Sunday, September 26, 2021

Your September 26th Sunday Summary ...

Dear Friend of TJI,
 
         You could not miss noting that the rich and famous attending last week’s Emmy Awards were without masks. Fortunately for them, the event was not in San Francisco, where the city has ordered attendees at live indoor performances to remain masked except when actively eating or drinking. This did not, of course, apply to Mayor London Breed who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, “spent the night dancing, singing along and posing for photographs without a face covering” at the Black Cat Club last week. Said Breed: “We don’t need the fun police to come in and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing.” The Left’s attitude remains the same: “Rules for thee, but not for me.”
 
Meanwhile …
 
1.) San Francisco is not the only city doing dumb things. In Richmond, the City Council plans to “phase out reliance on gas,” appearing to have targeted city-owned Richmond Gas Works for eventual closure -- ultimately affecting customers in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield. Jefferson Institute Senior Fellow Steve Haner has the story here, and follows it up with another here. Come to think of it this, too, doesn’t sound all that different from California’s Bay area cities (here).
 
2.) In a story finally being picked up by other media, Haner reported that the State Corporation Commission determined that Dominion Energy had earned $1.14 billion in excess profits over the last four years and should return $312 million to ratepayers. Why not more? Part of the reason is that the General Assembly and Governor Ralph Northam approved legislation allowing the use of excess profits for favored capital construction (read: wind turbines). The SCC also recommended a $50 million per year rate reduction in the future. Why not more? The General Assembly and Governor Northam limited the amount that rates could be reduced for users – otherwise, it would have been a $212 million reduction. Read it here.
 
3.) In other Virginia news, it isn’t just “defund the police.” Over the last few years, George Soros spent millions successfully funding candidates for District Attorney (Commonwealth Attorney) throughout the country, electing men like George Gascón (here). In Virginia, more than $1 million helped elect Soros-backed candidates in Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington, and now the effect is being felt. In Fairfax County, Judge Thomas P. Mann told a young victim “your government has failed you,” after Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano accepted a plea deal against the relative who had sexually abused her for five years – sometimes weekly. Mann called the deal “woefully inadequate.” (here). On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Randy I. Bellows rejected a plea deal negotiated by Descano's office for a three-year penalty for a child rapist (here). Descano's office blamed the low penalty on flaws in the investigation of the case.
 
4.) After three weeks of declines, new unemployment claims in Virginia shot up 300 percent in the week ending September 18 (here). Nationally, first time claims rose modestly and most of that was driven by Virginia and the number one state – California – affirming again that Richmond is becoming “Sacramento on the James.”
 
5.) Apologies are due. In an internet age filled with misinformation, we strive to verify what we report here. Once before we linked to a video that, while accurate, was more than two years old and had a tenuous connection to the discussion at hand. Last week, we noted vandalism at the University of Virginia against the American flags posted by Young Americans for Freedom as part of a 9/11 memorial. An in-depth investigation by UVA police concludes the vandal was strong winds, and the individual overturning a table was actually trying to set it back up (here). We apologize. We’ll do better.
 
6.) While serving as president of the Virginia State Board of Education, we recall seeing cars parked at night around a high school in a mountainous, rural community. Why? Students were “stealing” broadband because – other than going to McDonald’s – it was the only way to get their online work done. In an age in which the availability of internet is roughly the equivalent of electricity availability 80 years ago, those students started behind. Ajit Pai, named chairman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Donald Trump, notes that Virginia’s broadband expansion is leading the way, and is a bipartisan accomplishment. (here)
 
7.) The elections are underway and no institution is a better source for straight-forward data, graphs and visuals than the Virginia Public Access Project. Want to see what legislative district you’ll live in under the different proposals before the Redistricting Commission (and what the Republican vs. Democrat makeup will be?)? Click here. Want to know which gubernatorial candidate is getting the most money from donors in your precinct? Click here. How about a look at Early Voting this year? Click here. Or where the statewide candidates are getting their money? Click here. Or House of Delegates candidates? Here.
 
8.) The Biden budget would levy $2.3 trillion in new taxes and offer $998 million in refundable tax credits. Want to know the impact on taxpayers in Virginia and your own congressional district? The Tax Foundation offers a handy database to help you drill down here.
 
9.) But getting his $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation and a $550 billion infrastructure bill won’t be easy, as Matthew Continetti notes that the coalition putting Biden in office “doesn’t agree on much of anything besides the idea that Donald Trump shouldn’t be in the White House.” (here) Over at the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel reports that the Democrats’ disarray is a sure sign no one is in charge at the White House (here). Conservatives should hope Senator Joe Manchin sticks to his guns (here). A Journal editorial declares $3.5 trillion a “phone number” (here). And National Review says Republicans shouldn’t rescue those who mistakenly believe they have a mandate (here).
 
10.)               White House staffers do agree that they need to prevent the President from answering the press’ questions, even when foreign leaders are willing to take them (here) and especially on Afghanistan which they fervently hope will go away. One such foreign leader who doesn’t mind talking to the press is the Taliban’s Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, who told the Associated Press that executions and cutting off hands will be returning to that nation, just maybe not in public (here). The Taliban threatens to be especially harsh on women (here) and the arts (here). An all-female orchestra is unable to escape (here) but then, so are an unknown number of Americans, green-card holders, and Afghans who put their lives on the line to aid the United States.
 
11.)               The obvious question is why the virtuously noble Hollywood arts community so busy lecturing the rest of us on everything else remains so silent. One of them isn’t, says Jim Geraghty of National Review (here). He reports that John Ondrasik (better known as Five for Fighting) has taken a stand by writing a new protest song aiming at “Willey Milley”, “Winkin’ Blinkin,” “Uncle Joe,” and the news media’s silent complicity among others. Titled “Blood on My Hands” (here), he’s using it to close the show on his current tour. Downloading a free copy (here) is one way to lend support. Buying a ticket to tonight’s show at Alexandria’s Birchmere will cost a bit but be a lot more satisfying (here).
 
Ondrasik is not alone.
 
Happy Sunday, Everyone.
 
Support the Arts.
Chris Braunlich
Support the work of
The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Jefferson Journal: Will Richmond City Council Cut Off Gas?

The Jefferson Journal
Richmond City May Cancel Gas Service
For Its Citizens, Henrico and Chesterfield
 
by Steve Haner
 
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the (Richmond) Council hereby commits to working with the City’s Administration on an equitable plan to phase out reliance on gas and shift to accelerated investment in City-owned renewable energy and hereby recognizes that the continued operation of the City’s gas utility is an obstacle to the City’s goal of Net-Zero emissions in accordance Resolution No. 2020-R024, adopted June 8, 2020.
 
9/20/2021 -- Translation: The Richmond Gas Works, a municipal owned public service utility, is targeted for closure.  Council sees its continued operation as “an obstacle.” The 117,600 customers (as of 2018) may soon need to run their lives and businesses without natural gas. Those customers are not confined to the city itself but are also located in Henrico and Chesterfield counties. (Disclosure: I am one of their Henrico customers.)

The city probably has a legal (and enforceable) obligation to continue service under current law. Every candidate for the legislature in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield needs to tell the voters whether they will let this stand or oppose this effort to kill natural gas options. It will end up before the General Assembly or the State Corporation Commission or the courts or all three. The resolution itself contemplates needing legislation to accomplish its goals.  

Here is a map of the current service territory. The city is probably less than half the full area. Think of all the industries around the Richmond airport and south of town along Interstate 95. Be prepared to say goodbye to some of them.
 
Incumbent candidates who voted for the Virginia Clean Economy Act and the similar bills in 2020 and 2021 should further explain if they understood this to be the ultimate goal. When you talk about an economy that is 100 percent carbon free, in all aspects, that basically means no natural gas. Period.

The council resolution (full text here) was adopted unanimously during the September 15 council meeting, having been introduced by Second District Councilwoman Katherine Jordan back in July. The only place I saw the action reported was on Twitter, with green activists all excited. They are dead serious about this happening.
 
The city gas company serves homes, small businesses, churches, and huge industrial operations. Those big firms with an industrial process tied to natural gas will simply consider relocating. Restaurants will need to dump gas ovens. Residential customers, of course, will need to convert to electric heat pumps and stoves at a substantial cost already outlined in a previous Jefferson Policy Journal post.
 
That earlier post and the report it was based on were dismissed by some as not credible. Richmond City Council just moved it from hard to believe into the “consider this fair warning” category. 

According to a 2018 city annual report on its utility operations, the gas operation had gross revenue of about $155 million in 2018 and gross operating profits of $20 million. After debt payments and other adjustments, the net profit was $10 million. On top of that, of course, the city also collects consumer use taxes directly from the consumers of the gas. It makes money both ways.

The financial benefits to the city would largely continue, of course, if the intent is to simply let a private entity buy the assets (actual capital value unknown) and operate as public service companies do elsewhere in Virginia.  But that is not the intent. That does not advance the city and the state (and national) goal of net zero or zero emissions.
 
I have no idea what bonds or other debts support that gas system, but that is a further complication that could affect the city’s bond rating. Another provision of the resolution calls for the city to stop dealing with any banks that invest in fossil fuels in any way. In other words, to stop working with banks investing in the City of Richmond itself, since it owns and profits off a gas company. Which get dumped first, banks or the gas company?

As to the idea of city-owned renewable energy assets to instead serve those customers, again, that is not possible under current law. The existing electricity monopoly belongs to Dominion Energy Virginia, and it is already planning more wind and solar than we will ever use.

There is a check box on the resolution form noting whether or not a fiscal impact statement was prepared. You get one guess which of the two boxes was checked, yes or no.

These are not serious people. They should not be allowed to handle money or manage large complex operations. Even if this particular effort fails, the gas operation now needs to move to safer private hands. But this outcome was predictable and predicted, and other progressive-dominated local governments share exactly the same goals. This is your seven a.m. wake-up call (most having ignored the wake ups at six and six thirty.)

Steve Haner is Senior Fellow with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. He may be reached at steve@thomasjeffersoninst.org.
 

Support the work of
The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy

Friday, September 17, 2021

FOIA Meetings Issues Subcommittee Meeting -- Oct. 5, 2021

Dear Members & Interested Parties:

The next meeting of the FOIA Meetings Issues Subcommittee will be held on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, at 11:00 am in the Senate Subcommittee Room 2 in the Pocahontas Building (Richmond, VA). Please see attached for an agenda.

Due to technology constraints, we are only able to take public comments in person; however, you may submit written public comments by emailing your comments to foiacouncil@dls.virginia.gov.

Let us know if you have any questions!

--

 
Alan Gernhardt, Esq., Executive Director 
Ashley Binns, Esq., Attorney
Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council

900 East Main St., 10th Floor

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1810 

1-866-448-4100 (toll free)

The staff of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is authorized to issue advisory opinions. Please be advised that any staff advisory opinion delivered by e-mail is based solely upon the facts and information presented in your attached e-mail inquiry.



To unsubscribe from the FOIA-NOTICE list, click the following link:
http://listserv.leg.virginia.gov/scripts/wa.exe?TICKET=NzM4MDgwIHBhdHJpb3RzQE9GVkEuVVMgRk9JQS1OT1RJQ0UgIHC4qN1tYkI%2F&c=SIGNOFF

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

TOMORROW: Your Energy Costs are Going to Rise. Here's What it Means for You.

TOMORROW:
Dear Friend,

You are invited to an important discussion on the planned increases in the cost of your home and automobile energy. Here's why it is important--

The Virginia energy economy is about to change radically. It will impact every business and family in Virginia. The Green New Deal is here, right in Virginia. 
 
If plans adopted by the Democrats controlling state government are implemented, most of your electricity will soon come from miles and miles of solar panels and an offshore wind field larger than many of our cities. All your vehicles and all your homes will be all electric. The fossil fuels powering our economy today – mainly petroleum and natural gas and their byproducts – will fade until they disappear. 
 
And all of this will cost each household hundreds and hundreds of dollars.  

No one has done a better job of explaining how unsuccessful and counterproductive this effort is likely to be than environmentalist and author Michael Shellenberger, with his 2020 international best-seller “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Harms Us All.”  
 
In a pre-recorded interview, Shellenberger examined the results of similar efforts around the country and the world, and has concluded that Virginia is moving in the wrong direction.  
 
Here is one result he expects from a reliance on offshore wind:
And here are some of his thoughts on the push for electric cars:
Shellenberger’s full discussion of where Virginia is going is the keynote address in a September 16 Virginia Energy Consumer Conference, sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, the Virginia Manufacturers Association and the Virginia Energy Consumers Trust. You can find the full information below. In-person space is limited, but you can join us for the streamed event by registering here
 
These energy policies were adopted by the 2020 and 2021 General Assembly sessions, and there’s still time for the next Governor and next General Assembly to change the direction.
Support the work of
The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy