Hannibal Board of Public Works General Manager Bob Stevenson seemed quite eager to believe the unbelievable sales pitch of Clean Line Energy's salesmen last week.  Bob said his mind was "blown" by offered electricity prices of $.02 kWh. 

"Stevenson termed that power price as 'mind-blowing cheap'."

Since Bob's brains have now splattered everywhere, Hannibal needs to find itself some functioning minds so it doesn't repeat its power purchasing mistakes of the past.  Because when you contract in haste, you are bound to repent at leisure.

In 2007, Hannibal BPW entered into an agreement with the
Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) to purchase an ownership share in a coal-fired electric generating station in neighboring Illinois.  Hannibal's share was 20 megawatts.

At the time, then BPW General Manager Jack Herring seemed to also have blown his mind over the opportunities of Prairie State:
"We believe that a project like Prairie State is the best way for us to secure a substantial portion of our members' needs for an affordable, long-term source of electricity. The project offers us cleaner energy from a convenient source located just across the river," said Duncan Kincheloe, general manager and chief executive officer of MJMEUC, in a press release.
So, Hannibal issued bonds to pay for everything.  And signed a contract that ensured Hannibal "will not be contributing any funds to the project until it starts receiving power from Prairie State."  Hannibal's BPW Board said it had "bided its time" by considering the project over a period of 18 months, during which the project cleared what was described as "an assortment of legal hurdles."  Prairie State was supposed to generate power at 4.2 cents.

Except that's not what happened.  Prairie State was plagued with cost overruns and construction delays.  Even when it came online, it was often operating way below its full capacity.  In addition, power prices have fallen way below even those promised prices.  Meanwhile, Prairie State's costs have ballooned to as much as $.07573 in 2014.  And municipal utilities who signed up for Prairie State's mind blowing deal aren't so happy.

“We’re in almost a million and a half bucks, and we don’t have a dime of revenue,” said Bob Stevenson, director of Hannibal’s Board of Public Works. “All I can say is, I had other plans for that money.”

Hannibal is raising rates for residential customers by 3 percent next month to offset the effect of construction delays.

“The only reason we’re having to do this is this problem we’re having with Prairie State,” Stevenson said.
But has Hannibal learned anything from its Prairie State experience?  Do Bob's plans for that money include investing it in a speculative transmission line with no customers?

Beware unregulated companies pushing power purchase schemes, Hannibal!  As history demonstrated with Prairie State, you ratepayers need to look out for yourselves and can't trust your BPW to make smart power choices on your behalf.  And you can't afford another Prairie State!

Clean Line offered Hannibal electricity priced at $.02.  Except Clean Line isn't a generator, and owns no generation resources.  Clean Line can't offer Hannibal any electricity, at any price, because Hannibal could never contract with Clean Line to purchase electricity at a certain price.  The best Clean Line could offer is that Hannibal could sign a power purchase agreement with an un-built third-party generator in a far off place.  That hypothetical generator would set its own price and contract with places like Hannibal, independent of Clean Line's promises, in order to finance its own construction.  Except that's nowhere close to happening.  Fictional power purchase agreements at mind-blowing prices don't exist.

Clean Line offered Hannibal capacity on its proposed transmission line.  The transmission line isn't built yet either.  What good is capacity on a transmission line that doesn't exist to a generator that also doesn't exist?  Just like Prairie State, a purchase of transmission capacity is "take or pay."
The “take or pay” contracts, standard for large-scale power projects such as Prairie State, are favored by lenders and credit rating agencies because they provide assurance that the borrower pays its debts. They also require end users, in this case municipal utility customers, to make debt payments regardless of whether the plant is operational. And if any of the cities default, a “step-up provision” in the contract requires remaining cities to pick up that city’s share of the payments.
Clean Line, a company who told federal regulators that it would shoulder all financial risk for its own project, is looking to sell and pass on its risk to municipal power companies in Missouri.  If munis in Missouri sign "take or pay" capacity contracts to guarantee Clean Line's financing, the munis will bear all the risk if Clean Line fails.

Clean Line has also offered Hannibal a $12.5M "investment" in its transmission project.  In exchange for $12.5M, Hannibal BPW could own a tiny portion of Clean Line's project, if it is ever built.

And that's just the problem.  By the time the Prairie State investments were made by Missouri municipalities, the project was approved and under construction.  Clean Line's project still faces several permitting hurdles, including approval by the Missouri PSC, who turned the project down once already last year.  The project is under appeal in Illinois, where state regulators made a grave legal error approving it.  There's no guarantee that Clean Line's project will be approved in a timely fashion, if at all.  Even if approved, Clean Line must still find financing to build the project before beginning.  Clean Line has no customers to use as collateral.  None.  Potential wind farms cannot sign contracts with Clean Line until they have their own financing guaranteed by signing contracts with buyers of their own.  No utilities want to engage in that kind of double-layered risk to sign "take or pay" contracts for generation and transmission that has yet to be approved or built.  Instead, Clean Line is sniffing around Missouri municipalities to scrounge up some cash so it may present the mutilated bodies of Missouri municipalities to the PSC during future permitting proceedings with the hope that the PSC will feel an obligation to bail out in-state municipalities who may go belly-up if their investment in Clean Line disappears.

When Clean Line runs out of money, it's done.  There is no chance it may recover the money it has already spent.  An investment in Clean Line is one that can be lost in its entirety.

Any municipality thinking about making a deal with Clean Line should only gamble with what they are comfortable losing.

Clean Line may end up being a bigger loser than Prairie State.
 
 
Well, bless their little hearts.  Some WV legislators still believe elections aren't controlled by corporate money.
As if WV's current governor-appointed PSC Commissioners aren't bad enough (completely clueless political favors or biased industry plants), a handful of legislators have set their sights on guaranteeing that future Commissioners are on the utility payroll.

A couple of bills intended to "fix" our awful public service Commission could end up making matters worse.

First up, HB2238 attempts to fix the PSC by geographically spreading out the commissioners to have one from each congressional district.  Whatever.  This one is harmless.

But HB2483 wants to elect commissioners.  And where do these legislators think PSC candidates will get their campaign money?

They will get it from the investor owned utilities they would "regulate" if elected.  And how do you suppose these "elected" commissioners would vote on proposals by their campaign funders?

In other states that elect PSC commissioners
, the vast majority of PSC campaign money comes from the utilities the PSC regulates.

Alabama PSC funded by coal.

Georgia PSC funded by utilities.
Louisiana PSC funded by utilities.
Accusations of utility influence fly in Montana PSC race.
76% of Nebraska PSC campaign donations from utilities.
South Dakota PSC candidates accept unlimited donations from utilities they regulate.

Other problems:

PSC Commissioners moonlighting as industry lobbyists.

PSC Candidates funded by utility contractors when law prohibits direct utility contributions.
Candidates for New Mexico's Public Regulation Commission receive public funding for campaigns since 2003.
Oklahoma regulator accepts congressional campaign contributions from utilities she regulates.

And because PSC Commissioners would be elected from three different districts, that would remove the current requirement that at least one of them be an attorney.  It would also toss out the window the current requirement that only two of them can be from the same political party.


Considering a huge majority of the voters electing utility-financed PSC candidates have never heard of the PSC and have no idea what they do, is it a good idea to let these clowns elect commissioners based on TV ads or party affiliation?

As long as the governor appoints commissioners, we stand a chance of getting decent commissioners from a decent governor.  Once utilities can influence PSC elections, there is absolutely no chance of getting a decent commissioner.  None.

Kick this legislation to the curb.  Uninspired and thoughtless "fixes" may just cause further damage.

 
 
Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, grew up in Hannibal, Missouri.  He once said, "We have the best government that money can buy."

And it must have been in that spirit that "top brass" (subtract consonants at your own pleasure) from Texas-based Clean Line Energy Partners descended on Hannibal this week.
Skelly said that Clean Line is prepared to make a power proposal that would represent a “fantastic deal for the city of Hannibal.”
Insert carnival sideshow music here.
For a visual depiction of the action, go here to get your poster of Michael Skelly scowling in his Dad jeans, arms crossed in defiance.

Of course, nothing is written in stone, or legally binding.

What's the pitch?
Lawlor suggested that the Grain Belt Express could potentially offer power to Hannibal for as little as 2 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh).

...the possibility that Hannibal could buy “capacity rights,” which the BPW could utilize or sell on the open market.

Lawlor said a $12.5 million investment in Grain Belt could equate to a 25 megawatt stake in the Ralls County converter station and a portion of the project's capacity, noting the utility could buy as much or as little as it wanted.
So, Mark, Clean Line is selling power now?  And at two cents per kWh?  Where's your generator?  And how is that power going to get to Hannibal?  How much would that possibly cost?  FOB Kansas, right?

And how about that mind blowing opportunity to invest $12.5 million dollars in the Grain Belt Express project?  What's the guaranteed return on that?  And what happens if Grain Belt is never built?  The entire $12.5 million dollars of Hannibal's ratepayers hard earned cash disappears forever.  You'd think Hannibal has learned their lesson about investing in energy market revenue schemes, after their recent investment in Prairie State, right?
Critics of the investment need only look at the audit’s bottom line regarding Prairie State to find areas where revenues from the sale of power generated at the plant continued to not equal the BPW’s expenses associated with the facility.
I can't imagine what the good citizens of Hannibal must be paying for power, what with all this energy market investment going on.  How much will rates go up to fund a $12.5M "investment" in Grain Belt Express for which the ratepayers may never see any benefit? 

And it wouldn't even supply half of Hannibal's energy needs, "The 25 megawatt chuck of power the city is interested in would represent approximately 40 percent of the city’s current needs."

What's a "chuck" of power?  Maybe it's this.


Is this deal really about cheaper power for Hannibal, or is it about:
What Clean Line will be seeking initially from the city is a letter of participation that the company would include in its next application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Missouri Public Service Commission. The PSC denied Clean Line such a certificate in July 2015.

In a renewed effort to illustrate Grain Belt's merits to the PSC, Clean Line has approached municipal utilities about participating in the project.
Don't be a cheap date, Hannibal.  That "letter of participation" is worth a lot to Grain Belt Express.  Think of it as Clean Line's precious...
You could probably get Clean Line to pay YOU $12.5M for the letter, if you hold out for a better deal.  Now that's an energy market play with a real return!

But, will the Missouri Public Service Commission really be swayed by Clean Line investors and their non-binding "letters of participation?"  Probably not.  The MO PSC has already rejected this project once, and nothing has changed (except Clean Line's traveling carnival side show barker act at municipal power authorities across the state).  It would be foolish to underestimate the state-wide opposition to this project. 

Samuel Clemens had a lot of wise things to say.  He also said...
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."
My money's on the Grain Belt Express opposition.
 
 
FERC continues its focus on transmission formula rates, recently opening an investigation into ISO-NE's processes.  This follows FERC's investigation into MISO formula rates several years ago.

In its December 28 Order, FERC set the justness and reasonableness of ISO-NE's RNS and LNS formula rates and the development of protocols for hearing.  FERC said the current formula rates lack transparency and sufficient detail to determine how certain costs are derived and recovered.  The rates also lack sufficient protocols to ensure the data is correct, calculations are performed correctly and that the charges are reasonable and prudent.  The protocols also lack sufficient notice, review, and challenge procedures for interested parties.

There seems to be some concern over the timing and synchronization between RNS (regional) and LNS (local) rates.  Currently, transmission owners submit their own revenue requirements for a combined RNS formula rate, in addition to individual LNS rate filings.

This article in the NH Union Leader presents a handy-dandy graph of transmission costs in different regions.  ISO-NE's transmission charges are nearly double those of second place transmission rate champion, PJM.  Does ISO-NE really have that much more transmission, or are things simply out of control on the formula rate front that allows "errors" to boost annual revenue requirements with bogus charges?

Who's currently monitoring whether transmission owners are doubling their return by including the same costs in both RNS and LNS formula rates?  FERC's Order says its impossible to determine right now.

And what if companies like Eversource are accidentally including costs for things, like advertising for their Northern Pass project, in RNS/LNS rates collected from ratepayers, instead of including them in the transmission service agreement costs formula rate to be paid by HQ Hydro?  All sorts of "mistakes" could happen in the current rate scheme.

Who's minding the store up there?  FERC says ISO-NE currently has an option to audit the RNS/LNS rates, but I wonder how much real auditing actually happens?

Good thing that FERC is taking on the challenge of shedding a little light into ISO-NE formula rates.  But the work doesn't stop there... even the best formula rates and protocols are useless unless someone takes advantage them to actually take a look at the rates on a yearly basis, long after FERC's work here is done.

Good luck on getting a handle on your transmission costs problem, New England!
 
 
Do you often make a typo that turns "Clean Line" into "Clean Lie?"  Me, too.

Clean Line has a new shtick that claims Iowa ratepayers will benefit if the IUB allows it to change the process to make it less costly for its investors.  Clean Line's claim can be paraphrased like this:

If you don't make it easy for us to build the Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) using the merchant model that charges customers in other regions for the cost of the project, then the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator (MISO) will order new transmission just like RICL and make Iowa ratepayers pay for it.

Clean Line must really think Iowans and their Utility Board are a bunch of rubes.  This argument fails on so many levels, and the reality is that building RICL could actually increase electricity costs for Iowans.

First of all, this is an apples to oranges comparison.  RICL is not at all like the transmission projects MISO may order to be built.  RICL's stated purpose is to export electricity from the MISO region to the PJM Interconnection region.  MISO generally serves midwestern states, while PJM generally serves eastern states.  RICL proposes to move large quantities of electricity generated in MISO into PJM, where it may be used by "states farther east."  RICL is not proposing to serve any customers in MISO, particularly in Iowa.  Contrast that to the transmission projects MISO orders.  MISO is concerned only with serving customers within its own region.  Therefore, any transmission projects MISO orders will be for the purpose of moving electricity around the MISO region for use by MISO consumers.  MISO would never propose a transmission project for the express purpose of exporting electricity to another region, and then turn around and expect MISO consumers to pay for it.

Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Organizations (which are generally identical constructs) are quite parochial.  They are utility member organizations that exist to serve their own regional interests.  Interregional planning is extremely fragile, to the point of being non-existent.  This is because an ISO/RTO will generally utilize its own resources first, from a cost and reliability standpoint, before importing resources from another region.  RTO/ISO members would never agree to pay the cost of export to another region, and moreover, this rubs against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Order No. 1000, that ensures that only beneficiaries pay the cost of transmission built to serve them.

Therefore, the building of RICL would have NO EFFECT on the transmission projects MISO orders to serve its consumers.  MISO will still order the transmission it needs to serve consumers in its region, including Iowa.  RICL is no substitute for MISO-ordered transmission because it would not serve any consumers in Iowa, or anywhere in the MISO region.  At best, RICL is agnostic about costs to Iowa ratepayers.  It certainly won't save them any money.

RICL may actually cost Iowans higher electricity prices.  Think of electricity produced in Iowa as a reservoir.  As long as supply is plentiful, prices remain cheap, and cheap energy is dispatched first to Iowans.  However, RICL would turn on a gigantic tap that drains that reservoir and sends the water (or electricity) to other regions with higher prices.  This creates an imbalance between supply and demand, where Iowa electricity buyers must now compete with other regions to buy the cheapest Iowa-produced electricity remaining in the reservoir.  Transmission lines levelize prices between electricity's source and sink (consumers), lowering prices in other areas by making cheaper energy available to new users, while raising prices at its source by increasing competition for the newly-limited supply.  Exporting a plentiful supply of anything raises local prices by lowering supply.  It's the simple principle of supply and demand.

Clean Line has come dangerously close to violating its negotiated rate authority granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  FERC based its grant of authority, in part, on the following:

To approve negotiated rates for a transmission project, the Commission must find that the rates are just and reasonable. To do so, the Commission must determine that the merchant transmission owner has assumed the full market risk for the cost of constructing its proposed transmission project.

Rock Island meets the definition of a merchant transmission owner because it assumes all market risk associated with the Project and has no captive customers. Rock Island has agreed to bear all the risk that the Project will succeed or fail based on whether a market exists for its services.
What RICL proposed in Iowa is a shifting of risk to Iowans.  RICL believes it should not be subject to the financial risk presented by Iowa's long-standing permitting process that requires it to negotiate voluntary easements or prepare time-consuming Exhibit E material before being granted a permit.  Instead, RICL believes Iowans should be subject to a confusing, inconvenient, and more costly bifurcated permitting process in order to absolve RICL of any financial risk during the permitting process.  This is a shifting of financial risk to Iowans.

In its application to FERC, RICL talked big about sharing the risk with its customers, the load-serving entities (LSEs) that would buy its capacity.
Rock Island also argues that wind generators, whose energy the Project will likely transmit, present numerous risks that transmission project developers and investors must overcome. For example, Rock Island states that wind energy projects are typically constructed with shorter lead times than other generators and are less willing to commit to large transmission projects well in advance of generator construction. Rock Island argues that pre-subscription of capacity with creditworthy anchor customers can reduce financing obstacles because lenders demand to see a secure source of revenue as a predicate to project financing.
Here, it appears that RICL is suggesting that it can sell its capacity to LSEs before the project is built.  These entities with a guaranteed spot on RICL's wind highway would later buy electricity from wind farms connected to RICL.  Not only would it lower RICL's financial risk by providing the company with capital before its project is online, it would also provide a future revenue stream that wind farms could use to secure their own financing.  Perhaps RICL should be looking to share its financial risk in Iowa with its potential customers by pre-subscribing its capacity to LSE customers at this time?  Let the LSEs pony up the funds necessary to negotiate voluntary easements or create Exhibit E materials.  That would shift the financial risk from RICL to its customers, where it belongs, instead of to Iowans.

Except RICL doesn't have any customers.  Potential customers have been unwilling to shoulder any of RICL's financial risk during the permitting process.  Chicken/egg.  This demonstrates why Clean Line's business model will never work unless states agree to shift Clean Line's risk onto their own citizens by permitting a project that has no customers.  Iowa said no on Monday.  Arkansas said no in 2011.  Missouri said no last summer.

In order to hide its failure to share risk with its own customers, RICL whined that the Iowa process is flawed and must be changed to shift risk from RICL to Iowans.

I'm not buying it.  How about you?
 
 
The Pittsburg Post-Gazette's "Power Source" energy news believes the Clean Power Plan will require "a tangled mess of hulking, long-range transmission lines."  Not true, and the report's "facts" are fallible.

The reporter seems to rely on energy platitudes, pasted together with quotes from people who should have been asked about the conclusions the reporter made.

Such as:
Opponents used some of those arguments to successfully derail the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, a 290-mile line from Putnam County, W.Va., to Frederick County, Md., proposed by Allegheny Energy in 2008. The Greensburg company, acquired by FirstEnergy in 2011, suspended the project after it could not convince regulators the line was necessary.
This guy calls up Steve Herling, but doesn't bother to ask him why PJM terminated the PATH project.  It's not that "opponents" proved there was no need in any state regulatory process.  It's that PJM first suspended, and later terminated the PATH project because
PJM staff reviewed results of analyses showing reliability drivers no longer exist for the project throughout the 15-year planning cycle. The analyses incorporated the continued trends of decreasing customer load growth, increasing participation in demand response programs and the recent commitment of new generating capacity in eastern PJM.
This reporter also seems to be under the impression that all transmission opposition comes from "citizens groups" who oppose transmission due to environmental reasons.
While citizen groups have fought transmission projects — often successfully — by attacking the developer’s need to build them, the environmental regulations could usher in more projects and complicate opposition.

Changing drivers of transmission
In the past, environmental groups have glommed onto transmission battles and used citizen group opposition to fuel the push on environmental grounds.  Those days are over.  This reporter seems to be the last to find out, but environmental groups are the newest and biggest fans of transmission lines.  Numerous environmental groups have intervened in favor of big, new transmission lines that the wrongly believe are "for wind."  Transmission lines are open access and it's not possible to segregate "clean" electrons from "dirty" ones.  The citizens are on their own here and that's just fine... nobody needs or wants a hypocritical environmental NGO championing eminent domain for "clean" transmission lines while simultaneously using the same issue as a reason not to build "dirty" pipelines.  Nobody takes these fools seriously anymore.  Without an army, the environmental groups are simply Don Quixote.  Tilting at their beloved windmill fantasy, but getting nothing accomplished.

It's still about need though.  And the transmission poster child the reporter chose to use is not part of any regional transmission plan and therefore has not been designated "needed."
Transmission companies see big potential for new projects, particularly from sparsely populated areas that generate wind energy to urban areas. “Just as trains carried cattle and other goods from the rural areas to urban centers, the Plains & Eastern Clean Line will carry renewable energy from the Plains of the Southwest,” states the website of one developer, Clean Line Energy of Houston, Texas.

Clean Line expects federal approval for its 700-mile Plains & Eastern Clean Line, designed to carry 4,000 megawatts of power from wind farms in the panhandle of Oklahoma. The line will terminate near Memphis, Tenn. Clean Line has four other projects in the pipeline.

“We anticipate a very busy 2016,” said company president Michael Skelly. 
And that's why Clean Line is attempting to use an untested part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act to usurp the siting and permitting authority of states and ram its project through using the federal eminent domain authority of federal power marketers.  Except that statute requires a need for the transmission in the first place.  And there is none.  Clean Line elected not to participate in the regional transmission planning processes that determine need for transmission projects.  Clean Line is nothing but a gamble -- the investors are gambling that a need for the project will develop if they can build it... but Clean Line hasn't been successful in signing up any potential customers... because they can't get their project built... because there is no need for it.  That's the real chicken/egg the reporter should be examining.

I do hope Mr. Skelly is very busy in 2016... polishing up his resume and looking for new investors for his next get rich quick scheme.

The reporter longs for
...some wind mills and solar farms in areas with constant breeze and abundant sunshine
But he's looking in the wrong place.  Even though he had a conversation with Scott Hempling about non-transmission alternatives, none of that seemed to sink in.

There's an area with "a constant breeze" located much closer to Pittsburgh than the Great Plains.  It's called the Atlantic Ocean, where wind potential is much greater.  Best of all, very little "
tangled mess of hulking, long-range transmission lines" would be "necessary to bring that renewable power from the point of generation to utilities for local distribution."

Why can't eastern states boost their own economies by harvesting renewables close to load?  The days of centralized generation are over.  Also, sunshine is abundant anywhere -- no transmission lines needed to slap some solar panels on your own roof.

This reporter needs some education.

1.  Transmission opposition by "citizens groups" won't change because of the Clean Power Plan.

2.  Speculative transmission projects for which there is no need shall not be granted state eminent domain authority to take property for rights of way.

3.  Clean Line is a merchant transmission project, not part of any transmission plan and completely unlike most other transmission projects.  Therefore, it should not be lumped in with them or used as an example of anything transmission-related.  If the CPP requires transmission, it will be planned and ordered by regional transmission organizations so that there is some surety that it will actually be built.  Clean Line is not needed, may never be built, and is driven by anticipated profits selling energy into more expensive markets, not by the Clean Power Plan.

And stop drinking the big wind koolaid.  There are no facts in it.
 
 
The Iowa Utilities Board denied Clean Line's third attempt to bifurcate the regulatory process in Iowa yesterday.  No big surprise, really.  Clean Line is once again dead in the water in Iowa.

The IUB evaluated Clean Line's motion using four factors:  Preservation of constitutional rights; Clarity vs. the possibility of confusion; Administrative efficiency and the convenience of the parties; and Other considerations.

On the constitutional rights issue:
It appears that notices could be prepared based upon this language that would be sufficient to satisfy the applicable legal requirements and give all interested persons adequate notice of which issues would be considered at which time. Accordingly, the Board finds that setting a procedural schedule with two phases, divided as proposed by Clean Line, would not necessarily impair the constitutional rights of any party because adequate notice could be given.
On the clarity vs. confusion issue:
As noted above, it appears that the issues for each hearing have been defined with sufficient specificity that clear notice could be given to all interested persons. This factor does not weigh against the use of separate phases in the manner proposed by Clean Line.
Administrative efficiency and convenience is where it gets dicey for Clean Line:
The Board finds that the considerations of administrative efficiency and convenience do not support establishment of a procedural schedule with two separate phases in the manner proposed by Clean Line. The efficiencies and benefits accrue primarily to Clean Line and its supporters, which the inefficiencies and inconveniences fall to the affected landowners. There is no basis in this record to justify such an inequitable result.
The IUB wasn't impressed by Clean Line's arguments that other municipalities and state agencies in Iowa use the same bifurcated procedure Clean Line proposes.  The Board determined that Clean Line's proposal is not a two-step process, but a three-step process:
The Board would first determine whether to approve the proposed line, then determine whether to grant the power of eminent domain, and then Clean Line would be permitted to proceed to condemnation. The situations are not parallel; Clean Line proposes to add an additional step to the process.
The IUB also was not swayed by Clean Line's assertions that other states do it Clean Line's way.  You're not in Kansas anymore, Clean Line.  This is Iowa, and
The Board’s concern is with following and implementing Iowa law.
So, let's recap:  Are the IUB's concerns with a bifurcated process something Clean Line can fix with a fourth motion to bifurcate?

1.  Benefits to Clean Line at the expense of landowners.  Clean Line can't remedy this by making a landowner's need to participate in both phases of a bifurcated proceeding disappear.  And it can't be outweighed by the "convenience" of any number of other parties.  The IUB reasoned that those other parties can simply elect not to participate in the parts of a single hearing they aren't interested in.  There, all fixed.  This is a logic hurdle Clean Line simply can't jump.

2.  Iowa law.  It is what it is, and Clean Line has been previously unsuccessful in changing it.  Considering how much Clean Line has angered legislators in Iowa, it's not looking promising in the future, either.

So, what's Clean Line's next move?  Checkmate.

It's time for RICL to be moved to the "failed" category.
 
 
What did you do over the holidays?  If you spent time with friends and family, unplugged from business and transmission line nonsense, congratulations!  If you're Clean Line, though, you spent your holidays pumping out the most unbelievable crap in the media.  Not that it really mattered though -- nobody was paying attention because we couldn't be bothered to do more than laugh at Clean Line in private venues.

However, the holidays are now over.  It's time to take a look at the silly things Clean Line wasted their holiday time doing.

First, let's address the article claiming that the Hannibal (Missouri) Bureau of Public Works is considering "buying power through Grain Belt Express."  I'm sorry, but Clean Line is not selling power.  Clean Line is selling capacity on its proposed transmission line.  That's all Clean Line can sell.  It is not a power generator and will never own any wind farms.  The power generated by any future wind farms will be sold by the wind farms.  The wind farms have yet to be built (or even planned with any conviction).  What is Clean Line doing going around "selling power" at a certain price from generators that don't exist and that they will never own?  It's a fairy tale that Clean Line is selling.
General Manager Bob Stevenson said Clean Line contacted the BPW about a month ago, offering the utility a draft letter of intent. Clean Line hasn't made a firm proposal, but Stevenson called prospective prices "very attractive." He declined to disclose them, citing confidentiality, but Lawlor estimated Grain Belt Express could deliver electricity in the 3- to 4-kilowatt-hour range.
If Stevenson thinks Clean Line's offer is anything more than fiction, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell him.
But, all that aside, the ultimate goal of getting utilities like the Hannibal BPW to sign a "letter of intent" is to prove to the MO PSC that there is customer interest in Missouri to be used in another possible run at a MO PSC permit.  The PSC isn't going to be fooled by this nonsense.  They also know that Clean Line can only sell capacity on its line, not energy.  If Hannibal BPW wants to sign up for some capacity on a fictional transmission line, that doesn't keep the lights on.  It also doesn't set a price for purchase of future energy from fictional third party generators that may be built.  How about if I offer you tomatoes grown by a farm that doesn't exist at a great price?  Of course, my offer will include a whole bunch of legal gibberish that absolves me of actually producing the tomatoes at the price named in the contract.  What's a contract like that worth?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  And that's what this article does because it's not going to convince the MO PSC to grant approval to Clean Line, and that's all that matters in this game right now.

Next, Mark Lawlor attempts to convince Illinoisans that his "Green Belt Express" project will provide jobs and lower rates, therefore they should continue their chummy relationship with Mark and continue to invite him to their backyard barbecues and cocktail parties.  Fail.

Beth Conley also interrupted her holidays to "respond" to Iowa legislators, who condemned her project in a hugely popular "Open letter to Rock Island Clean Line from lawmakers" that ran all over the state just before the holidays.

Except Beth didn't actually "respond" to anything in the open letter, but pulled up her soap box to go off on her predictable tangent about wind energy being an Iowa product that needs to be exported like beans and hogs.  Yawn.  Everyone's heard this before and nobody is convinced.  She also claims, "Clean Line has been working in Iowa for over five years and has invested millions of dollars in the Iowa economy developing the Rock Island Clean Line..."  What?  Where?  The only "investment" in the Iowa economy that Clean Line has made to date is the funding of its law firm to make redundant runs at the IUB to bifurcate the process (now on third attempt).  Do Clean Line's lawyers filter their "millions" down into Iowa's economy in a way that makes a difference?  Maybe they're funding Beth's political aspirations to run for a seat in the Iowa legislature?  Puh-leeze!
Starting Line now hears about a number of people interested in running for Rick Olson’s house seat. That includes Beth Conley, Marc Wallace and Connie Boesen. Conley works at Clean Line Energy Partners, and has a history of working with wind energy projects.
Beth also claims, "With so many power plants retiring, it is essential to maintain our nation’s electric power supply. The energy is needed and the Rock Island Clean Line project is too important for Iowa and the nation not to pursue."  But, as usual, she provides no facts.  Where are these power plants retiring?  How would RICL fill the void?  This claim is nothing but crap.  The "need" for electric transmission is managed by regional grid operators, who monitor retiring plants and order transmission to fill any void.  No regional grid has ordered RICL to fill any need.  There is no reliability need for RICL and it has no customers.

Beth prattles on about Clean Line's "market leading compensation package."  What market?  There is no eminent domain condemnation "market."  Eminent domain avoids any free market principles by taking land from its owners instead of negotiating a price both parties agree upon.  The proof is in the pudding, Clean Line's compensation package has attracted only 11% of the landowners crossed.  It must not be such a good deal after all.  Duh, Beth.

She tries to sell bifurcation as "without any cost to Iowa ratepayers."  However, bifurcation is also without cost to Clean Line's investors.  Although Clean Line pledged to accept ALL RISK of its merchant project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Clean Line was well aware of Iowa's regulatory process before planning its project through the state, Clean Line now wants to change the process because the current procedure requires the company to invest in a whole bunch of paperwork before being guaranteed a permit.  All risk means all risk, including any presented by an existing regulatory process.

Lastly, Beth shares that her family's holiday activities included driving by substations and discussing how "neighborly" it is to be a doormat.  Someone needs an Elf on her Shelf, I'm thinking.

Next, Clean Line engineered an AP story about wind energy transmission by supplying a "pro" landowner, who recruited his "con" neighbor to act as the opposition (although there is organized opposition with experienced spokespeople).  Clean Line trots Wilcox out for the press whenever it needs to pretend that landowners support its project.  He's got a lot of miles on him
At any rate, Clean Line's effort failed when the reporter's rather unenlightened review of energy policy concluded, "I think (wind energy) is fine," he said. But "it doesn't make sense to me to have to transport it halfway across the United States. We're smarter than that."

And, finally, there was another episode of the Loren Flaugh show published in the Cherokee Chronicle Times.
  This "freelance reporter" continually inserts his opinion into the "stories" he writes in order to libel Clean Line's opposition.  In this version, he accuses Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance's Carolyn Sheridan of "reveal[ing] an apparent lack of understanding for how eminent domain works."  Nothing could be farther from the truth, and it appears that Flaugh is the one who doesn't understand exactly what an easement means, in legal terms.  The editor of this paper owes Sheridan (and PRIA member Jerry Crews, who got libeled in a similar fashion in Flaugh's last story) a retraction and an apology.  Real "news" doesn't attempt to inexpertly analyze facts to come to conclusions that someone doesn't know what they're talking about.  It simply reports the facts.  Analysis and conclusion are the domain of opinion pieces, where Flaugh's fluff rightly belongs.  At any rate, I'm eagerly looking forward to Part II of Flaugh's "reporting," where he claims he will "examine the legal reasoning for filing the petition [to bifurcate the IUB process by Clean Line]."  It's like the expectation to be entertained I have when I buy tickets to a comedy show.  A promised giggle fest, and we all know laughter is the best medicine.

And on that note, thanks for the holiday entertainment, Clean Line!  We were privately laughing at you while we were spending the holidays with our family and friends.


 
 
Looks like Dominion has finally reached the bottom of the barrel in its desperate attempts to get approval for construction of a 500kV transmission line across the James River at Jamestown.

An article in the Virginia Gazette says that Dominion is now offering $85M in "mitigation" to groups opposing its project.  The $85M includes:
The mitigation proposal includes more than $52 million in funding for Jamestown Island, Hog Island and the Captain John Smith Historic Trail District. The money would fund projects such as seawall rehabilitation and replacement at Historic Jamestowne to help combat the impacts of sea-level rise and erosion, according to the draft mitigation plan obtained by the Virginia Gazette.

The mitigation plan proposal includes $15.5 million in funding for water quality improvement including erosion and sediment control in the James River. Battlefield and landscape conservation projects would get $12 million, including government and private lands associated with the Battle of Yorktown, according to the proposal. More than $4 million would go to protecting emergent marsh at the Hog Island Wildlife Management Area.
But here's the thing... the $85M in blood money would be paid for by electric ratepayers in PJM Interconnection's 13-state region, not by Dominion.  That's right, Dominion's "generous" offer would become part of the capital costs of its Skiffes Creek project, which will be reimbursed to the company through federal transmission rates over the 40-year life of the transmission line, plus interest.  Paying off the capital cost of a new transmission line works much like a mortgage, where a small amount of principal is paid each year, in addition to interest on the remaining balance.  Dominion's "interest rate," called return on equity, is currently set at 11.4%, annually. 

What Dominion is offering is that YOU will pay to "mitigate" the destruction of YOUR historic resource.  And Dominion will make a profit on the deal.

And, really, would $85M of unrelated improvements to the Jamestown historic area make the new transmission towers in the James River disappear?  No.  No matter how much of your money Dominion throws at it, the transmission line will still forever spoil historic Jamestown.  At the end of the day there will still be a transmission line in the river.  The $85M isn't "free" money coming out of Dominion's coffers, it's money that will be added to your electric bill for the next 40 years.  Aren't there better ways to pay for improvements to Jamestown than through a backdoor fee on your electric bill that also includes a hefty profit for Dominion?

Dominion's price for the transmission line is $155M, before "mitigation."  With mitigation of $85M, the new total for the project's capital costs is $240M, a substantial cost increase.  Don't you think Dominion could put that $85M to work finding a better solution to its plan, such as undergrounding the transmission line? 

And here's the best part... if Dominion is denied a permit to build its current project, then PJM must go back to the drawing board to find another solution to the supposed reliability issue.  Any new solution must now be competitively bid, not just handed to Dominion to build, as the original project was many years ago.  Competition is always a good thing, and will most likely result in a better, cheaper, "constructable" solution. 

Just say no to Dominion's ratepayer-funded blood money and send this project back to PJM's drawing board.
 
 
So, Clean Line's Mark Lawlor needs to clean up his sloppy and gratuitous use of the Queen's English.

He's much too fond of the number one word on Lake Superior State University's 41st Annual List of Banished Words.  Anyone whose answer to any question posed (even those posed by invisible reporters whose cut video plays more like a monologue) begins with the word "so" is most likely thinking, "knowing that my intelligence and intellect is so superior to all those in attendance today, I will try to disseminate this knowledge to you in the most basic terms that even the most lowly, knuckle-dragging, caveman cretin and red-necked, hillbilly rube will be able to understand."  Is that what you were going for there, Mark?

I fear if you don't clean up your language, your conversations with stakeholders are going to become increasingly problematic.  Stakeholders do have their price point, and your leading each sentence with the word "so" isn't the secret sauce to success.  It makes folks downright suspicious.  Perhaps that's how you speak during big city pressers, while manspreading and vaping away on your e-cig, but that kind of physicality does not give life to any Mayberry stakeholders.  That kind of physicality makes it appear that you're deviously walking it back, and it is bound to break your transmission project, as well as the internet.

Stop it.

And please do tell your boss to stop inserting the word "okay" into his juicy sentences as a desperate plea for the acknowledgement and approval of anyone within hearing range.  Mayberry doesn't speak that language.

Thanks to Rocky Squirrel for assisting all of us in speaking properly by bringing the foregoing to my attention.  When he's not correcting Clean Line's grammar, he's busy growing food to stuff in their pieholes, with the hope of finally enjoying a moment of blessed silence.