The Pufferfish Foundation wants to let folks know that the U.S. Department of Energy's Inspector General would like people who have been harassed by FERC's Office of Enforcement to contact their office.
They can contact the IG hotline at:
ighotline@hq.doe.gov
D.C. Metro Area: (202) 586-4073
Toll free: (800) 541-1625
FAX: (202) 586-4902
This information comes from U.S. Senator Robert Casey's office, and may be a response to the Senator's inquiry into FERC's investigation of Powhatan Energy Fund.  The investigation has been made public on the website ferclitigation.com.

Powhatan sent this letter to the Inspector General in July.

So, if FERC's bullies come knocking on your door, who ya gonna call?
 
 
On August 19, the U.S. Department of Energy issued its long overdue "National Electric Transmission Congestion Study" for public comment.  You're the public!  Serendipity!

I'm not sure what DOE is trying to hide, but I didn't get any notice about this study, although I participated in one of the webinars, and usually get 15 copies of these kinds of notices forwarded to me from lots of different folks when they get them.  Nope.  *crickets*

Maybe it's because I've been engrossed in the project from hell and not paying attention to much else?
Virtual paper cuts be damned, I happened across it the other day while putting together some links for a transmission opposition group.  Serendipity, again!

It looks like the DOE really didn't pay much attention to the comments it received before writing this study.  They still seem to think that we need more transmission to make sure that every electron produced can be used anywhere else, no matter how far from the generation source.

The DOE is supposed to do a triennial congestion study.  That means every three years.  But after it got the stuffing kicked out of it in the 9th Circuit over its 2009 designation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) without properly consulting the states, and without performing a proper environmental review of said corridors, we can understand why DOE is only just now getting around to the triennial study it was supposed to complete in 2012.  It's taken them this long to venture timidly out of their cave.  I'll guess that this "study" is only a tentative foray back into the game, since it states that another study will be completed in 2015, to keep to the original triennial schedule.  It's September, 2014 now, right?  DOE moves at a glacial pace...  Seriously?  What's the point of this year's study?

Anyhow... please do read the 175 page study, paying particular interest to your particular geographic area, or transmission project of concern.

And I'd like to mention a few special things that DOE said in this report that you should be thinking about while crafting your comments.

The first is a particular pet peeve of mine.  Perhaps in my next life I'll finally find time to do the full accounting of the TRUE cost of building new transmission that I've been constructing in my head over the last few years while listening to how transmission proposals affect hundreds of opponents across the country.  Maybe we can start making a dent in it by addressing it here.  DOE says:
Construction of major new transmission facilities, in particular, raises unique issues because transmission facilities have long lives – typically 40 years or more. Evaluating the merits of a proposed new facility is  challenging, because common practices take into account only those expected costs and benefits from a project that can be quantified with a high degree of perceived certainty. This has two effects:
First, it leads to a focus on the subset of cost and benefits that can be readily quantified. Not taking into account the costs and benefits that are hard to quantify has the effect of setting their value to zero in a comparison of costs and benefits.
Second, it leads to projections of costs and benefits that are generally on extrapolations drawn from recent experiences. Projections based only on recent experiences will not value the costs and benefits a transmission project will have under very different assumptions or scenarios regarding the future because they ignore or discount the likelihood of these possibilities. Such a narrow view of the range of costs and benefits that could occur provides a false sense of precision.
Transmission developers are all about tossing made up, speculative, or fantasy "benefits" onto the table in order to make their projects appear to pass a cost-benefit analysis.  But no one has ever quantified the REAL cost of transmission.  I'm not talking about a project's total capital spend, or its annual revenue requirement. I'm talking about the very real costs to landowners who are unlucky enough to be picked to sacrifice their homes, businesses, retirement, health, peace of mind and countless other intangible COSTS for the benefit of the electricity-slurping public in some far off city.  Market value payments for the involuntary sale of transmission right of way only attempt to compensate for the value of the land, not all the other costs to the landowner's way of life that can't be... in DOE-speak... "readily quantified."

Also, the DOE still seems to think that offshore wind is experimental
As will be discussed later in this chapter, many states adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards with requirements or goals to use more  renewable‐sourced electricity.
Because much of the best utility‐scale renewable resource potential is relatively remote from the load centers, the states then had to authorize new transmission construction to enable the desired renewable‐based electricity to reach the grid.
Maybe you can give DOE a link to its own map showing the best utility-scale renewable potential located just a few miles offshore, conveniently near load centers?  Quit tinkering, Einstein, and get 'er done!

And how about this? 
Many points of transmission congestion today result from the need to deliver electricity from
changing sources of generation. For example, generation sources are changing because of
state‐mandated RPSs. The best renewable resources (i.e., those with the highest potential capacity factors) tend to be located far from load and sometimes in areas with less transmission than desired for effective resource development. Existing transmission constraints may deter development of these resources. While this is not a challenge in all parts of the Eastern Interconnect, it is a principal cause of evolving congestion concerns in the Midwest.
Maybe you could let the DOE know about the economic benefits that come with LOCALLY-produced renewable energy?  Jobs, tax revenue and economic development happen where renewables develop.  States that buy, rather than create their own, renewables are only exporting their energy dollars to other states or regions and hurting their own communities.

Oh, and let's make this next part a fun scavenger hunt... can you find all the little hidden mentions of the Clean Line projects in this report?

So, what's the point here?  The DOE is going to use this draft and the comments it receives to create the final report.  From that report it may designate National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs).  NIETCs are very bad news, and a stupid idea left over from the 2005 energy policy act (don't ya wish your congress-person would get off their tookus and fix that mess?)
Designation of an area as a National Corridor is one of several preconditions required for
possible exercise by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of “backstop” authority to approve the siting of transmission facilities in that area.
No.  No.  NOOOO!

So, what can you do?  Read the report.  Write a comment.  Send it here.  Do it now!  Comments are only going to be accepted until October 20.  If you don't participate, no one's going to care what you think later...
 
 
They're not fooling Len Chidester of Montrose, West Virginia.  He's heard some nasty rumors about the shoddy way FirstEnergy treats its linemen, neglects maintenance of equipment, and fails to read electric meters.  Apparently this is all being done under the mandate of some company named PJ+M. 

Mr. Chidester believes PJ+M is in bed with FirstEnergy.  If they breed, the child would probably behave a lot like this one:
Mr. Chidester concludes that FirstEnergy bought Mon Power and Potomac Edison.  FirstEnergy is bleeding these companies for every nickel they can squeeze by their phoney meter reading process, doing minimal repairs, and who knows what other practices.  And he advises that a very major investigation be launched into exactly what the power companies, FirstEnergy, Mon Power, Potomac Edison and the company PJ+M have been and are continuing to do.

He's exactly right!
 
 
The union busters at FirstEnergy are at it again.  The Herald-Mail reports that local union members have rejected FirstEnergy's contract offer.  The local union represents workers from Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, the Waynesboro area in Pennsylvania, and West Virginia's eastern panhandle.
The company and the union have been negotiating for a new contract since March 2013. Federal mediators have been involved during the past several months.
Whalen said union members are upset at FirstEnergy demands such as that they use their own "vehicles on their own time" to reach construction and maintenance worksites, and, because the utility is at "an all-time low staffing level," each worker is being forced to respond to emergency calls far more often than was normal a few years ago.
Union rep. Robert Whalen said that by rejecting the contract offer, union members have authorized a strike, if necessary.

But never fear, Potomac Edison customers... useless PR flack Toad Meyers has promised to keep your lights on by magic!
...the utility has plans to continue providing electrical power to its 382,000 customers in Potomac Edison’s Maryland and West Virginia territory “no matter what happens,” company spokesman Todd Meyers said.

“We’ll keep the lights on for our customers,” he said.
It must be magic, because I don't think Toad could cut it in lineman school.  I'm still waiting for him to come read my electric meter and he hasn't shown yet!  I wonder if they'll let him use a company truck for that, or will he have to use his own vehicle?  In case your lights go out, don't bother with the emergency number, call Toad:  (724) 838-6650.

I'm going to stock up on candles and gas for the generator.  I have no faith in Toad's promises.
 
 
Clean Line Energy Partners have been inspired to take their medicine show on the road in Arkansas and rent display space at local county fairs from which to sell their unneeded Plains & Eastern Clean Line.

And then the people of Arkansas happened. 


Two different opposition groups opened booths at local county fairs yesterday, and word is that Clean Line might want to bring along a good book, because they're going to be pretty lonely this week.
 
 
The final four PSC public hearings on Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project were held in Missouri last week, and the Caldwell County News has the best coverage of the Hamilton hearing.

Over the course of eight hearings spread across the state in the last month, Missouri's patient and empathetic public service commissioners listened carefully to thousands of Missourians who oppose granting eminent domain authority to Clean Line for its speculative, unneeded 700-mile transmission project.

This is a huge victory for the people of Missouri, who came together to show the PSC and Clean Line a united front.  The final hearings even attracted a dedicated contingent of opponents from neighboring Kansas, who were thrown under the bus by their own regulators last year.  And what a difference for them!  The respect that the Missouri regulators have for the people they serve was a breath of fresh air, as reported by one of the Kansans.

Many thanks to Jennifer Gatrel and Russ Pisciotta, who have dedicated themselves to this effort for the past year, and delivered for their members with the best public hearing effort possible.  The "we the people" pinnacle reached last week is their only reward for the hours of tireless work they have put into the effort.  These are the moments hard working opposition leaders live for, and the feeling is indescribable.  I'm only sorry I had to miss it due to other commitments, but I am fully confident there will be other moments of victory as this group moves into the evidentiary hearings in November and toward their ultimate victory over Clean Line!

Good job, Missouri!  You are an inspiration to transmission opposition everywhere!
 
 
A good friend of mine came up with an apt acronym for the few diehard fans of the Clean Line Energy projects.

MIMPSY:  Money In My Pocket, Screw You!

The MIMPSYs are in high gear in South Dakota, eagerly salivating at all the money they will rake in if the states of Iowa and Illinois allow their people and their land to be used to build Clean Line's money-making "road to market."

For years, Clean Line has been telling Iowa's economic development types how much money will flow into Iowa if it only forces approval of its Rock Island Clean Line project.

But, it now appears that at least a third of the riches promised to Iowa in exchange for its sacrifice will flow to South Dakota instead.

Dakota Power Community Wind has been pumping itself up in the media lately, trying to raise enough capital to build a wind farm of up to 1,000MW in eastern South Dakota.  This is nearly one-third of RICL's proposed 3,500MW capacity.

A recent article claims the benefits South Dakota will reap from the building of RICL:
"The economic potential for our area is tremendous and uses South Dakota's renewable resources to help solve our country's energy needs," said Beresford Mayor Jim Fedderson.

Based on a study done for a similar project, Dakota Power says the potential revenue from turbines to landowners could be between $6 million and $7 million annually. State gross production annual tax receipts could reach more than $4.5 million and the county nameplate tax revenue could equal $3 million per year. Statewide direct economic effect could be more than $200 million.
But, wait, all that money is flowing directly out of the money RICL has promised to Iowa in exchange for allowing RICL to be built as a closed highway through the state.  South Dakota's windfall is coming directly from the pot of money RICL promised to Iowa!  How much more of RICL's economic promise to Iowa is going to evaporate if RICL is permitted?

Pure and simple greed can turn even the finest men and women into blinded fools.

Or MIMPSYs.  A handful of South Dakota landowners hosting turbines are expected to rake in $6 to $7 MILLION dollars per year if RICL is built.  What are the thousands of landowners hosting the line in Iowa and Illinois expected to be paid for their contribution to the effort by hosting the line?  I think I heard something like $500 annually for each tower, if the landowners accepts less than fair market value for the easement and opts for the annual payment scheme. 

Why the disparity?  Why are just a few landowners in South Dakota going to rake in $6-7 million annually, while the rest of the host "team" must settle for $500?

Stop.  Think.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Don't let greed blind you.
 
 
The Amish are a peaceful people.  They rarely get involved in worldly things like electric transmission permitting battles.  They don't get involved in legal matters, even to protect their own financial interests.

But now Amish communities in three Missouri counties have submitted a petition containing 85 signatures to the Missouri Public Service Commission.  A large group of Amish also came out to the first MO PSC public hearing earlier this month, with smaller groups at the following hearings.

According to Jennifer Gatrel of BlockGBE, "They are extremely concerned. They truly believe that power lines are dangerous. Their cousins in Wisconsin suffered tremendously when their dairy cows were negatively impacted. The line would go about a mile from their school. It is truly a matter of religious freedom.
"

The Amish have an interesting approach to electricity.  They refuse to use the public electric grid and instead use limited amounts of electric power generated on-site.  The Amish believe that reliance on others to generate and deliver power to them would tie them too closely to the world and symbolize a physical connection to it and reliance upon it.

But, Grain Belt expects the Amish to "do their part"
by voluntarily hosting a transmission line they will never find useful, in order to provide for the needs of big cities in other states, who want to make their conscience a little "greener."
Can't help but wonder... Were the Amish farms targeted when siting Grain Belt Express due to their presumed unwillingness to fight back? The fact that so many of them have signed the petition is a major break in Amish precedent.
 
 
...and they can start by overcoming their presumption that massive amounts of new overhead transmission is necessary to move to a clean energy future.  It's not.

But, CFRA is funded by ReAMP, whose "clean energy" money comes from deep pocketed and mysterious foundations and "Energy Funds".  Environmental groups are just as shady, and just as well-funded, as the fossil fuel energy interests at which they point the finger.  And the people have had enough of that nonsense!

Transmission advocacy toadie CFRA has taken the funding offered by these big green groups to act as a voice for rural landowners, and to somehow convince these landowners to accept gigantic new transmission lines across their land.  It's not working.  CFRA has done nothing but anger rural landowners, who feel that CFRA has strayed far from its mission to represent rural interests.

CFRA begins with the incorrect presumption that we MUST build massive amounts of new transmission across the midwest in order to have clean energy.

NOT TRUE!

CFRA has been rejected time and time again by the very rural landowners it pretends to represent.  But, now they're back, telling rural landowners that they can "change transmission for the better" if they simply accept it.

NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.
Earlier this month, several hearings were held across Missouri concerning a proposed transmission line that has the potential to carry Midwest wind energy to eastern markets. The Missouri Public Service Commission heard testimony from Missouri residents concerning the Grain Belt Express project, one of several new transmission projects in the region that could help boost new renewable energy projects.

These hearings are an essential part of the transmission development process, as they provide communities and landowners the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns. Transmission is an important factor in bringing new renewable energy onto the grid, but it’s vital new transmission is developed the right way. That means that we must have landowners and community members getting involved.

Public involvement helps reveal the weak points. For example, many worry about the use of eminent domain for large-scale transmission projects. Insight from landowners points to flaws in the way that compensation for property is determined, and makes clear that there is more to property than just it’s fair market value. Developers must work hard to address these concerns, and work with communities and landowners to find a better way to develop transmission.

Public involvement in transmission development offers all involved the opportunity to think about the future. As more renewable energy is developed, we will require more and better infrastructure to connect it to the electric grid. But we also need to change the way we develop projects, making the process more fair and agreeable to landowners.
The only thing that needs changing here is the way we go about transitioning to a clean energy future.  It's not going to happen overnight.  And it's not going to happen on a grandiose scale.  It's going to happen gradually, in the local communities, where energy can be produced at point of use.

CFRA has failed to actually LISTEN to what rural Americans are saying about energy.  They want local solutions, sustainable solutions, that don't require rural America to make a sacrifice for the needs of far-flung urban areas.  Urban areas are just as capable of developing their own local renewable energy sources and should be permitted to do so.  Instead of wasting billions on new long-distance overhead transmission, couldn't that money be better spent on sustainable solutions, such as on-site solar or offshore wind conveniently located near the big demand centers?

CFRA has failed to learn the first lesson about the people it supposedly represents  -- it's not about the money, it's about a way of life.
 
 
Loren Sprouse, a Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri member and electrical engineer, went to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) earlier this year with his concerns about the electric fields that would be created by Grain Belt Express, and their possible corrosive effect on nearby infrastructure. In response, MoDOT has compiled a research report of the most current studies available on the subject. The report, entitled "Effects of Ground Voltage of Stray Current on Infrastructure Caused by High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Transmission Lines," cites numerous studies which indicate that DC lines may have a harmful impact on metallic infrastructure when operated in the monopolar mode, or under emergency conditions.

Although Grain Belt Express's website claims that its project will be a bipolar line, Sprouse is still concerned about the extremely high voltage of the line, and the electric fields and stray currents it may produce.

 "This is just another example of not fully understanding the potential long term negative consequences of this project. Our regulators need to enforce extremely high design standards when reviewing such projects around distances from homes, areas where people work around and under these lines, and especially around proximity to pipelines carrying natural gas and other petroleum products," Sprouse said.

The report indicates that monopolar HVDC transmission lines have an extremely corrosive effect on adjacent infrastructure, such as pipelines. Sprouse says that electric fields will always produce some stray currents, even in Grain Belt Express's bipolar HVDC model, or alternating current (AC) transmission lines.

The report confirmed Sprouse's worry, stating "The effect of stray current corrosion on underground infrastructure has been a concern for decades. As one example, a 1967 article warned about the "stray current corrosion of underground metallic structures" caused by HVDC transmission lines. In the literature, most studies are concerned about potential damage to pipeline structures." The report also quoted a 2008 GAO report that identified a risk "associated with siting HVDC electric transmission lines along active transportation ROW ... Stray current could interfere with railroad signaling systems and highway traffic operations, and accelerate pipeline corrosion, resulting in accidents."

Curt Jacobs from Erie, Illinois, echoed the concerns of Sprouse when commenting on a pipeline explosion that occurred last August adjacent to an AC transmission line near the proposed Rock Island Clean Line route.

"This pipeline explosion opened our eyes to the dangers of power lines close to pipelines. The suggestion that DC power can be even more corrosive than AC power raises significant safety questions for those of us that would be forced to live and work near Clean Line's proposed projects and the existing pipelines the routes attempt to parallel," he said.

Block GBE spokeswoman Jennifer Gatrel is worried that siting Grain Belt Express parallel to buried pipelines for approximately 119 miles across Missouri is too risky to the families who live and work close by. Approximately 53% of the GBE proposed route is sited within a mile of the pipeline corridor.

"We are very concerned about the implications of this report. Grain Belt wants to run their massive line close to pipelines through much of the state. The report makes it clear that there could be a real and present danger of doing so," she said. "As a mother to small children the idea that they could be put in danger is not acceptable!"
 
Some of Block GBE's major concerns, in addition to safety issues, are property rights, property devaluation, health effects, and the impediments to farming posed by the lines. Citizens interested in reading the report in full or learning more about the issue can find more information at www.blockgbemo.com or by calling 660-232-1280. The public will also have a chance to weigh in on the issue directly to the Missouri PSC who will decide whether to allow Grain Belt to build the lines. The schedule is located at the group's website here.