Yesterday marked the first two Missouri PSC public hearings on Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project.  Additional hearings will be held later this week, and in early September.  Get dates, times and locations here.

Missouri showed them!

Hundreds packed the two public hearings and dozens spoke out against the project.
I think Clean Line infused spokeswoman Cari VanAmburg with a little too much perky.

"500 megawatts of clean wind power for the state!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  You're going to be seeing this in your nightmares for years.

You believe her, don't you?


 
 
Clean Line just did something amazingly inept.  It tried to shout down the medical opinion of a well-respected, local Missouri physician with canned studies from a Clean Line public relations woman.

In response to a very interesting article in the Missouri Moberly Monitor where Dr. Dennis Smith was quoted regarding possible health effects from EMF and ELF, Houston-based Clean Line PR gal Adhar Johnson submitted a letter to the editor where she gave her best medical opinion that Dr. Smith's medical opinion was "misleading."  Johnson's letter starts out:
As a project manager at Clean Line
Energy and someone who is passionate
about moving the wind industry
forward, I would like to address some
of the misleading statements made in
the recent article published in the
Moberly Monitor, "Line's health problems
brought to light."
How does being a project manager at Clean Line qualify this woman to analyze medical information and make recommendations about people's health?  It doesn't!

After blathering on citing a whole bunch of studies that she thinks refute Dr. Smith's opinion, Johnson closes with this:
I strongly urge folks to gain a full understanding of direct current technology
from nationally and internationally trusted sources. At Clean Line Energy, safety is among our chief concerns as we strive to treat landowners with the utmost respect.
Trusted sources?  Who's more trusted than your doctor?  Some corporate creature with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Missouri and a Certificate in International Affairs from Washington University whose company stands to make huge profits from building a transmission project?

I strongly urge Adhar to gain a full understanding that she's not a medical professional, and EMF is an issue of perception.  If people perceive that there is a medical risk from living in close proximity to high voltage transmission lines, then that's the end of the debate.  No amount of additional studies tossed at a fearful public is going to change the mind of a worried mother, or a concerned father.  Adhar should have just let it go instead of trying to out-doctor the doctor and question his professional expertise.

Dr. Smith's wife strikes back with this recently penned letter:
The recent editorial by Adhar Johnson, Clean Line Project manager has been expected, and her bias should be obvious.  The information provided in the June 6 article,  Transmission Line Health Problems Brought to Light, by Connie Duvall, was very careful to address ONLY the types of fields produced by high voltage lines.
My reputation is on the line in the community in which I live and serve, and the information used was carefully screened for accuracy.   Since the June 6th article, additional studies have been uncovered which directly name HVDC lines as the culprit in adverse health effects.  The information  from the studies repeatedly questions the "trusted" sources quoted by Clean Line Energy's advocates. This technical information will be used in November to testify before the MO Public Service Commission in Jefferson City.
(Above Statement by Dr. Dennis Smith)  

Clean Line managers and land developers have been flooding papers in would-be affected counties with their propaganda, touting their passion for wind energy.  These power lines have little if anything to do with wind energy as they are not needed to utilize it.  Clean Line execs typically implore the public to turn to trusted sources, which is exactly what we want them to do.
 
After all, the area of education of the Grain Belt Express (GBE) pushers is business and communications; their expertise is in the art of the deal, how to manipulate statements to their advantage, and how to turn a fast buck.  Is this reason to trust them?

They have determined to discredit Dr. Smith because his research threatens their venture.  Along with discounting him, they must also take down the numerous scientists, electromagnetic experts, and doctors who have done countless studies pointing to the harms of this type of EMF exposure.

Adhar Johnson, Clean Line manager, attended the Randolph County commissioner public meeting where a gentleman emotionally testified of his wife’s oncologist’s admonition that such a power line would necessitate their relocation.  In a meeting at Rothwell Park, Adhar told me  that the doctor had no business saying that, and then she handed me Clean Line’s go-to documentation of the one out-dated statement made by the World Health Organization (WHO) that there were no known health risks.  Much more recently, the WHO has revised their statement and has classified the emissions from these lines a class 2B carcinogen, as has the Environmental Protection Agency.  HUD has ruled the lines and towers “a hazard and a nuisance”, and FHA appraisals have to be adjusted to address the effect these lines have on marketability of properties near the lines.  The highly respected, non-partisan, U.S. Government Accounting Office expressed many of the same concerns voiced by citizens regarding HVDC lines in its report to Congress in 2008.

Dr. Smith also discovered the following statute:

Exercise of eminent domain over private property for economic development purposes prohibited--definition.
523.271. 1. No condemning authority shall acquire private property through the process of eminent domain for solely economic development purposes.  2. For the purposes of this section, "economic development" shall mean a use of a specific piece of property or properties which would provide an increase in the tax base, tax revenues, employment, and general economic health, and does not include the elimination of blighted, substandard, or unsanitary conditions, or conditions rendering the property or its surrounding area a conservation area as defined in section 99.805.
Missouri Revised Statutes
Chapter 523
Condemnation Proceedings
Section 523.282
Our Randolph County Commissioners have welcomed Clean Line GBE to our county for the exact reasons that the statue prohibits and have voiced at public meetings their support for those reasons prohibited in the statute.
 
Dr. Smith is trusted in this community as he has been in all communities in which he’s lived.  I make no apologies in stating that he has had a stellar medical career, having graduated in the top 5% of his medical class and having received multiple awards and accolades for his single-minded service to his God-given mission in Public Health.  He maintains excellent rapport with former hospitals where he has been employed and would be whole-heartedly welcomed back to any of those facilities.  Consider also the editorials that have been submitted by the many respected members of the community, your long-time friends and associates who oppose this line. Shall we then trust some wealthy business people whose real passion is increasing their profits, or should we trust scientists and doctors who are devotees to public health and safety?  It’s not a difficult choice.

Sincerely,
Laurie Smith
Moberly, MO
 
 
Silly schemes and misleading names were in high gear during yesterday's FirstEnergy Q2 2014 Earnings Call.  You know you're in for a treat when Tony the Trickster opens the festivities with another one of his *heavy sighs*.

FirstEnergy announced its new plan to make Ohio consumers assume all the risk of its unregulated, competitive generation fleet and called it, "Powering Ohio's Progress."  But, let's get real here, FirstEnergy should really call it "Powering Our Profits," because that's its purpose.

And I blame the birth of this ridiculous scheme on the West Virginia Public Service Commission, who set up West Virginia's consumers to absorb the company's risk on its Harrison power station last year.  In that scheme, West Virginia customers took on the burden of paying the operating costs of the Harrison power station by purchasing all its generation.  In turn, FirstEnergy would sell any excess power into regional markets and return the profit it earned doing so to the consumers.  Sounds great, right?  However, the cost of owning and operating Harrison is greater than any profits that may be derived from selling excess power into the market, therefore, consumers would end up paying more.  But, the WV PSC added one important term to its crazy plan that required the company to use the profits from market sales of power to pay down the "acquisition adjustment" fee of acquiring Harrison that was added to rates.

It is because the WVPSC allowed FirstEnergy to foist the risk of owning and operating Harrison onto its consumers that FirstEnergy got so encouraged to attempt to foist the risk of two of its other competitive plants onto Ohio consumers. 

But, the big difference here is that West Virginia is a fully regulated state, while Ohio is a competitive state.  In Ohio, electric customers can choose their generation supplier, but not their distribution provider.  The electric distribution system is owned and operated by the utility who traditionally served the customers.  Even deregulated states cannot change that, unless they allow other companies to construct their own separate distribution system to serve customers, and that's neither economic nor logical.  Therefore, even in deregulated states, customers are still served by, and receive a bill from, their regulated distribution provider.  Where generation is competitive, the distribution company simply adds the charge from your generation company to your bill and passes the costs through to you.

FirstEnergy's Powering Our Profits surcharge would be tied to its regulated distribution affiliates in Ohio.  The charge is non-bypassable, which means that it would be part of your distribution service and you would pay it no matter who your generation provider is.

So, let's look at this...  FirstEnergy Solutions is the FirstEnergy subsidiary that owns the competitive generators.  As the owner, FES must cover the entire cost to own and operate the plants, and in return it keeps any profits or absorbs any losses that result from selling the generation into the competitive power market.  But, market prices have been low and are not expected to recover any time soon.  This means that FES has been subject to more losses than profits from the generators it owns.  So, FirstEnergy's scheme will force its regulated distribution companies to enter into a contract to purchase all the power generated by FES's plants at a set price that will cover FES's costs and pay it an 11% profit.  Suddenly, FES's generators are profitable and risk-free!  But the distribution customers have a bunch of very expensive power they have purchased.  Can they use it?  No!  FirstEnergy's POP plan requires the distribution companies to sell the generation they have purchased into the competitive power market at whatever price it can get.  FirstEnergy says that in the first three years, where prices can be predicted, the distribution companies and their ratepayers will take a loss on the sale of power.  However, FirstEnergy says that its crystal ball predicts that power prices will rise in the remaining years of the 15 year contract and that a profit will be made selling purchased power into the market.  Gotta ask... if FirstEnergy is so certain there's a profit for these competitive generation plants just over the horizon, why don't they hold on them?  Because there isn't.  It's all smoke and mirrors, hopes and dreams.

FirstEnergy wants to hand the risky hot potato of owning uncompetitive generators to its Ohio distribution customers so that they can absorb the risk of market prices.

What a bunch of crooks!
 
 
Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri is calling on its members, and all Missourians, to speak out about the Grain Belt Express transmission project at important Public Service Commission hearings slated to begin next week.

"We really cannot over-emphasize how crucial these public hearings are to preventing the precedent of an out-of-state company receiving the state’s power of eminent domain to take private property for its speculative, for-profit venture,” said Jennifer Gatrel, spokeswoman for Block GBE. “We must stand together as a community to protect our property rights!”

The first hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, August 12 at 11:00 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Monroe City. That hearing will be closely followed by one at 6:00 p.m. the same day at the Hannibal-LaGrange University Theater Auditorium in Hannibal. Other dates include August 14 in Marceline and Moberly, September 3 in Cameron and St. Joseph, and September 4 in Hamilton and Carrollton.

Block GBE leadership advises citizens who wish to participate to arrive early to have their names added to the speakers’ list, and immediately find a seat inside the meeting room.

Mary Mauch, spokeswoman for the Block RICL Illinois citizens group fighting Clean Line’s Rock Island Clean Line project, has been speaking out about some of the tactics Clean Line used in Illinois last year to pack the public hearings with incentivized speakers and prevent affected landowners from having an opportunity to make their views heard.

“Clean Line bussed in groups of students, offered them a free dinner, dressed them in Clean Line t-shirts and handed out talking points that supported RICL. However, it was clear that the students were ill-informed about the actual purpose and details of the project” said Mauch. “The most disturbing aspect of Clean Line’s stacking of the speaker pool was that many affected landowners who had driven long distances to speak were turned away without a chance to have their voices heard,” she added.

Block GBE believes that Clean Line may be planning a similar scheme in Missouri based on emails and other documents that were divulged by the company during an earlier complaint by Missouri Landowners Alliance regarding Clean Line’s public relations practices.

Group spokesperson Jennifer Gatrel said that the emails revealed that Clean Line had been offering students pizza parties and other “swag” in exchange for gathering signatures on a petition to the PSC supporting Grain Belt Express, and that Clean Line has been planning to bus in college students to the Missouri public hearings for months.

“This is how the transmission permitting game is played,” said Keryn Newman, a nationally-recognized grassroots consultant who observed Clean Line’s efforts to mute the comments of affected landowners in Illinois last fall. “It’s about an effort to simply out-number and out-shout impacted landowners with large numbers of indifferent individuals acting at company direction while motivated by freebies or promises of a fun party with as many friends as they can bring along,” she added.

Some of Block GBE's major concerns are property rights, property devaluation, health effects, and the impediments to farming posed by the lines. Citizens interested in standing up for Missouri and showing Grain Belt Express how much they care about their communities and property rights can get more information about the public hearings at blockgbemo.com or by calling 660-232-1280.
An updated copy of the public hearing schedule can be found here.

Copies of the Clean Line emails can be viewed here.
 
 
Where do investor owned utilities get their silly project names?  PJM gives transmission projects alpha-numeric names.  Sometimes companies name their projects for the substations they connect (i.e. Susquehanna Roseland).  But sometimes a company proposes a project so big, so expensive, and so outrageous that it needs its own cutsie-poo name, like some sort of fire-breathing, money-eating dragon (i.e. PATH, TrAIL, MAPP).

Behold, Project Compass!
PPL proposed this monster last week in conjunction with its 2nd quarter earnings call.  Maybe it was just some elaborate distraction for investment analysts?  A poorly executed joke?

At any rate, here's the motivation for this ambitious and bodacious "investment" in new transmission:
The strong year-to-date increase in ongoing earnings was driven in part by a combined $69 million from our domestic utilities, driven by returns on additional transmission investments in Pennsylvania...
Well, shoot, if you can make a little money "investing" in transmission, why not go big and make a LOT of money, right?
Also this morning, we announced a PPL Electric Utilities proposal to PJM, as part of the competitive solicitation process under FERC Order 1000. As currently proposed, the 500 kV transmission line would run about 725 miles from Western Pennsylvania into New York and New Jersey, and also south into Maryland. The project is in the preliminary planning stages. The new line would improve electric service reliability, enhance grid security and enable the development of new gas-fired power plants in the shale gas regions of Northern Pennsylvania. The proposal would create savings for millions of electric customers by delivering lower cost electricity into the region and reducing grid-congesting cost. According to preliminary estimates, the cost of the project, which is not yet included in our CapEx projections, would be between $4 billion and $6 billion. Because of the magnitude of this proposal, there is a good chance we may enter into partnerships to develop and build the project. The preliminary timeline envisions completion of the project by 2023 to 2025, assuming all necessary approvals are received and construction begins in 2017. Approvals are needed from various regulatory and regional planning entities. We'll keep you posted on any further developments.
But it doesn't sound like the analysts shared PPL's enthusiasm and confidence in Project Compass:
Daniel L. Eggers - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division
Bill, can you maybe get a little bit more into this transmission project today? I guess, kind of how the process works from announcing, looking at something to where we'll see action. What kind of dollars you have to spend upfront? And then, if you look at the challenges you guys had with Roseland and other folks have had in the past, trying to build these new Pennsylvania East type of transmission lines, how you guys think you're going to approach it to make it a higher chance of success?

William H. Spence - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee
Sure. So the processes itself is one that's not been well traveled in the past, as you know. It's a relatively new process. So we'll continue to work with all the stakeholders to make sure that we do everything in our power to make sure that we get this approved on a -- as timely a basis as we can. Maybe I'll ask Greg to take you through kind of what we understand to be some of the key milestones and processes we have to do to make this a reality, so, Greg?

Gregory N. Dudkin - Principal Executive Officer, President and Director
Yes, thanks. So first off is the filings. So PJM had a window that just closed recently. So this project, Project Compass, was filed as part of that window. As far as the approvals are concerned, so this project not only is part of PJM, but also goes into the New York ISO, still need approvals from both entities. Also we'll need state approvals, as well as utility commission approvals. So for me, what increases the probability of success is just the compelling nature of this project. When you think about what's happened in the industry over the past year, the polar vortex, substation security being a big issue, coal retirements being a big issue. This project really pulls all those issues together and provides significant benefits to the consumers in the region. So I think it's the compelling nature of the benefits of this project that will help the project move forward. We are putting together an outreach plan. In fact, I've started this morning to get people that will be involved in the project, up to speed and be looking to work with others to make sure that this is a success.

Daniel L. Eggers - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division
Okay. So we should -- this will be, I guess, probably a little quiet from our perspective for -- in a period of time, while you get your ducks in a row. Is that kind of how we should think about it?

Gregory N. Dudkin - Principal Executive Officer, President and Director
Yes, I would say so. Because of all the entities we have to work with my sense is that we have a better idea about the timeline as far as approvals probably by the end of this year. But it should be fairly quiet from your perspective.

Daniel L. Eggers - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division
And then the money you guys are putting into it now, is there a route for recovery if this is not successful or is this money you guys are burying on PPL for the time being?

Gregory N. Dudkin - Principal Executive Officer, President and Director
Yes, this is something that is not recoverable. So we'll -- if it doesn't go forward, then we'll just had to eat that.
Eat.  Eat.  Eat.

There's nothing "compelling" about this project.  It's uninspired, unrealistic overbuild in its purest form.  Why should ratepayers shell out billions to "fix" a bunch of minor problems?
Neel Mitra - Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities, Inc., Research Division
Question on the transmission project. It looks like the map you provided, the starting points are really kind of where the new CCGTs, that are announced for PJM in '16 and '17, are being built. Is the -- is kind of the economic reason for the project that some of those gas plants that are going to be built right on top of the shales, they just don't have enough transmission capacity to get to where they need to, to provide reliability? Or is there another real economic benefit that I'm not seeing?

William H. Spence - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee
Well, there's a number of potential benefits, and I'll let Greg describe some of those. But that clearly could be one of them, but there are others as well.

Gregory N. Dudkin - Principal Executive Officer, President and Director
Got it. And so, I would say when we are -- when potential generators come to us, one of the issues is they need to obviously connect to our transmission. And in some cases, that can be very, very high cost. So part of the thinking on the economics is if we sited through the region, the cost to connect for those generators would be much less. So again with potential coal retirements, we think there's economic advantage for that on a going-forward basis. And we use pretty conservative assumptions around generation retirements. But beyond that, there are reliability benefits. Again, we talked about substation security. There are benefits that, actually, we didn't really factor in the economics. But I think there'll be a significant economic benefit there, reduced congestion. So all that, when you factor all those together, it is a significant positive economic benefit to the consumers.
Oh, right, we're supposed to spend billions to make it cheaper for new merchant generators to sell their electricity in a "competitive" market.  If these new generators can't afford to compete in the market by paying their own way to existing transmission connections, then they're not profitable and competitive and shouldn't be built.

Reliability?  Where's the driver for that?  Or are we going to put the cart before the horse again and create the "opportunity" for transmission before creating the "reliability" issue it is intended to fix?

Substation security?  How do existing substations get made safer by building new ones?  Is it because we're going to increase the number of possible targets to water down interest in just a few crucial points?

Didn't factor in the economics... but I'm sure they can make something up!


Wow, pretty weak reasoning there, Greg!
Paul Patterson - Glenrock Associates LLC
A lot of my questions have been answered. But just -- and I know it's some way off in the future here, but when the transmission line is built, what do you expect it to do to the market? Is there any basis differential or any sort of impact you could sort of suggest, that sort of in the ballpark, that would happen as a result of these major projects.

William H. Spence - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee
Yes, as you can imagine, because it is so far out and there's so many moving pieces, coal retirements, how many new gas pipelines may be built to move shale gas away from the constrained areas, and so forth, that we really don't have a forecast that we could point you to suggest which way prices would move as a result of this transmission project.

Paul Patterson - Glenrock Associates LLC
Okay. And no part of the project is going to be really done before 2023, is that correct?

William H. Spence - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee
That's our target. So with it, the earliest would be 2023.
See question above... they didn't factor in the economics, they're going to make that part up later!
Rajeev Lalwani - Morgan Stanley, Research Division
My first question is on the transmission project that you announced. Can you provide some insight on any competing projects that PJM is also looking at?

William H. Spence - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee
At the moment, we're not aware of any competing projects. This is a very unique project, that I'm very proud of the team here that came up with the concept and the forward thinking to put something of this nature in front of PJM. So we're not aware of any competing projects. And the requests that PJM have had, have been smaller projects to basically address some relatively small reliability concerns. I think there 4 or 5 of them. And this project and I response to some of those, but it goes well beyond that. Again with something that we think is very unique and compelling from a stakeholder process -- perspective.
Because, ya know, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Obviously there is no need for a new transmission project of this magnitude, but PPL thinks they can "compel" PJM into agreeing to this massive boondoggle without any competition developing.  This is exactly how PJM got into trouble on Project Mountaineer.  When it's not about reliability or economics, it's greed, not need.
Angie Storozynski - Macquarie Research
Okay. And lastly on the transmission project, I know it's many years out, but just looking at how the Susquehanna-Roseland went and the 3-year delay to cross, what, a 3-mile stretch through the Delaware Water Gap even though there was an existing right of away. I mean, obviously, we don't see exactly how this proposed line goes, but should we expect similar issues with siting of the transmission line?

William H. Spence - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee
Greg, do want to take one?

Gregory N. Dudkin - Principal Executive Officer, President and Director
Sure. Thanks. So certainly, when you're talking about a 725 mile line, siting is going to be a big issue. So we will work with all the stakeholders. We've had success, actually Susquehanna-Roseland is a great example. So it took us a while, but we were building through a national park. And I think it had been very successful. I think the folks there appreciate the care we took of the park, and so I think our reputation is good in that area and that's why I think we'll be successful.

Angie Storozynski - Macquarie Research
So this proposed line doesn't go through any national parks or any environmental -- that shouldn't face any environmental issues?

Gregory N. Dudkin - Principal Executive Officer, President and Director
No national parks.
No, no national parks.  Their last escapade in a national park cost the ratepayers $60M in hush money to the Department of Interior. 

ALL the stakeholders?  Landowners and ratepayers, grab your stakes, we're heading out!
 
 
W T
PPL?
I think PPL needs to do a round of drug testing of its employees.  Whoever came up with this idiotic idea must be on something.

PPL announced today that it had "submitted an application to PJM" to build a 725-mile 500kV line, estimated to cost $6B, through four mid-Atlantic states.

Never going to happen.

Residents of affected states are still reeling from PJM's last big transmission building idea, Project Mountaineer, that cost them billions, including nearly half a billion dollars for planned projects that were never built.  Try it, PPL, and you will experience coordinated, strategic opposition like you've never seen before!

The Morning Call seems to be the first media outlet to... err... call PPL out on its outrageous money-making scheme.  PPL interstate transmission project both costly and lucrative:  Project would fill utility coffers while costing ratepayers billions of dollars.

Morning Call says:
The project also would be a significant source of revenue for PPL Corp., PPL Electric Utilities' Allentown-based parent. Under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules designed to encourage infrastructure investment, utilities may earn a profit of 11.68 percent on transmission projects.
That translates into a profit of up to $700 million. PPL would share the money with any other utilities that participate in the project.
PPL customers, meanwhile, would see the cost, including utility profits, reflected in their rates — though the burden of paying for the project would be shared by ratepayers in all four of the states involved.
But, Morning Call only sees the tip of this iceberg.  PPL can apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for transmission rate incentives that would up its profits significantly.  In addition to incentive ROE adders that can increase the 11.68 percent several percentage points, PPL can also ask for guaranteed cost recovery in event of abandonment, a return on construction work in progress that enables them to begin earning that juicy return immediately, even before the project is completed, and many other outrageous financial rewards.

In addition, Morning Call's math is wrong.  The $700 million profit the reporter calculated is only that earned in THE FIRST YEAR of operation.  Transmission project rates work sort of like a 40-year mortgage.  The return is calculated and paid on the depreciating balance of the project cost every year!  So, in the first year of operation, PPL would earn a return on $6B and collect a certain amount of depreciation on the project assets that would lower the balance owed by ratepayers.  The second year, PPL would earn a return on the depreciated balance, and additional depreciation.  And so on, over the 40 year (or more) life of the capital assets.  PPL's possible profit from this ridiculous project is a nearly endless goldmine!

And, one last thing Morning Call gets wrong -- this project will be paid for, in part, by ratepayers in all 13 states in the PJM region because of its size.  A 500kV project built in PJM is cost allocated at 50% to all ratepayers based on peak usage, with the other 50% being assigned to the cost causers/beneficiaries.

Moving right along into PPL's feeble assertions that its project will:
If approved, PPL predicts, the project will improve energy reliability and security and provide customer savings by eliminating transmission bottlenecks and encouraging development of lower-cost natural gas-fueled generation plants.
The new plants would help replace energy supplied today primarily by coal-fired plants that, under increasingly stringent federal air quality standards, are expected to be retired in coming years.
This doesn't even make sense.  The coal-fired plants that will be closing are located in the Ohio valley, not on the east coast.  Once those coal-burners are offline, it will free up significant transmission capacity for any new "mine mouth" Marcellus shale gas-fired plants built in the Ohio valley.  Why would we need to build a new west to east transmission line when there's already plenty of them sitting idle due to coal-plant closings?

PPL says they will have a robust public input process to find out where to site the line.  Seriously?  That strategy doesn't work anymore.  It's all about need for the line in the first place, not where to put it.  Get with the brave new world of transmission opposition, PPL!

And speaking of siting the line... where is that new Maryland substation supposed to be on that featureless map?  If you compare it to a real map of Maryland, it looks like it's in Howard or Carroll counties.  But, what if there was land available in neighboring Frederick County for a proposed substation?  Oh, deja vu!

This has got to be the most thoughtless transmission proposal I've ever seen. 

Never going to happen.
 
 
Holy corporate reputation issues, Batman!

FirstEnergy wannabe-spinner Charlene Gilliam (All right?) crashed and burned at a Hampshire County Commission meeting yesterday.  Bless her heart, it probably wasn't all her fault.  It's because she works for a company that has ruined its reputation in this state (and beyond) through a series of greedy, self-interested attacks on its customers and employees.

The people have had it with FirstEnergy's corporate disinterest in the hand that feeds them.  And FirstEnergy is too STOOPID to have seen this one coming.  Sometimes, I wonder how my lights stay on at all, and then I remember that any smart people who still work for FirstEnergy are the ones driving the bucket trucks that come to our rescue.  It's upper management that has been snorting the STOOPID sauce.


Commissioner Hott seems to agree:

“What I think would help is to get some of these guys with ties on to come down and see what’s actually going on. They need guidance at a higher level,” Hott said.
Like maybe Charlene should have brought this character along yesterday? 
 
 
Clean Line Energy Partners President Michael Skelly's wife confided in a Houston-area reporter not so long ago regarding her and her husband's approach to strategic planning:
"We don't think a long time about things, she says.  "That seems like a good idea!  Let's do that!  That's the extent of our long range planning."
And that seems to be exactly how Clean Line Energy Partners was created... based on a spur of the moment whim that "seemed like a good idea."  And now this company is in up to its neck, after tossing millions of dollars of its investors' money into a losing game, and inspiring record amounts of entrenched opposition to new high voltage transmission lines.  Yay you, Michael Skelly!

So, where did his crazy idea come from?  I remember coming across an article about this man and his company several years ago, many months before opposition to Clean Line Energy projects began to coalesce.  In the article, Skelly (or maybe it was his little buddy Hans, I honestly can't remember) seemed to have the idea that because their transmission lines were supposed to be for "green" energy, people would welcome them being sited on their land.  At the time, I snickered and thought about what a wake up call this company had coming, because I knew there would be record opposition.  I just had to wait a bit, and sure enough, a few names started popping up in the media questioning Clean Line's plans.  From there it was just a hop, skip and a jump to strong opposition groups well-equipped for the battle ahead.  And so it is!

It's not about the color of the electrons, it's about the transmission line.  Where did Skelly get his crazy idea that landowners would welcome a "clean" line in their backyard?

Well, friends, I have finally located the source!  At the 2009 American Wind Energy Association's WINDPOWER 2009 conference in Chicago, Ben Kelahan of The Saint Consulting Group made a presentation of his company's public opinion polling survey results about transmission line siting.

The presentation informed attendees like Michael Skelly,
A majority of Americans oppose new high-voltage transmission lines in their community, but that opposition drops precipitously to 17% if those lines are delivering clean, renewable energy from wind. Support for new transmission lines leaps from just 46% to 83% when respondents are asked specifically about high-voltage transmission lines delivering wind power.

The survey of 1,239 adults nationwide was conducted last week (April 21-23) by The Saint Consulting Group, the political land use consulting firm that also issues the annual Saint Index© survey of attitudes toward real estate development projects, including energy-generation projects such as wind, nuclear and hydro facilities.

Ben Kelahan, energy practice leader at Saint Consulting, said the new results are a clear sign that Americans support cleaner, renewable power and that it has carried over to the distribution of that power through their own backyard.

“High-voltage transmission lines generate some of the most adamant NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) opposition in the country. That such a large percentage of people are willing to allow green lines in their community says a lot about the awareness and importance of renewable energy and climate change issues in addition to the education efforts undertaken by the renewable energy industry,” Kelahan said.

And the next thing you know, Clean Line Energy Partners was founded in 2009 to build "green" transmission lines across thousands of midwestern back yards.  "That seems like a good idea!  Let's do that!"

I'm sorry, Ben, but your survey is W-R-O-N-G!  For as today's reality demonstrates, people really aren't willing to allow "green" lines in their communities.  Perhaps they said they would when you had them on the phone and the "green" line was only an idea proposed for someone else's community.  But when the rubber meets the road and the "green" is washed away, it's still a transmission line nobody wants or needs.  Public opinion surveys are only as good as the companies who conduct them, and are routinely manipulated to produce a desired result that may not comport with reality.

But, for Skelly, I'm not sorry in the least.  It wasn't a good idea, your whole business plan is based on incorrect data, and it's never going to happen.  Give up.
 
 
EUCI and its stable of vacationing utility executives are going to be partying it up at the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan next month. 

So, what pretense are they using this time?  "Strategic Communication for Transmission Projects."  Well, at least they have abandoned the charade that their public relations fabrications are about "participating with the public" this time.

Instead, it's all about manipulating public opinion, or so they think.  Topics include:
How Utilities Effectively Manage the Media

Industry experts will discuss how to frame and "sell" transmission projects as the beneficial investments that they are on behalf of the customers. Attendees will learn how these energy executives keep messaging succinct, consistent and well-positioned. Panelists will discuss successful strategies and tactics for interacting with the media.
Does this include a lesson in gagging and tying opposition leaders up in the corner?  Otherwise, they're only fooling themselves.  The opposition also knows how to "effectively manage the local media," and they know how to do it better, without resorting to threats and lies.

Is this really about educating the public about the truth and reality of transmission, or is it about "selling" a fantasy version of transmission that doesn't include any detriments or drawbacks?  Sorry, that ship has sailed.  The public simply doesn't believe you anymore.  And reporters hate you and all the smoke you blow up their ass.

And speaking of "selling," I'm starting to wonder if EUCI is more about selling the products and services of its "instructors" to conference attendees:
EMF: What the Public Wants to Know and Why It Matters to Your Project

Public concern about electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and related potential health effects began in the late 1970s in association with higher voltage transmission lines and desk top computers. While concern about the latter has largely diminished, concern about EMF from transmission lines and substations continues and is sometimes a major issue in the siting and permitting of these facilities. Our experience demonstrates that presenting technically accurate comparisons of exposures from existing and proposed facilities provides a good context for communicating with the public. Sharing the results of experimental and epidemiology research studies and the perspectives of national and international health and scientific agencies is an effective method to assuage public concern. This session will teach you how to get the science right in your public outreach messages about EMF.

William H. Bailey, Ph.D., Principal Scientist, Center for Exposure Assessment & Dose Reconstruction, Exponent
I think Dr. Bailey has no idea what the public really wants to know about EMF, but he probably does know why it matter$ to "you."

Here's what the public really wants to know about EMF:

The professional opinion of a local physician, not the opinion of a company-paid, industry-funded "scientist."  Sorry, transmission developers, you just can't buy local credibility.

But, the real fun is at the "post-conference workshop" where the blind will lead the blind in this exercise:
Utilizing Mediation and Negotiation Skills to Diffuse Project Opposition

Overview

Inevitably, utility infrastructure projects draw some opposition, in person or through social media. This workshop is designed to identify the real issues behind project opposition, and to utilize mediation and negotiation strategies to gain support. Participants will explore the dynamics of conflict, perceived power imbalances, communication skills, and neutral positioning. Utilizing skill building exercises and strategies for reaching agreements, attendees will learn how to be an effective medium between the project owner and project communities. You will also learn effective strategies and tactics, and share in resolving real opposition issues from current and past projects. You are encouraged to bring your current project issues to develop a resolution strategy.

Learning Outcomes

Identify the concerns behind opposition
Evaluate when and when not to utilize social media to counter opposition attacks
Demonstrate how to properly communicate your message through application and critique.

Anticipating Opposition

Knowing your demographics and what is important to your project community
Understanding how to communicate project needs
Utilizing data to create visuals showing system constraints, demand, growth
Educating the opposition through clearly understood messaging

Opposition Working Groups

Seeing your project from the view of the opposition
Working group structure

Resolution Strategies

Using project benefits to the communities advantage
Formulating the strategy of "give and take"
Evaluating how to answer questions such as:
Why not go underground?
Will this harm my property value?
Should we be concerned about EMF?
Developing resolution strategies for your current project opposition


"Seeing your project from the view of the opposition?"  And how many transmission projects has EUCI's instructor opposed?  My guess would be none.  There they go again, attempting to teach a subject they know nothing about.

I do like the new theme I see running through all EUCI's more recent transmission opposition workshops, though.  The acknowledgement that opposition has changed, the public is more knowledgeable than before, and that transmission developers are embarking on a strange, new world where their opposition is increasingly organized, strategic and successful is a nice change of pace.  Because the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right, EUCI?
 
 
Never underestimate the power of the citizens to find stuff out!

A citizens' group opposing Xcel's Pawnee - Daniels Park Transmission Line Project came across some interesting information a couple weeks ago.

The citizens uncovered a letter the Douglas County School Board sent to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that urged the CPUC to "approve the project."  The letter prattles on about economic growth, increased electric use, and reliability, all things not within the expertise of the Douglas County School Board to determine.

The letter is signed by Board President Kevin Larsen, but none of the other school board members remembered approving it, or even discussing it.

Why would the School Board write this letter?

Maybe because Board Member Douglas Benevento, who is listed on the letter as Vice President of the school board, is also Vice President of Public Affairs for Xcel?

Imagine that!  What a coincidence!

Channel 7 reports that Benevento has "recused himself" from any discussions of Xcel and that he will not be in attendance to face the music tonight when the citizens of Douglas County show up at the school board meeting to ask the following questions:

1) Why would the school district get involved at all?
2) Did the district check with its constituents in the affected areas before endorsing?
3) Was this a unanimous decision made by the board?
4) What analysis of the project did the board undertake to understand the need and impact of the project before endorsing?
5) What expertise did the board utilize to make this decision?
6) What meetings with Xcel and its representatives has the board (or school staff) held regarding Xcel's proposed plan, when were those meetings held and what was the substance of those meetings?
Ut-oh, Xcel!  When are power companies going to get with the program and realize this ain't their Daddy's transmission line battle?

Opposition has evolved and the rules have changed.  Forever.

UPDATE:  Last night, the school board voted 4 to 2 to rescind the letter it had sent to the PUC. In its place, it will send a letter saying they don't want the power lines near schools. We believe this is a huge (and quick) victory!

Several Halt the Power Lines supporters were there and two spoke, including Colonel Curt Dale.

Board president (Kevin Larsen) reported that when he signed the letter in early May, he thought it related to a different matter and signed it without anyone else seeing it beforehand. He voted to let the letter stand as sent to the PUC. He said he likes and defended Xcel's proposal (as long as they keep the lines a safe distance from schools). We asked what about the kids in residential neighborhoods. Director Richardson, who was the second vote to let the letter stand as is, later said not having it close to schools (but close to residents) was a matter of density. I'm pretty sure, unbelievable as it is, that he actually used the word "density." Nettled, he also said he might personally send a letter to the PUC endorsing the project. (For what it's worth, he works for a gas pipe company that has many business dealings and business arrangements with Xcel.)

Voting to rescind the letter were directors Geddes, Reynolds, Robbins and Silverton. The four felt that the school board had no business in the matter, except ensuring the power lines weren't near schools. (Mr. Benevento was not at the meeting.)