I don't know about you, but I've had my fill of election season annoyances. The commercials, phone calls, mailings, and facebook accusations can stop now.... I've already voted.
I hope you do a little research on the candidates before you vote! Campaign finance reports are a good place to start:
Ohio-based FirstEnergy has been a busy little bee supporting certain candidates for state offices. But some candidates didn't take FirstEnergy's dirty money.
In the 16th District Senate race, Senator John Unger hasn't received any FirstEnergy money. However, his opponent, Larry Faircloth took $1000 from FirstEnergy's PAC. Faircloth also took money from Roach Oil (that benefits from high eastern panhandle gas prices). Campaign finance aside, Faircloth is also responsible for the 35% hike in Berkeley Co. sewer fees. Developer Faircloth filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate developer impact fees for increases to sewage capacity. Due to loss of the impact fees, the sewer district had to file for an 11% rate increase. Larry Faircloth's personal financial interests seem to trump the interests of the citizens he wants to represent. I have reservations about whose interests Faircloth would serve if elected.
In the 67th District Delegate race, Delegate Stephen Skinner's campaign finance reports are FirstEnergy-free. That's not too surprising, since Delegate Skinner has taken an active role in criticizing FirstEnergy's bungling of estimated bills and recent rate increase request. His opponent, Pat Rucker, lists a $500 contribution from FirstEnergy PAC on her campaign finance report. Which candidate do you think would do more to protect you from FirstEnergy's money-grubbing, shoddy business practices? I didn't see Pat Rucker at the recent FirstEnergy rate increase hearings. She must support the company's request for a 17.2% hike in your electric bill.
In the 66th District Delegate race, Mountain Party candidate Danny Lutz has received no funding from FirstEnergy. However, his opponent, Frontier's representative Paul Espinosa seems to be pretty cozy with the FirstEnergy bigwigs in Akron. In addition to the obligatory $1,000 donation from the FirstEnergy PAC, FirstEnergy's boy also got another $1,000 donation from FirstEnergy CEO Tony Alexander. You'd think the Alexander family would have better things to do with their money than to toss it away on a West Virginia Delegate's race?
A vote for Unger, Skinner or Lutz is a vote AGAINST FirstEnergy! Don't forget to make yours count!
Remember the letter to the TVA
from Tennessee Congressmen Alexander and Fincher that asked some hard questions about Clean Line's Plains and Eastern Project?
The TVA has responded, and it's not looking good for Clean Line! The letter, from TVA CEO William Johnson, is an exercise in reading between the lines, but here's my take on it, in a nutshell:
Clean Line is not economic for the TVA and presents reliability issues.
The answers to Alexander's and Fincher's questions are:
1. Does purchasing electricity from this distance increase security threats to TVA's
power supply? Former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz has said we should
pay attention to generating more energy where we use it because of national
The power grid is a complex, interconnected network of generating plants,
transmission lines, and distribution facilities. This system is designed with
redundancy and resiliency at its core to ensure a reliable electric power system.
Some increase in security risk is unavoidable as distance increases between
generation and point of use. The extra distance provides additional exposure for
natural or malicious events to force a transmission path out of service. The potential
for an interruption with long duration to power supply increases if full transmission network redundancy is not provided or as greater amounts of supply are obtained
from more remote sources. The Department of Defense has become aware of this
risk; it is implementing a program to make its major installations self-sustaining in
energy to mitigate the potential interruption from the grid.
Translation: Yes. The most reliable system is one where generation is located as close as possible to point of use. Long transmission lines increase the opportunities for equipment failure, natural disaster, or terrorist activity. Our military realizes this and has begun to island itself from the vagaries of our increasingly complex grid and long distance power shipments by building its own secure generation sources on site, which is known as distributed generation.
2. What is the cost of purchasing wind electricity compared to TVA generating or
purchasing other types of electricity generation?
TVA is studying the addition of new wind energy resources as part of the
development of its new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). This process provides
opportunity for public participation. When TVA evaluates the cost of wind energy,
we include the value of the energy itself, as well as the cost to transmit out-of-valley
wind energy to the Tennessee Valley. In addition, there are costs associated with
the intermittent nature of wind generation. Through the IRP, TVA will rigorously
compare wind energy purchases against other alternative sources of energy
(renewables, new and existing TVA generating assets, or purchased power) to
serve local power companies and directly-served customers in a cost-effective
In FY2013, TVA's average fuel rates by asset type were as follows: nuclear,
$6/MWh; coal, $32/MWh; and gas, $39/MWh. The TVA average system fuel cost,
which includes hydro (no fuel cost) and purchased power, was $24/MWh. By
comparison, off-system wind purchases were $80/MWh (including transmission).
The cost of both wind and solar have trended steadily down in recent years. Lazard
Freres and Company, LLC, a leading financial advisory firm, does a periodic study
on the costs of renewable energy. Its most recent report states that the cost to
generate wind with the Federal production tax credit (PTC) is as low as $23 MWh;
without the credit, the costs are as low as $45 MWh. (Note that these are
production costs that do not take into account the cost of delivery to or the impact on
the TV A system.)
Translation: Wind is the most expensive resource in TVA's portfolio of resources. Wind without the PTC (and there currently is no PTC) costs $45 MWh to produce. In order to get remote wind into TVA's system, Clean Line will add transmission costs that the company previously pegged at $25 MWh
, for a total of $70 MWh. This is a figure very generous to Clean Line, because it doesn't include any of the additional costs Clean Line is going to have to cover to pay for any necessary upgrades to TVA's transmission system to handle the injection of its generation. TVA's $80 MWh price for remote wind is probably pretty accurate. In addition, TVA says there are additional indirect costs due to wind's intermittent nature that must be considered. All of this number crunching will occur as part of TVA's Integrated Resource Plan, which is still in process. A decision on Clean Line is still a long way off.
3. There is substantial opposition in Congress to the wind production tax credit. Will
TVA ratepayers be at risk of increased rates if the wind production tax credit is not
TVA does not benefit directly from the PTC. As noted in the prior response, the
PTC has a material impact on the cost structure of wind developers and, in turn, the
price they can offer to TVA or other purchasers of the wind energy. Any TVA
purchase of wind energy would be under a long-term contract that would place risk
associated with the tax credit on the seller.
Translation: That would be the wind farm's problem because any contract TVA would sign would be for a fixed price. If a lack of tax incentives makes building new wind farms uneconomic, then they won't be built!
4. What is the reliability of purchasing wind power as compared to other types of
electricity generated by natural gas, nuclear, coal, or hydropower?
Because wind is an intermittent resource that lacks some of the dispatch capability
of other resources, it does not eliminate the need for base load or dispatchable
power plants like nuclear, natural gas, coal and hydropower. Adding intermittent
generation resources like wind can be challenging to manage, particularly as the
volume of generation from those sources increases. Wind patterns are fairly
predictable, but not entirely so; in addition, weather and other factors can affect
output. To maintain reliability, a wind energy purchaser must keep adequate
capacity and spinning reserves to cover the variability inherent to wind. Spinning
reserve is typically calculated as the amount of capacity available to cover the loss
of the largest generation source on the system. Utilities across the country have
been integrating more wind into their systems over the last several years, and TVA
already integrates 1,515 megawatts of off-system wind power. The industry has
growing experience with this issue, but it does make ensuring reliability more
Translation: Because wind is intermittent, it's not reliable. TVA would have to pay to have reserve generation available at all times to make up for wind's unreliability. In other words, buying wind would do little to shut down existing fossil fuel plants.
5. TVA's peak power demands tend to be between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and wind
tends to mostly blow at night. How does wind power fit into TVA's overall demand
structure if the electricity isn't being produced when TVA needs it the most?
TVA analyzes historic and forecasted wind patterns to determine expected wind
deliveries at our system peak. Our forecasting and planning processes reflect
adjustment to wind generation at our summer peaks based on this analysis. Clean
Line has told us that a production profile provided by the independent meteorology
firm, 3Tier Oklahoma, shows that panhandle wind energy produces at about a 50
percent capacity factor between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., thus
contributing to meeting peak demand. TVA's current wind resources produced
about 25 percent average capacity factor over that peak period last summer, with
significant variation each day (between 5 and 65 percent capacity factor). TVA will
take the seasonal and time-of-day energy patterns of wind into account when
evaluating adding additional wind energy to its portfolio.
Translation: Clean Line says its generation will be available 50% of the time, but reality and experience shows it will actually only be available 25% of the time, with extreme highs and lows. When there are lows, the lights could go out if there isn't enough reserve generation ready to go (spinning).
6. At a roundtable in September 2013, hosted by Senators Corker and Alexander, you
said that TVA didn't need additional electricity generation capacity as the result of
reduced electricity demand. Has this projection changed?
Electricity demand is not expected to return to 2007 levels until the end of this
decade. We are projecting growth in demand of approximately 0.6 percent per year,
net of TVA's energy efficiency efforts. TVA believes that we have adequate
supplies to meet the near- to mid-term energy needs of the Valley reliably. Cleaner
energy sources, including nuclear, renewables, hydro and energy efficiency, provide
diversity within TVA's existing balanced energy portfolio. TVA is evaluating future
power needs and opportunities to meet them through the IRP. Wind and other
generating resources are regularly evaluated against existing or planned asset
additions to address changing conditions.
Translation: Demand has tanked and is not expected to recover.
7. If the projection for TVA's electricity demand has changed since September 2013,
does it make more sense to purchase this wind power from Clean Line Energy
Partners, to build additional nuclear capacity, or to build additional natural gas or
While demand over the next decade or so is predicted to be stable with low growth,
the TVA generation fleet is in transition. TVA has retired or will retire a substantial
portion of its coal fleet; we are committed to the completion of Watts Bar Nuclear
Plant Unit 2 and to a large new gas combined cycle plant in Paradise, Kentucky.
We have the potential to get incremental megawatts from the hydro system and a
significant amount from power uprates in the nuclear fleet. We have to either
retrofit, retire, or replace the Allen Plant in Memphis before 2019 under the terms of
an agreement with EPA and others. (Clean Line cannot supplant Allen because of
the need for a generation source physically located in that area to provide
transmission support that imported wind generation cannot provide.) In addition,
other market participants have approached TVA with expressions of interest to
provide electricity from gas, nuclear, wind and solar assets. TVA also factors in
energy efficiency and demand response programs into its resource decisions. The
recently announced draft 111 (d) rule from EPA, if enacted in its current form, will
also have a national impact on future decisions.
Clean Line will be evaluated in this context of low growth, transitioning fleet and
other options by application of the statutory mandate and guidance noted in the
preamble of this letter.
Translation: In a word, no. Clean Line isn't even a useful substitute for generation from coal plants that TVA is planning to close. There are plenty of other resources available.
The rest of the questions deal with eminent domain questions, which TVA could have batted away entirely because TVA will not participate in those activities. However, TVA answered each question with, "Clean Line said...." and repeated the same old carefully crafted lines about "voluntary acquisition," continued use of the properties for farming and ranching, and compensation in accordance with Clean Line's paid-for market value studies. Read these answers using a falsetto voice for the things Clean Line said and you'll get a better appreciation for TVA's tongue-in-cheek repetition of Clean Line propaganda.
Bottom Line: Clean Line needs to look elsewhere for customers for its Plains & Eastern payload.
After enough wrangling to make a cowboy cry, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmed the nomination of Norman Bay as Chairman of FERC... as long as he keeps the training wheels on his regulatory tricycle for the next 9 months.
Bay can be a FERC Commissioner, as long as Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur gets to continue to "act" for the first 9 months of Bay's tenure.
RTO Insider has the best coverage of today's events here.
RTO Insider notes that our own Plastic Senator Joe Manchin sold out in a hurry.
Among those who had expressed concern over Bay’s limited energy policy experience was Manchin, who helped sink the bid of Obama’s previous nominee, former Colorado regulator Ron Binz.
That sparked a flurry of negotiations over the last several days among the White House, Murkowski and Energy committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.), which resulted in the president’s concession not to appoint Bay chairman immediately.
Poor, old Plastic Joe. Some days, he just can't seem to make up his mind.
It looks like the cat is out of the Clean Line Plains & Eastern bag. Now these Texas snake oil salesmen and their filthy rich foreign investors will no longer be able to operate their scheme under the public radar without scrutiny. A U.S. Senator and Representative from Tennessee have examined Clean Line's business plan and don't seem to like it.
The elected representatives are taking their responsibilities to provide oversight of federal action seriously. The congressmen believe they should have a say in the matter because Clean Line's preferred customer for its Plains & Eastern line is federal power marketer Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Senator Alexander said, “It’s up to the TVA board to decide what kinds of electricity to generate and purchase. But it is the responsibility of members of Congress to provide oversight to TVA policies, and these questions are part of that oversight.”
The TVA recently extended a "Memorandum of Understanding"
with Clean Line. The MOU simply states that the TVA will study a possible interconnection with its system and consider Clean Line's idea in its integrated resource plan, due later this year. It does not obligate TVA to buy power. It's really a pretty worthless document -- lots of fluff and bluster about "clean" energy and absolutely no substance. But, that was probably Clean Line's intent in the first place -- to give the impression that TVA was an eager customer, even though that's just not true. It doesn't matter what the actual document does or says, it's all about appearances. Clean Line has used it as something to drop into regulatory applications, public meetings and press releases.... "Clean Line's MOU with the TVA." Oooooh! Lots of acronyms, must be important... not. It's exactly what it appears to be, there is no mystery.
It appears that no one has bothered to inform the representatives that Clean Line is also attempting to utilize Sec. 1222 of the federal 2005 Energy Policy Act to grant the company federal eminent domain power to condemn land
for its 750-mile transmission line through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee. I think the representatives could be even more effective asking the U.S. Department of Energy questions about this federal process. This is certainly within their jurisdiction.
But, for now, the reps have set their sights on asking the TVA the hard questions, such as:
1) Does purchasing electricity from this distance increase security threats to the TVA’s power supply? Former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz has said we should pay attention to generating more energy where we use it because of national security risks.
2) What is the cost of purchasing wind electricity compared to TVA generating or purchasing other types of electricity generation?
3) There is substantial opposition in Congress to the wind production tax credit. Will TVA ratepayers be at risk of increased rates if the wind production tax credit is not renewed?
4) What is the reliability of purchasing wind power as compared to other types of electricity generated by natural gas, nuclear, coal, or hydropower?
5) TVA’s peak power demands tend to be between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and wind tends to mostly blow at night. How does wind power fit into TVA’s overall demand structure if the electricity isn’t being produced when TVA needs it the most?
6) At a roundtable in September 2013, hosted by Senators Corker and Alexander, you said that TVA didn’t need additional electricity generation capacity as the result of reduced electricity demand. Has this projection changed?
7) If the projection for TVA’s electricity demand has changed since September 2013, does it make more sense to purchase this wind power from Clean Line Energy Partners, to build additional nuclear capacity, or to build additional natural gas or coal capacity?
8) Does Clean Line Energy Partners’ proposal require the use of eminent domain in order to acquire any right-of-way for this project? How many land owners or homeowners will be impacted by the use of eminent domain, what specific lands will be acquired and where are they located?
9) Can you explain how Clean Line Energy Partners plans to compensate any landowners or homeowners who are affected by eminent domain?
10) How will the price of compensation be determined? Does Clean Line Energy Partners have a specific formula when compensating for land purchased under the use of eminent domain?
11) What funding stream will Clean Line Energy Partners use to compensate landowners and homeowners for the land purchased under eminent domain?
Clean Line's spit-tastic president, Michael Skelly, tried some of his best arrogance to insist that his project was the best option for the TVA. He even included some prices that are pure speculation. Senator Alexander wasn't impressed.
"TVA should and will make a decision that is in its best interests, but we believe this would provide a clean, reliable and cost-competitive source of power that would not increase in price over the next 25 to 30 years," said Mike Skelly, founder and president of Clean Line Energy.
Clean Line estimates the wind power could be delivered to TVA for 4 cents to 6 cents per kilowatthour, which would make it generally competitive to other new sources of energy for TVA.
But Alexander questioned whether TVA needs more power with the slowdown in the growth of electricity demand. He also questioned whether wind would become more expensive if federal production credits given for new windmills are not extended.
It's about time someone with authority lets a little sunshine into Clean Line's uneconomic business plan. There's been entirely too much secrecy and too many closed door meetings with the federal government over the past 5 years. The representatives deserve the thanks of all affected landowners across three states who have been threatened by this company. Please let them know what you think:
And be sure to connect with the grassroots group organizing against Clean Line in Arkansas -- Arkansas Citizens Against Clean Line Energy.
Things are not going well for our friends at Clean Line Energy Partners.
Opposition to its Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express, and Plains & Eastern Clean Line projects continues to grow at explosive rates. This isn't just a handful of NIMBYs in an isolated tool shed, but an active, educated, cohesive, movement numbering in the thousands and stretching across eight states (and beyond!)
Clean Line's biggest problem is its desire to wield the power granted to entities acting in the public interest by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation
See where it says "public use?" Clean Line is not a "public use." It is a privately held investment vehicle that desires to build a for-profit project that has not been found necessary by any transmission planning entity acting under the auspices of our government. Any yahoo can wake up in the morning and decide to build a transmission line, but the idea does not make it "needed." Clean Line is a private entity who intends to sell transmission capacity to other private entities through privately negotiated contracts.
Whether granted by a state, or by the federal government through Sec. 1222 of the Energy Policy Act, giving eminent domain authority to Clean Line is just wrong. And the people will continue to loudly protest until the threat is removed.
Clean Line is failing in the all-important court of public opinion, which powers the legislative stance that drives approval or rejection of Clean Line's state regulatory applications. Clean Line hates it when the voters connect with their elected representatives because Clean Line has spent lots of time and money wooing your legislators to support its project with inflated claims about jobs and economic development. Clean Line has also been busy trying to slant the news coverage of its projects by meeting privately with editors and reporters in order to present them with a one-sided set of "facts" that support the project. News sources practicing ethical journalism seem to be immune, but every once in a while Clean Line hits the mark with an editor motivated by politics or good ol' boy business glad handing.
Yesterday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted one such editorial, so full of political pandering that it probably didn't require the additional lies that it printed. The Editorial Board went wandering off about repeal of state renewable portfolio standards, the Koch brothers, foreign oil, commercial hog farms, Keystone XL, and oil subsidies. None of these topics have anything to do with Clean Line, but the paper tried to use these political topics to paint the opposition it knows nothing about as unacceptable and therefore not worthy of being heard. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also quotes Grain Belt Express project manager Mark Lawlor as claiming he has purchased all the land he needs in Kansas:
Mr. Lawlor has been through this before, in Kansas, where he says the company has completed buying the land it needs for that portion of the line.
This is an outright lie. Did Lawlor really say that? Or was that the editor's creation? Clean Line better clear this up before it comes back to bite them in a future eminent domain condemnation proceeding.... because that's the only way Lawlor is going to get his hands on some of the land he needs in Kansas.
The editorial was so bad that it has inspired more than 80 comments, almost all of them from real people knowledgeable about transmission and opposed to Clean Line. Go ahead, read the comments, and see the people educate Clean Line's sparse supporters in Missouri.
And if you think that editorial is bad, check out this article in the Cherokee Chronicle Times where reporter Loren G. Flaugh tosses journalistic ethics out the window to openly insult one of Clean Line's opponents in Iowa. The reporter inserts personal opinion into the story, calling Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance board member Jerry Crew "befuddled," "mistaken," and says his group "doesn't understand" the project's business model. And the reporter bases his inexpert understanding on talking points from Clean Line. I wonder, would that hold up in court?
Crew wanted elected officials to tell him what was on the line when the wind doesn't blow. No one could give him a correct or logical answer. The reporter concludes that when the wind doesn't blow, the line will be de-energized. I think the reporter is the one "befuddled" by Clean Line's bullsh*t. If wind farms are contracted to purchase a certain amount of capacity on the line, and they aren't producing anything, they will most likely re-sell their capacity in the secondary market to try to recover some of their cost. Who would buy it? Any generator who wants to connect into the series of regional feeder lines supplying Rock Island Clean Line's starting point converter station, that's who. And it could be ANY kind of generator -- coal, oil, gas, solar, wind. Clean Line cannot guarantee that its line will be... "clean."
Jerry Crew is absolutely correct, and the reporter is misinformed.
My, my, my, how desperate Clean Line has become as it stoops to new lows in the media. A viable project wouldn't require tossing journalistic ethics out the window. Clean Line is more closely imitating the death throes of a bad project. Surrender, Clean Line.
A "media tour"
is a public relations tactic used to control the way the media frames a certain story so that only one point of view is presented, and differing viewpoints are not mentioned. A media tour can take many forms, but one involves schlepping an executive or "expert" around to different reporters in a city or region for face-to-face meetings with news reporters/editors. The idea is that a reporter will connect with the executive, and more sympathetic press will be created.
Media tours rely on the card stacking propaganda technique whereby only one side of an issue is presented to the audience. Opposing viewpoints, or facts that don't support the proponent's argument, are omitted from the discussion. Because the media tour provides a one-sided rendition of fact, the stories produced can often take the form of "puff pieces." A puff piece is a distorted story that only presents a glowing review of the proponent's product. In contrast, a balanced article examines both sides of an issue and the reporter talks with leaders on both sides to present their views.
Because it was getting absolutely pummeled in the Missouri media by a fresh-faced amateur, Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project has concocted a new media plan. The first item appears to be a media tour starring Clean Line president Michael Skelly. This guy rarely shows up in the localities affected by his planned projects, and when he does he's always described as incredibly arrogant and out-of-touch with local sentiment, priorities and values. Therefore, to drag him through a media tour in Mayberry, Missouri, informs that Clean Line is in real trouble in the all-so-important court of public opinion.
So, how did it go? I think this reporter was wise to him.
Mr. Skelly’s visit comes amid an upsurge in opposition to the project.
And the true nature of that opposition is reported:
Opponents recently have banded together in a bid to thwart Grain Belt Express, with some sessions held in Buchanan and Clinton counties. They contend landowners are being coerced into signing easement agreements.
So Skelly starts telling some unbelievable whoppers:
However, Clean Line believes it is gaining more supporters rather than detractors and say the process in Kansas already has erased doubts.
“We’re having those conversations in Missouri,” Mr. Skelly said. “We’re out there having negotiations with landowners ... We find out that people get more comfortable with it.”
Check out the comment from an actual Kansas landowner at the bottom of the article:
I can tell you how negotiations with landowners in eastern Kansas is going. They're telling Skelly where he can put his power line, to put it mildly. The vast majority of landowners in eastern Kansas have resolved to not even negotiate with Clean Line until they get regulatory approval in Missouri and Illinois. The routing approval handed down by the KCC last fall was contingent upon them gaining regulatory approval in these two states. Why would anyone want to sign an easement agreement with a company that will more than likely sell the easement pre-construction to a foreign interest like National Grid, and not even be around when and if construction ever begins.
Erasing doubts. Right, Mikey.
But Mikey's media tour to "defend his project" got completely upstaged by the opposition when the Missouri Farm Bureau put out a release about its intention to intervene in the Grain Belt Express case at the Missouri PSC at the same time. The Farm Bureau opposes the use of eminent domain for this project.
In addition, the university that Clean Line schmoozed with promises of pizza parties in exchange for signatures on a petition supporting the project has taken the initiative to exercise their journalistic muscles with some balanced reporting.
And another opposition op-ed got published.
What was that you said, Mikey? I can't hear youuuuuuu... and neither can anyone else you were trying to convince with that lame media tour.
I guess he will just have to concentrate on the other tactic Clean Line has recently re-deployed, the "community roundtable" and "governmental and environmental organization" private meetings that attempt to inspire advocacy in unaffected and uninterested populations.
But, don't worry, citizens of Missouri, there are some public meetings where your participation and opinion are valued.
Meanwhile, another Grain Belt Express spokesman recently buggered things up further by cluelessly insulting Missouri lawmakers by stating that they are merely "dabbling in legislation" that affects his project and he's "paying attention" to their interference with his plans in their state. What an idiot!!!
It's not going to work. Give up, Clean Line. You've been bested in Missouri and there is no recovery from public knowledge of your true intentions.
Remember that ambiguous "energy agreement"
that New England states signed back in December? Its meaning is now beginning to take shape, not as a true energy plan, but as a ratepayer-funded transmission developer feeding frenzy
Instead of "making investments in local renewable generation, combined heat and power, and renewable and competitively-priced heating for buildings that will support local markets and result in additional cost savings, new jobs and economic opportunities, and
it looks like some of the states are depending on this "agreement"
to satisfy their energy appetites at the expense of the other states.
Here's how the states plan to implement their agreement:
In the next few months, the governors are expected to issue requests for proposals for 1,200 to 3,600 megawatts of transmission capacity that could carry wind and hydroelectric power from the northern reaches and Canada.
Massachusetts is plowing ahead with legislation
ordering utilities to solicit bids for up to 2400 MW of "clean" energy.
Instead of fostering the development of renewable energy within their own borders, or tapping the incredible resource right off their own shores
, the energy hog southern New England states plan to import renewables from another country and run transmission lines through the northern New England states to deliver it.
What's in it for the northern states? Part of the bill!
Massachusetts and Connecticut are driving the push to bring clean hydropower from Canada to help the states meet their clean-energy goals. But the other four states — Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine — agreed through the New England States Committee on Electricity, made up of state utility officials from the six states. They have agreed to share the costs because they would benefit from the overall reduction in energy costs, although the details of how that would be done remain to be worked out.
Northern state landowners will also be required to sacrifice privately owned land or be subject to eminent domain condemnation and takings. They will also have to live with these 200-foot tall extension cords zig-zagging through their communities and unspoiled vistas.
Because Massachusetts and Connecticut don't want any of that nastiness mucking up their views.
This "agreement" was never about true diversification of generation. It's about increasing centralized generation and reliance on imported energy. And it's about corporate schemes to make money by smoothing the way to build more long distance transmission.
"Many of the proposals have been talked about in utility circles for some time..."
Of course they have, but the transmission developers needed cover to spring their plans on a wary public, and a way to broadly socialize the costs so that the burden on any one customer would be overlooked as minor.
The transmission developers and their pet Governors are even rewriting history, putting the egg before the chicken by pretending that the past winter's delivery issues were the impetus for the "agreement" that was signed before the problems occurred.
Adding to the charlie foxtrot are Big Green, who sanctimoniously oppose
this new transmission plan, worrying that it "could crash the regional power market and kill off other needed energy-generating resources."
Funny... these are the same green hypocrites who are cheering Clean Line Energy's plan to cover the Midwest with wind turbines and HVDC transmission lines. No worries about that
crashing the regional power market and killing off other needed energy-generating resources. Right.
So, a whole stable of eager transmission developers are chomping at the bit to have their project selected as the winner of the ratepayer-guaranteed profits. Several proposals have been made. In addition to stupid overhead projects like the parasitic Northern Pass, Anbaric has proposed a project that it says will be buried, both on land and offshore.
A 300-mile power cable would be buried on land in Maine and then run across the Atlantic Ocean floor to greater Boston under a proposal to tap Canada’s plentiful hydropower to meet the needs of power-hungry southern New England.
thinks that battling the opposition that is sure to develop against an overhead project isn't worth the time, money and headaches, preferring to spend a little more to bury its project for fast approval, while the competition languishes for years on the regulatory battlefield. Anbaric could teach some other "clean" energy developers a lesson. But then again, Anbaric is counting on ratepayers to finance its project, including the extra cost to bury the cable.
Other "clean" energy companies
operating under a merchant model are caught in a desperate cost control game in order to keep their projects cost competitive. Merchant transmission projects depend on energy markets for their existence. If a merchant transmission owner can cover its own expenses to ship energy long distance and make a profit, then it is economic to build. However, if a merchant transmission company's cost of service increases because it has to spend more to bury cable to make landowners happy, then it is no longer economic and will not be built. Sounds fair, right? But, what if the merchant developer wanted the power of eminent domain to take land cheaply for an overhead route, instead of having to please landowners during a fair, open market right of way negotiation process that could include the requirement to spend more money burying the line? That would be the best of both worlds for the transmission developer -- depending on the artificial influence of eminent domain to keep its project costs in check to ensure market competitiveness. This is perhaps the single biggest flaw in Clean Line Energy's plan. Merchant projects should NEVER
be granted a utility's eminent domain authority because they are not needed for reliability or economic purposes and depend completely on the economics of the market for existence, therefore they should also be forced to compete in unfettered real estate markets to bring their projects to reality. If it costs too much to obtain right of way in a free market, then the project is not economic.
But, I digress.
New England has a lot of work to do to craft a real, sustainable energy plan that does not depend on inflicting social and environmental injustice on people in other states or other countries.
the states will hold public meetings to present the region's plan in preparation for bidding process. The meetings will include stakeholders, including environmental groups and developers.
It is unclear whether these "meetings" will include citizens, landowners and ratepayers, the most important "stakeholders" of all.
A mysterious, new group advocating for "more ways to send Iowa's wind power out of state" appeared on TV screens all across Iowa on Monday. The mysterious group claims it includes "wind power activists, vendors and industry leaders" and that is it "neutral" about the Rock Island Clean Line. How could a group advocating for transmission lines in Iowa not be for RICL?
The Rock Island Clean Line is one for-profit company proposing to ship wind power produced in western Iowa to the outskirts of Chicago. None of that power would stay in Iowa and a number of landowners along the proposed 500-mile-long transmission line route have opposed the plan. Some owners and farmers have expressed concerns about potential damage to land from transmission tower construction and the threat of eminent domain to push a route if enough willing sellers aren’t found.
But Lang, and Mike Prior, interim director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, hope the new organization could serve as a “go-between” to bridge some of the disagreements between land owners and the Clean Line developers.
"Neutral," my eye!
A front group is an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned. [or denied!] The front group is perhaps the most easily recognized use of the third party propaganda technique.
Larson Shannahan Slifka Group (LS2group) is a bipartisan public relations, public affairs, and marketing firm that guides its practices with one goal in mind: what others may do, we strive to do better. We offer clients an unparalleled commitment to excellence and take pride in our consistent delivery of successful outcomes. Our strength lies in the diversity of our team and its determination to apply creative solutions and unique perspectives to clients' needs. We see possibilities others cannot and have a track record of helping our clients reach their goals.
Right. I'm sure other public relations companies cannot "see" the wheels coming off the front groups they set up for their clients at roll out. But, that's neither here nor there.
Who are LS2Group's clients?
"LS2group has a thorough understanding of our needs and responds quickly to our requests, coupled with a vast network of strong relationships with key officials."
- Cary K., Director of Development, Rock Island Clean Line
Who are LS2Group's employees? I saw this one
minding the Clean Line information table at the first Mendota public hearing. Others have reported seeing her at other Illinois and Iowa public events.
This same LS2Group employee is also the named company contact on a recent press release about the Rock Island Clean Line project.
The claims that Windward Iowa is not advocating for Clean Line's RICL project, and has nothing to do with the company, are beyond credible belief.
Windward Iowa incorporated as a non-profit Iowa corporation on December 12, 2013. According to its Articles of Incorporation, its purpose is:
to promote social welfare by seeking to educate and encourage landowners to become familiar with wind energy production and transmission, and expand the wind industry in the state of Iowa to further the common good and general welfare of the people of Iowa and the Midwest.
According to its Articles:
no substantial part of the activities of the corporation shall be the carrying on of propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and the corporation shall not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or publication of statements) any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office
and must abide by the laws for a 501(c)4 corporation
as determined by the Internal Revenue Service. This also means that donations to this corporation are not tax deductible.
Donations? Yes, that's one of the ways you can "get involved" with this group, in addition to "submitting a letter to the editor or opinion editorial; commenting online through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or on an article; commenting to the Iowa Utility Board; or contacting your legislator or local government official." Hey, wait a tick, doesn't that last one violate the Articles' prohibition on attempts to influence legislation? That's some pretty thin ice!
I also wonder what the legal implications are of this corporation involving itself in negotiations with property owners that eventually result in eminent domain takings?
Windward Iowa's Facebook
page contains numerous links to stories about RICL.
Windward Iowa's website makes sweeping statements
that it does not back up, such as: "Experts predict the U.S. will soon be in the midst of a transmission crisis. It is important to be proactive in addressing the issue and developing new infrastructure. We cannot afford to wait another 60 years for wind energy development.
The country’s electric grid is outdated and in need of attention and upgrades. Projects that bring wind energy through new avenues are part of the solution to providing clean, dependable, and renewable power."
Who are these "experts" and where have they made these statements? Or did the public relations firm just make it up out of whole cloth?
Compare this information to the signs of a front group here
1. The group does not report who they are really working for, who their members are, or the source of their funding. The idea that three individuals spontaneously decided to start an advocacy group managed by a pricey lawyer and a public relations group defies belief.
2. There is no physical address or list of staff on the website.
3. The group claims neutrality on some hot button issue and appears to be making general arguments about a topic only marginally related to the issue, and yet they mainly focus on a “secondary” issue (RICL).
This is all so classic. I've had experience uncovering and reporting on transmission company front groups in the past, and my opinion is that Windward Iowa is a front group being paid for by Clean Line Energy Partners.
Because RICL and Clean Line Energy Partners are no longer viewed as an impartial and trustworthy source of information in Iowa, the company and its public relations contractor have created a supposedly "neutral" third-party entity that will continue to advocate for its project under another name. If you wouldn't believe a word RICL says, then don't believe anything the company tells you when it is wearing its "Windward Iowa" mask.
Windward Iowa only has the same amount of credibility as RICL, and should be treated accordingly by opposition, elected officials, and the media. It's very disappointing that none of the reporters attending the group's "launch" yesterday had the curiosity to ask where this group is getting its funding. That's the literal "million dollar question."
But some people don't like the project, which is why the bill came forward. Landowners who are wary of eminent domain powers are speaking up against the project. In large part it has become an issue pitting pro-business groups and legislators against people who carry the NIMBY, or Not in My Backyard, mindframe.
Propagandists use the name-calling technique to incite fears or arouse positive prejudices with the intent that invoked fear (based on fearmongering tactics) or trust will encourage those that read, see or hear propaganda to construct a negative opinion, in respect to the former, or a positive opinion, with respect to the latter, about a person, group, or set of beliefs or ideas that the propagandist would wish the recipients to believe. The method is intended to provoke conclusions and actions about a matter apart from an impartial examinations of the facts of the matter. When this tactic is used instead of an argument, name-calling is thus a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against an idea or belief, based upon its own merits, and becomes an argumentum ad hominem.
Clean Line is so frightened by the righteous concerns of landowners being asked to make a sacrifice for the pecuniary aspirations of a company from Texas, that they have resorted to cheap party tricks like "NIMBY."
News Flash: Use of the "NIMBY" name in transmission battles is passe and ineffective. The Alliance has already overcome that stereotype quite effectively.
And why shouldn't landowners be concerned or, as the editorial puts it, "not like the project." The project is asking them to sacrifice their property, their business, their peace of mind and their physical well-being for the needs of some phantom others in "states farther east." Who wouldn't resist it? Would you resist a similar attack on your own home, income and way of life?
In addition, the "project" isn't even needed for reliability or economic reasons. It's a scheme to make a lot of money supplanting existing generation in "states farther east" that have no desire for the power in the first place.
While the financial windfalls may be shared with a handful of politically-connected landowners in NW Iowa who voluntarily host turbines, the buck stops there. The Alliance landowners are being forced to take a one-time "market value" payment, not share in the wealth. Their contribution to the effort is not being fairly recognized or compensated.
While Clean Line's lobbyists hyperventilate that the legislation will "shut down this project as well as kill jobs,” the proposed legislation merely removed the company's threat of eminent domain against landowners who refused to go along. As the Illinois Farm Bureau said in its Illinois Commerce Commission brief:
"In addition, if granted § 8-503 relief, what Rock Island characterizes as “voluntary” easement negotiations with farmers will actually sound something like “Rock Island has been directed by the Commission to construct a transmission line on an approve[d] route, which crosses your land.” Characterizing the easement negotiations as voluntary under these facts is kind of like giving someone the option of jumping off of a cliff before you push them."
If RICL is a viable and economic project, it shouldn't have any trouble compensating landowners to their satisfaction, and would not need the threat of eminent domain. The use of eminent domain for private gain is the issue here, not jobs or economic development. At what point does a person's right to own and enjoy property become less than another individual's desire to confiscate that property for his or her own pecuniary goals? If you believe this is okay, as long as it's in someone else's back yard and you're sharing in the wealth, you're heading down a very slippery slope. Because if you think it's okay in someone else's back yard, you are also saying it's okay in your own, and some day, the chickens are going to come home to roost and then you will be the "NIMBY."
Why is Clean Line so scared? Think about it.
Lynn Pugh opened her AEP bill this month to see just how much the cold January had set her back, but she found something in her bill that she normally doesn’t see.
“I’ve never seen the consumer rate relief charge,” said AEP customer Lynn Pugh.
Starting in December of 2013, AEP began adding the consumer rate relief charge to customer bills. According to the company, the new charge is a way to help them account for the spike in the price of coal in 2008-2009.
“It’s actually a reflection of a settlement we had with the PSC to recover the cost of coal,” said AEP spokesman Phillip Moye.
Normally AEP pays around $50 per ton for coal, but in ’08 and ’09 they were paying over $100 per ton because of a coal shortage.
The Public Service Commission signed off on the charge and has allowed AEP to keep it on your bill for the next 15 years. Pugh was shocked to learn that the charge would be on her bill for the next 15 years.
Moye said the AEP opted to go with the additional charge rather than increasing the rate on the price of power.
“The impact on the rate would have been tremendous,” Moye said. “30 to 40 percent increase, and that obviously is more than what customers can bare.” [bear!! although maybe customers will tear off their clothes and run naked through the legislature in protest?]
Pugh said she understands why she is paying the additional charge, but doesn’t think it should be on there for the next 15 years.
“I can’t imagine that they paid that much extra for coal that every AEP customer is going to have to pay this.”
The charge is based on how much your bill costs. Pugh’s charge was almost 11 dollars.
Ms. Pugh is only beginning to understand that now, in addition to all the old coal debt, she's also paying for other deferred regulatory assets, plus interest and fees.
We tried to stop this craziness in 2012, but customers like Ms. Pugh weren't paying any attention and took no interest in helping themselves. If Ms. Pugh had known then what she knows now, might she have picked up the phone and called her elected representative, or dashed off an email to the PSC? Probably.
Now APCo customers have the next 15 years to lament their lack of consumer education. When will West Virginia fund an effective consumer advocacy program that includes public education? Or does our legislature prefer us to remain barefoot, pregnant and chained to the coal-fired power station?
We have a lot of work to do, West Virginia!