natural gas pipelines deliver death, but the SCC itself sank the plans over its skepticism that one of the electric generation plants would actually get built and need the supply. Writes VNG through counsel:

Continue reading

Northam: Messaging, Not Mandates

Northam during an October press conference. Image credit: Virginia Mercury

Despite a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, hair-on-fire national media coverage, and the imposition of tighter restrictions in neighboring Maryland, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C., Governor Ralph Northam is holding steady with a relatively light regulatory regimen for Virginia. As the Virginia Mercury puts it today, “Northam is stressing messaging — not mandates — to curb rising COVID-19 infections.”

Good for Northam.

After some missteps early in the epidemic, the governor appears to have struck a reasonable balance between slowing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the economy open. Northam is asking Virginians to exercise personal responsibility. Wash hands, wear masks, and limit gatherings. Continue reading

More Falsehoods and Malarkey from Clean Virginia

Capitalist Michael Bills of Clean Virginia: “Dividends are Bad”

By Steve Haner

The big money behind the Clean Virginia activist group was all earned by a Charlottesville hedge fund manager through the great American system of capitalism. That didn’t stop his organization from a recent attack that could have come from Communist Party USA. This one would have made Bernie Sanders blush.

Dominion Energy is paying out dividends in the middle of a pandemic! Shocking.

“Dominion Energy is transferring nearly $3 billion dollars from Virginia families and small businesses to Wall Street shareholders at a time when people are still struggling to stay in their homes and keep the lights on. This is economic injustice at its starkest,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore.”  See this news release.

I know I pick on Clean Virginia all the time. Somebody has to call it out. This cannot simply be stupidity. They have to know these statements are nuts and they hurt their own cause.

“The record payouts will arrive on the heels of a new Virginia budget that allows Dominion Energy to pocket over half a billion dollars of customer overcharges while forcing Virginia customers to pay for all outstanding debt that is owed to the monopoly…”

“A new Virginia budget, expected to go into effect next week, compels no refunds of the $502.7 million Dominion overcharged customers since 2017 and puts the financial burden of the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout on the shoulders of Dominion’s captive Virginian customers, allowing shareholders to pocket excess profits…”

Whatever excess profits Dominion Energy Virginia has earned in the 2017-2020 period are still hanging out there, accounted for somehow on the utility’s books. It is a lie to say they have now been pocketed by shareholders in the 2020 dividend payout. It is also a lie to say the new budget bill allowed that to happen. Continue reading

Shellenberger’s “Apocalypse Never” Lessons for VA

HarperCollins, 2020

“Climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world.  It is not even our most serious environmental problem.”

By Steve Haner

That statement opens the dust jacket summary for “Apocalypse Never:  Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” by Michael Shellenberger, once named “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine. It remains the number one best-seller in Amazon’s Climate or Environmental Policy category, competing with alarmist sermons such as “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells and “How To Avoid A Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates. Anybody interested in the topic should seek it out.

The themes of the book also align well with views previously featured from a 2019 newspaper column by retired University of Richmond biology professor, R. Dean Decker. Both are totally at odds with the wild predictions of Climate Armageddon that drive the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the upcoming Virginia debate over the Transportation and Climate Initiative carbon tax, and just about every Democratic political campaign in the Virginia and the U.S.

Shellenberger’s book is particularly important for the debate over carbon taxes such as the TCI compact, and the VCEA’s energy cost inflation, because with his worldwide experience and perspective he has seen the interrelationship of income poverty, energy poverty and damaging environmental exploitation. Saving the Earth and its flora and fauna require energy sufficiency – from more than just renewables – and energy-intensive modern agriculture.  It requires wealth and economic growth.  Continue reading

Election Board Embraces Humpty Dumpty Logic

by Emilio Jaksetic

Despite receiving more than 700 public comments, most of them negative, Virginia’s State Board of Elections has adopted a regulation eliminating the statutory requirement that absentee ballots received after election day be postmarked by no later than election day. The regulation is effective October 23, 2020. Information about the Board’s action is available here and here.

In a post I made during the run-up to the decision, I discussed how the Board’s “interpretive” regulation violates the plain language of Virginia election law, usurps the constitutional authority of the General Assembly, and sets a precedent for other Virginia officials to violate the rule of law.

In effect, the Board has embraced Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” as a guide to statutory construction and regulatory practice. Continue reading

Assembly Protected Utilities, Not Other Businesses

First published this morning (with some slight differences) by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

By Steve Haner

Now that the Virginia General Assembly’s “Cops and COVID” special session is all but finished, will it be easier or harder for the state’s struggling economy to recover in 2021? It will be harder, probably, except for the utilities.

The initial reason Governor Ralph Northam recalled legislators starting August 18 was to review the state budget for COVID recession-related changes. Then a series of confrontations between police and Black Americans added law enforcement and criminal punishment to the agenda.

But the legislators reached far beyond those issues in the 270 pieces of legislation introduced, of which 56 have now passed (many of them duplicates).  The Assembly recessed October 16, but did not adjourn, and that will delay the effective date of the various new laws until perhaps March 1.

What did the legislature do for or to the business climate in Virginia? Continue reading

Energy “PIPP” Proposal Just the TIP of an Iceberg

The initial “PIPP” tax added to Dominion and APCo bills in 2021 may hide the full impact of the program.

By Steve Haner

As the State Corporation Commission prepares to set up Virginia’s first electricity cost shifting program, using a tax on all electric bills to provide discounts to low-income customers, advocates are already pushing to expand and enrich it.

An expert hired by an environmental group argues in testimony that the General Assembly erred when it capped electricity payments from poorer households at 6% of their monthly income if they did not have electric heat, and 10% if they did. Appalachian Voices’ expert wants the SCC to lower the rate to 5% and 8% respectively, greatly increasing the amount of revenue that must be extracted from other customers.  Continue reading

Transportation Carbon Tax Debate Starts Again

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

By Steve Haner

Having imposed a carbon tax on Virginia electricity generation in 2020, the General Assembly starting in January 2021 will consider adding a similar tax on every gallon of gasoline and diesel sold for vehicle use. The Transportation and Climate Initiative, an environmentalist dream for a decade, is finally ready for its close up.

Advocates in the 12-state region that would make up the proposed interstate compact held two webinars in September, one focused on additional modeling on the project and the other discussing all the racially and environmentally just ways they believe states can spend the billions in new taxes.

The new modeling results did not change the basics of the program. TCI is a cap, tax and trade system that imposes a dollars-per-ton cost on the carbon dioxide emissions released by burning the fuels. The tax rate is set by an interstate auction, and the tax itself is imposed on the fuel wholesalers. The amount of fossil fuel emission credits that wholesalers may bid for will be capped and then will shrink a certain percentage every year.  Continue reading

Dominion Green Energy Costs Continue to Grow

Dominion Energy Virginia’s major capital projects, listed in its pending integrated resource plan. The SCC staff added the lifetime revenue requirement, the total dollars extracted from ratepayers over time which includes financing costs and the company’s current profit margin. Source: SCC

by Steve Haner

As sobering as they were, the initial estimates of how a green energy conversion will explode Dominion Energy Virginia rates have now been revised up. The State Corporation Commission staff now sees it costing an additional $800 per year for a residential customer to purchase 1,000 kWh per month by 2030, an increase of just under 60%.

The main drivers of the higher costs will be all the offshore wind and solar generation Dominion proposes to build, as outlined in its most recent integrated resource plan. That plan is now being reviewed by the SCC, and the staff filed its analysis late last week, summarized here on pages 4-5.

The separate cost analysis by Carol Myers of the SCC’s Division of Utility Accounting pushed up the utility-issued estimate by disputing assumptions the utility made. Staff disagrees with the utility projection that by 2030 less than half of its electricity will be used by residential customers. It is now about 55%. Should the portion shrink as Dominion projects, more of the project costs would be imposed on commercial users.

Myers reported it is also unrealistic to assume most residential households use 1,000 kWh per month, when the history show usage at or above 1,100 kWh.  Plugging that into the data would increase the projected cost to families even beyond $800. Myers’ testimony also shows huge increase in commercial (60%) and industrial (65%) power costs by 2030, even larger on a percentage basis than residential. For the state’s economy, they also matter. Continue reading

All Leader Saslaw Cares About: Is Dominion OK?

Senate Majority Leader Richard “Is Dominion okay with this?” Saslaw

By Steve Haner

Every now and then you can actually see the strings, see the puppet master that is Dominion Energy Virginia calling the shots at the Virginia General Assembly. Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, provided a glimpse of its power during a floor debate Thursday.

Republican senators were in revolt. Two days after the House of Delegates had approved a plan to force all utility ratepayers to cover the unpaid bills and late fees for those who have fallen behind, the same language amendment was before the Senate for adoption.

“Once again, we have cast the ratepayers aside here in Virginia,” Senator Richard Stuart told his colleagues assembled in their spread formation at the Science Museum of Virginia. The average ratepayer is struggling to pay their own bill in this recession and did not sign up to pay the bills for those others who for whatever reason do not. “This is immoral. This is not right,” Stuart concluded. Continue reading

Dominion ❤ New Utility Bill Payment Plan

This time you get touched.

By Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia loves the General Assembly’s most recent proposal on how to deal with mounting unpaid utility bills in the COVID-19 recession. You might not.

The state’s dominant utility has activated its network of grassroots lobbyists (including company retirees and stockholders) to express their personal support to their hometown delegate and senator, in an email that a recipient shared:

Last week the Senate Finance and House Appropriation committees passed budget bills that included assistance to those utility customers who have experienced economic hardship due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. All utilities have been impacted and the legislation recognizes that relief to those citizens most at risk will be different from one region and utility to the next. The direction adopted by both Chambers have been consistently supported by Dominion Energy…

As predicted more than once, the unpaid bills ultimately come to all utility consumers. The approach outlined in the new budget language is a variation on earlier themes, but the bottom line is unchanged.   Continue reading