The Trash Tax Returns; Energy Price Hikes Ignored

By Steve Haner

Proving once again how rare are the new ideas, Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed Special Session budget amendments resurrect a possible state-collected solid waste tipping fee, which crashed and burned in 2002 after being successfully tagged a “trash tax.”

The proposal calls for a study to be completed by November 1, laying the groundwork to include the new levy and substantial revenue when the Governor tweaks the budget again before the 2021 Regular Session. When former Governor Mark Warner proposed this, at the Veto Session following the 2002 Regular Session, it would have raised an estimated $75 million annually.

Frankly, what the language calls for (a plan) is something the Northam Administration can just do. By including this directive in the budget document, all the stakeholders are forewarned and forearmed. What’s the plan for the money? “The plan shall include recommendations for the amount and structure of any proposed fee, and recommendations for use of any revenue that may be generated from such fee.”   

This would produce no revenue in the short term. Despite the absence of major tax increases, however, there are a couple of taxes or “revenue enhancements” included in his proposal. The Governor is altering, some say increasing, the brand new tax system for nicotine vaping products, and he seeks to extend for three more years the $20,000 cap on the amount of tax credit available for land conservation.

Here in the Age of COVID, there is growing evidence that vaping is a risk factor for a bad COVID-19 outcome, even in the young. I guess there is some nexus with the crisis. But how is restricting the land conservation tax credit a pandemic issue?

Future Energy Price Hikes Buried or Ignored By VA Media

As stated previously, the recent State Corporation Commission annual report on the electricity industry sparked far more coverage than it used to. But the part of the report looking forward to the rate impact of the Virginia Clean Economy Act ($660 per year on a moderate residential bill) got short shrift in many outlets. In just ten years Dominion Energy Virginia will spend tens of billions of dollars on wind, solar and storage, and charge us as well for retiring a number of still-viable fossil fuel generators.

David Ress at the Daily Press saw the lede and warned his readers. But you are fourteen paragraphs into the Virginia Mercury story on the same report before you see the expected price hikes mentioned. And the possibility is quickly dismissed with the following:

“The Northam administration and clean energy advocates, however, say the VCEA’s bill impacts will be far less or nonexistent as a result of fuel savings and energy efficiency measures.”

Right. An investment of up to $59 billion and no rate impacts. Sure.

The new openly Trumpian outlet The Virginia Star also buried the data with one short reference deep in the story, and didn’t connect it at all to the massive Green New Deal-style energy conversion, usually a ripe target for Republican discussion. It had quotes from Clean Virginia (it won’t be complaining about renewables) and Dominion itself. Hello. This is an election year, right?

Commercial and industrial rates are also going to skyrocket as this all goes forward, but the Virginia Business Magazine’s story on the report made zero mention of the VCEA-related cost projections. Finally, The Washington Post wrote nothing at all on the release, from any angle. Many Virginians remain as clueless as frogs in the slowly warming water.

Yes, Our Calhoun Had A Connection To That Calhoun!

In response to my report on former Alexandria State Senator Robert Calhoun’s recent death, and his instructive role as a moderate Republican who represented a liberal city, somebody asked, “Was there any relationship to U.S. Senator John C. Calhoun?” That Calhoun was an infamous defender of the Peculiar Institution of slavery in the political crises before the Civil War. I guess it’s just the times that somebody had to ask.

Bob Calhoun was indeed a relation but not a descendant, tracing his lineage to the fiery Southern advocate’s brother, William Calhoun, who died in 1840. An interesting connection but trust me, I know, Bob was a Lincoln man through and through.

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38 responses to “The Trash Tax Returns; Energy Price Hikes Ignored

  1. A $660 annual increase in the average household’s electric bill. In what friggin’ universe is that not the NUMBER ONE headline of every newspaper in the state? What has happened to our media?

  2. “The Northam administration and clean energy advocates, however, say the VCEA’s bill impacts will be far less or nonexistent as a result of fuel savings and energy efficiency measures.”

    1. It was me in the yearbook picture.
    2. It wasn’t me in the yearbook picture.
    3. I don’t know how those pictures got there.
    4. I don’t know why people claim my nickname was Coonman.
    5. I never saw the yearbook pictures.
    6. Nobody told me about the yearbook pictures.

    Now, one more time, why would anybody believe anything Northam says? He’s proven, while in office, that he will lie to avoid the consequences of his actions. Why wouldn’t he lie about this?

    By 2030 our governor will old, gone and forgotten. In fact, he’ll be so old that he’ll only be 6 years younger than Biden is today.

    • I’ve been looking on Youtube for those TV ads that the Commonwealth used to run, about how great Virginia is for business.

      No luck yet–haven’t found any of them.

      It’d be great to watch them and reminisce about a time when our state government wasn’t the complete shit-show it is now (or, at least, was a lot better at hiding it).

  3. Is the $660 a real credible number or is it more boogeyman stuff?

    One WOULD think if it actually is a real number that it WOULD be in the papers and the GOP using it as a campaign issue.

    • DJ. Tired of the broken record on Ralph.

      Larry. Yes, it is credible, but potentially worst case depending on how the offshore wind develops. Also could be low.

      • is there a link to that credible number?

        and yes.. DJ – give it up guy… geeze… like a dog on a bone!

        • I will the same dog on a different bone if McAuliffe makes good on his paperwork and actually does run for governor in 2021. That bone will be what actually happened in Charlottesville and McAuliffe’s mis-management of the that situation. Liberals will try their best to “forget away” what actually happened. I will try my best to make people remember what actually happened on that dreadful day.

          • TooManyTaxes

            And don’t forget, so-called journalists are active players in the cover-up. What percentage of Americans have faith in the media?

            I’ve wondered why Bezos has failed to force quality into the Post when Amazon is such an incredibly efficient, high-quality company?

          • so the very reporters that have forthrightly reported on and revealed the terrible actions of Dems and Northam… are so biased that we’d just close them down so we have no news
            at all?

            be careful what you wish for! Bloggers “reporting” is a scary thing to me……… 😉

      • It’s the coverup more than the crime. Northam has proven that he’s willing to lie through his teeth in order to avoid the consequences of his mistakes. Now he is lying about the future consequences of another mistake. Why should anybody be surprised?

    • That number is included in an official report supplied by the SCC, per statute, each year to the Legislature, Larry.

      So, the source being the SCC, you would likely regard it a bogus…..

  4. Hey haner. Maybe write this in plain English?

  5. The state should not be levying a landfill tipping tax. That tax is used by localities to offset the costs of solid waste collection and landfill operations. There is no nexus to state operations.

    As for the reporting on the Dominion rate increase, I am increasingly impressed by the Daily Press, and Dave Ress in particular, coverage of Virginia government and politics. I think it is the best in the state (next to BR, of course). The paper just increased its subscription rate, but, if you want some source of Virginia govt. news beyond the RTD and the WP, it is worth a try.

    • I would assume that he’s also found in the Virginian Pile-up too, since they are the same paper under two different names… compare their webpages.

      Hey, two papers, sams content, two names. One of them is an alias. But, but, you can’t trust anything written under an alias, now can you?

      BTW, apparently W&M was hacked, and donor and alumni data stolen. At this point, they are saying no sensitive personal data was compromised, just name, address, phone, maybe class. SSNs were not in the data.

      • Dear Friend of William & Mary,

        We take your privacy seriously at William & Mary and value the trust you place in us when you share your personal information. We wanted to make you aware of a data security incident involving Blackbaud, Inc., a vendor of William & Mary and the William & Mary Business School Foundation that provides data processing and hosting services for advancement-related activities. Blackbaud also provides similar services to thousands of universities and nonprofits worldwide.

        Blackbaud recently notified us that it was the victim of a ransomware attack in which a bad actor removed a copy of certain backup files maintained by Blackbaud. The files contained some limited personal information of a subset of our alumni and donor population, including your personal information.

        The impacted information consisted of contact, demographic and donor engagement information that William & Mary and the William & Mary Business School Foundation keep on Blackbaud’s servers. Importantly, however, we do not keep dates of birth, social security numbers, credit card numbers or other financial data in this system, and so that information was not affected. Please note that the Mason School of Business and the William & Mary Business School Foundation also use Blackbaud-hosted services for other purposes and will be sending out a separate communication to individuals whose data is stored in other files or parts of their systems.

        We understand that Blackbaud, law enforcement and third-party experts have investigated this incident, and Blackbaud has indicated that the information in question has been destroyed by the bad actor. Blackbaud has hired a third-party firm to monitor for any misuse or public posting of the impacted dataset.

        Under these circumstances, we do not believe you need to take any action. However, we felt it was important for you to know about this issue since it involves your personal information. We apologize for any concern or inconvenience this breach has caused. If you have any questions or concerns, please see Blackbaud’s notice or contact us at [email protected].

        • I find it ironic that it was the business school’s data that was hacked. Don’t they teach the importance of cybersecurity there?

          If they know that “the information in question has been destroyed by the bad actor,” they should know the bad actor. It is strange that the letter did not identify the “bad actor” and indicate what steps law-enforcement had taken.

          • Oh, I’m sure they TEACH the importance. For me, the good news is they have the wrong SSN for me. When I entered, they mistook a 7 for a 2. I always meant to correct it, but my advisor said, “Oh god, don’t do that. Then it will be screwed up in only half the places they use it.”

          • It’s much worse than a hack. ” Blackbaud recently notified us that it was the victim of a ransomware attack ”

            typically when it’s ransomware – the hacker has locked up the entire filesystem from being accessed by the owners – which means they cannot even get to their own files to lock them down from further harm.

            And you do not get your files back until you pay the ransom.

            In the mean time, the hacker then likely had all the time in the world to traipse through the rest of the filesystem looking for more stuff.

            In essence their entire filesystem was taken over by the hackers not one or two files and they copied it to their site to mine even after they released the filesystem afterr the ransom was paid.

            Cyber security now days is not for ordinary programmers and system administrators – it’s a field unto itself.

            W&M thought that’s what they were buying in their consultant.

            And maybe they just got hit by a really good hacker…who knows… but any data on that system now has to be considered compromised… and perhaps sold to the highest bidder in the dark web.

            The fact that W&M and Blackbaud are NOT saying that the damage was limited only to ___ is not a good sign.

            Now days, if you have a credit card or bank account or just about anything stored on electronic media , not only yourself but others who have your data, chances are your data has been involved in a hack… this is one reason why passwords are so important now.

          • They don’t know the bad actor. They paid the ransom (no doubt in bitcoin) and assume that the bad actor destroyed the data. Not a bad assumption. Ransomware criminals like to strike and leave. However, you can never be sure, so … “Blackbaud has hired a third-party firm to monitor for any misuse or public posting of the impacted dataset.”

            While I am sorely tempted to make a snappy comment about liberal arts colleges and technology – this sounds like it was the fault of the vendor, Blackbaud. Maybe W&M should have more closely vetted Blackbaud but vendor environments are always changing so it’s very hard to continually monitor vendor security. Who can forget the Equifax breach?

        • There is some confusion on this. ” victim of a ransomware attack”

          Wiki says: ” In May 2020, Blackbaud fell victim to a cyber attack. Customer data was stolen and Blackbaud paid the criminals a ransom in exchange for “credible confirmation” that the stolen data was deleted.[31]”

          so that’s not the same as “ransomware” but at the same time – if someone steals your data – they can make a zillion copies of it so I don’t know why you’d pay them money (a ransom) to “promise” to not share it or sell it with others…. that sounds pretty sketchy…and naive… I suspect there is more to this story.

          • All in all, I’m impervious to cyber attacks. The Office of Personnel Management gave my personal data to the Chinese Army years ago. All of it, DOB, SSN, mother’s maiden name, family data, friends, Romans, and countrymen, so what do I have to fear from some blackhat?

        • Sounds like Blackbaud paid the ransom.

          • I wonder if they had only made the ransom into a reward for the head of the kidknappers…

      • Ress is on the Daily Press staff. Sometimes, his stories get into the on-line Virginian Pilot. I have, until recently, subscribed to both. However, since the Pilot closed its Norfolk office and moved across the river, there has been a lot of overlap between the two sites. Most often, the overlap occurs with the DP site carrying VP stories. After the Daily Press raised its subscription rate considerably, I canceled the VP subscription. No use lining the pockets of the hedge fund more than I have to.

        • Everyone seems to have a reason to no longer subscribe (including me, I can only pay for 3 or 4) but surely businesses like DP and VP are going to go under and we lose those papers as well as their “good” reporters if they no longer have sufficient revenues.

          My local paper, the Free Lance Star, now charges MORE for a paper subscription than I pay WaPo! Virtually all of these papers are now running a bit of a “scam” in that they offer you a really cheap price like 99 cents for a few weeks but you have to sign up with your credit card and in the fine print – it says after the 99 cent special runs out they automatically ups the charges to your card to be their current price – which is not cheap at all.

          Even WSJ, by the way has financial issues: https://www.wsj.com/articles/news-corp-posts-wider-loss-as-coronavirus-pummels-advertising-revenue-11596754886

          • Sign of the times, information noise is steadily increasing, the value of informaton has thusly declined, and the price goes up.

            My advice is to bookmark the NOAA site, and avoid the rest lest you wind up a raving polarized lunatic. To quote the great Rhymin’ Simon, “I can gather all the news I need from a weather report…”

            Oh, and watch the ticker from an interior office on the ground floor.

            BTW, on Thursday, they had a jumper on the Coleman Bridge. Cops were talking to them the last time I saw, and had been for a 1/2 hour (no, I didn’t watch. I noticed the barricade while getting B&J ice creame, and saw the person on the railing walking back to the car).

            Never made the news, no TV, no paper, not even Twitter. Guess that in the age of COV2, the Great Divide, and toppling monuments, the problems of one person doesn’t amount to a 1/3 of a hill of beans. Deference to Bogie.

    • The trash tax story I linked to was another excellent DP reporter, Hugh Lessig, or Hugh the Lesser as I call him. Nancy, please rip off the mask and breathe free. You add alot when you want to.

  6. not a whole lot about this: ” The report said that over the past three years, Dominion’s revenues have exceeded the amount required for its 9.2% authorized profit rate by $502.7 million.

    “Half billion dollars, half a billion in three years, that’s an amazing overreach,” said Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News. He said the writedowns were an accounting maneuver, “like me saying the entire cost of a four-year car lease comes in one year.”

    but of course – it’s that “clean Virginia” thing that is the real terrible thing!

    All these years , the GOP has done nothing about this – just stood by or even enabled it .. isn’t that worth mentioning also?

    • 9.2% profit!! Guaranteed??

      Damn, we worked our tails off to get to 9%! Most of the time, Uncle Sugar would beat us up, nickle and dime us, and we were happy with 8% by the signing.

      Shoulda gotten in on this electricity scamming thing instead of research.

  7. So, Steve, are they planning to levy this tax (or will they eventually call it a fee?) on us poor citizens, or is it for the medical waste and the trash coming from NYC and NJ?

    • Both. In the past they did focus on the imports, but you can’t just tax them. Pesky Commerce Clause.

      I kept telling our federal guys we needed the same deal on ships, with Congress ordering DOD to guarantee our profit margin. No joy.

      • So don’t tax ’em, fee them… or raise the rates. Or, better yet, tell them to keep their Covid contaminated stuff.

        I must admit, I always thought the dumbest thing Virginia could have ever done was become a New England shotcan.

        (“Is that an “o”?)

      • People tend to think of the Feds as monolithic, not on contracting.

        NSF, “So, do you guys usually get 12%?” “Uh, yeah, yeah, sometimes it’s that, ahem, low.” “Okay. Seems reasonable.”

        NAVY, “Well, it’s a small contract at less than $10M, so 9% is okay, but we renegotiate going into Phase II.”

        DARPA, “How about we give you 1/2 up front in a CD and you keep the 2% interest as profit? Oh, and we want a marketable product at the end of the Phase I feasibility study.”

  8. Trash is my favorite topic! because I am veteran of New Jersey trash wars of the 1980’s. But 2002 Trash Tax is before my time as a New Jersey renegade living in Virginia.

    We do have storm clouds. Virginia’s idea of clean, wholesome technology for the future is being King of Landfills. I think we are No.2 trash import state (from NYC etc) and we really want to move up to undisputed No. 1. Will we tax out-of-state trash? Will that $$ windfall make creating huge landfills an ethical adventure?

    I can tell you New York City is 100% NIMBY…they will pay whatever cost to achieve the “social justice” of banning trash disposal in NYC as well as banning recycling and natural gas. You can guess I am *not* in big sympathy with New York liberal eco-aptitudes.

    Environmental justice is taking care of your own trash, not out-hauling to some “away” location. The correct steps are minimization, recycling, treatment (eg: WTE waste -to-energy).

    But environmentalists are working hard to convince the public that WTE (waste to energy) like fossil fuels, is killing millions of Americans. To NIMBY environmentalists, social justice involves hauling trash “away” to some far way location, and South Virginia works for them as “away”.

    So expand that Trash Train from NYC and spend billions to debottleneck the freight train hang-up through Wash DC the Potomac so Virginia can help liberals socially-justify trash utopia of sending trash “away”, to south Virginia.

  9. Well, apparently new comments are accepted…

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