Charlottesville Elites and Virginia’s New Ruling Class

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

by James A. Bacon

Before it sold off its national newspaper division to Lee Enterprises for a measly $140 million in March, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway owned most of the newspapers in western and central Virginia, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Roanoke Times, the Daily Progress (in Charlottesville), and the News Virginian (in Waynesboro). Reporting by these newspapers dominated news coverage of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and shaped the pro-environmental narrative that ultimately defeated it.

Earlier this month Dominion Energy, the pipeline’s managing partner, announced that it was abandoning the project and, indeed, was selling its multibillion-dollar gas distribution business to…. Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Upon consummation of the $4 billion transaction, Berkshire Hathaway’s energy subsidiary will carry 18% of all interstate natural gas transmission in the United States.

Coincidence?

Charles Munger Jr., son of Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger.

Arthur Bloom, managing editor of the American Conservative website, doesn’t come right out and say that Berkshire Hathaway used its power of the press to force Dominion into abandoning the pipeline and unloading its gas distribution, but he does suggest that such a thing might be possible. In “The Great Virginia Pipeline Swindle,” he writes:

What is beyond dispute is the death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has now resulted in a substantial acquisition for Berkshire Hathaway, after various people connected to the company have worked to kill it.

Those who prattle about “social justice,” he adds, should pause to consider how many unionized construction jobs have been killed and how much money was made by “private equity creeps” working behind the curtain.

The Bloom article shines a light on Virginia’s changing political economy. Dominion had succeeded in winning critical legal victories, including a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning an earlier verdict that the U.S. Forest Service lacked the authority to grant a permit to cross the Appalachian Trail. But the power company succumbed, he argues, to mounting political opposition that had succeeded in delaying the pipeline project and running up the cost from $5 billion to $8 billion.

That opposition came in the form of astroturf groups funded by people connected to Berkshire figures, and Democratic politicians who received donations from people connected to the company (the largest single donor to the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2015 was the son of Buffett partner Charles Munger, Jr, whose money supplied more than half of their funds for statehouse races that year).

Michael Bills, founder and funder of Clean Virginia

Astroturf groups, whose funding sources remain unclear, played an important role in the Dominion beat-down. Ted Weschler, a top investment manager at Berkshire Hathaway, is a Charlottesvillian, who joined the company in 2012 and is frequently discussed as a potential successor to Buffett. Weschler, notes Bloom, is a former business partner of billionaire Michael Bills, the Charlottesville resident who once managed the University of Virginia endowment. Bills launched and funded Clean Virginia, which played a huge role in the P.R. assault on Dominion and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Tom Perriello, manager of U.S programs for the Open Society Foundations

Remember Tom Perriello? Backed by Charlottesville money, including $25,000 from bills and $625,000 from Bills’ wife Sonja Smith, the one-term congressman ran an unexpectedly close campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for governor against Ralph Northam. In 2018 Perriello took a job as head of the U.S. programs of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Clean Virginia is run now by Brennan Gilmore, Perriello’s campaign chief of staff.

Then there was The Virginia Mercury, “a dark money-funded nonprofit journalism outfit” that amped up negative journalistic coverage of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline debate. The Virginia Mercury was initially funded through the Hopewell Fund, managed by Arabella Advisors. The largest single donor to the Hopewell Fund was the Buffett Foundation. Writes Bloom: “We don’t know who the specific donors for the Virginia Mercury are, but given the various Buffett-connected interests involved here, one has to wonder.”

Brennan Gilmore, former Perriello chief of staff and now director of Clean Virginia

Bacon’s bottom line: Bloom highlights the murky intersection of Big Money, nonprofit advocacy groups, the environmental movement, and the exercise of power in Virginia. These are all topics that have consumed the attention of Bacon’s Rebellion, although I must confess that Bloom has identified links and connections that I had overlooked. As I wrote recently, citizens need to know: Who Rules Virginia? The last remnants of the plantation aristocracy and old industrial-era money have been swept away. Virginia has a new ruling class now.

My biggest concern with Bloom’s article is the insinuation that reporters and editors affiliated with the former Berkshire Hathaway-owned newspapers might have been dancing to the tune called by someone high in the Berkshire Hathaway organization. As much as I have criticized establishment Virginia journalists, I cannot bring myself to believe that they were tools of shadowy financial masterminds. My sense is that, yes, they are incredibly biased, and, yes, they created a narrative and pursued storylines that favored environmentalists over Dominion, but they did so out of their own convictions. They did not need some muckety muck from Berkshire Hathaway to order them to do so. Furthermore, no one has presented a scintilla of tangible evidence, other than the common ownership highlighted by Bloom, that any corporate dictates took  place.

So, to answer the question I posed atop this post, it is a coincidence that Berkshire Hathaway owned a key Virginia newspaper chains that opposed Dominion and also wound up buying Dominion’s gas pipeline business.

Where Bloom is totally on target, however, is his laying bare of the connections between liberal/progressive Charlottesville millionaires and billionaires, liberal/progressive foundation money, campaign contributions, the funding of astroturf organizations and, perhaps even the funding of journalistic organizations such as The Virginia Mercury and, who knows, foundation-funded Virginia Public Media.

When commercially sustained newspapers meet their inevitable, not-to-be-lamented demise, who will inherit the world of journalism in Virginia? Who will report the news? Who will shape the dominant narratives of our times? Will Virginia’s new media have any interest in exposing the machinations of those in power, or will they be lapdogs of the new ruling class?

Update: A search of the Virginia Public Access Project finds no record of Charles Munger Jr. having made any contribution to the Democratic Party of Virginia. My emails to Bloom have bounced back. This certainly undercuts his argument that Berkshire Hathaway has played any behind-the-scenes role in Virginia politics.

Update: Looks like we were talking about the wrong Munger. Bloom has sent me a 2015 Washington Post article saying that Philip Munger, a different son of Charles Munger Sr., had written checks adding up to $1 million to the Virginia Democratic Party, making him the largest individual donor to the state party in the past 20 years, if not all time. VPAP confirms that Philip Munger, of New York, has donated a total of $1,326,000 million.

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57 responses to “Charlottesville Elites and Virginia’s New Ruling Class

  1. Always, always, always follow the money. Sui Bono.

    I also did not detect open bias against the ACP in the mainstream media, certainly not like you then saw with the Mercury. But remember, and Bloom notes this, the Democratic Political Elite in the Age of the Macker was fully on board with the pipeline, Current Occupant included. It is also no coincidence that the pipeline finally died just as the future of the offshore wind boondoggle was secured. They got what they wanted.

  2. Warren Buffet is a menace to America. He tools around Omaha in an old car buying McDonald’s meals with exact change but gets on his gleaming new private jet to go elsewhere. He preaches “return value to the shareholder” but means buy back shares and pay high cash dividends. R&D? Expansion? Training? Those are for the little people. The mainstream media, incompetent as ever, portrays Buffet as some kind of cuddly teddy bear. Trust me – the last thing you want is for this asshat to start investing in your company. He’ll exsanguinate the cash and leave a shell of what could have been.

  3. Those who own newspapers do not need to pressure their staffs to write what the management wants. They only have to hire staff who believe what the management believes, and let go everyone on the staff who shows any sign of independent reporting.

    Ask the hundreds of journalists let go from Virginia newspapers in the last ten years. You know, the ones who actually knew the territory and could uncover scandals.

    They were replaced by journalism majors fresh from 4 years of social activist training in the best Marxist critical theory traditions. No knowledge but all encompassing opinions. Mission accomplished.

  4. This is very hard to believe. The media, Buffett or no, did not kill the ACP. It was Dominion’s, Duke’s and the Southern Company’s bad idea. It was too ambitious. The natural gas market shifted. Fracking shifted. There was no economic justification for it. Investors were skittish. I really don’t see the Daily Progress or the other former Buffett papers playing that huge a role. Some of them supported it. Democrats Northam and McAuliffe did. If you want to look for something, check how Virginia’s regulators roll over for Dominion.
    Jim, do me a favor. Stop ready this right wing crap all the time and regurgitating it. It gets old.

    • Peter, sadly, I’ll have to mark you down as an apologist for the new ruling class. You have no interest in following the money — unless it leads to the Koch Brothers.

    • Peter, “There was no economic justification for it”. I am sorry, but you simply have no idea what you are talking about.

      There already is not nearly enough natural gas to supply the needs of Hampton Roads in the winter.

      First some background courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

      Although Virginia holds less than 1% of the nation’s total natural gas reserves, the state contains one-fifth of U.S. coalbed methane proved reserves, the third-largest amount of any state. Almost nine-tenths of the state’s natural gas production is coalbed methane produced from coal-rich formations. Two of Virginia’s coalbed methane fields are among the nation’s top 100 natural gas fields as ranked by proved reserves. The state’s natural gas fields are located in seven counties in the southwestern corner of Virginia. Virginia’s natural gas production, which is less than 1% of the nation’s total, is substantially greater than it was three decades ago, but production still equals only about one-fifth of state demand.

      Natural gas consumption by Virginia’s electric power generators has risen sharply since 2003, increasing more than ten-fold by 2018.51 In 2015, for the first time the electric power sector consumed more natural gas than all the other end-use sectors combined. By 2017, the electric power sector accounted for almost three-fifths of the natural gas delivered to consumers in the state. The industrial sector is the second-largest natural gas-consuming sector in Virginia, followed by the residential sector, where one in three households use natural gas for home heating.

      The U.S. military, at the urging of the greens, converted from coal fired plants to natural gas for its electricity generation and heating requirements in the last two decades. The military has its own generating capacity, but not its own gas supply. Here in Hampton Roads, the world’s largest naval base, the military gets theirs from Virginia Natural Gas like everyone else.

      Large natural gas users in the Hampton Roads region, especially including the military facilities and shipyards, have their allocation reduced on cold winter days.

      The Navy has reportedly invested $80 million in a gas-fired co-generation plant at NAS Oceana that depended upon the pipeline for its feed supply that now will not be able to be brought online.

      If the military, the port of Virginia and the shipyards can’t get the gas they need, consider what obstacles that provides to anyone else who wishes to open an industrial facility down here.

      The nation’s investment in naval infrastructure here is almost incalculable. If the Navy moves major facilities like Oceana from Hampton Roads to locations where they can depend upon the gas supply, this area will never recover and the overall economy of Virginia will take huge hit.

      • I’ve not seen anything from an objective sources that says Eastern Va is short of natural gas.

        Dominion started the ACP NOT talking about the “need” in Tidewater but instead the need for electricity.

        There are already existing pipelines and rights-of-ways serving Tidewater. More/bigger pipes could be added on the same rights-of-ways if there was truly a need.

        I don’t consider Dominion nor it’s COC supporters to be objective sources.

        If the claim is true – then existing natural gas in the Tidewater area would be far more expensive than other areas in the US with ample supplies of gas.

        So where are the facts?

        • The facts are as I laid them out above.

          It is not necessary for you to believe them for them to be true.
          – You might concede that I know a lot about the Navy in Hampton Roads.
          – Or you might concede that Dominion would not have budgeted $5 billion and spent nearly $8 billion to bring gas to a portion of the state that did not need it.

          If not:

          From the Roanoke Times Jan 9, 2019:

          The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is absolutely critical to the economic future of Hampton Roads and the environmental health of our entire region.

          Virginia Natural Gas is the local utility that serves 300,000 homes and businesses in Hampton Roads. They heat our homes, power our businesses and serve Naval Station Norfolk.

          In 2018 alone, Virginia Natural Gas had to shut off gas service to Norfolk Naval Station multiple occasions. Why? Because we don’t have enough pipelines or natural gas in Hampton Roads to serve homes, businesses and the naval base at the same time. Our local utility has to throttle service to the U.S. Navy and hundreds of other large industrial customers just to keep homes and hospitals warm.

          Our military bases are not only vital to our national security. They’re also critical to the Hampton Roads economy.

          We’re living in the “BRAC era,” Base Realignment And Closure. Communities like ours all across the country are competing against each another to save our bases as the military goes through historic downsizing. If we want to make Naval Station Norfolk “BRAC-proof” and if we want to keep our naval base and the multi-billion dollar economy it supports — we need new pipeline infrastructure to serve it.

          If we don’t build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to help serve our military bases, we could be next on the chopping block. It’s that simple. There are plenty of other U.S. military bases with reliable access to natural gas.

          Not having reliable pipeline infrastructure threatens another major economic driver in Hampton Roads — the Port of Virginia. The Port and the Virginia Maritime Association are taking serious steps to bring Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) bunkering service to the Port to serve international shipping vessels. It’s the wave of the future and would be a huge economic windfall for our region. Most international shipping fleets run on dirty diesel fuel. New international environmental regulations require ocean going ships to convert to cleaner forms of fuel. Converting to LNG slashes carbon emissions by one-third and most air pollution by almost 90 percent, so it would also be a huge environmental windfall.

          Without the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Port doesn’t have a chance at bringing LNG bunkering to Hampton Roads. We’re competing with New York, New Jersey, Savannah, Jacksonville, and major ports around the globe. If we don’t move fast, we’re going to miss our opportunity and the tens of thousands of jobs it would bring.

          We’ve missed out on other economic opportunities already because of our outdated or non-existent pipelines. Just ask economic developers in Suffolk. In just the last ten years, we’ve lost out on more than $2 billion in new manufacturing because our local utility couldn’t guarantee natural gas service to new companies looking to locate here.

          We’re missing out on opportunities to improve our environment, too. Tens of thousands of homes in Hampton Roads still run on dirty heating oil. It produces one-third more carbon than natural gas and even more sulfur and nitrogen pollution. That’s bad for our climate, our air quality and our Chesapeake Bay. Think of the environmental progress we could make if these homes could switch to cleaner natural gas. It won’t happen without the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

          Environmentalists don’t like to talk about it, but Dominion Energy has reduced its carbon emissions by 50 percent since 2000. If you’re a Dominion Energy electric customer, your carbon footprint is at least half of what it was twenty years ago. That’s all because clean natural gas has replaced dirty coal over the last two decades.

          Dominion Energy wants to go even further and reach a 60 percent carbon reduction by 2030, but they can’t do it without the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The infrastructure just isn’t there, and we can’t get the supplies we need into Virginia.

          At this critical juncture for the Hampton Roads economy, we must protect our military assets, continue to build up our port, diversify our economy with new manufacturing opportunities, and bring clean burning natural gas to our homeowners in Suffolk, James City County, Gloucester and large parts of Chesapeake.

          Hampton Roads urgently needs the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Our economic and environmental future depends on it.

          • If it were truly a strategic issue where is the military statement?

            This is an economic issue – not a strategic issue.

            It would have been EASY for the military to weigh in and support Dominion’s contention that it was strategic but they did not.

            What you cite also works for electricity and the way that works is that they get the electricity/gas at a discount in exchange for not getting it during high demand periods. Works that way in a lot of places. Does not mean there is a strategic shortage.

            If this was really strategic – the military would have stepped up and said so at the time Dominion was getting out… nothing from the military –

            In terms of opinion pages… they are favorite places for lobbyists and hacks….. but until/unless a truly objective organization weighs in – it’s just blather.

  5. Or dominion, as has been your case. Capt. Sherlock, I’ve been a journalist for 48 years and haven’t really thought much of critical theory.What do you know about the ideas of young journalists? Have you ever talked to one?

  6. geeze, a conspiracy-a-minute…. “yeah, but he MIGHT be beating his wife, you never know”!

    So all around these folks there are “conspiracies” going on – just waiting to be found out apparently especially if liberals are involved…

    here’s a little editorial excerpt from the FLS that was also one of the formerly owned papers:

    “Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell and Duke CEO Lynn Good expressed their regrets for the cancellation, noting the potential for more legal challenges and their inability to predict the outcome of the ongoing permitting process. “This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged,” they said in a joint statement.

    Clean-burning natural gas has contributed more to clean air in Virginia than any other intervention because it allows utilities to phase-out dirty coal plants. And until a technological solution for utility-scale battery storage is invented, the use of intermittent renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar will still require baseload electrical generation by natural gas plants. That gas will still travel through existing pipelines to the Mid-Atlantic from the Gulf Coast.

    The problem is that those pipelines are nearing capacity. Natural gas pipelines running from West Virginia to New England are already maxed out in the winter, and some experts are predicting that capacity restraints in the Mid-Atlantic could begin as early as 2021.

    The demise of the ACP will not change the fact that the vast majority of Virginia’s homes and businesses will still depend on natural gas-fired electrical power in addition to nuclear energy for the foreseeable future. It will just make providing that power more expensive and potentially less reliable—something the project’s environmental opponents never mention.

    “For decades, conservatives and other reformers have warned that a combination of unrealistic regulation and venue-shopping litigation has made it extremely difficult to build things—from new businesses and affordable housing to roads, dams and other infrastructure. The demise of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a stark example of what we meant,” wrote John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation.

    This is another example of how real progress is being stymied by those who call themselves “progressives.” All Virginians will eventually wind up paying for their short-sighted obstruction.”

    Of course the editorial is crap – pure propaganda – but hey it blows up some of that conspiracy crap also.

    Like poor old Dom played by the rules and didn’t corrupt the GA with lobby money or not give back the excess profit or tax rebates or get a guaranteed profit for coal ash cleanup… or misled the public with respect to the need for gas for electricity…

    nope – they were done in by a conspiracy!

    good gawd o’mighty….

  7. Madams. You know nothing about me. You don’t know the work I have done. Yet I have to put up with these personal put downs. At least I identify myself in my comments.

    • “Peter Galuszka | July 22, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Reply
      Madams. You know nothing about me. You don’t know the work I have done. Yet I have to put up with these personal put downs. At least I identify myself in my comments.”

      Your Linkedin page is public record. If you don’t want to be criticized don’t comment or write. I thought the first rule of being in the public eye, was have a thick skin. My name is Matt Adams, I thought that was relatively straight forward from my name.

      If you’re going to harp about nom de plumes, perhaps you should address those who you lickspittle with on this blog.

      The claim that people don’t know your work or what you’ve done sounds similar to people claiming to be Special Forces and they can’t tell you what they’ve done, they are lying.

      • Nancy Boy knows his given name and uses it regularly….If Nancy Boy or Half Wit Troll wanted to go first initial and then surname, I’d live with that. But I’m tired of those unwilling to stand by the their snark….

        Agree or disagree with Bloom’s story, it was certainly worth reading and thinking about, and is another example of something the MSM lacks the interest or manpower to pursue.

        • I concur, but I also take exception with Peter’s silence on the issue regarding them. I would also think a published author could at least take criticism, or maybe he doesn’t read his own book reviews.

        • Nancy Boy? Nancy Boy?! Hey! Ya know, I like it. Good job.

          “I must confess that Bloom has identified links and connections that I had overlooked. ”

          Is that because you overlooked them or he made them up?

    • Also, just a little aside. If you’d like to read what Journalism of the investigative type looks like. I suggest Ida Tarbell, we could discuss what the Rockefeller’s did to where I’m from.

  8. Comparing Bloom to Ida Tarbell is ridiculous. The bloom article tries to connect dots but fails. Adams, I have read my book reviews. Have you?

    • I didn’t make that comparison, I asked if you’d like to view actual Journalism read her work. We could again, then discuss the effects of Standard Oil on where I’m from, you know Appalachia.

      Yes, I’ve read your book reviews and have one question. Did you barrow the title from Bob Dylan or was that on accident?

      Oh and it’s Matt, Adams is my last name.

  9. James, I think you and Bloom hit the mark here. Outside of major metros, Cville is one of the few US cities where the private equity gentry, their financial interests, and their social/environmental sensibilities have converged in a truly significant way. It’s a vital story to follow for the Commonwealth at large, whatever you think of the players.

    [Before I forget — the Southern Environmental Law Center is also a Cville institution, and has been a major player in coordinating litigation against the ACP.]

    Your post and the comments below touch on a supposed class tension between “the plantation elite” and the new money, with McAuliffe/Northam/the current Richmond crowd as a supporting cast. Maybe there’s real ill will toward one another at the top of the pyramid; I wouldn’t know.

    But among young professionals and the “professional managerial class” keeping things moving at Dominion, Capital One, the defense contractors, and the Cville private equity clans — there really isn’t, as far as I can tell. These people come from the same neighborhoods in Oakton or VAB or Henrico, went through the same dozen graduate programs, watch the same Netflix shows, and follow each other on Twitter. I’ll pass by what happens on Bumble and Hinge.

    When the nonprofit-private equity axis takes up SJW/woke/climate activist sensibilities as a cause célèbre, they aren’t Marxist Manchurian Candidates being activated by Rachel Maddow or whatever. They’re broadcasting their status and attracting young, overqualified grads who seek easy money, social acclaim, and professional advancement in organizations possessing the power and resources to insulate their managers and stakeholders from an increasingly confused and zero-sum career game — to say nothing of national politics and “cancel culture.” Most of these people are politically agnostic, or if they believe in anything it’s on a very narrow, technocratic Buttigieg-Paul Ryan spectrum, i.e. “rule by people like us.” And that’s the thing; they’re all the same sort of people.

    I may be a NOVA native, but this DC-ification of the commonwealth’s professional-political dynamics is worrying. You and Bloom do a good job of calling it out by taking the ACP as a prism.

    • There is definitely a battle between Virginia’s “plantation elite” and a new class of private equity managers I’ll call the money shufflers. Dominion represents the plantation elite with its tentacles deeply embedded into the Virginia General Assembly. The Charlottesville mafia represents the money shufflers.
      The money shufflers tend to use the federal government, media and the courts more than the General Assembly to advance their entirely self-serving agendas.

      Make no mistake – neither group cares one whit about the well being of the citizens of Virginia. The plantation elite seek to enrich themselves and preserve the traditional social order that has infected Virginia for the last 120 years. They believe they have a hereditary / genetic advantage over the rest of us best summed up by “The Virginia Way”.

      The money shufflers want to impose their will on society because they are egomaniacs who hold a general disdain for democracy and the “little people” who vote and pay taxes. They will also use any and every opportunity to enrich themselves with no regard to morality or ethics. The book Liar’s Poker and Matt Tiabbi’s articles about Goldman Sachs (Vampire Squid) provide compelling narratives about they type of people now found in Charlottesville.
      They are a cancer on America and the American economy. I’ve had the miserable experience of having to deal with these parasites far too many times in my life.

      The ACP issue should have been a fairly easy matter to understand. Either Southeast Virginia needed more gas or it didn’t. However, the plantation elite are not used to defending their decisions and saw no good reason to start doing so now. Meanwhile, as can be seen in retrospect, the money shufflers were in full vampire squid mode and smelled a score.

      I’m a NoVa native too. I never thought about the plantation elite until I went to UVA and met some of the Buffy’s and Biff’s from Richmond. Dressed in gaudy colored gator shirts, khakis and wearing some weird brand of rubber boot-shoes I thought they were kidding me with their overtly racist philosophy and condescending view of everybody besides themselves. I didn’t realize at the time I was meeting the next generation of the plantation elite. I thought of them as the worst vermin on Earth until I met the venture capital / hedge fund / private equity crowd, aka the money shufflers or vampire squids. They are even worse than the plantation elite.

      God bless Virginia if she’s going to be caught between the plantation elite and the vampire squids.

      • A pulp novel set among the smoldering ruins of UVA Grounds, in which the Vineyard Vines Legion squares off against Lovecraftian equity vampires. If you’ll write it, I’ll buy it.

        • It was LaCost (sp?) shirts and Topsider shoes when I was there but I can see how the gaudy Vineyard Vines clothes would appeal to the children of the plantation class people with whom I attended UVA.

      • Perhaps circle back and ask what the appeal of UVA was to you – sounds like you misunderstood who they were! 😉

        You zigged when you shoulda zagged ? 😉

        Oh… and I strongly suspect venture capitalists could care less what geography they’re in – it’s all about that money!

        When Buffer bought the newspapers – some were already in the hands of hedge fund folks and the papers thought they were rescued – you know like Bezos saving WaPo! So Buffet got a two-fer. He screwed the papers and Dominion! You should be happy and proud!

        • 90% of UVA (like 90% of Virginia) had nothing but disdain for upper crust Richmonders. They were the laughingstock of the student body. But just like the “private equity creeps” behind the curtain of the Dominion deal those Richmonders are more than just the butt of uncountable jokes. Many would go on to become the rank and file of the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond as well as the special interests who pull the puppet strings that keep the clowns dancing. Fortunately for Virginia the location of the federal government’s capital and the military bases in the state limit the harm that the now grown preppies can do.

          On a side note, I was unsurprised by Northam’s pictures in his medical school yearbook or by his endless lies trying to disavow those pictures. It was part and parcel of what I would expect from a member of the plantation elite.

          I would have been happy if Dominion was defeated by the people of Virginia instead of being the swindled by the ongoing crime show of American private equity. Trust me when I tell you this – the con artists in the vampire squid collection are far worse than the plantation elite. Think Hitler vs Moussolini.

          • Your experience at UVA runs counter to what I’ve heard from my friends and work colleagues — for reference, I’m a very, very young Millennial that went to another Virginia school, but works with UVA types daily.

            Could be that the planters have learned to cloak themselves, or that every college student with parents above a certain tax bracket has homogenized into a duck boot-wearing, Wrangler-driving VV enthusiast, but I really don’t think young planters who think and act as such exist in any significant number. The young and privileged of RVA are distinguished from those of NOVA only because they interned at law firms and not NGOs.
            Insofar as it’s young native Virginians who staff the private equity concerns, they are part and parcel of the same professional cohort as those at McGuireWoods or Dominion.

          • Nancy_Naive

            What a coincidence. Would you believe that 90% of made up statistics start with 90%?

  10. Yes it is a Dylan song. I was out there reporting. Horrible winter weather and rough roads on the wva and ky border. The Wanda Jackson version of the Dylan song came on the radio. I had the flu but I knew this was the title.

  11. Dominion portrayed the ACP as a critical need for electricity. They came off of that narrative then claimed that it was an economic development “need”.

    So basically Dominion wanted to get in the business of transporting gas and selling it.

    That was fine until they wanted to use eminent domain as a property owner seeking to take property from others for it’s own profit

    That’s what enraged many property owners and got them involved in the lawsuit.

    In the end, Dominion realized that every step of the way they were going to meet organized opposition.

    Dominion screwed up plain and simple.

    Trying to turn this into a parable about “liberals” and conspiracy theories is looney tunes but not that surprising these days.

    You cannot use eminent domain to take property from others for your own gain – without significant push-back.

    Many of the landowners are Conservatives… who do not cotton to the idea of other property owners taking their property …

    Transco and VNG have existing markets and pipeline rights-of-ways that already serve Tidewater. If anything, it would have been their call on expansion – not a brand new competitor who was trying to do it on the cheap by using eminent domain.

    Dominion just screwed up and they finally realized it.

    • Larry, concerning Dominion “transporting gas and selling it”. You have to be more careful.

      You made the case earlier “I’ve not seen anything from an objective sources that says Eastern Va is short of natural gas. … There are already existing pipelines and rights-of-ways serving Tidewater. More/bigger pipes could be added on the same rights-of-ways if there was truly a need.”

      So which is it?
      – Dominion was planning to transport the gas in the new pipeline and sell it at a profit in Hampton Roads; or
      – there is no need for more gas here?

      Pick one and stick with it if you can.

      • Jim – it’s pretty simple. If Transco and VNG said there was a serious shortage of gas in Tidewater and the Military agreed it would have been significant – and an honest question even then would have been why not have transco/VNG expand their existing network instead of a new competitor?

        Remember – the Mountain Valley Pipeline also – right?

        Did Dominion lose to them?

  12. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the issue gas *supply* — not the local distribution — in Hampton Roads? I thought Dominion was hoping to leverage their extant transmission assets in WV to pull gas from the Marcellus to VA and eastern NC via the ACP. If VNG wanted to get in on the game, wouldn’t they have to pay for space on other companies’ assets in the west *and* lay more pipe down to Hampton Roads?

    I really don’t know if this is the case, but it does look like Dominion was the company best situated to meet the USN’s needs.

  13. existing gas pipelines in Virginia:

    • Interesting — VNG has rights of way through Tidewater, but they still have to pay for space on other companies’ assets coming out of the Appalachians. There’s no such clear a map for WV, but it looks like VNG/Southern doesn’t have much infrastructure out that way. Dominion, on the other hand…

      Based on this, it seems like Columbia/NiSource has the most existing infrastructure needed to support a further build-out. But if we run with the notion of high gas demand in Hampton Roads, then that means good prices for Columbia for capacity on their existing lines. If you own the only railroad between two cities, why would you finance a second? I know high prices for gas carried on other companies’ lines has been an issue for Dominion in the past.

      • Well yes… but the point is that Transco and Columbia already have an extensive network of pipelines to supply gas to companies that retail it like VNG.

        Adding more/bigger pipes to existing rights-of-way has to be cheaper than building brand new right-of-way that would have to be incorporated into the price of gas.

        There is no way Dominion was going to compete on price if they had all that new infrastructure to pay for. What they were counting on was low land prices by using eminent domain and when that ran into trouble – they bailed.

        Looks like the Mountain Valley Pipeline is still going forward:
        MVPPrepares For Construction CompletionFull In-ServiceTargetedEarly2021Canonsburg, PA (June 11,2020)–

        Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC(Mountain Valley),today,provided a schedule and timing update in preparation for completion of its 303-mile natural gas transmission line. Total project work is approximately 92% complete and full in-service is now expected in early 2021

        The other question is why would Dominion want to get into the gas pipeline business when there is already and existing provider Transco who would be a tough competitor because it’s already amortized the cost of it’s existing pipelines…?

        I suspect between Dominions investors and some Wall Street types they were asking similar questions and Dominion had no good answers and lost support on the investor side. If there had still been a viable business model – the investors would have stayed.

        • That makes a lot of sense — I wasn’t disputing the economics behind why it was cancelled, only who was best-positioned to build new transmission capacity to Tidewater. That $3.5B in added cost was looking like quite the burden toward the end — but at $4B total in 2014 or whenever it was announced, I could see Dominion’s analysts justifying the ACP quite easily.

        • Larry, Keep on denying.

          From a piece in the Daily Press:

          https://www.dailypress.com/news/environment/dp-nw-atlantic-coast-pipeline-canceled-20200705-cjidl5f2mnc3xkkiwg6ty5gzw4-story.html

          “Virginia Natural Gas, which serves more than 300,000 customers in southeastern Virginia, and Columbia Natural Gas, which has more than 265,000 customers, including some in Hampton Roads, had signed 20-year commitments for gas to be shipped through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.” (Your notion that it has to be cheaper for VNG to build its own pipelines apparently did not occur to VNG.)

          “The gas companies have been concerned for years about gas supplies — some large industrial and military customers in Hampton Roads have had gas supplies interrupted on the coldest winter days in the past half dozen years because there’s not been enough gas to go around.”

          Tell us again that there is no market for the gas in Hampton Roads.

          Dominion abandoned the project because there is no limit on the number of times they can be sued or the numbers of years of court time it would take to defend each new micro theory of law or micro plaintiff funded by the folks in Jim Bacon’s column.

          Why do you think that President Obama found that there is no such thing as a shovel ready project?

          • Oh I think there is a market sure enough but it’s not a critical need issue – it’s an economic development issue.

            You have for-profit private sector companies trying to serve a market.

            Neither Dominion nor the Military are citing a critical need.

            Any such venture has to be economically viable. In other words the “market” has to be large enough so the pipeline is cost-effective.

            Transco was going to be more competitive because it has an existing network already amortized that it is adding to vice Dominion trying to build a brand new pipeline on land that has to be acquired.

            My guess is that the venture was marginal to start with and they were counting on eminent domain to get the land cheap – and when the lawsuits happened – investors pulled the plug.

            As far as I can tell, the Transco MVP is still viable and plans to serve the Tidewater market.

  14. “Arthur Bloom, managing editor of the American Conservative website, doesn’t come right out and say that Berkshire Hathaway used its power of the press to force Dominion into abandoning the pipeline and unloading its gas distribution, but he does suggest that such a thing might be possible. ”

    I have a dream… so, basically the article is nothing more than a screenplay for the QAnon follower types.

  15. Capt.sherlock. You cite an EIA report about Virginia’s natural gas potential in seven Southwest Virginia counties. Hot flash fighter jockey! None the of the gas from the ACP or MVP would come from there. If you don’t understand thus I suggest you stick with Top Gun. Peter Galuszka

    • That’s Pop Gun… command of an LMD with its twin Parker 51s.

    • Particularly incisive repartee, Peter. Of course the point was that:

      “Virginia’s natural gas production, which is less than 1% of the nation’s total, is substantially greater than it was three decades ago, but production still equals only about one-fifth of state demand.” I’ll translate for you. We need to get it from out of state.

  16. Munger Jr. seems to be California Repub why would he be funding savior to Virginia democrat party and their races

    • Why did McAuliffe and Hillary Clinton’s brother choose red state Mississippi to build their “never off the ground” golf cart car company? Why did Hunter Biden go to Ukraine to peddle his natural gas brilliance? Why does Donald Trump oppose selling the FBI’s DC headquarters to a hotel group and moving the bureau to Virginia or Maryland?

      These are American oligarchs and oligarchs in training (mini-garchs). They find targets of opportunity for their schemes. Political influence is just another tool for their personal self-enrichment. Back in 2015 Munger, a California Republican, was laying out the dough for Democrats in Virginia. In 2020 his Daddy’s company bought the gas business from Dominion. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

  17. Virginia needs to pass a 75% estate tax for any estate’s value over $100m. That will delouse the Commonwealth of the vampire squids.

    • but what they’ll end-up doing is reducing the estate tax limit to soak it to family owned small businesses while giving the $100m+ class time to shore-up thier foundations and trusts, all while telling us plebs (usefuel idiots) they’re leveling the playing field.

      Plays right into thier hands

  18. The great pity of blogging is that commenters here can be totally wrong every day, make a fool of themselves every day, have their head decapitated everyday, and yet they can still keeping talking, though headless, rendering ever more nonsensical opinions of no value, or negative values, endlessly nevertheless till they die a natural death. Thus, if you are at bottom, a bottom feeder ankle biter who get their rocks off this vapid game of useless interference, it’s a game these headless trolls can’t lose. Particularly so when others of intelligence, seriousness, dedication, keep the blog alive daily, the ones the trolls feed off of for their gratuitous pleasure. That is doubly true when the trolls hide behind disguises.

  19. I’ve long contended that the private equity / m&a types are behind socialist efforts like estate taxes. Nothing like knee capping family-owned businesses to force a sale at a discount

    Buffet can voluntarily pay more taxes if he really put his money where his propaganda is. Lots of talk, little action
    https://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/gift/gift.htm

  20. Large contributions to political parties are generally publicly reported. Anyone who bothered to check would find an extensive record of Charles Munger Jr.’s contributions to California Republicans and ballot measures. However there is no record of any contributions by Charles Munger, Jr. to the Virginia Democratic Party or Virginia Democrats.

    • I checked VPAP on this, and LuisB is correct. There is no record for Charles Munger (jr. or otherwise) having donated anything in Virginia.

      I would like to know what Bloom bases this information on. Unfortunately, my emails to him bounce back. This certainly undercuts his argument that Berkshire Hathaway played some nefarious role in behind-the-scenes Virginia politics.

  21. I notice that the art for Mr. Bloom’s Post was the old Dominion building that was imploded and taken to dumps some weeks ago. The guy seems really in touch

  22. Jim Sherlock,
    All kidding aside, there is ample evidence that the ACP doe snot have the market for its product and that is a major reason why it was cancelled.

    (1) See this: https://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Atlantic-Coast-Pipeline_January-2019.pdf
    (2) The ACP had three partners originally. The Southern Company dropped out earlier this year concerned about cost increases and questions about the changing demand for natural gas.
    (2) Another partner, Duke, got skittish after its CEO raised questions about the ACP’s viability earlier this year.
    (3) The ACP is designed to take natural gas from the Marcellus Shale fracking fields of northern West Virginia and Pennsylvania southeast to North Carolina. It has nothing to do with the Virginian gas fields in the far southwest of the state.
    (4) Fracking for gas reached its peak nearly 10 years ago, but it resulted in a glut of gas. A fracking well can cost $12 million compared to about $1 million for a normal well. The boom peaked several years ago. Major fracking pioneers like Chesapeake Energy of Kansas have gone bankrupt.
    (5) Business interests want to put two merchant gas plants in the Chickahominy area. If they go up, one has to question any supposed dearth of gas.
    (6) If Hampton Roads and Virginia Natural Gas are really that short of gas for the Navy and other customers, there is a simple solution. Build a feeder pipeline to the Transco Pipeline that already runs through central Virginia from the Gulf Coast. ACP would come in from the other direction.

    Frankly, I have been covering energy for many years, including stints in Washington covering fossil fuel prices for then McGraw-Hill and Platt’s. I covered energy out of Moscow and traveled to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaian, Siberia and northwestern Russia to report on projects.
    I have been writing about the ACP since its inception for The Washington Post, The Virginian-Pilot, Style Weekly and Bacons Rebellion. I also do research that on occasion involves gas projects in the U.S. Midwest, Southwest and Appalachia. I wrote a book on coal and, as a journalist, have visited many coalfields. My book involved two years of research mostly in Central Appalachia, but for it, I visited Mongolia, China and Japan.
    I’m getting use to put downs here at Bacons Rebellion of a nasty sort that didn’t happen before, but I am taken aback when you tell me that I don’t know what I am talking about when it comes to energy. I don’t pretend to be a fighter pilot and I know nothing about that.

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