Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes

Applause earned

by Kerry Dougherty

Look who’s crying now.

Virginia Democrats, who launched ugly attacks on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s religious beliefs in his second week in office and who spent the entire session bragging about how they were a “brick wall” blocking most of his initiatives, are suddenly bawling because the governor vetoed 26 bills.

Never mind that Youngkin also signed 702 bills and amended 114.

These are the same partisan hacks who blocked Andrew Wheeler’s appointment to serve as Virginia’s Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources because he’d been Donald Trump’s EPA chief. On top of that, these are the Democrats who shamelessly approved the appointments of soft-on-crime “bleeding hearts” to the last parole board and then watched as they began setting killers free. These vindictive lefties torpedoed four of Youngkin’s Parole Board appointments.

Looks like these arrogant politicians, who believed they’d never have to work with another Republican governor, expected Youngkin to simply roll over and rubber stamp redundant and bad bills.

There’s a new sheriff in Richmond and while he may be mild-mannered, Youngkin demonstrated this week that he knows how to punch back at the bullies in the General Assembly.

Among the bills he vetoed was one by Senator Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, that would have required prosecutors to aid lazy criminal defense attorneys by providing them with copies of subpoenas that are readily available in court clerk’s offices. Lawyers need the exercise. Go get them yourselves. The people don’t have to pay to do your work.

Here’s another example of a bill Youngkin vetoed.

The following was written by Steve Haner and initially published on Bacon’s Rebellion

Reliance on the controlling phrase “in the public interest” helped get an energy bill vetoed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), bringing a rare call from a governor to maintain the independent oversight of the State Corporation Commission. Recent governors of both parties happily signed bills with the phrase into law over and over.

Senate Bill 347 was a pretty bad bill from the start. It applied to only one company, Dominion Energy Virginia. The company is already under orders from the General Assembly to stress and increase energy efficiency with its customers (often adding the costs onto the rest of us). But the bill went deep into the weeds calling for specific “energy efficiency savings targets for customers who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service,” according to the summary. Under its current management, Dominion just loves to mix identity politics with ways to make money for its shareholders.

Here’s what Youngkin put in his veto explanation:

“Although this legislation has the commendable goal of promoting energy efficiency, the requirements included in this legislation could, through an arbitrary declaration of the public interest, increase energy costs on Virginians. As a result, the Commonwealth’s energy policy moves further away from a cost-effective, all-of-the-above strategy with strong regulatory oversight administered by the SCC.”

Energy policy should be established by the General Assembly but not at the expense of consumer protection and strong regulatory oversight through the constitutionally-established SCC. Public interest declarations unnecessarily restrict the constitutional authority of the SCC and should be used rarely, if ever.

Since the 2007 legislation that ended Virginia’s path toward electric utility deregulation, the General Assembly has used (abused) the phrase “in the public interest” to impose its political will over the discretion of the independent SCC. In 2007 the beneficiary was the coal plant the Assembly ordered be approved for Southwest Virginia, the same coal plant that 15 years later is proving to be a financial white elephant.

Just about every time the Assembly has inserted the phrase, it has been to order the SCC to do something financially harmful to utility customers. In the case of Dominion’s pending offshore wind application, the Assembly not only declared it in the public interest but declared it in advance to be prudent and reasonable, which under no circumstances it actually is.

Unfortunately, legislation that would have restored the SCC’s authority in that instance didn’t escape the Virginia Senate to reach the Governor’s desk. But the Senate went for his bill 40-0, another dead giveaway the utility was all for it, and Youngkin zapped it. Perhaps the phrase “in the public interest” will disappear from future bills, at least for three more sessions.

That phrase was not used in another major energy bill that got the governor’s attention, this time with a series of amendments rather than a veto. When House Bill 558 was being debated, supporters over and over stressed that it preserved traditional SCC authority. Well, if that is their goal, they should support the amendments Youngkin has proposed. All help consumers.

House Bill 558 and its Senate companion create a regulatory structure for gas utilities to develop and distribute non-traditional forms of gas, so-called bio-gas, often from agricultural operations. Environmentalists fought it because, well, it is gas after all, and because it makes noises about reducing methane emissions but doesn’t really require any such reductions. This is correct.

The Democrats in both chambers who voted for this (and the Senate version had a Democratic sponsor, Scott Surovell) are Green New Deal hypocrites. During the session, only Virginia Mercury covered it, noting the irony. The bill deserves its own post, and there are other problems with it that Youngkin did not fix. I admit holding back because watching Democrats vote for it was so amusing.

Unfortunately, the governor’s amendments did not touch another element of the bill which has the General Assembly returning to an old, bad habit: allowing an enhanced profit margin, an extra 100 basis points of return on equity.

But Youngkin does oppose an effort in the bill to weaken SCC authority by adding a new “Societal Cost Test” as a measure of what is in the public interest. Adding that new test, totally subjective and focused on the claimed climate benefits, basically weakens reliance on the more traditional tests to protect consumers. The vote on this particular amendment later this month will be instructive, an acid test.

This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


16 responses to “Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    what goes around, comes around in politics and not in a good way but rather like two pigs in the pig pen.

    Anyone who thinks Youngkin is slop-free… oh well…

  2. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    An echo….

    But the tone on both sides is bad and deteriorating, and that’s not good for Virginia. Youngkin had apparently threatened Adam Ebbin that all his bills were in jeopardy if he blocked the Parole Board appointees, which was a dumba$$ move but the Dems did it anyway. Having made the threat it had to be executed. Okay….

    Now Senator Lucas, Queen of Twitter, has video on that channel for fools bragging the 21 Senate D’s will kill every amendment. Again, truly a dumba$$ move that will only lead to more vetoes. I’m beginning to see a pattern and Strother Martin’s distinctive voice is filling my memory: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Everybody turn off Twitter, fill up the kegerator (still there, right? Terry left it?) and have a meeting.

    1. VaNavVet Avatar

      NBC News 4 in DC ran a segment with the idea that Youngkin targeted Northern Va as an act of revenge and to position himself for future political ambitions. This for personal benefit at the expense of the Commonwealth.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well, he can’t be Gov the next time around but is he writing NoVa off for future votes for Senate or Gov again after the skip year?

        He must think that the tide has turned and he can win without NoVa and other Blue VA?

        Maybe so…..

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Oh, and that dog is the winner for worst bill of the session and most likely to be vetoed. What fool (oh, Hope) put in that gift to the swimming pool industry and its contractors? A bill creating an agency work group? Pushing for a whole new state regulatory scheme? Once upon a time, a bill like that would only get out of committee so it could be ridiculed and destroyed on the floor for fun. Back when people read the freaking bills!!

      For that bill the Dems are going to war?

  3. Scott A. Surovell Avatar
    Scott A. Surovell


    You are usually more thoughtful than this.

    First, every other attorney in Virginia (even defense lawyers in criminal cases) are required to send copies of subpoenas to the other side when they file them. Even the Virginia Associations of Commonwealth’s Attorneys were ok with SB474.

    Second, we don’t have electronic filing in Virginia – a trip to the courthouse to look at a file can take hours.

    Third, no one spoke up and raised a single criticism with this bill in the sixty days, three committee hearings, and two floor debates it was discussed – no one.

    Lastly, the methane bill is a good bipartisan bill and is getting national recognition. We worked with One Future, Virginia’s five incumbent LDC’s and make changes at the request of the environmental community. I’m not sure you all really understand it. Methane emissions are a growing problem and 1/3rd (and growing) of problematic greenhouse emissions.

    Jim Kibler has offered to answer anyone’s questions about the bill on the other post. Ask away.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The statement that methane represents one third of GHG emissions is beyond ignorant. It is tiny compared to CO2, which is 200 times more abundant (and course is plant food.). Mr. Kibler and I are known to each other. Did he talk you into the extra profit margin? Let me find you somebody else to listen to.

      1. Jim Kibler Avatar
        Jim Kibler

        Haner I will debate you anytime, anywhere. Methane is a flow pollutant, many times more potent than CO2 in the near term, so reducing it now creates bigger gains for the rest of the economy, allowing space for other sectors to catch up. In this case, unlike the VCEA, the General Assembly is asking the gas utilities for help in reducing the methane emissions from other sectors of the economy and to put up with NIMBY. That’s what the incentive is for. And by the way, it amounts to roughly $40,000 in increased return for every $1 million in capital investment.

        1. Cool, let’s have a debate — Haner versus Kibler. And Surovell can jump in if he likes. If everyone agrees, I’ll set it up!

          1. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            Nah, first I’m going to dive in on the bill, inform my friends, and I love Kibler’s explanation for the extra profit. I somehow suspect we are not talking about $1 million projects. Add three zeros and suddenly its an extra $4o million (using his math) per billion bucks. Voila!

          2. Jim Kibler Avatar
            Jim Kibler

            Well, I’ll help inform you. Read that provision carefully, because for the project to be approved, the SCC must find it to be in the public interest and that it will result in rates that are just and reasonable. You will appreciate that it does not declare any such project to be in the public interest, it creates no mandate, and the SCC is left with the discretion to conclude that such a project results in just and reasonable rates, which is the traditional standard. As part of that calculation, the SCC must find that the cost of the gas to be provided by a project, which by the way includes the 100 basis points bonus, is just and reasonable. Stated differently, if a project cannot succeed on the merits, the utility will not earn any return, must less a bonus.

            The size of the project depends on how much biogas can be produced, what its quality is (how much treatment is required) and how far it is from existing natural gas systems. The operating and capital costs are rolled into the cost of the gas. A source of biogas that produces small amounts, has high treatment costs, and is located a long distance from the market will never be in the money. A large source that is close to the market and requires little treatment will be in the money. Others in-between. But in all cases, the SCC will apply the traditional public interest/just and reasonable standards.

          3. Jim Kibler Avatar
            Jim Kibler

            And a billion bucks would double the asset value of the three largest gas utilities in the state, BTW.

      2. Scott Surovell Avatar
        Scott Surovell

        So I’m sure dumping raw sewage in a river is not a big deal because the raw sewage discharged by our sewers is only about 1% of the raw animal feces deposited around the globe?? You’re not trying to have a serious discussion.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Methane in a cow burp is equivalent to raw sewage? Save your tricks for the courtroom, counselor.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The statement that methane represents one third of GHG emissions is beyond ignorant. It is tiny compared to CO2, which is 200 times more abundant (and course is plant food.). Mr. Kibler and I are known to each other. Did he talk you into the extra profit margin? Let me find you somebody else to listen to.

    3. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The statement that methane represents one third of GHG emissions is beyond ignorant. It is tiny compared to CO2, which is 200 times more abundant (and course is plant food.). Mr. Kibler and I are known to each other. Did he talk you into the extra profit margin? Let me find you somebody else to listen to.

Leave a Reply