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Energy and Environment

Grassroots "Hands Across Our Land" Action Against Fracked Gas Pipelines a Huge Success

by: pontoon

Fri Aug 21, 2015 at 15:29:10 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

 photo Blue20Ridge20Parkway_S_zpsdkko39mz.jpgCommunities in Texas, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina participated in a grassroots action called Hands Across Our Land on Tuesday, August 18. Planned and organized by the Nelson County anti-pipeline group, Free Nelson, 35 actions were held promoting solidarity and unity among local communities facing the threat of industrialization by the energy industry with its fracking wells, pipelines, compressor stations and LNG export facilities.

Over 150 citizen protesters amassed on the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge atop Afton Mountain, with another 135 at the bridge across the James River at Wingina, which is miles and miles from the nearest town. In Montgomery County, VA, over 100 citizens stood across a field which is on the path of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, and in Franklin County, VA citizens marched to the Franklin Government Center where they asked their Board of Supervisors to help them protect their water and streams by petitioning the Governor to require pipeline companies to submit site specific erosion and sediment control plans should the MVP ever be built. In western Augusta County, 32 people cheered and sang protest songs in the pouring rain to protest the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In Richmond, over 60 citizens met at Dominion headquarters and marched to the Governor's office supporting the actions held in localities directly affected by the proposed 42" high-pressure behomeths being proposed in Virginia. Other Virginia communities which participated were Floyd, Bent Mountain, Roanoke, and Front Royal.

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"Hands Across Our Land" Day of Action Against Fracked Natural Gas Pipelines on August 18

by: pontoon

Fri Aug 14, 2015 at 16:48:06 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

 photo 150814 Pipeline_zps9lndbcxn.jpgNelson County. Va--On Tuesday, August 18, the culmination of what was conceived last January during a conversation between Free Nelson Co-Chair Sharon Ponton and Nelson activist Matt Dwyer will occur when communities in eight states -- WV, VA, MD, OH, OR, PA, TX, and NC -- take part in "Hands Across Our Land." HAOL is a solidarity action meant to illustrate to government officials and the energy industry that grassroots activists stand together, united in their efforts to protect their land and communities from the onslaught of new fracked gas infrastructure.

Energy companies erroneously tout fracked natural gas as clean, cheap energy and expect rural communities across America to be sacrificed, not for the public good, but for shareholder profit. Free Nelson founder, the Reverend Marion Kanour wonders, "What could our world become if corporations were guided by environmental and social responsibilty rather than greed?" Kanour, an Episcopal priest, believes we each have a sacred obligation  to be good stewards of the earth.

Marilyn Shifflett, Free Nelson Co-chair, visited the fracking fields in West Virginia and was profoundly affected by what she saw. "It was hard to imagine greater impact than over 100 years of coal mining and then mountain top coal removal," Shifflett explains, "but West Virginians are now being assaulted by the natural gas industry spanning larger residential areas, at a pace hard to imagine until seen, leaving an irreparable path of destruction in its wake. Hardly a stream or human has not been touched. Our visit was an eye-opener and heart opener."

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Dominion Admits Cost of North Anna 3 Nuclear Plant Will Top $19 Billion

by: ivymain

Mon Aug 10, 2015 at 18:27:24 PM EDT

(Wild waste of money...could have invested that in energy efficiency/solar/wind and gotten a gazillion times more bang for our buck! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.... - promoted by lowkell)

Dominion Virginia Power is projecting that the capital cost of a third nuclear reactor at its North Anna facility will total over $19 billion, according to filings in its 2015 biennial review before the State Corporation Commission (PUE-2015-00027).  

This works out to over $13,000 per installed kilowatt, according to the testimony of Scott Norwood, an energy consultant hired by the Attorney General's Department of Consumer Counsel to analyze Dominion's earnings evaluations. He notes that this capital cost is "approximately ten times the capital cost of the Company's new Brunswick combined cycle unit," which will burn natural gas.

As a result of this high capital cost, the  "total delivered cost of power from NA3 is more than $190 per MWh in 2028." That translates into 19 cents per kilowatt-hour.

By comparison, in 2014 the average wholesale price of electricity in the PJM region (which includes Virginia) was 5.3 cents per kWh. Dominion currently sells electricity to its customers at retail for between 5.5 and 11 cents/kWh.

In other words, NA3 is ridiculously expensive.

Dominion had kept its cost projections for NA3 secret until this rate case forced the disclosure. Previously, executives had acknowledged only that the cost would be "far north of 10 billion."

This cost revelation may point to the real reason Dominion pushed so hard for SB 1349, the 2015 legislation that insulates the company from rate reviews until 2022. As Norwood testifies, "DVP forecasts a dramatic increase in NA3 development costs over the next five years, during which there will be no biennial reviews."  

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New Poll: Virginians, Except Climate-Science-Denying Republicans, Strongly Support Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Wed Aug 05, 2015 at 16:21:16 PM EDT

Back in 2012, Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute called it:
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.

Of course, the cowardly corporate media won't call out the Republicans for being a bunch of extremists, in part because they're cowards, in part because  - as Mann and Ornstein explain - "'Both sides do it' or 'There is plenty of blame to go around' are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias."

You'd think that there might be SOME areas in which the Republican Party was NOT an "insurgent outlier," perhaps matters about which there is an overwhelming scientific consensus, whether we're talking about evolution (97% of scientists agree) or climate science (99.9% of climate scientists agree). But noooo...even when it comes to basic science -- including the extremely simple concept that pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere results in a, yep, greenhouse effect - which is testable, disprovable, empirically verifiable, etc., many Republicans STILL refuse to "believe" (in quotes because, of course, science is not a matter of "belief" at all, but of reason).

And that, my friends, combined with knee-jerk hatred/distrust among many right wingers of the "gubmint" and also of "Obama," is what leads to the results we find in this new poll of Virginians' attitudes towards global warming and the government's main effort to address it -- the newly-unveiled Clean Power Plan. To wit:

*Overall, Virginians by a 59%-39% margin say that climate change is a serious problem, and by a 59%-36% margin support the Clean Power Plan.
*Among Democrats, an overwhelming 84% give the correct answer, that climate change is a serious problem (64% say "very serious"), while just 12% say it isn't. A majority of independents (55%-44%) say the same thing. And the "insurgent outlier" Republicans? Just 32% say gloal warming is serious, while 67% claim - against all scientific evidence to the contrary - that it is NOT serious. Can we say "la la land?"
*Given those results, it's not surprising that 83% of Democrats and 56% of independents support the Clean Power Plan, while just 34% of the "insurgent outlier" folks support it.
*Finally, by an 82%-11% margin, Democrats believe that Virginia should get moving on its plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan, as do Independents by a 52%-36% margin. The "insurgent outlier" folks? The numbers, not surprisingly (but still disturbingly) are flipped, with 55% saying Virginia should NOT move forward on "a plan to reduce carbon pollution."

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Video: President Obama Speaks on the Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Mon Aug 03, 2015 at 14:31:47 PM EDT

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Memo to Southwest Virginians: Help Carry New Radford Arsenal Incinerator Over the Finish Line

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Sun Aug 02, 2015 at 21:00:59 PM EDT

This week, the President sent a memo to America about his plan to protect the environment. In that spirit, and on a much smaller, albeit important scale, this is a memo to those living in the New River Valley of Southwest Virginia. Recent efforts by dedicated environmental advocates including the Environmental Patriots of the New River Valley and the New River Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club have shown a light on air pollution coming from from the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) here. A potentially game-changing improvement may actually happen. That game changer is an enclosed state-of-the-art incinerator for toxic waste destroyed at the arsenal. Astonishingly, now toxic material from munitions manufacture is open burned! The permit for the open burning is up for review and possible renewal. The US Army, the British contractor BAE (which manages the plant for the Army)and The RAAP facility have announced they are planning to upgrade the facility. This is too important to sit on the sidelines. Make you voice heard.  Continued open burning is not an appropriate 21st Century solution.

Please turn out for the public meeting Wednesday, August 5th, 6 PM, at the Blacksburg Public Library, 200 Miller Street. A spokesperson for the arsenal will attend.

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Video: President Obama Sends "Memo to America" on "Our Planet"

by: lowkell

Sun Aug 02, 2015 at 11:00:07 AM EDT

The corporate media can try to ignore the #1 issue facing humanity (and every other species on the planet) all they want, but that doesn't change the reality of the challenge we're all up against. Unfortunately, fossil-fuel-funded Republicans (and, sadly, some "fossil fool" Democrats as well) have blocked action serious Congressional action on climate change, such as the "cap-and-trade" plan originally proposed by conservatives, a "cap-and-dividend" plan in which money raised from the tax on carbon pollution is returned to the American people; a straight-up tax on carbon pollution, which could easily be designed such that it is "revenue neutral" (e.g., other tax rates cut) if that's what is desired; a serious energy policy which cuts all subsidies - explicit or implicit - for fossil fuels, incorporates all "negative externalities" into their price, and massively promotes energy efficiency, wind, solar and other clean energy sources.

That Congressional failure has left it up to the Environmental Protection Agency -- legally backed by the 2007 Supreme Court decision which ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act -- to take necessary and long-overdue action on this front.

Which is exactly what the EPA is doing with its Clean Power Plan, which will accelerate America's inevitable transition to clean and increasingly inexpensive energy sources, while actually saving people money on their power bills. In addition, this plan will have tremendous health and environmental benefits, while giving American companies a better opportunity to compete in the multi-TRILLION-dollar world market for clean energy.

In short, this plan is a winner all around. Unless, that is, you are a well-heeled coal or oil company executive, but why would anyone shed a tear for those guys? Anyway, thank you EPA, and thank you President Obama, for taking this action. Now, can you please also stop oil drilling in the Arctic, which is a disaster waiting to happen? A grateful planet thanks you. :)

P.S. This plan is a big opportunity for Virginia as well. See the letter from Virginia companies to Gov. McAuliffe explaining why. Also see What Does the Clean Power Plan Mean for Virginia? A Real Opportunity for Renewable Energy; New Report: Implementing EPA Clean Power Plan Can Be Job Creator for Virginia; Clean power is right for Virginia; Del. Lopez strongly supports President Obama's Clean Power Plan to address climate change; NRDC says clean-power plan benefits Virginia; Virginia's small businesses support the Clean Power Plan; and much more.

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Alpha Natural Resources (Coal) Going Bankrupt; How Will Coal's Decline Impact Virginia GOP?

by: lowkell

Thu Jul 30, 2015 at 21:16:05 PM EDT

I saw this article earlier today and immediately thought of Virginia Republicans. I'll explain in a minute, but first the news.
Alpha Natural Resources Inc. is planning to file for bankruptcy protection in Virginia as soon as Monday as the biggest miner of U.S. coal used in steelmaking struggles amid the worst commodities slump in more than a decade, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter...

Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha Natural would follow rivals Walter Energy Inc., Patriot Coal Corp. and James River Coal Co. in filing for bankruptcy during the past 15 months as met coal prices dropped 72 percent since 2011.

Alpha Natural, despite reporting $1.8 billion in cash and available credit at end of March, hasn't turned in a profit since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The thing is, it's not just Alpha, but the entire coal industry that's getting pounded by a variety of forces: cheap natural gas, the rise of wind and solar power, and the recognition that coal is cooking the planet to death.

So how does the decline of the coal industry potentially impact Virginia politics? First, as VPAP reports, the energy/natural resources sector has donated around $52 million to Virginia politicians since 1996. Of that, around $14 million has come from "Coal Mining/Processing," with another $16 million from heavily coal-powered utilities. And where has that money gone in terms of partisan distribution? Here are a few examples just to give you a feel for how lopsided it's been in favor of Republicans.

Coal company Alpha Natural Resources: $3.0 million, of which $2.3 million has gone to Republicans.
Coal executive Richard Baxter Gilliam: $2.7 million, of which only $1,000 has gone to Democrats, while $1.6 MILLION has gone to Republicans and $1.1 million to "other" (I believe a lot of this went to right-wing SuperPACs, like American Crossroads, that might not be classified as "Republican" by VPAP, but are clearly pro-Republican).
Coal/natural gas producer Consol Energy: $1.2 million, of which the overwhelming majority - $940k - went to Republicans.
Virginia Coal Association: $1.1 million, of which $740k went to Republicans.
Coal executive Marvin W Gilliam, Jr.: $683k, all but $3k of which went to Republicans.
Coal company United Co.: $519k, of which $324k went to Republicans.
Massey Coal: $466k, of which all but $8.3k went to Republicans.
Coal miner Cumberland Resources: $453k, of which all but $30k went to Republicans.

We could go on, but I think you get the picture: the vast majority of Virginia coal industry $$$ has gone to Virginia Republicans over the years, with only a small share going to Democrats. Which could mean, at least in theory, that as the coal industry goes down the tubes financially, the impact will be disproportionately negative on Virginia Republicans. We'll see, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on...

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Beyer Calls for Action to Address National Security Threats from Climate Change

by: lowkell

Wed Jul 29, 2015 at 19:27:46 PM EDT

From Rep. Don Beyer's office; I really appreciate his leadership on the #1 issue facing humanity. 

July 29, 2015 (Washington, DC) – Congressman Don Beyer released the following statement in response to the Department of Defense (DoD) Report on the National Implications of Climate Change:


“Today’s report from the Defense Department is another emphatic statement that climate change is not only real, but is a national security threat," said Rep. Don Beyer. "Sea level rise, drought and severe weather, natural disasters, food insecurity, and competition for scarce resources jeopardize our security, here and abroad. Unless we commit now to addressing this problem, we risk catalyzing conflict and adding to instability around the globe. The DoD recognizes the severity of this crisis - it is time for Congress to do the same.”


The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.  The DoD found that “global climate change will have wide ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future because it will aggravate existing problems.” Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges, they added.


“The Department of Defense's primary responsibility is to protect national security interests around the world,” officials said in a news release announcing the report’s submission. “This involves considering all aspects of the global security environment and planning appropriately for potential contingencies and the possibility of unexpected developments both in the near and the longer terms.”


Find more information on the DoD’s report on the security implications of climate change here and here. 

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Virginia officials voice support for the Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Wed Jul 22, 2015 at 15:20:08 PM EDT

Good stuff from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, with the EPA "set to finalize limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants in the coming weeks." It should go without saying that Virginia should be leading on this, not following, and certainly not dragging its feet or even obstructing.
60 elected officials urge Governor to protect against threats of climate change

Richmond, Va. - Today, 60 public officials from across the commonwealth sent a letter to Governor Terry McAuliffe voicing their support for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which will place limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation.

The EPA is set to finalize limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants in the coming weeks.

The state and local government leaders expressed their support of action to mitigate and adapt to climate disruption, citing that this challenge "threatens the stability and health of our communities and the ecosystems on which we depend."

Officials outlined several primary concerns in the letter: "air quality, coastal flooding and related consequences for housing, infrastructure and population mobility, impacts on agriculture and forestry, food prices, and vector-borne diseases. They also noted that "impacts to human health and welfare, especially for children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations, are of special concern."

Delegate Alfonso Lopez, a leader of this effort representing Arlington and Fairfax Counties, is urging Gov. McAuliffe to keep moving forward.

"The Commonwealth needs a strong implementation plan to keep making progress in the fight to preserve our environment for future generations," said Lopez, founder and chair of the Virginia Environment and Renewable Energy Caucus in the General Assembly. "We have a clear opportunity to limit the impacts of climate change, grow new industries, reduce pollution, and save consumers money here in Virginia."

The Clean Power Plan also promises to improve public health. Virginia is home to nearly 700,000 asthmatics, and has been named the Asthma Capitol of the U.S. by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America for several years running. The highest concentrations of asthma sufferers are in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.

"Climate change impacts everyone but, unfortunately the impacts can be greater in low-income communities where folks can't afford to make changes," said 16th District Senator Rosalyn Dance. "By addressing these issues promptly and thoroughly we can mitigate the impacts and ensure that all Virginians and their children and grandchildren can grow up in a safe and healthy environment."

Delegate Betsy Carr, who represents Richmond's 69th District, pointed to another benefit of the Clean Power Plan: economic growth.

"Investment in renewable energy is not only an important gain for the environment but it also grows the economy and creates jobs," she said.

Hampton Roads has possibly the most to gain from swift action, as it is also at the greatest risk for sea level rise along the east coast - 1.5-foot increases are expected within the next 20-50 years.

"Every time it rains in Norfolk, our citizens and military installations are at risk," said Norfolk City Councilwoman Theresa Whibley. "A strong Clean Power Plan will help curb sea level rise in the long-term by reducing the harmful greenhouse gases that threaten this coastal community."

"Virginia Beach understands the close connection between climate change and clean energy. As a coastal community we are committed to pursuing a comprehensive approach to initiatives that will help us address climate change," said Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. "Seeking development of clean energy resources in and adjoining our community - such as wind, solar and geothermal options - coupled with our strong emphasis on energy conservation, is important to both our climate change and economic diversification goals."

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Peter Galuszka on the "Tale of Two Virginias" -- Dominion and Its Allies vs. The Rest of Us

by: lowkell

Wed Jul 22, 2015 at 11:24:40 AM EDT

For once, let me give Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power a tiny bit of credit: despite essentially buying ("sponsoring") a Virginia political blog, for whatever reason they still haven't purged pro-clean-energy and environmentalist writer Peter Galuszka from the site. And until they do, it appears that Galuszka will continue to rain body blows on this horrible company. For instance, see Galuszka's latest, Renewable Energy: A Tale of Two Virginias. A few key points:

*There's one Virginia that includes the state's "traditional political and business elite, including Dominion Resources and large manufacturers, the State Corporation Commission and others," which "insist that the state must stick with big, base-loaded electricity generating plants like nuclear and natural gas - not so much solar and wind -to ensure that prices for business are kept low."
*Then there's the new, up-and-coming Virginia, with "the most successful and younger Web-based firms" looking instead to "use 100 per cent of their electricity from renewable sources," investing their own money to build said renewable energy generating capacity, and in the meantime "bypassing traditional utilities like Dominion which have been sluggish in moving to wind and solar."
*Thus, we have a case of a huge wind farm being built (by Amazon and Iberdrola) just a few miles outside of Virginia - in "red" North Carolina, which believe it or not has had much better policies when it comes to clean energy than "purple" Virginia does - and also a big solar farm (again, by Amazon - with no participation by Dominion, of course) in "Accomack County on the Eastern Shore."

Meanwhile, Dominion continues with its head buried in the sand, clinging to a dying, antiquated, top-down, state-protected-monopoly model, even as clean energy costs plummet and even as distributed energy, storage, microgrids, and other innovative technologies (not to mention financing methods) take off. As I've written previously, the consquences to Dominion of not adapting the rapidly changing world could be the dreaded utility "death spiral," but they don't seem to care, counting on their bought-and-paid-for buddies in the Virginia General Assembly to protect them for a few more years.

How badly is Dominion Power harming Virginia's economy, people and businesses?  It's hard to quantify, but just imagine if Virginia could offer the hottest companies clean, cheap power - as well as flexibility as to how they produce and/or source that power -  in perpetuity, instead of the failed/failing "same ol' same old?"  Keep in mind that Austin (Texas) Power recently was offered "solar power from developers at record low prices" (how does "less than $0.04 per kWh" sound?). Also see articles like Price of US Wind Power at 'All-Time Low' of 2.5 Cents per Kilowatt-Hour to see where we COULD be heading, if it weren't for Dominion Power and its bought-and-paid-for puppets in the state legislature. For comparison purposes, according to EIA, Virginia's average retail power price in 2013 was around 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, produced by Dominion's power mix of mostly filthy coal, problematic nuclear (also extremely expensive to build new units) and (mostly fracked) natural gas plants. Brilliant, huh? Nope. So why the he** do we put up with this nonsense?

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Newsweek: Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining "may be increasing cancer risk," Appalachian Poverty

by: lowkell

Tue Jul 21, 2015 at 10:17:28 AM EDT

Cross posted from Scaling Green, as I believe this is highly relevant to Virginia.

Back in 2011, we interviewed Professor Michael Hendryx, an expert on measuring the harmful impact of coal mining on public health, and now a professor of applied health science at Indiana University, Bloomington. The key takeaways from our discussion with Professor Hendryx amounted to a powerful indictment of mountaintop removal coal mining.  For instance:

Coal "mining is a loser economically, environmentally, and in terms of public health." Hendryx has found that the heaviest coal-mining regions of Appalachia are worse off in just about every way compared to neighboring regions...In making his calculations, Hendryx looked at a range of indicators, including health, education, poverty, environmental conditions, unemployment, and mortality rates. All told, Hendryx's found that mountaintop removal mining's economic cost to Appalachian communities totaled roughly $42 billion per year in lost health and lives.

Hendryx also was a co-author of a seminal Harvard study which found that "the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually." According to the study, a significant chunk of that is health care costs , with "public health burdens from coal mining cost $74.6 billion each year" in "Appalachian communities alone."

Now, Newsweek takes a closer look at the human toll of the "Cancer Epidemic in Central Appalachia," one that is largely caused by a lethal combination of factors largely related to mountaintop removal coal mining in the region. Here's an excerpt from the Newsweek story, with Professor Hendryx providing particularly powerful and well-informed commentary.

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UVA Study: 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center's Energy Analysis Relied On by Gov. McAuliffe, Legislature

by: sthepeterson

Mon Jul 20, 2015 at 14:26:43 PM EDT

In a study released last week, energy expert Dr. William Shobe of the University of Virginia dismantles the key, state-sanctioned analysis of how Virginia should meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions.

That analysis, produced last fall by a team led by Dr. Michael Karmis, director of the Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, is part of the Virginia Energy Plan and is relied upon by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the legislature as they make decisions about the state's energy future.

"In short, the report is almost certainly worse than no study at all because it misstates likely costs, analyzes irrelevant options, and gives short shrift to the cases that really matter," writes Shobe.

A professor of public policy and director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies, Dr. Shobe's research focuses on climate change, greenhouse gas markets, and auction design. Shobe was part of the team that designed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for nine Northeast states, a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions that has generated $1.3 billion in economic benefits and 14,000 job-years over the past three years.

"Old Boy" Selection Process

Last fall, we questioned why Dr. Karmis - who is an international consultant to the coal industry - had been chosen by the McAuliffe Administration's Dept. of Mines, Minerals & Energy (DMME) to write a 199-page analysis of how Virginia should best meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan.  By repeatedly evading my basic questions about how and why he was chosen, Karmis and DMME only heightened suspicions about what appears to be an "old boy" selection process heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry.

But now it is clear that the process was more than unseemly: the sloppy, coal-friendly conclusions of Karmis' report are contributing to Virginia status as an also-ran in clean energy development.

Notable problems Shobe found with Karmis' analysis include:

  • Double counts compliance costs by about $400 million annually because the authors added together two different estimates of compliance costs.
  • Made a calculation mistake that cut the estimated benefits of emission reductions by more than 40%.
  • Used inappropriate and incomplete economic analysis in estimating total economic costs and associated job losses, inflating cost and job losses.
  • Misinterpreted, on at least two occasions, analysis provided by the EPA in the EPA's regulatory impact analysis of its proposed rule.

(For a full list of errors, click here.)

In addition to reviewing Karmis' analysis, Professor Shobe makes useful recommendations to ensure state agencies such as DMME, the Dept. of Environmental Quality, and the State Corporation Commission are able to properly assess studies presented to them.

An Impartial Coal Expert?

Virginia is having a critical conversation about Clean Power Plan compliance options and strategies. Citizens must ask themselves: should the Commonwealth's policymakers continue to rely upon an energy analysis produced by coal expert Michael Karmis that we now know is utterly flawed?

Last November, I concluded a post by asking whether Dr. Karmis was too conflicted to write a document the governor and legislature would depend upon as an unbiased, informed look at how the state can best respond to the Clean Power Plan. By submitting a report with flawed methodology, basic factual errors and biased conclusions in favor of the coal industry, it seems the answer regarding Dr. Karmis's conflicts is a resounding yes.

Scott Peterson is executive director of the  Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.

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UVA Study: 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center's Energy Analysis Relied On by Gov. McAuliffe, Legislature

by: sthepeterson

Mon Jul 20, 2015 at 14:25:30 PM EDT

(I posted about this recently as well, but it deserves more attention! - promoted by lowkell)

University of Virginia Study Finds 11 Major Flaws in Coal Center's Energy Analysis Relied Upon by Gov. McAuliffe and LegislatureCross posted from the Checks and Balances Project

In a study released last week, energy expert Dr. William Shobe of the University of Virginia dismantles the key, state-sanctioned analysis of how Virginia should meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions.

That analysis, produced last fall by a team led by Dr. Michael Karmis, director of the Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, is part of the Virginia Energy Plan and is relied upon by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the legislature as they make decisions about the state's energy future.

"In short, the report is almost certainly worse than no study at all because it misstates likely costs, analyzes irrelevant options, and gives short shrift to the cases that really matter," writes Shobe.

A professor of public policy and director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies, Dr. Shobe's research focuses on climate change, greenhouse gas markets, and auction design. Shobe was part of the team that designed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for nine Northeast states, a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions that has generated $1.3 billion in economic benefits and 14,000 job-years over the past three years.

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Why Isn't Virginia Doing This? Oh Yeah, Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power

by: lowkell

Fri Jul 17, 2015 at 11:31:16 AM EDT

From the Chesapeake Climate Action Network:


Maryland PSC Adopts One of the Highest Energy Efficiency Targets in America for Electricity. Also Commits to Major Gas Efficiency

Environmentalists praise historic move after input from activists. New policy is equivalent to retiring a major coal plant every two years or tripling the state’s existing wind farms annually


BALTIMORE— On Thursday, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) launched Maryland into the top tier of electricity-saving states by embracing one of the highest energy efficiency targets in the country. The PSC also ordered, for the first time, that natural gas usage reduction goals will be adopted for all gas companies in Maryland. The long-awaited decision, incorporating input from a wide range of stakeholders, gives a huge boost to the state’s "EmPOWER Maryland” program, designed to help consumers while fighting climate change.

Thursday’s order requires that Maryland’s electric utilities achieve annual incremental electricity savings of 2.0% of retail sales per year in perpetuity. That is a significant increase over today’s levels. In 2013, Maryland achieved gross savings equal to 1.3% of retail sales. To put Maryland’s new goals into a national perspective, only two other states—Rhode Island and Massachusetts—achieved saving levels higher than 2% last year. And in terms of future targets, Maryland’s new goals are among the top five in the country.

“The state of Maryland has just taken a huge step in showing that action on air pollution and climate change can go hand in hand with consumer savings,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “The PSC deserves praise for hearing the public’s voice that efficiency is a win-win. We now hope other states will follow suit at this same high level.”

The impacts of the PSC decision on Maryland’s electricity grid and the resulting carbon reductions are significant. The new EmPOWER rules will require utilities to save over 1.2 million megawatt-hours per year. That’s the energy equivalent of closing a 460 megawatt coal-fired plant every two years, and will reduce carbon at levels equivalent to taking 173,000 cars off the road annually. To put that another way, today’s new EmPOWER rules will reduce carbon emissions as much as the impact of building 470 megawatts of new wind power every year. That’s nearly 3 times greater than Maryland’s installed wind capacity today.

The Commission’s decision to extend the EmPOWER Maryland program to all gas companies is also a potential game-changer for energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. While a handful of gas companies already offer some energy savings options to their customers, the state lacks a unified natural gas savings goal.  Given that direct consumption of natural gas accounts for 10% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, reductions in this sector are imperative as part of a comprehensive climate change strategy. The PSC did not establish specific goals for natural gas in this order, but they did establish a timeline for developing those goals and prescribed certain minimum parameters that must be observed during the process. This order ensures that natural gas savings options will eventually be made available to customers statewide.

CCAN worked very closely with a large and diverse coalition of energy efficiency advocates to achieve today’s important victory. We look forward to continuing our work with this coalition, the PSC, and other state actors to ensure these rules are fully implemented to achieve maximum energy saving 

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"Virginia can lead the nation--IF it taps its clean energy potential"

by: lowkell

Mon Jul 13, 2015 at 15:01:59 PM EDT

Any further questions?
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New Report: EPA Clean Power Plan Will Cut Virginia Electricity Bills by 7.7%-8.4% by 2030

by: lowkell

Thu Jul 09, 2015 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

If you listen to the gloom-and-doom, sky-is-falling stories by the fossil fuel industry (the same Big Lie guys who have had a "deliberate campaign to deceive the public" on climate change going for several decades now, and obviously should never be believed or listened to on ANYTHING they say), the upcoming EPA Clean Power Plan will cause electric rates to skyrocket, devastate our economy, crush Western Civilization as we know it...ok, slight exaggeration on that latter point, but not much based on the fossil fuel industry and climate science deniers' wildly over-the-top rhetoric In short, it's akin to the tobacco industry, but far more dangerous in this case, and also to the auto industry, which for years claimed (utterly falsely) that every new innovation - seat belts, air bags, catalytic converters, fuel economy standards, you name it - would devastate their industry. Again, the question is why does anyone listen to industries which have strong economic incentives to lie through their teeth? The expressiong, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" comes to mind.

Anyway, right now the battle is over the EPA's Clean Power Plan, a modest effort (far too modest based on the urgency of what needs to be done) to increase energy efficiency and clean energy, while cutting carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants. You'd think this would be utterly noncontroversial, other than among scientists and people who care about the environment who demand much STRONGER, more AMBITIOUS standards. But noooooo. Instead, we are subjected to propagandistic trash like this from Virginia's corporate-owned-and-operated State Corporation Commission (SCC) - one of the most powerful Virginia "regulatory" bodies (in theory, at least) most people have never heard of - attacking the Clean Power Plan in hysterical language that insults all of our intelligence, not to mention calling into question why any SCC commissioner (or staffer who participated in pushing out fossil fuel industry talking points while pretending their report was apolitical, policy neutral, blah blah blah lie lie lie) is still employed at the SCC.

Fortunately, a new report by Public Citizen, "CLEAN POWER, CLEAR SAVINGS," is out this morning, and its top conclusion completely demolishes one of the Big Lies put out by the fossil fuel folks and their allies at the SCC, etc. That Big Lie, of course, is that the CPP will raise Virginia power consumers' bills. To the stark contrary, as this report finds, "by 2030, electricity bills will be 7.7 to 8.4 percent lower under the Clean Power Plan, saving the average Virginia household $135 to $147 annually." That's right, SAVING us money...all while moving us to a cleaner,  more prosperous, more sustainable energy economy.

But wait, you ask, how can switching to clean energy save us money on our power bills? Several reasons.

1. "Improving energy efficiency means using less electricity to do the same or more work... For this reason, even if the retail price of electricity increases modestly under the Clean Power Plan, households and businesses will use substantially less electricity due to efficiency measures, and their bills will still decline." I'd add that energy efficiency is by far the cheapest form of energy out there - "negawatts," or the energy you never have to use in the first place, being a LOT cheaper than building new power plants (particularly super-expensive nuclear power plants), transmission lines, pipelines, etc.
2. "The net effect is that thanks to efficiency
measures, electricity bills will rise in 2020 by just 1.4 to 1.5 percent and then decline going forward. In 2025, they will be 3.8 to 4.4 percent lower than business as usual. By 2030, electricity bills will be 7.7 to 8.4 percent lower than they would be in the absence of the Clean Power Plan"
3. Actually, "this report likely underestimates the potential savings under the Clean Power Plan" because "it relies on EPA's excessively high estimates of the cost of efficiency programs" (the EPA, for whatever reason, "starts its analysis by treating efficiency measures as 60 to 100 percent more expensive than the evidence indicates").
4. It's also worth emphasizing that "actual outcomes will depend on Virginia's policy choices." In other words, if Virginia's Dominion-owned-and-operated General Assembly were to declare independence from their paymasters and put in place smart energy policies (decoupling, net metering, a strong/mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, a price on carbon and other pollution, etc.), the benefits to Virginia could be far, far greater than if they keep mindlessly doing what Dominion et al want them to do.

Finally, I'd toss in the charts by Lazard indicating how cheap clean energy (particularly efficiency and onshore wind, but increasing utility-scale solar as well; see Buffett strikes cheapest electricity price in US with Nevada solar farm -- an amazing 3.87 cents per kilowatthour, vs. about 9 cents per kilowatthour in Virginia). And remember, the price of fossil fuels and fossil-generated electricity does not include the enormous health and environmental costs stemming from their production, processing, transportation and combustion. On the other hand, the price of fossil fuels and fossil-generated electricity DOES benefit from huge implicit and explicit federal and state taxpayer-funded corporate welfare (aka, "subsidies") to those fuels, far greater by orders of magnitude than anything clean energy has received over the decades. In sum, the Clean Power Plan is not nearly as ambitious as it should or could be, but it's at least moving in the right direction for Virginia's economy and environment. As this study shows, it even ends up lowering Virginians' power bills.

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Video: Rep. Bob Goodlatte (aka, BADlatte) Attacks Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

by: lowkell

Wed Jul 08, 2015 at 13:16:04 PM EDT

Apparently, Rep. Bob BADlatte Goodlatte (R, of course) either didn't read Raking in donations, shoveling bad policy or didn't care.
U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte's long campaign to inflict damage on both Virginia's economy and infrastructure is also taking aim at the commonwealth's environment. Again.

The 6th District representative, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, appears poised to push legislation that would cripple the Environmental Protection Agency's cleanup efforts in the Chesapeake Bay.

Why would a congressman from Virginia, which surrounds the lower Chesapeake, do such a thing?

Perhaps an explanation can be found in the $2,014,628 Goodlatte has received during his long career in Washington from individuals and organizations connected to agribusiness, according to, the donation-tracking clearinghouse of The Center for Responsive Politics.

In other words, the guy's a corporate tool and an anti-environmental sociopath. Meanwhile, between his constant attacks on the environment, his obstructionism regarding comprehensive immigration reform, his assault on the Voting Rights Act, and much much more, Bob BADlatteBob Goodlatte is now vying for the lead in the "worst Congresscritter from Virginia" category with Dave Brat, Morgan Griffith, Robert Hurt, Randy Forbes and Barbara Comstock (not saying Scott Rigell or Rob Wittman are good, they're just not quite as heinous as the ones I listed). Sad to say, but BADlatte's district is gerrymandered for his incumbency protection, which means unless/until the courts intervene and force Virginia to redraw its Congressional districts, we're probably stuck with this embarrassment to our state.
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Two Simple Questions on "Corporate Welfare Programs" for "Free-Market Economist" Dave Brat

by: lowkell

Wed Jul 08, 2015 at 09:07:37 AM EDT

Given Ayn Rand afficionado Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA07)'s Facebook post yesterday (see below) attacking "corporate welfare programs" and patting himself on the back for supposedly being a "free-market economist," I've got a couple simple questions for the fine Congressman.

1. Since you're against "corporate welfare programs," would you support getting rid of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare by "U.S. federal and state governments [that] gave away $21.6 billion in subsidies for oil, gas, and coal exploration and production" in 2013 (and every year)?
2. OK, Mr. "Free Market," would you favor getting rid of the massive indirect subsidies we provide to the fossil fuel industry, including massive sums of money to encourage petroleum-based transportation choices;  subsidization - in a wide variety of ways - of suburban/exurban sprawl; huge national security costs related to defense of oil fields and shipping lanes; and last but certainly not least the enormous health care and environmental costs that are not currently "internalized" in the cost of fossil fuels, simply because the government has not done so by putting a price on fossil fuel pollution? If you don't support getting rid of direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels, and also incorporating negative "externalities" into the price of fossil fuels (e.g., through a revenue-neutral carbon tax), why don't you?

And no, I'm not holding my breath waiting for an honest answer from you, because I know you don't have one.

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Virginia Helps Successfully Defend Chesapeake Bay Restoration

by: lowkell

Mon Jul 06, 2015 at 12:45:00 PM EDT

The following press release is from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's office.  Which reminds me; have I mentioned recently how happy I am that Mark Herring is our Attorney General - and NOT right wingnut Mark Obenshain (or Obenshain's model Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli)? :) 


~ Virginia was the first Bay state to defend its Bay restoration plan and its ability to work cooperatively with other Bay states and federal partners ~


RICHMOND(July 6, 2015)-Today, a three judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the right of Virginia and other Chesapeake Bay states to work together to protect and restore the Bay. In April 2014, Attorney General Mark R. Herring filed an amicus brief in American Farm Bureau v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect Virginia's efforts, making the Commonwealth the first state to defend the Bay plan on appeal. The brief laid out the economic, environmental and historic reasons Virginia was compelled to weigh in on the side of the Bay and the reasons that the long history of cooperation between Bay states should be honored.


The brief also refuted arguments made in an amicus brief from 21 attorneys general, all but one of whom were from outside the Bay watershed, that opposed the ability of Bay states and the EPA to work cooperatively to address the health of the Bay, which is North America's largest estuary and a major economic force for the region, annually contributing an estimated $2 billion and 41,000 jobs from commercial fishing, $1.6 billion and 13,000 jobs in saltwater angling, $70 million in crabs, and $680 million in tourism.


"Because of today's ruling, Virginia and our fellow Bay states will be able to continue the important and urgent work of restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay," said Attorney General Herring. "The most promising plan for Bay restoration was under attack from out of state special interests and I couldn't let that go unanswered. The economic, recreational, environmental, health, and intrinsic value of clean water and a strong, healthy Bay compelled us to come to its defense. We've still got a long way to go to get the Bay back to where we want it, but today's ruling lets us stay on this promising trajectory."

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