Paris Climate Talks Should Spur Dominion Virginia Power -- and Gov. McAuliffe - to Change Course ASAP

Monday, November 30, 2015

What should utilities like Dominion Virginia Power be taking away from the Paris climate talks? Utility Dive has some thoughts, all of which are highly applicable here in Virginia.

1. "Any deal could have far-reaching consequences on electric utilities – a sector for which the talks hold special significance... analysts say utilities should pay close attention to how world leaders shape deeper decarbonization goals out to midcentury, as those goals will influence their investements today." In other words, utilities like Dominion Power should not be locking in long-term investments that emit carbon pollution, but should be focusing almost exclusively on energy efficiency, solar, wind and other forms of clean, non-carbon-based energy.

2. According to Rachel Cleetus, lead economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, although "power companies will likely be prepared in the short term for any emissions goals that come out of Paris," the longer-term outlook is far less clear. Thus, "A power plant that looks like a good investment today may not be such a lucrative asset in a few decades when analysts expect decarbonization goals to be more ambitious, and that warning applies particularly to American utilities." Again, the implication here for Dominion Power - and for Gov. Terry McAuliffe - is that their over-the-top enthusiasm for new natural gas infrastructure (e.g., Gov. McAuliffe has absurdly - and falsely - called the proposed Atlantic Coast [natural gas] Pipeline a "game changer") is wildly off base. Instead of locking us in to a fossil fuel future, even if it's one that emits less carbon pollution (but more methane, a powerful greenhouse gas!) than coal, it's utterly unwise, also potentially highly risky as constraints on carbon pollution necessarily get tougher and tougher in coming years.

2a. Amplifying point #2, Cleetus says: “Simply ramping up natural gas is not going to put us on that long term pathway we need to continue to ratchet up ambition in terms of emission reduction...Gas has an important role to play but it has to stay contained. It is a fossil fuel at the end of the day and it does come with carbon emissions and there are leakage issues as well.” Again, proposed new natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, are the (wildly) wrong way we should be going here in Virginia.

3. What SHOULD Dominion Power and Gov. McAuliffe be focused on? According to Cleetus (and many other energy experts): "Accelerating the shift from fossil fuels to renewables and energy efficiency will be key in the fight to meeting those goals...but so will energy storage, which holds the promise of one day replacing peaker plants. Nuclear generation could also have a role to play in the decarbonized economy, but only if it addresses its current issues with construction delays and cost overruns." Note that last point, with which I fully agree; namely, that nuclear power COULD be a viable option, but ONLY if it deals with its massive cost overruns and need for huge subsidies by taxpayers. If it does that, great. If not, then new nuclear power simply shouldn't be built, especially since energy efficiency is so much cheaper, as is onshore wind and utility-scale solar.

So what are Dominion's current plans, and how do they stack up to the criteria I've listed above? According to Dominion's plans for 2015 to 2020, the company remains wildly off course: $2.4 billion on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline boondoggle; $341 million on the new, natural-gas-fired Brunswick Power Station; $1.3 billion on the new, natural-gas-fired Greensville Power Station; $808 million on the proposed North Anna 3 nuclear unit; and a continuation of Dominion's top-down model, as evidenced by its continued hostility to rooftop solar power and other "distributed" forms of energy, while spending billions on its traditional transmission infrastructure. In other words, #FAIL all around, with the exception of the far-from-sufficient investments Dominion plans to make in utility-scale solar ($700 million) and offshore wind ($379 million). How about taking the billions for new natural gas infrastructure and putting it ALL into: a) energy efficiency; b) utility-scale solar; c) onshore and offshore wind; and d) more distributed power solutions? Oh, right, because Dominion has nobody pushing it to do any of that, and is sitting pretty right now as a state-protected monopoly, one that uses our utility payments to buy up our legislature. Sweet deal, huh?

Monday News: Paris Climate Talks Kick Off; Anti-Planned Parenthood Terrorism "the price of hateful rhetoric"

by owell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, November 30. Also, check out the video of President Obama's remarks this morning to the Paris climate talks.

New Study: Marijuana Arrests, Racial Disparity in Those Arrests, Increase Sharply in Virginia

Sunday, November 29, 2015

by Lowell

I read this article by Tom Jackman in the Washington Post about the new study, Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests in Virginia (2003-2013), and was utterly appalled at the key findings.
While the trend in much of the United States is moving toward decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Virginia is heading in the opposite direction: With sharply rising arrest totals for the possession of pot and a disproportionate number of black people arrested in the Commonwealth, according to a new study based on state data reported to the FBI.

Although marijuana arrests dropped 6.5 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2014, possession arrests in Virginia increased by 76 percent during that period, according to research by the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. And arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana increased by 106 percent from 2003 to 2013, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s arrests even though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black.
Looking at the study itself, the results only get more appalling, particularly in certain Virginia jurisdictions. A few key points that jumped out at me include:

Sunday News: "Anti-Abortion Terrorism Must Be Stopped"; "Right-wing Trump denialism"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, November 29.

Andy Parker Rips Rep. Bob Goodlatte as "OK with...defunding Planned Parenthood" but NOT Holding Hearings on Gun Legislation

Saturday, November 28, 2015

by Lowell

Andy Parker is the father of former WDBJ7 reporter and Martinsville, Virginia native Alison Parker, who was gunned down on live television in late August while conducting an interview. I couldn't agree more with him on the deplorable Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), utter tool of the NRA.

I also agree that it's utterly laughable to call a murderer "pro-life" in any way. In fact, many people who call themselves "pro-life" are not consistently so -- on the death penalty or war, for instance. More accurately, these people are anti-abortion, not "pro-life" (note: supporters of women having access to full family planning services, including safe and legal abortion if necessary, are accurately called "pro-choice"). Finally, Parker is correct that "too easy access to guns," including by far-right extremists and assorted "wingnuts," is a huge problem.

As for the Republican presidential candidates, can you imagine the volume of their outrage right now if the shooter in this case had been a Muslim (or liberal, for that matter) who attacked an evangelical church? It would be deafening. Instead, what we've overwhelmingly gotten in this case, a white man with a gun shooting up a Planned Parenthood clinic, has been silence from 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Fascinating, eh?

Saturday News: "Today and every day, we #StandWithPP"

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, November 28.

Video: Hanover County Board Chair Compares Secular/Non-Religious Americans to Foreign "Enemy"

Friday, November 27, 2015

For more background on this craziness, see this RTD article, which argues:
I’m thankful that we live in a nation where people have freedom of religion, or freedom from religion. In that regard, the board’s resolution seems the antithesis of conservatism or libertarianism. What’s more nanny state than telling people when they should pray? What comes next? Does the board “urge and encourage” the citizens of Hanover to tithe in lieu of paying taxes? Will it advocate the establishment of an official religion for the county?

Perhaps what we need here is more practicing and less preaching. In Virginia, where the majority party refuses to extend Medicaid coverage to the poor and would deny entry to desperate refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, expressions of religious piety from elected officials ring hollow. Government everywhere should have more pressing business than telling us to hit our knees, not unlike a parent hovering over a child at bedtime.
Also see Patheos, which writes:
...After a short speech by Hazzard about the importance of giving thanks to God, the Supervisors passed a resolution to “urge and encourage the citizens of the Hanover County, Virginia to include prayer in their Thanksgiving celebration.” Because the people who want small government don’t mind when that government is telling you how to pray to the Christian God. ...Did you catch that last part? Hazzard referred to ISIS in the same condemning breath as the atheists in America who believe the government should remain neutral on religious matters. He fails to see the irony of denouncing the faith-based terrorists by adopting a resolution telling everyone to believe in his God.
The bottom line, IMHO, is that in this country we are entitled to both freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. It most certainly is NOT the place of the government to be promoting any religion (or religion at all -- or atheism for that matter; the government should be absolutely neutral in all of this), which is exactly what the Hanover County Board of Supervisors is doing here. And, of course, needless to say, this local governmental body should not be wasting its time passing resolutions comparing Americans who (correctly) believe in the founding constitutional principle of church/state separation to a foreign "enemy" (ISIL, presumably, since that's the enemy everyone's talking about these days).

By the way, note that Mr. Hazzard is a self-proclaimed "Christian conservative tea-party Republican," so it's crystal clear where he's coming from. Also note that, according to a recent Pew survey, "There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group – sometimes called religious 'nones' – is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey." According to that same survey, 29% of the country is either of a non-Christian faith, of no faith/none in particular. And that latter group is growing fast, particularly among younger Americans; note that about 43% of Millenials (born 1981-1996) are now in the "unaffiliated" or "other faiths" categories, compared to just 20% or so who describe themselves as "Evangelical." Hmmm.

Friday News: The GOP's Entire Strategy is "Fear Itself;" Marijuana Arrests in VA Rise, Are Racially Unbalanced

by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, November 27. Also, check out that article of Faux "News'" coverage of the shooting of Black Lives Matter typical of that right-wing propaganda network.

Video: Howard Dean Says "Authoritarian" GOP in "Full Terror Mode that Donald Trump is Going to Get the Nomination"

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Howard Dean absolutely nailed it (see below for a partial transcript) in this interview with Chris Hayes yesterday. The fact is, these are crazy times we live in, the likes of which I'm not sure we've ever seen in this country's history (other than the Civil War). And no, that's not a good thing in any way, other than the likelihood that the Republican Party might finally implode, leading to a Democratic landslide in 2016. We'd all better hope that scenario comes to pass, because frankly, we can't go on like this much longer as a country, with a bunch of crazy, extremist bigots running around saying wildly irresponsible things, while making the country close to ungovernable and preventing us from investing in our future, tackling climate change effectively, reforming our tax code to (among other things) make it more progressive, etc, etc.
I make two things of this: 1) the Republicans are now in full-terror mode that Donald Trump is going to get the momination, and they think he can't win; and 2) this is very interesting watching all these people who are all authoritarians themselves call Donald Trump a fascist; the Republican Party is an authoritarian party... Any party which, as a party - and this one is a party that has done this - which restricts the right to vote is a party that places their own authority above the authority of the people and above the value of democracy...This is a party that has a strong authoritarian bent, it has for a very long time, and now they're complaining that Donald Trump is a fascist?!?... 
I have never seen anybody called a fascist, let alone the leading candidate of the party, by people in their own party...These guys are terrified, they are absolutely terrified, because there is a winning path for Donald Trump to win, and we're going to know what it is on the 15th of March, where Florida, the first winnter-take-all-state [votes]...This is do-or-die time. You're seeing this now because the Republicans are not stupid. They now realize that not only is Donald Trump the real thing, that he's now the odds-on favorite to win the nomination.

Four Bills I'd Be Thankful to See Passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2016

The following are a few bills filed this week that jumped out at me as ones the Virginia General Assembly should most certainly pass in 2016. The first two, by Del. Kaye Kory (D), might actually have a chance, as it's hard to imagine even Republicans voting to let dogs die in overheated vehicles, or be taken away by predatory towing companies.

As for the following bill, by Del. Jeion Ward (D), that also should be a no-brainer, but I'm sure it won't pass, given Virginia Republicans' obsession with telling women what they can and can't do with their bodies, and also with getting in between a woman and her doctor.

Finally, the bill by Delegate-elect Paul Krizek regarding predatory lenders (see below), is excellent, except I'd make it 200 miles, not 20, and basically outlaw these bloodsuckers in Virginia. Still, passing Krizek's bill would be a great start towards heavily restricting them...if only Republicans (and a few "Democrats," like Dick Saslaw, who loooooove them some payday lenders) would go along.