Category Archives: Regulation

Illinois to Legalize Recreational Pot: Implications for Virginia

Legal tokin’ in the Land of Lincoln. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign Illinois’ recreational marijuana legalization bill tomorrow. Illinois, America’s sixth most populous state, will become the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The District of Columbia has also legalized the possession of ganja. This has implications for Virginia.

First, Illinois is the first state to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana via the state legislature. Vermont’s legislature legalized the possession but not the sale of marijuana. All other states came to legalization via citizen led ballot initiatives. Since the Virginia Constitution has no provision for citizen-led ballot initiatives, the General Assembly would have to follow in the footsteps of the Illinois legislature to legalize marijuana in the Old Dominion. Illinois has proven this is possible. The second implication is the looming encirclement of Virginia by states with legalized recreational marijuana. The closer legal pot dispensaries get to Virginia the harder it will be for Virginia to stop cross border marijuana flows. Continue reading

Fix the General Assembly, Then Tackle Energy Bill

It has been over a month since a coalition of unnatural allies announced a proposal to revise Virginia’s electricity regulation system – again – but the idea dropped from view fairly quickly. One of the main and most visible proponents, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has now taken on a very different role in the Trump Administration.

As I wrote in Sunday’s Washington Post (here), the ideas in the document itself need to remain on the shelf until the General Assembly and the rest of the Richmond establishment are less influenced by the various high-dollar players mixing profit and ideology in this effort. There also needs to be a more robust voice speaking only for consumers, a voice that actually gets heard.

Do what we’ve done before and we get what we’ve gotten before – a hit on consumers that enriches the moneyed interests. That happened in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018.   Continue reading

More (But Not All) Cost Projections Filed About Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act

Source: SCC Staff summary. Click for larger view.

With some of its closest legislative allies facing primary challenges next week, much of what Dominion Energy Virginia filed Friday in response to questions about the consumer cost of its future plans is redacted.  The story in Tuesday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch (here) could only cover that portion of the data not kept secret.

Three of the four documents filed by Dominion are about its motion requesting protected status for the information, and the fourth (here) includes numerous blacked out portions, which we will not see unless the SCC rejects those motions.  Continue reading

Rider E Case Shows Many Flaws With This Process

Key operating data on some Dominion Virginia coal plants, important to the Rider E case but hidden from us. Source: Office of Attorney General testimony.  Click for larger view. 

Dominion Energy Virginia’s pending application for a new charge on electric bills for coal ash remediation is both a fairly routine request and an illustration of what is deeply wrong with Virginia’s electricity regulation.

When the major investor-owned utilities negotiated a return to regulation in 2007, the ability to create and collect these stand-alone add-on charges (“rate adjustment clauses”) was one of their demands.  It was the other major Virginia utility, Appalachian Power Company, that was most concerned about the ability to collect the cost of environmental compliance and it has had a rider on its bills for that purpose for some time.  Continue reading

SCC Again Denies Escape from Dominion Monopoly

SCC: We’re All In This Together

The State Corporation Commission has denied another request from a major Virginia retailer for permission to escape from Dominion Energy Virginia’s monopoly electricity service.   The score for such petitions is now one approval, two denials, and the message is clear to all the other petitioners:  Go fight it out at the General Assembly.

The petition denied today was from Costco, seeking to aggregate 27 of its stores into a single electricity account that met the 5-megawatt demand trigger which allows large customers to seek a competitive supplier.  The final order is here.

Continue reading

Meet GOP Carbon Tax Advocate Bob Inglis

The Hon. Robert Inglis

There is a hotbed of carbon tax advocacy at George Mason University, led by a former GOP congressman sent packing by South Carolina voters because he’s ready to tax them into loving solar and wind.  Continue reading

Update: Aggregation Petition Moves to Full SCC

If our electric bill rises a nickel, and our grocery bill drops a nickel, do we care?

The debate over retail aggregation and choice for electricity underway at the State Corporation Commission is moving to another decision point, with a hearing examiner’s ruling May 21 on one of the many petitions.  Continue reading

Correction: DLS Was There At Energy Conference

There was a Division of Legislative Services staff person present at the recent National Regulatory Conference in Williamsburg. My piece yesterday was in error.  Attorney Christine Noonan’s name was on the list and I missed it.  She’s been at DLS for a while, but only this session started as staff support for the committees doing energy legislation.  Continue reading

Dominion Responds to Calls for Deregulation

William Murray

Dominion Energy has responded to calls for electric deregulation in the form of an op-ed by William Murray, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications. His argument: We tried deregulation once, it didn’t work, and the arrangement we have now works just fine.

Electric deregulation was “in fashion” in the 1990s,” he wrote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It promised lower prices and more choices for customers. What really happened was something quite different. In fact, electric rates in deregulated states are more than one-third higher today than rates in states that have retained regulation.”

Moreover, Murray argued, 1990s-era deregulation did nothing to make the electric grid stronger, more secure, and more resilient — “pressing needs today in the face of threats such as cyberattacks from hostile nation-states.” To the contrary, deregulation invited predatory players like Enron into the system, leading to price spikes in New England, Maryland, Delaware and California. The outcome in California was particularly disastrous, bringing rollouts and widespread economic chaos.

Maybe his argument stands up, maybe it doesn’t. This may sound like a cop-out, but we need more data.

Continue reading

VA Energy Regulatory Conference All About Carbon

The Hon. Bernard McNamee, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

WILLIAMSBURG — “The environmentalists don’t want to admit when they’ve won, but they’ve already won.”

That line was delivered by Joseph A. Rosenthal, principal attorney at Connecticut’s Office of Consumer Counsel, during a discussion Thursday on the status electricity grid modernization efforts in his state and several others.  It was a part of a day-and-a-half National Regulatory Conference and William and Mary’s law school which had several nominal topics but was really about carbon regulation.  Continue reading

Cuccinelli to North Carolina on Electricity Regulation – Avoid Virginia’s Mistakes

The Cooch is back. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli penned an op-ed for the Wilmington, North Carolina based Star News opposing Duke Energy’s proposed changes to electrical regulation.  The title of the opinion piece is, “N.C. should block this Duke Energy power grab”.  Cuccinelli’s biggest issue with the pending regulation is extending the period of time between utility rate cases.  The editorial board of the Star News agrees. Cuccinelli writes:

“Key provisions to extend the period of time between utility company rate cases are embedded within N.C. Senate Bill 559, being debated at the N.C. General Assembly. Similar provisions hurt Virginia customers, and will hurt North Carolina customers, too.”

Continue reading

Three 2016 Dominion Solar Plants Missed Targets

Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan Co.

Some of Dominion Energy Virginia’s recent solar installations, despite using technology designed to track the moving sun, have turned in disappointing energy results, fueling skepticism at the State Corporation Commission toward the utility’s claims for future solar energy success.  Continue reading

Left-Right Coalition Urges Electric Deregulation

In the mid-1980s William W. Berry, president of Dominion Energy predecessor Vepco, championed the cause of deregulating electricity markets. He proposed breaking the electricity industry into separate components: generation, transmission, and retail distribution. Only retail electric lines, he suggested, were a “natural” monopoly. Berry’s vision, which was never fully executed in Virginia, bore strong similarities to the proposals outlined today by the Virginia Energy Reform Coalition (VERC).

VERC, a coalition of free-market, environmental and anti-poverty groups, is calling for a massive restructuring of Virginia’s system of regulated electric utilities. The existing monopoly structure is “broken,” argued a series of speakers at a noon press conference, because politically powerful utilities utilize campaign contributions and their lobbying clout to advance their interests in the General Assembly at the expense of the public. Continue reading

Is the Goal Cutting CO2 or Imposing a Tax?

While it would have been a popular step with his political base, and one he was expected to take, Governor Ralph Northam may have been smart to pass on seeking to veto state budget language preventing Virginia membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.  Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Restored Licenses; Dominion’s Millstone Plant; RGGI

Organic Carbon Capture Device

Wait.  How many suspended licenses? Today’s Virginia Mercury has one of those stories that raises more questions than it answers, this one about the suspended driving license issue. My warning that there would be massive lines at DMV were groundless because, hey, these people still have their actual licenses.  DMV never got them back or ordered them destroyed. Do you think that might have contributed to the decision so many debtors made to keep driving and blow off the collection efforts? Continue reading