Looks like Clean Line Energy Partners has given up hope of getting the state utility commission approvals it needs to build its Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express Clean Line and Plains & Eastern Clean Line.

And why do you suppose Clean Line no longer cares whether or not your state utility commissions find that the Clean Line projects are "needed" and beneficial to the citizens of each state?

Because Clean Line has now decided that it MUST have federal eminent domain authority to site its projects.  No more making nice with the states, Clean Line wants the federal government to condemn your property so that Clean Line can commandeer it to host its massive transmission line.

Just last week, Clean Line Energy Partners Vice President Hans Detweiler submitted a Congressional lobbying registration form to lobby on behalf of Clean Line.

Detweiler's specific lobbying issues, according to the registration:
Federal legislation related to the use of federal eminent domain for energy delivery
Hans, you really are an
Nice touch about the "foreign entity" that owns more than 20% of the registrant, you know, National Grid.  How can they pretend that Clean Line is about increasing America's energy independence?  It's actually about sending America's energy dollars overseas to foreign investors!
Seems like our widdle Hansy-poo hasn't heard that S1017 is much too controversial to stand a chance of being included in Murkowski's omnibus energy bill.  But maybe he can pull some pork, along with a couple Senatorial legs, at the next Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting?  Maybe a bouncy house?  Pony rides?  Balloon animals?

However, sandwiches and cheap amusements are going to be quickly forgotten in the face of the combined outrage of voters and state officials if the feds show up to take private property for a foreign corporation's profit.  Bundy Ranch, on steroids.

Proceed to your battle stations, Mayberry!
 
 
Journalists are trained to be independent reporters of the facts.  The readers are supposed to take those facts and form their own opinion.  But what happens when a "journalist" tries to spin her opinion as "news?"

"Clean Line receives pocket approval from legislature."
On the heels of lawmakers voting to reject a House bill designed to stop the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project, Michael Skelly, President of Clean Line Energy, visited a Ralls County site of a Grain Belt Express Clean Line’s delivery station, a $100 million facility that proponents say will allow Missourians to receive low-cost, clean power from the Grain Belt Express Clean Line.

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a proposed electric power line that will deliver competitively-priced renewable energy to Missouri. The House Energy and Environment Committee voted down House Bill 1027, which would modify provisions relating to eminent domain powers of utilities, on April 28. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, who represents Monroe, Lincoln, Pike, and Ralls Counties.
“With the vote this morning, Missouri lawmakers have demonstrated that they stand behind market based solutions to bring low-cost, renewable energy to the state,” said Mark Lawlor, Director of Development for Clean Line Energy. “The Grain Belt Express Clean Line will deliver enough low-cost clean power to Missouri through a direct connection to the electric grid to power 200,000 Missouri homes. We look forward to continuing to work with landowners and community members to develop the project in Missouri in a collaborative way. This project is very important to Missouri’s energy future.”

At the hearing on the bill, supporters spoke of the benefits that the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project would bring to the state and asked legislators to block HB 1027.
According to the Legislative Drafter's Deskbook:  A Practical Guide, a "pocket approval" happens when the President does not sign a bill, but fails to return it to the legislature within 10 days.  In that case, it becomes law through "pocket approval."

Is that what this reporter meant?  That HB 1027 became law because the President failed to return it to the House?  Or is this reporter just desperate to include the words "approval" and "Grain Belt Express" in a headline?

There was no "approval" for Grain Belt Express in Missouri.  The legislature does not have authority to "approve" a transmission project.  "Approval" can only come from the Missouri Public Service Commission, and the Staff of the MO PSC just last week reaffirmed their recommendation that the PSC DENY APPROVAL for Grain Belt Express.

This headline is simply the reporter's opinionated fantasy.  The only thing that actually happened at the legislature is that Clean Line's expensive lobbyists managed to twist enough arms to prevent legislation supported by the people from passing.  Big deal... there's always next year!

The reporter conveniently skips over the fact that GBE won't provide ANY energy to Missouri that is not purchased by an actual utility that serves electric load in the state.
  Evidence at the PSC indicates that there are no utilities stepping up to purchase electricity from GBE's Missouri converter station.

The article also claims:  "Grain Belt Express project moves process forward, receiving public support."

Moves forward?  Forward to where?  GBE is still stuck in the Molasses Swamp waiting for a decision on its application from the MO PSC.  It's not going anywhere.
And where's the proof that GBE has any "public support?"  The evidence at hand indicates that GBE is receiving record public opposition.  This is backed up by the fact that when "Mike" Skelly called a recent press conference at a field in Ralls County, the only "supporters" who showed up were brought in by GBE from many miles away.  On the same day, the Ralls County Commission re-iterated its opposition to GBE, no matter how much of a company man their assessor wants to be in the media.

Here's Block GBE MO's press release that reflects what REALLY happened:
Two Counties Clarify Opposition to Grain Belt:  Chariton and Ralls Legalize Letters of Rescission
Texas based Clean Line Energy, that hopes to build a 750 mile high voltage-transmission line across the state, just hit another snag. Five out of eight counties crossed have now officially rescinded permission for Grain Belt Express to access their county. In Missouri, each county and the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) must grant permission to erect any towers.
The staff of the Missouri PSC recommended denying Grain Belt last fall. They stated “Grain Belt Express has not shown it is needed, economically feasible, or promotes the public interest in Missouri”. They also stated, “Section 229.100 RS Mo precludes Grain Belt from building its proposed line without first obtaining the consent of the County Commission in each of the eight counties in northern Missouri where the line would be located.”
Grain Belt questioned the validity of the rescission letters from two counties that were written in the summer of 2014. They stated that Chariton County’s letter had not specifically withdrawn section 229.100 authority or permission to build.
They also stated that Ralls County had said they would consider granting franchise only after the commission approved Grain Belt. Because the county must give permission for the PSC to grant a certificate it created a chicken and egg situation. Grain Belt asked for the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity first and promises to get the consent of each of the counties afterwards.
In response, both Chariton and Ralls County submitted new letters to the PSC to reiterate that Grain Belt does not have permission to build transmission lines in their county.
Ralls County’s new letter reads, in part, “Accordingly, if our grant of authority of August 23rd, 2012 to Grain Belt Express was valid, the County Commission does hereby rescind and revoke any authority granted that date to Grain Belt Express."
Wiley Hibbard, Presiding Commissioner of Ralls County stated, “I, as well as the other two Commissioners in Ralls County, felt it was important that we should restate our opposition to GBE's application to the PSC.
"By pure coincidence, we chose to send our letter to the PSC on the same day GBE held a press conference in Ralls County. It is my understanding that no landowners from Ralls County attended. GBE had to bring a person in from a county many miles away to speak to the press. This will show Grain Belt and the PSC that landowner's rights are very important to the citizens of Ralls County.”
Jennifer Gatrel of Block Grain Belt Express Missouri stated, “We are delighted that five out of eight counties have withdrawn their permission. We are very hopeful that the Missouri PSC will quickly deny Grain Belt and allow landowners to resume our lives."
A reporter who purposely misstates the facts to promote a corporate agenda does so at the peril of her own reputation.

What crap!
 
 
Brace yourselves, Americans, Congress is tinkering with energy policy again!  No good can come of this.  And some idiot has introduced a whole new Sec. 216 (16 U.S.C. 824p) aka Section 1221 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that's even worse than its first iteration.

The original, Section 1221, designated the Secretary of Energy to conduct an electric transmission "congestion study" and designate "National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors" (NIETCs) every three years.  Transmission proposed in these designated corridors
was subject to "backstop" permitting by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the event a state withheld approval of an application for a permit for more than one year, or lacked the authority to permit the project.

Section 1221 was promptly deconstructed in two federal courts.  When FERC proposed that "withholding approval" included a denial, and that meant it could override a state's denial of an application, the 4th Circuit determined that "withheld approval"
excludes a state's denial of an application, preserving state authority.  In addition, the 9th Circuit determined that DOE did not properly "consult with states" before designating NIETCs, and therefore it vacated the corridors DOE had set in 2009.

Last year, DOE made a half-hearted attempt to produce the 2012 "congestion study," but was resoundingly smacked down by a whole bunch of comments, and hasn't done a thing since.


In practice, Section 1221 has been an abject failure
.

However, the new Section 216, carried to Congress by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), attempts to fix all that by giving FERC authority to overrule a state denial of a transmission permit and use federal eminent domain authority to take private property.  It also tosses NIETCs out the window as a means to identify worthy transmission projects and replaces them with an RTO/ISO finding that the project is "needed."


Good news:  The new Sec. 216 does not apply to Clean Line in its current form.

Bad news:  The new Sec. 216 will encourage a whole bunch of new transmission projects of questionable necessity, and landowners along existing corridors and/or those owning "open farmland" are always the first targets identified on the ol' transmission routing Etch-A-Sketch.


So, let's look at what the new Sec. 216 says:

(B) FEDERAL AUTHORITY.—The Commission may authorize, in accordance with subsection (d), construction of a high-priority regional transmission project that the Commission finds to be required by the present or future public convenience and necessity and in accordance with this section if--

“(i) a State--

“(I) fails to approve construction and authorize routing of a high-priority regional transmission project not later than 1 year after the date the applicant submits a completed application for authorization to the State;

“(II) rejects or denies the application for a high-priority regional transmission project;

“(III) authorizes the high-priority regional transmission project subject to conditions that unreasonably interfere with the development of a high-priority regional transmission project contrary to the purposes of this section; or

“(IV) does not have authority to approve the siting of the high-priority regional transmission project; or

“(ii) the developer seeking a certificate for construction under subsection (d) does not qualify to apply for State authorization to construct a high-priority regional transmission project because the developer does not serve end-users in the State.
So, FERC can "authorize" a transmission project if a state denies an application or conditions approval in a way the transmission developer doesn't like.  That's not "backstop" or secondary authority, it's usurping state authority in its entirety.  A state must approve, or else.  So, why even bother with the fan dance of state applications at all?  That's just a big waste of time and money.

Tell ya what... if FERC ends up with authority to overrule state transmission permitting decisions, there's going to be a lot more "turn-offs" for Commissioner Norman Bay, because the protestors will have moved "from pipelines to Order 1000."  *Insert laughter here*


Second problem - how these "special" high-priority regional transmission projects are determined:
(1) HIGH-PRIORITY REGIONAL TRANSMISSION PROJECT.—The term ‘high-priority regional transmission project’ means an overhead, submarine, or underground transmission facility, including conductors or cables, towers, manhole duct systems, reactors, capacitors, circuit breakers, static VAR compensators, static synchronous compensators, power converters, transformers, synchronous condensers, braking resistors, and any ancillary facilities and equipment necessary for the proper operation of the facility, that is selected in a regional transmission plan for the purposes of cost allocation under Order Number 1000 of the Commission (or any successor order), including an interregional project selected under that plan.
That's it -- mere selection of and inclusion in a regional transmission plan makes a project "high-priority."  Ummm... does Heinrich know that RTOs include hundreds of projects in their regional plans each year?  "High-priority" over what?  Transmission projects that aren't in a regional plan?  Those are few and far between because they're nearly impossible to build (ain't that right, Clean Line?)  So, every project is going to be a "high-priority" project in this brave, new world?

It's quite obvious that S.1017 intends to "fix" everything that went wrong with the original Sec. 216, including the flawed NIETCs and the ability of a state to deny an application for a transmission project that did not serve its citizens.  But, let's ask ourselves, does it really need fixing?  State approvals aren't the problem with new transmission, it's federal approvals and studies that muck up and delay transmission plans.  In addition, Congress has resolutely refused to make electric transmission siting and permitting a federal responsibility, and will most likely continue to do so.

There seemed to be little love for controversial legislation like S.1017 at Thursday's Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.  But, you know how Congress is... they get up to all sorts of hijinks if you don't keep your eye on them, so this bears a bit of babysitting.

One more thing before I wrap this up... where did this legislation come from?

The original Sec. 216 got its purpose from:
(4) In determining whether to designate a national interest electric transmission corridor under paragraph (2), the Secretary may consider whether--
(A) the economic vitality and development of the corridor, or the end markets served by the corridor, may be constrained by lack of adequate or reasonably priced electricity;
(B)
(i) economic growth in the corridor, or the end markets served by the corridor, may be jeopardized by reliance on limited sources of energy; and
(ii) a diversification of supply is warranted;
(C) the energy independence of the United States would be served by the designation;
(D) the designation would be in the interest of national energy policy; and
(E) the designation would enhance national defense and homeland security.
Nothing in there about renewable energy, right?

Now take a look at the purpose of the new Sec. 216:
(a) Policy.—It is the policy of the United States that the national interstate transmission system should be guided by the goal of maximizing the net benefits of the electricity system, taking into consideration--

“(1) support for the development of new, cleaner power generation capacity, including renewable energy generation located distant from load centers;

“(2) opportunities for reduced emissions from regional power production;

“(3) transmission needs driven by public policy requirements established by State or Federal laws (including regulations);


“(4) cost savings resulting from--

“(A) reduced transmission congestion;

“(B) enhanced opportunities for intraregional and interregional electricity trades;

“(C) reduced line losses;

“(D) generation resource-sharing; and

“(E) enhanced fuel diversity;

“(5) reliability benefits, including satisfying reliability standards and guidelines for resource adequacy and system security;

“(6) diversification of risk relating to events affecting fuel supply or generating resources in a particular region;

“(7) the enhancement of competition in electricity markets and mitigation of market power;

“(8) the ability to collocate facilities on existing rights-of-way;

“(9) competing land use priorities, including land protected under Federal or State law;

“(10) the requirements of section 217(b)(4); and

“(11) the contribution of demand side management (including energy efficiency and demand response), energy storage, distributed generation resources, and smart grid investments.
Oh well, lookie there, big wind is reason #1, 2 & 3 for this new legislation.  This isn't about what's good for the people or the environment.  True democratic energy is relegated to reason #11, just an afterthought.  This legislation is designed to line the pockets of big wind and their big transmission developers, and appears to have been written by the funders of their big front group, "Americans for a Clean Energy Grid."  There are no real "Americans" participating in this farce -- it's nothing but a trade group masquerading as a grassroots movement.  Tawdry and unconvincing, but it appears Heinrich was eager to be their legislative minion.  ALEC ain't got nothing on these big green shysters.
 
 
Great news out of Iowa yesterday!  Legislation targeted to restrict the use of eminent domain by private companies not serving Iowans advanced as hundreds of landowners and other stakeholders gathered to speak out at a subcommittee meeting at the Capitol.

NPR has the story.  Listen to the audio, it's better than the print version.

Several landowners spoke out about abusive practices of land agents attempting to secure right-of-way.

“I've heard this from other landowners being told the same thing,” Murray says. “Right-of-way agents are saying this is inevitable so you better take the easement deal before you.”
A spokesman for Bakken crude pipeline company Dakota Access said what the companies always say when faced with the transgressions of their shifty land agents:
“If anybody knows of anyone who’s been dealt with unfairly,” Boeyink says, “get the names to me and we will deal with it swiftly.”
Yada, yada, yada, we will fire any land agent who violates the "code of conduct."  Tell me, if land agents were regularly subjected to firing for using abusively coercive tactics to secure easements, why does it still happen with such regularity?  I don't think I believe it.  I think it's merely window dressing for instances where a land agent is caught by a landowner in a pack of lies.  I think that companies routinely look the other way when violations occur, as long as easement agreements are being filed.  Because for every one unscrupulous land agent that gets reported in the media, there are probably hundreds of others that got away with it.  I have heard numerous horror stories about transmission right-of-way land agents, continuing up until the present.  Where there's this much smoke, there is certainly fire.

The Sierra Club seems to be backing off its hypocritical support of Clean Line transmission projects, while simultaneously opposing pipelines as an abuse of eminent domain.
Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids, a lawyer for the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, said his organization is worried about an "extreme risk to property and the environment" if the pipeline project proceeds. There is no doubt that oil spills will occur and it will be many years before the land can be farmed again, he added.

It's also clear that if Bakken crude oil is transported through Iowa, it will be shipped from Illinois onto the world petroleum market via the Gulf of Mexico, Taylor said. "This is all about private property. It isn't about benefiting Iowa or the nation," he said. Similarly, the Rock Island Clean Line would not provide a way for Iowans to connect to the line or to obtain energy from the transmission facility, he added.
That's right, Sierra Club!  Clean Line does not provide a way for pass-thru states to benefit from its projects!   The projects also destroy the environment and economy of pass-thru states and won't actually shut down any coal plants.  Not one!  Sierra Club should really get its act together here and stop worshipping at the alter of grant funding and renewable energy make-believe.

Clean Line's spokesperson tried to get the committee to believe the company plans on acquiring more than 90% of the easements it needs voluntarily. 

Paula Dierenfeld, representing Clean Line Energy Partners, said her company currently has obtained voluntary easements from about 15 to 20 percent of property owners and has a goal of obtaining "well in excess of 90 percent" voluntary easements. But she questioned the proposed requirement to obtain 75 percent voluntary sign-ups before eminent domain can be requested. She said a company could spend millions of dollars on obtaining easements without even knowing whether a project could move forward. She asked whether any businesses would support that idea.
Paula must be new.  Clean Line has obtained all the voluntary easements it's going to get, even with the hard sell tactics reported by Mr. Murray.  15%.  That's it.  The rest is a fairy tale.  The  people of Iowa aren't buying what you're selling.  You know, Paula, risk is a big, big part of being in the merchant transmission business when you don't have an order to construct the project from a regional transmission authority.  Maybe you should ask your bosses at Clean Line why they're supporting the company spending millions of dollars on obtaining easements without even knowing whether their project could move forward?

Way to go, Iowa!
 
 
Disturbing news out of Colorado this morning.  The Denver Post reports that the legislature is playing games with funding of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) for the next 10 years.  Without funding and authorization, the OCC will simply cease to exist under Colorado's "sunset" law.

A concerned legislator likened the refusal to deal with the re-funding of the OCC to "Washington, D.C.-style politics."
"If people disagree on the policy, the substance or the process, that's fair; that's what we're each here to do," Garcia said. "But what we're seeing here is Washington, D.C.-style politics where you put something off to the side, and the committee chair doesn't give it due regard until it's too late."
Why is consumer counsel so important?  Because it is the utility consumer's only defense against high rates and utility policy that compromises their interest.  Only the consumer counsel is looking out for residential and small business interests during utility rate cases.  Without the OCC, residential consumers would have no choice but to represent themselves in every utility case before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.  Who can afford the time or expense of that?  Nobody, therefore consumers would be unrepresented.  It's just not true that outside consumer groups, contingency-based lawyers, or class-action lawsuits can take the place of an independent, governmental advocate that defends the interests of all residential and small business consumers.

According to a report prepared last fall, the OCC regularly saves this class of consumers between $40-50 million per year in increased rates.  The cost of this representation is a mere $1.5M/year.  The funding for the OCC comes from fees paid by regulated utilities, not out of the state's general fund.  It costs consumers nothing, and it consistently saves them money.  The report recommends continuing the OCC until 2026.  However, the legislature is ignoring it, and without their nod, the OCC will sunset.

Don't let the Colorado legislature rob you of the representation that keeps your utility bill in check.  Without the OCC, out-of-control rate increases could have you lamenting that "someone" should do something about that.  The OCC is the consumer's "someone," even though most consumers don't even know they exist.  Get educated and take an active role in the processes that control your utility costs -- support the re-funding of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel. 

Halt The Power Lines makes it quick and easy to do your part!  Visit them here to find out how to take action!
 
 
Was it only three months ago that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said this?
Branstad, who appoints the members of the utilities board, warned against "political interference" into the administrative review process by which a pipeline carrying Bakken crude oil and a transmission line transporting wind-generated electricity could be approved.

"It would be mistake to get politics into this," Branstad said. "We should abide by the processes that have been put in place."
However, Carol Overland reports that Governor Branstad has changed his mind and made some changes to the Iowa Utilities Board at the urging of MidAmerican Energy.  It doesn't get any more political than this!
An outgoing member of the Iowa Utilities Board has bluntly told Gov. Terry Branstad in a letter that his decision to remove her is improper and being done to placate a powerful energy company.

Sheila Tipton told the governor in the March 18 letter that his move to replace her and demote board chairwoman Elizabeth Jacobs is an inappropriate attempt to influence future decisions to favor utilities and "appease MidAmerican Energy." The company had complained about a ruling requiring the company to use some proceeds from a $280 million wind energy investment to reduce customers' rates.


So, what is Branstad saying here?  Is he saying that the interests of Iowans represented by their elected representatives aren't as powerful as campaign contributions he may receive from energy companies the IUB regulates?

Where I come from, that's called hypocrisy, and it's shameful.  Only when regulators may regulate without political interference can the industry they regulate fail to capture them.  It's time for the voice of the citizens of Iowa to be heard!
 
 
Have you been getting random mailers from "Potomac Edison," "Mon Power," or another FirstEnergy distribution affiliate trying to sell you an "Exterior Electrical Line Protection Plan from HomeServe?"

Just say no.

Go outside and look at your electric meter.  You are responsible for some components of your electric service connection.  The utility is responsible for the meter components and any underground service lines.  You are responsible for maintaining the rest.  Is your service drop overhead, or underground?  Read the fine print:
The meter that measures the amount of electricity used, any underground service entrance conductor, and the meter base (materials only) are not covered under this plan, but are covered by your local FirstEnergy Company.  Your local FirstEnergy Company will supply the materials to repair or replace the meter base...
So, what is covered?  An overhead connection to your house (cost estimated at $200) and the labor to replace the company-supplied meter base (estimated to cost another $200), if they ever need to be replaced!  So, how much will FirstEnergy's insurance cost you?  $5.49/month.  Forever.  You'd be better off putting that $5.49 in a mason jar every month, on the off chance that you ever do need these unusual electrical repairs, so that you can hire a local electrician to fix them.  FirstEnergy's literature claims that your homeowner's insurance won't cover these repairs.  Know why?  Because the cost of repairs is usually lower than your deductible!

Why would you want to give a bunch of money to the utility for "insurance" against an unusual problem that only costs a couple hundred bucks to fix?  It doesn't say "stupid" on my forehead.  Oh, but wait!  If you sign up you will receive a "special" phone number to call to get your service.  If you remember what you did with that phone number and the rest of your paperwork when you have an outdoor electrical line issue, then you could avoid the hassles of looking for an electrician in the yellow pages and "waiting" for service (because service dispatched through Akron, Ohio, is much quicker than calling an electrician in your own town).

Sounds like a scam to me!

So, I've been a Potomac Edison (or Allegheny Power, when that name suited them) customer for nearly 30 years.  How come I'm just now being bombarded with these junk mailers?  Because the West Virginia PSC recently sold me out to the company, going against the advice of its own Staff, the Consumer Advocate Division, and the findings of one of its own Administrative Law Judges.

Say what?  Take a look at WV PSC Case No. 13-0021-E-PC (look up "Case Information" here).  Two years ago, FirstEnergy asked the PSC for permission for its two West Virginia distribution companies (Potomac Edison and Mon Power) to market these useless "services" and products to their customers and to add the cost of any purchases to the customer's electric bill.

The Staff of the PSC and the Consumer Advocate objected to FirstEnergy's plan, which, in addition to the "Exterior Electrical Line Protection Plan," will soon be offering you:

1.  O
ther Home Solutions maintenance and repair plans (i.e. insurance) for other appliances you own, your natural gas service lines and even your plumbing. 

2.  Surge suppression service (which they already separately offer as part of their regulated service activity in West Virginia).

3.  Customer Electrical Services Program that allows your electric company to "arrange" electrical service work to be performed in your home.  You still pay for all the work they do, your monthly fee just alleviates your "hassle" of finding your own electrician and negotiating a reasonable fee for service with him.

4.  Online store - where you can buy all sorts of useless crap and energy-wasting space heaters, and pay for it all on your monthly electric bill.

A hearing was held, and the PSC's Administrative Law Judge recommended that the Commission prohibit this kind of promotion.  However, FirstEnergy didn't like that decision, so they filed exceptions to the Judge's Order and the Commission disregarded it and made a new finding that FirstEnergy could continue to promote these useless "services."


Remember, none of these services are regulated, so if you have an issue with service or billing of these add-ons, the PSC can't help you.  You're on your own to solve the problem with the company (and it's not even the utility you'll be fighting with, but some third-party "insurance company") or through the court system.

So, how much money does FirstEnergy make off these products?  Is the company really that desperate that it needs to peddle space heaters and worthless "insurance" to its customers?  It's not about the few pennies in kickbacks FirstEnergy receives from these third-party companies for selling you a "service," it's about the half a million bucks FirstEnergy was paid by one of these third-party companies for "licensing rights and utility bill access fees" to access Potomac Edison's or Mon Power's customer records and to have your utility bill you for their services.  FirstEnergy is essentially selling an asset -- its customer base and monthly billing system -- to a private company that hopes to make money selling things to the customer base.  There is a commercial value to a customer base of 500,000 customers.  When the customer base is acquired through a regulated monopoly, should the utility be able to sell it for private profit?  Your WV Public Service Commission says they can.

Tell your legislators to ask the PSC why they have allowed Potomac Edison and Mon Power to sell you out like that.  And think twice about jacking up your monthly electric bills with "insurance" you'll probably never need and overpriced lightbulbs from FirstEnergy's online store.

And want to have some fun right now?  All those junk mailers they're sending you have postage paid return envelopes to "Plan Administrator."  The envelope instructs:  "Include only your form and nothing else."  If you don't sign up for the plan, you won't need a "form," so go ahead and stuff them with "nothing else" or whatever you want and return them.  See how much scrap paper you can fit into the envelope!  Or perhaps your child would like to draw a picture for "Plan Administrator?"  Go ahead, have some fun!

And then, get serious.  The fine print instructs:
If you would prefer not to receive these solicitation from HomeServe, please call 1-888-866-2127.
Tell them you don't want to receive any more offers for their services from Potomac Edison or Mon Power and see what happens.  Of course, this won't stop the other offers from the other vendors mentioned above, but it's a start.  I'd like to know who's really controlling the mailing list here -- is it FirstEnergy or is it HomeServe?  Let me know what you are told in the comments section of this blog post...
 
 
It's Fakey-Friday here at StopPATH Blog on this snowy Monday night.  Yes, I know I have the day wrong, but what does that matter when it's all fake anyhow?

My non-friends at Clean Line Energy Partners have their own FAQ Fridays on their facebook page, and they actually have them on Friday, hooray!  But there's a whole bunch of stuff about Clean Line's Facebook page that just seems... well, not quite right to me.

There are huge time gaps in Clean Line's timeline.  No posts between June and November of 2013?  No posts between January and October of 2014?  Were those the periods when Clean Line shut down its facebook pages because real people kept showing up and asking real questions that Clean Line didn't want to answer?  Go ahead, try to click on the post comments from 2013 or 2014 to find that many are hidden.

And here's a puzzler... somehow in the past couple of years, when Clean Line's facebook page was closed more than it was open, the company managed to pick up 3,773 "likes."  Well, isn't that nice?  Except Clean Line doesn't seem to have the engagement that would come from 3,773 people finding its posts in their daily feeds.  The only comments on any recent posts have come from a couple of Block Clean Line group leaders and a handful of other opponents who haven't yet managed to violate Clean Line's social media rules:
Thank you for visiting the Grain Belt Express Clean Line page!
We created this forum for you, so go ahead and take the stage
Our goal is to inform you about our transmission line and Clean Line Energy
Once you learn about the many benefits, you’ll see the synergy
So what are you waiting for? please start to engage!
 
Oh wait…
 
While we love to hear your comments, we want you to be sure
The rules and guidelines below are required, so please maintain your composure
This page will be archived, so please show your respect
We all need to maintain professional etiquette
Thank you again for visiting our page—we will be in touch daily, we can ensure!
Oh my... gurgle, gag... I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.  Puh-leeze, Maya Angelou you're not.  Lots of affected landowners have tried to "take the stage" over the past few months since Clean Line reopened its facebook page, but a hook has ceremoniously yanked each of them off stage, one by one, for daring to express their opinions, ask for more information, or question Clean Line's claims.  A very small handful of folks have managed to persevere though... we'll call them the teflon troupe.  Perhaps they were the least objectionable real people "friends" Clean Line could find?  Because the only other engagement evident on Clean Line's page is a few post "likes" from employees, employee relatives and friends.

Where are all of the 3,773 people who "like" Clean Line Energy?  How come they never stop by, call or write?  They must be awfully busy.

Because I'm sure Clean Line wouldn't do anything so uncouth as to buy "likes" from fake people who don't really "like" them.

No, no, no.  Clean Line takes private property rights very seriously and values one-on-one conversations with landowners to answer questions and address concerns... except when those one-on-one conversations actually occur via facebook.  If you're an affected landowner who has had your comment or question deleted and lost your ability to post any more comments on Clean Line's facebook page, please sign the comments below.  I promise you won't get deleted.  And maybe Clean Line can stop by and read them whenever it gets an urge to value one-on-one conversations with landowners.

After all, Clean Line claims their project is being developed with EXTENSIVE participation from landowners (well, except for any actual participation, but they do intend to, like, participate with you, but you're just so hard to talk to, or angry, or misinformed, or something...).

And it's not just you landowners and stakeholders.  Clean Line has even been working with Senator Boozman and Senator Cotton, apparently to craft some federal legislation that will return Arkansas' right to approve transmission lines to Arkansas.  Thanks, Clean Line, that was really, really nice of you to help the good Senators get that legislation in the works!

Clean Line is also working with the Arkansas state leadership, apparently to craft a letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz condemning the Clean Line project.  Yay you, Clean Line!!!

So, when Clean Line says it's working with landowners I guess that means it will continue to kick itself in the rear end by holding its Facebook FAQ Fridays and pretending it has any friends that frequently ask it questions.  Or at least questions it cares to repeat publicly...
 
 
This just in...

Boozman, Cotton Introduce Bill Giving States Power to Reject Federal Electric Transmission Projects

U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) today introduced legislation to restore the right of states to approve or disapprove of electric transmission projects before the federal government exercises its power to take private property.

The Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act would require that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) receive the approval of both the governor and the public service commission of an affected state, before exercising the federal power of eminent domain to acquire property for Section 1222 transmission projects. For projects on tribal lands, DOE would have to receive the approval of the impacted tribal government.

“When a road, pipeline or power line is built the use of eminent domain is sadly unavoidable in some cases,” Boozman said. “However, this difficult decision should not be in the hands of Washington bureaucrats. If a project is not good for Arkansas, our governor or public service commission should have the power to say ‘no.’”

"Arkansans should have a say in any decision that affects our land,” Cotton said. “The APPROVAL act will rightly empower Arkansans and preserve the Founding Fathers vision of states’ rights."

In addition to allowing states the ability to reject the use of federal eminent domain for a project, the Boozman-Cotton legislation would ensure to the extent possible, that approved projects are placed on federal land rather than on private land. Specifically, for approved projects, DOE would be required (to the maximum extent possible) to site projects on existing rights-of-way and federal land managed by: (1) the Bureau of Land Management, (2) the U.S. Forest Service, (3) the Bureau of Reclamation, and (4) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The decision to permit electric transmission projects has long been the responsibility of the individual state. As noted in a 2011 report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, “The location and permitting of facilities used to transmit electricity to residential and commercial customers have been the province of the states (with limited exceptions) for virtually the entire history of the electricity industry.” The report says that state and local governments are “well positioned” to understand the concerns of the area and the factors for making a decision on these projects.

DOE is currently seeking public comments on one proposed Section 1222 project: the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project, a high voltage direct current electric transmission system and associated facilities, which (if approved) would cross Arkansas. Interested citizens may provide comments through March 19, 2015, to DOE, either online at: http://www.plainsandeasterneis.com/nepa-process/public-involvement.html; by mail addressed to: Plains & Eastern EIS, 216 16th Street, Suite 1500, Denver, Colorado 80202; via email addressed to comments@PlainsandEasternEIS.com; or by fax to (303) 295–2818.

The APPROVAL Act has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for further review.
 
 
The embattled Clean Line Energy project that proposes to transport energy from rural America to the heavily populated Eastern Seaboard has had a series of major setbacks.

In Missouri, the PSC's own staff, which is made up of engineers, utility economists, and attorneys advised the Commissioners to deny the application. In their Conclusions of Law brief they stated, "Grain Belt Express has not shown electricity delivered over its high-voltage transmission line and converter stations will be lower cost than alternatives for meeting renewable portfolio standards and general demand for clean energy because it overlooks significant costs affecting the integration of wind energy in its production cost modeling and its modeling inputs are insufficient to predict electricity prices at specific locations." They also recommended  “The Commission finds that Grain Belt Express' HVDC transmission line project is not needed in Missouri."

On February 11th the commission took the unusual step of ordering Clean Line to submit a considerable amount of additional documentation after the final briefs were turned in. Among the many requirements: Grain Belt Express shall set forth the status of its efforts to obtain the assent of the county commissions required by Section 229.100, RSMo, in the eight counties crossed by the selected project route in Missouri and provide supporting documentation thereof, including any letters of assent from those eight county commissions.

Five of the eight impacted counties have rescinded support they had previously given Grain Belt. Given that the local sentiment against Grain Belt tends to be very high, and that nearly 2,000 people turned out at the eight public hearings opposed to the project, it seems unlikely that they would be able to secure the needed county assent.

Additionally, Clean Line is running into many roadblocks with its Plains and Eastern project in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee. Clean Line hopes to be the first company to utilize Section 1222 of the 2005 U.S. Energy Policy Act to obtain federal eminent domain after they were denied eminent domain authority by the state of Arkansas. This provision would authorize DoE to essentially act as a land agent for the private company and use the government's power of eminent domain to condemn the private property in its path.

Recently the Cherokee Nation and several county boards passed resolutions against Plains and Eastern Clean Line obtaining federal eminent domain authority. Earlier this week, the Arkansas House Joint Energy Committee unanimously passed a resolution to send a letter to the Department of Energy condemning Clean Line's use of Section 1222. Arkansas’ congressional delegation has also been seeking answers from the DOE in Washington, and were instrumental in extending the public comment deadline on the project’s federal environmental impact statement an additional 30 days.

Clean Line is also facing major problems for their Rock Island Project in Illinois and Iowa. The Illinois Commerce Commission voted unanimously to withhold eminent domain authority at this time. In Iowa, where Clean Line recently filed franchise applications, they have been met with fierce resistance and an organized opposition group who is taking their fight to the state capital building.

Jennifer Gatrel from Block Grain Belt Express Missouri states, "Overall the idea that a private company could seize privately-held agricultural land for its own private benefit is just wrong. Clean Line has brought together a vast group of very different individuals from around the country working united on the common goal of protecting landowner rights. This company has brought a major disruption to our community and much time and money has been lost. Clean Line’s proposals have also created an enormous, tightly-knit family formed in reaction to the crisis. We will not lose this fight!!"