Category Archives: Regulation

Fairy Tales, Absurdities, and COPN

by James C. Sherlock

We read in the Virginian-Pilot yesterday this statement from columnist Gordon Morse: “Covering indigent care and doing so in ways that do not undermine the entire health care system is central to the existence of COPN.”

In his column, he moved on to this common and reductio-ad absurdum corollary: “You can, as an alternative to COPN (or any regulatory structure), just throw it wide open and see what happens.”

Mr. Morse’s narrative about COPN — repeated endlessly by the law’s supporters — is that without COPN, poor people would be left to die on hospital steps. The story captures the hearts and votes.  It has worked for nearly 50 years and works today. 

Morse has been around forever and should know better. The fact is, COPN and healthcare facility licensing are separate sets of regulations in Virginia. Care for the poor does not depend upon COPN. At all. Never did.

Undeterred, Morse plays the compassion card face up. COPN supporters have no other card to show in polite company. Continue reading

Certificate of Public Need’s Hall of Mirrors

by James C. Sherlock

Versailles Hall of Mirrors

In Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, everything is reflected hundreds of times.

The mirrors were also a commercial. They represented an effort of Louis XIV to establish for France monopolies on the production of luxury goods.

Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law and regulations represent a similar structure.

Everything in the process reflects back on itself. Those reflections both reinforce the structure and cement monopolies. Though it represents the intrigue of Versailles, COPN lacks beauty and grace. But, in another similarity, neither Louis nor Virginia’s General Assembly tried to represent the interests of the people in these enterprises.

This essay will help explain how COPN works. It would be shorter if the tentacles of COPN were not so completely enveloping and self-reinforcing. This is in its entirety both legal and a scandal, as with much else in Virginia politics.

Two recent COPN decisions affect my home area of South Hampton Roads. Those cases pointed to the systemic roadblocks to successfully challenging Sentara Healthcare’s dominance here which will never be surmounted while COPN stands as is. Continue reading

Buy Bacon’s Book

By Peter Galuszka

This is a shameless advertisement. Jim has written an excellent book and you should buy it and review it.

While some of Jim’s focus is at odds with a similar book I wrote eight years ago, “Maverick Miner” is a really well put together effort at research and writing.

In my reporting, I asked many people, mostly miners, what they thought about E. Morgan Massey. The response: tough on unions but good guy. I heard this over and over. I was told that if rank and file miners had a serious problem, they could call Morgan and he’d come to the mountains to work things out. I heard this a lot and it gives credence to Jim’s book.

You should buy the book, read it, and like it or not, post something on Amazon. Here’s something I did:

“In this book, Jim Bacon, a Richmond journalist, tells a fascinating story about 94-year-old E. Morgan Massey, the former head of coal company that would become highly controversial. Massey paid Bacon to write a private narrative about the Massey family and agreed to let Bacon write his own unabridged account. Taken as a biography and while understanding that this is from Massey’s viewpoint, the result works very well. Massey explains why he hired Donald L. Blankenship, who achieved remarkable notoriety as the boss of Massey Energy, a company spinoff. He ended up in federal prison. The book underestimates the human and environmental cost of coal mining in the Central Appalachians. It also takes Massey’s side in dissecting what caused the April 5, 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners – the worst such U.S. coal disaster in 40 years. Even so, Bacon’s access to internal sources and records is a welcome contribution to understanding a great story.

Peter Galuszka is author of “Thunder on the Mountain: Death At Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.” (St. Martin’s Press, 2012)

What Texas’s Crisis Means for Virginia

by Peter Galuszka

The Texas freeze and ensuing energy disaster has clear lessons for Virginia as it sorts out its energy future.

Yet much of the media coverage in Virginia and certainly on Bacon’s Rebellion conveniently leaves out pertinent observations.

The statewide freeze in Texas completely fouled up the entire energy infrastructure as natural gas pipelines and oil wells stopped working, coal at generating plants iced over and wind turbines stopped working.

Making matters much worse, Texas opted not to have power links with other states. Its “free market” system of purchasing power meant utilities skimped on maintenance and adding weather-relative preventive measures such as making sure key generation components were weatherproof.

The result? Scores dead and millions without electricity. Here are more points worth considering in Virginia:

Climate Change is For Real

It is a shame that so much comment in Bacon’s Rebellion is propaganda from people who are or were paid, either directly or indirectly, by the fossil fuel industry. Thus, the blog diminishes the importance of dealing with climate change in a progressive way.  Continue reading

Updates: PPP, PIPP, Dominion’s School Buses

by Steve Haner

Tax on Paycheck Protection Program Grants

The General Assembly session deadlines require final decisions on various revenue bills before the final budget bill is adopted, in theory keeping the two issues separate. What is good tax policy should not be driven by the need or greed of the appropriators.

But the conference committee overseeing the final decision on how much of the Paycheck Protection Program Grants will be taxed is dominated by appropriators, including the chairs of the both the House and Senate budget panels. The Senate’s proposal to allow $100,000 of PPP grants to be tax free produces less revenue, so the House’s position of allowing only $25,000 to be tax free meant the House budget includes another $70 million in spending.

The announcement that the state’s economy continues to hum and produce additional revenue, adding $730 million more in the General Fund, would allow for the Senate position to prevail without the need to cut the existing House budget. But the pressure remains to tax more and spend more, with Governor Ralph Northam raising expectations even higher with a late proposal for fatter employee raises.  Continue reading

The Democratic Coalition’s Conflicts of Interest Cause Much Political Scrambling

by James C. Sherlock

It is tough to be a Democratic politician in Richmond or Washington. Now that they govern, they find it one big game of coalition whack-a-mole.

I have written today of the conflicts between the interests of teachers unions and those of parents playing out in the Virginia General Assembly. That vital Democratic suburban women demo is in play.

That is the tip of the iceberg for Democrats. They have assembled a coalition whose interests are fundamentally opposed. Those fissures are only fully exposed when they have unfettered governance, which they have now both in Richmond and Washington.

The only things they seem to agree on are big government, free money and government regulation and control of nearly everything except their own interests.

After that, it gets dicey. Continue reading

Your PIPP Tax Will Buy Heat Pumps For Poor

by Steve Haner

Lower-income Virginians who are customers of the two largest electricity providers may begin to receive subsidies on their residential bills in March 2022 under legislation moving forward in the General Assembly. The money for the subsidies will come from their fellow customers.  Continue reading

In Praise of Trailer Parks

Bermuda Estates, Chesterfield County

by James A. Bacon

Nobody knows for sure how many trailer parks there are in Virginia, and Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, wants to find answers. He has introduced a budget amendment to establish a Virginia Manufactured Home Park registry, to be funded with a $100 database maintenance fee from each mobile home park. 

Krizek regards trailer parks as a rare form of affordable housing in the state, and he’s concerned that market forces could put them out of business. Many were built long ago on land that was inexpensive at the time but due to the evolution of real estate markets has become desirable.

“The biggest problem is that the land is so valuable,” Krizek told The Virginia Mercury. “These parks are a gold mine for someone who wants to come in and build a 20-story apartment complex. I understand the need for density, but it’s sad when one of these communities goes away because they have been there for 20-30 years.” Continue reading

The Latest Lunacy: Face Masks for Fishermen

by Kerry Dougherty

Ever wonder what would happen if feminists, man buns and smoked salmon socialists crafted federal policy?

You’d get moronic rules like this one from the Biden administration:

One of Joe’s latest executive orders requires all commercial fishermen to wear face masks – including while asleep in their cramped berths – and the Coast Guard is charged with enforcing the regulation. Continue reading

Dominion Electric Bus Scheme Back, With More

EV School bus? Storage battery? No, utility profit center.

by Steve Haner

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

The ultimate goal of the Transportation and Climate Initiative with its tax and rationing scheme is to eliminate fossil fuels for transportation and get us into electric vehicles. That is something advocates have admitted and critics have pointed out. While Virginia TCI participation is on hold in this statewide election year, the 2021 General Assembly is following other pathways to the utopian EV future.

The House of Delegates has sent the Virginia Senate a bill to create a state financial incentive of $2,500 for purchase of a new or used electric vehicle. An additional $2,000 rebate is offered to a low- and middle-income buyer of a new car and $500 if that buyer choses a used EV.

The House has also passed legislation empowering the state’s Air Pollution Control Board to adopt state regulations on vehicle fleet fuel economy and to model California’s existing program forcing manufacturers to offer more zero- and low-emission vehicle sales in the state. This bill sets no goals but puts an accelerated process in motion, bypassing the full regulatory review, with a goal of regulating the 2025 model year vehicles offered in the state. Continue reading

Before There Was an Atlantic Gas Pipeline….

N&W coal train in West Virginia

…There Was the Coal Slurry Pipeline.

by James A. Bacon

The early 1980s were a momentous time for the U.S. coal industry, and for Virginia economic history and politics as well. As the world turned to coal in the wake of the Arab oil embargo, coal exports through Hampton Roads were surging. Loading terminals literally could not load the black rock fast enough, and dozens of ships were backing up in Hampton Roads waiting for their turn at dock. Meanwhile, the Norfolk & Western Railway (soon to become part of Norfolk Southern) and the C&O (soon to become part of CSX) exercised duopoly control over rail shipments to the ports, and, newly deregulated, they used their power to charge punishing tariffs. Thus commenced a years-long battle between railroads and coal operators over the spoils of a once-in-a-lifetime export boom.

E. Morgan Massey, president of the Richmond-based A.T. Massey Coal Co., took the lead in taking on the railroads. Not only did he build new terminals in Newport News and Charleston, S.C., to bust the railroad monopoly on loading facilities, he helped orchestrate a bid to build a 350-mile coal slurry pipeline across Virginia to bypass the railroads. Just one hitch: A coal slurry pipeline had to cross railroad rights-of-way, and only the General Assembly could grant the eminent domain. Thus began one of the greatest lobbying battles between business lobbies – VEPCO, the Transco pipeline company, and coal industry interests on the one hand, and the railroads on the other — that Richmond had ever seen.

Chapter 8, “Rails and Pipes,” of my new book, “Maverick Miner” tells the story of the clash between business titans from Massey’s perspective. Here, for the joy and delight of Bacon’s Rebellion readers, I excerpt the section that focuses on the coal slurry pipeline debate. There is no coal slurry pipeline in Virginia today, so it is not a spoiler to reveal that the railroads won the legislative battle. But Morgan and his allies, VEPCO and Transco, felt like they squeaked out a victory in the business war. Continue reading

Follow the Voodoo

by Kerry Dougherty

Can we all agree that the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl was a real stinker?

Unless dancing men in sequined jackets with underwear on their heads is your thing, that is. (Yes, I know those were supposed to be bandages, but they looked like tighty whities headgear.) As my radio partner, Mike Imprevento, quipped Monday, The Weekend should change his name to Tuesday Night.

Can we also agree that Tom Brady was magnificent? And that after the first series, the Buc’s offense found a rhythm and just clicked all night? And that the Buccaneer’s defense was on fire and left the super-talented Patrick Mahomes looking hapless as he picked grass out of his face mask?

Can we also agree that the Super Bowl commercials were underwhelming? And that the most cloying was the public service announcement by Jill Biden, AKA Joe’s Ventriloquist, reminding us to wear a mask?

“Please keep wearing your mask,” she says, patting Champ and Major. “EVEN WHEN YOU’RE WALKING YOUR DOG.”

Sorry, Dr. Jill, but that’s a hard NO. Continue reading

Dominion VCEA Plan Review Ends with Questions

by Steve Haner

A near year-long review of Dominion Energy Virginia’s plans to meet service obligations while abandoning fossil-fueled energy has ended with a pile of data, a list of unanswered questions, no real decision and plenty of reason to fear future electricity cost increases.

The review of Dominion’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) started March 9, 2020, and the State Corporation Commission issued a final order February 1:  The Commission, however, cannot conclude … that Dominion’s 2020 IRP, as filed, is reasonable and in the public interest for purposes of a planning document.”   Continue reading

One Third of House GOP Backs Stronger SCC

Delegate Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield

by Steve Haner

Five interrelated bills that will strengthen the State Corporation Commission’s oversight during Dominion Energy Virginia’s next rate case advanced out of the House of Delegates Friday, with the two strongest receiving either 12 or 10 Republican aye votes.

All received at least some Republican votes, and four of the five had Democrats voting in opposition. After I made a pitch (elsewhere) for Republicans to do this, a report on the outcome is in order. A major Dominion rate case begins in April and may be reaching a conclusion around Election Day, and by then the impact of all the restraints put on the SCC in past years may be painfully clear to millions of Dominion customers.  Continue reading

Consumer Reports Misleads on Virginia EV Bill

Great Seal of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Few media outlets are as influential with their readership as Consumer Reports or as active in soliciting direct contact of public officials on issues that management feels are important to that publication’s political values. That is their right, but false statements in support of their positions is a violation of public trust.

I received yesterday afternoon in my email a solicitation for political action in Virginia pushed out by Consumer Reports to all subscribers. It read:

Earlier this week, the Virginia House of Delegates approved an exciting piece of legislation that would allow the state to make it easier for consumers to buy fuel-efficient and electric vehicles at car dealerships in the Commonwealth.

That in turn could help drivers save money on fuel and reduce our air pollution: a win-win no matter how you slice it.

But before the bill can get signed into law, it must pass through the Senate by next week. Can you send a message to your VA Senator now and ask them to vote YES on House Bill 1965?

Continue reading