Tag Archives: Stephen D. Haner

“Strong Words” In Bills Give SCC Power On Rates

From Energy Burden Coalition flyer mailed to legislators.

By Steve Haner

One sentence, if it is the right sentence, can upset the machinations of the powerful. Two bills pending in the 2023 Virginia General Assembly contain such a sentence, and it could upset the plans of Dominion Energy Virginia.

Here is the sentence at the heart of both bills:

…if the (State Corporation) Commission determines in its sole discretion that the utility’s existing base rates will, on a going-forward basis, produce unreasonable revenues in excess of the utility’s authorized rate of return, then, notwithstanding any provisions of subsection A 8 of § 56-585.1, the Commission may order any reductions to such base rates that it deems appropriate to ensure the resulting base rates (i) are just and reasonable and (ii) provide the utility an opportunity to recover its costs and earn a fair rate of return.

The House version of the bill, House Bill 1604, has bipartisan sponsorship. The Senate version, Senate Bill 1321 has three Democrats listed as sponsors. It is the Senate version which at least has been aired in an open Senate subcommittee meeting, and the leading Dominion lobbyist in the room was not coy about his concerns. So far, the House version slumbers and has not been heard.

During the Senate discussion, William Murray, the firm’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, noted the presence in the bill of “strong words,” which he said included “notwithstanding” and “any.” He warned the legislators in the meeting that “our concern would be if you just mooted everything you did in Senator Saslaw’s bill.” The Richard Saslaw-sponsored bill he referred to is Dominion’s main effort to recast its regulatory environment, which had just been discussed in the same meeting on January 18. It was first reported here. Continue reading

Is Unnamed Partner on Wind Project Driving This New Dominion Regulation Rewrite?

The late Lt. Gov. Henry Howell (D) and Virginia’s most famous campaign slogan.

By Steve Haner

Without fanfare and without awakening the drowsy Capitol press corps, Dominion Energy Virginia dropped in legislation last week to set up a partnership on its most massive capital investment, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.

Just who that partner might be, what if any benefits that provides to Dominion’s 2.6 million Virginia customers, or whether it instead adds cost and risk for them, remains unexplained. The bill does describe the equity investor as “non-controlling,” leaving the utility in charge.

Suddenly, many elements of the company’s other significant bill for 2023 make more sense. The most recent iteration is a pending substitute. In this other, wind-only bill, sponsored by Senator Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac, the State Corporation Commission is instructed to disregard the capital structure of the partner, its debt to equity ratio, when determining the price to consumers.

That ratio is usually a key element when the regulators are deciding how much a utility can charge for a project, because only equity is allowed to earn profit.  In the longer bill, which has been previously discussed, Dominion is also asking the legislature to mandate how the SCC accounts for the debt and equity in its rate calculation.

The unnamed partner, perhaps already known to Dominion, may also have an interest in the debate over how a future SCC calculates the utility’s allowed return on that equity. It is equity this partner will be contributing, after all.  Virginia is the only state that sets utility return on equity by making comparisons to so-called “peer” utilities. The more complex bill changes the rules on that, too, and further limits SCC discretion. Continue reading

SCC Term Bill Could Break Deadlock on Vacancies

SCC Commissioner Jehmal T. Hudson

By Steve Haner

A Northern Virginia state senator has introduced legislation to change the terms of the members of the State Corporation Commission, perhaps creating a path to compromise on picking two or more new judges. Political deadlock between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate has stalemated that process for more than a year.

Democratic Senator Scott Surovell’s Senate Bill 1482 gives new commission members full six-year terms.  Without that, the two vacancies are for unexpired terms of one and five years, leaving the new members vulnerable to a change in the political wind after less than a full term. The discrepancy gives the two parties something else to argue about, so Surovell levels that field. Continue reading

After Federal Threat to Gas Stoves, Virginia Republicans Try Again on Right to Gas

Status by state of legislative efforts to preserve the natural gas option. The bill is again pending here in the 2023 General Assembly.  Click for better view.

by Steve Haner

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

Legislation to enshrine the right to use natural gas and propane in Virginia law, a repeat of a failed effort from 2022, cleared a House of Delegates committee Tuesday. The ultimate showdown will come not in the Republican-controlled House but in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where the effort hit a wall last year. Continue reading

Consumers Be Wary When Energy Elephants Dance

By Steve Haner

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

The Virginia House of Delegates is expected to vote this week to exempt certain Virginia manufacturers, which ones to be determined later, from the coming wave of energy costs created by Virginia’s rapid transition to unreliable forms of power generation. Continue reading

Has COVID Already Peaked for Winter 2023?

Screen capture from Virginia Department of Health website, using Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association data. Click for larger view.

Last year in Virginia, the COVID-19 hospital count hit its winter season peak on January 12 at more than 3,700 beds occupied. Now the 7-day average is below 1.100, and Thursday’s daily count (reported Friday) dropped below 1,000 to 990. The most recent peak was Jan. 4. Flu and RSV are also on the wane, only a handful of weeks after the media scarecrows ran story after story of the coming triple-demic disaster. Being sick remains something to avoid, and the vulnerable can still die from any one of the three (or a combination, shudder). I personally give most of the credit to the vaccinations, especially among the elderly or vulnerable. Those who have actively sought to discourage them should be ashamed of themselves, but the nonsense remains rampant.

(Update:  The hospital count as of Jan. 16 is now down to 905.  The decline has lasted almost two weeks.)

Dominion Wants To Rewrite Its Own Rules Again

by Steve Haner

First published today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

The headlines in the coming General Assembly may be captured by fights over abortion and taxes, but the deepest reach into your pockets will involve your energy bills. The state’s dominant electric utility appears to once again be seeking to amend Virginia’s regulatory and ratemaking process to its benefit. Continue reading

New Youngkin Tax Cuts Total $7 Billion By 2028

Governor Youngkin’s major tax proposals and how much they save taxpayers. Source: Secretary of Finance. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

The set of Virginia tax changes Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has baked into his proposed 2023 budget amendments is far more extensive and involves substantially more tax relief than the descriptions he offered in his December 15 presentation. Continue reading

SCC Drops Wind Energy Performance Standard

The 14.7 megawatt turbines to be used in CVOW. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) has abandoned its push for an offshore wind performance standard fiercely opposed by Dominion Energy Virginia. It agreed instead to some capital cost limitations for its project that the utility has endorsed . 

In a decision released today, the two commissioners accepted in full a stipulation put forward several weeks ago by Dominion, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, Walmart and several environmental groups. Should the capital costs of the project and related transmission lines exceed $10.3 billion, customers will only have to finance a portion of the excess. Beyond $11.3 billion the utility will finance the excess. Continue reading

Virginia Agrees To Compensate Fishing Industry For Damage From Offshore Wind

by Steve Haner

Nine states, including Virginia, have agreed to establish a major compensation fund to pay their private commercial and recreational fishing companies for damages caused by offshore wind turbines.  

Three guesses where the money comes from. The announcement, made December 12, hints at it coming from project developers, but in Virginia of course that is a monopoly utility guaranteed by law to collect all costs from its customers. Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) just got more expensive. In other cases and other states, also expect the bill to end up with energy consumers or taxpayers. Continue reading

RGGI Tax, On Path to Repeal, Reaches $524 Million

Virginia’s two year take of carbon taxes under RGGI. RGGI table.

by Steve Haner

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

The tax on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted by Virginia electricity plants dropped to below $13 a ton in the most recent sale of CO2 allowances conducted by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). That meant Virginia collected only $71 million in tax revenue for the fourth quarter, the lowest amount of the four auctions in 2022. Continue reading

Why Does Dominion Fear a Wind Output Promise?

SG 14-222 DD test installation at a Siemens Gamesa land facility. Company photo. Click for closer view and perspective of this giant machine we’re buying.

By Steve Haner

While we await a decision by the State Corporation Commission on competing approaches for protecting consumers from unexpected offshore wind costs, some additional relevant information is worthy of notice. Two items call into question Dominion Energy Virginia’s refusal to assume financial risk for poor turbine performance. Continue reading

Feds: Whales Must Be Protected from Turbines

Two right whales photographed off the Virginia coast last month on their way south toward the calving grounds. U.S. Navy Photo

by Steve Haner

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

Soon after a group of opponents to proposed East Coast offshore wind projects hired a law firm with environmental regulation expertise, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a new plan to protect North Atlantic Right Whales and put it out for public comment.

The opponents, with Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy as part of the coalition, had been pointing to the impact of the project on the whales for months and this protection and mitigation plan admits the problem is significant.

One apparent result of the announcement will be a major delay in publication of the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on Dominion Energy Virginia’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project off Virginia Beach.  The EIS was supposed to be available this past August, and once published is expected to be the focus of extended comments and perhaps litigation from opponents.

The ongoing debate at the Virginia State Corporation Commission over consumer price protections (a decision should come soon) is not the last hurdle to construction of the $10 billion project, with a much higher cost now under discussion.  That EIS clock is not even running yet. Continue reading

No Climate Crisis. Very Little Climate Change.

NOAA data, and NOAA notes that pre-1900 data is probably missing some storms. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Wednesday’s climate propaganda sermon in the Richmond Times-Dispatch focused on the most recent failure of alarmist media messaging concerning the now-completed Atlantic hurricane season, which turned out to be average. It was predicted to be far more active than average, so once again the prophets of doom were wrong.

Folks in Florida certainly had a bad year, with two of the eight U.S. hurricanes hitting vulnerable and heavily populated beaches and barrier islands. But in the Atlantic region overall, looking at decades of records, it was a typical year. There is no sign in long-range data of any increase in storm activity or intensity over time.

Predicting increased extreme weather is now the go-to move for the alarmist media. Just about every local or wire story about flood or drought or fire, extended hot days or record snows, includes a claim that climate change will bring more extreme weather. In every case, the long-term trends do not agree.  Sometimes the trend lines are down, as is the case with wildfires.

You will never read that admission about wildfires. The fact that the Times-Dispatch revisited and sought to explain away the failed hurricane prediction displayed more honesty than is usual in the media. But, then, it used an illustration that shamelessly started the storm count in the 1980s, intending to mislead readers by ignoring the whole data set you see above. Continue reading

Batting Zero on Virginia Energy Policy Reset

by Steve Haner

One year later, a series of energy policy goals for Virginia proposed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy remains just as valid and also remain unaccomplished. Gridlock has favored the flawed status quo.

Compared to a year ago, more Virginians have awakened to the reality that they will soon be forced into electric vehicles they may not want. They may be prevented from using reliable and efficient natural gas in a furnace or stove. Their monthly electric bill is growing with charges for unreliable solar and wind projects that do not work more hours than they do.

And despite all that, the weather will remain as it is, and the millennia-long relative sea level rise will stay its inexorable course. Our self-imposed energy poverty won’t stop any of that. We can rush toward that stark future or change course, the sooner the better. The checklist remains the same.

The opening paragraph of the document a year ago noted that Dominion Energy Virginia had just admitted its 176-turbine offshore wind project was going up in cost to almost $10 billion. Debate over the project and possible forms of consumer protection continues, but the dollar figures under discussion have risen again. Consumers may now be on the hook now for a share of $11.3 billion or more, amortized over decades. A total project cost of almost $14 billion is now hinted at. Continue reading