If I had a buck for every journalistic comparison between the high voltage electric transmission grid and the interstate highway system, I'd be rich.  Uncreative and incurious journalists love to make this comparison, usually accompanied by a nighttime time-lapse traffic photo.  Ooooooh!

Stupid.

Back in 2006, AEP used comparison between the grid and the interstate system as a marketing gimmick so it could turn electricity into an interstate commodity and transmission into a profit center.

AEP's interstate transmission highway gimmick was even better using an Eisenhower, so it hired one.  And it pretended that a new "interstate highway" of transmission lines would provide reliable, efficient, affordable, and secure sources of power for everyone.

Oh, poppycock!

But it just never ends.

Here's why the electric grid is unlike an interstate highway:

  • The highway system was built using public money, for the benefit of the public.  The highways are operated by governments, and tolls for use are poured back into the highway system for the benefit of the public.  However, the electric transmission system is built using private money, for the benefit of investors.  The grid is operated by utilities, and tolls for use go into the utility's pockets for the benefit of stockholders.  Highways are not-for-profit enterprises.  Electric transmission is a for-profit enterprise.
  • The highway system "binds the massive country together into a single, integrated network" so that we may travel anywhere.  However, it is inefficient, costly and wasteful to "bind the massive country together into a single, integrated electric market."  Electricity is unlike other commodities because it must be used the instant it is made.  It cannot be stored for later sale or use.  Transporting it long distances is like transporting water through a leaky pipe -- much is lost along the way, simply wasted.  The longer the distance, the more electricity wasted.  While it may be useful to travel long distances via highways, it is not useful to transmit electricity long distances.  The most cost effective, efficient, safe and reliable electrical system is one where electricity is generated at or close to its point of use.
  • People were willing to make way for highways on their land because they could use these highways, and the government wasn't making a profit by operating the highway.  How come the media never compares transmission lines to highways with no on or off ramps for local use?  People are NOT willing to make way for long-distance electric transmission lines because they may not directly use the transmission line, and the transmission line is a profit center for its owner.  If a profit is to be made, the landowner should be paid appropriately in line with the continued profits, not tossed a one-time "market value" pittance for the use of his land in perpetuity.
  • Eminent domain was used to build the interstate highway system because it was for "public use."  Eminent domain was also used to build the transmission and distribution system that electrified our country because it was for "public use."  The key here is that both were for "public use."  But now transmission is proposed for other reasons such as economics, public policy, or simply as a way to make money shipping electricity to new markets.  Is this really a "public use," or is it a slide down a slippery slope?  Where does "public use" stop and "private profit" begin?
Renewables are ready for harvest near population centers.  We don't need a series of vulnerable "toll roads" to transport them coast-to-coast.  This is simply the utility industry's latest attempt to dig in a toe-hold that will keep you captive for many years to come. 

Just say "no" to electric "highways" and uninspired journalism.
 
 
I've been away for the past week.  No emails, no blog posts, no piles of electronic files, no transmission whatsoever.  So, what has transmission being doing while I wasn't paying attention?  Same old, same old.

SNAFU

A browse of news I missed:

The Sierra Club is still trying to plan the transmission grid and getting it wrong.

PJM despot Steven Herling sent a nasty-gram to NJ Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel, claiming that he was spreading misinformation.

The chief planning official for PJM Interconnection Inc., the grid operator, said in a letter to New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel that continued operations of the B.L. England power station in Cape May County would not create reliability problems, but that the plant's shutdown would.

"Recent media statements attributed to you about reliability and cost impacts associated with the B.L. England generating units' remaining in service are based on a misunderstanding of PJM Interconnection's planning process," Steven R. Herling, PJM's vice president of planning, wrote Thursday to Tittel.

"Our transmission-planning process is very complex, dynamic, and - as a consequence - can be misunderstood," Herling said in his letter to Tittel. "I would have been very happy to explain the process and underlying facts to help you avoid confusion, and would be willing to clarify PJM's study results at any time."

Transmission developers held their "public input" open house dog & pony shows on lines they want to build.  The "public" showed up en masse to participate, but the real decisions have already been made.  Here's one example from Wisconsin, where ATC plays coy about its preferred route, hoping to foment discord among community groups that wish to foist the transmission line on someone else.  The media helps out by framing its story as a NIMBY issue, and failing to examine the need issue.
“I have no doubt, in the long run, we need power and we need power transmission lines, and they’re going to go somewhere,” said Don McKay, general manager of Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area.

“Nothing here is very negotiable,” said McKay, who also is a Vermont town supervisor.

Robert and Danuta Pyzalski said it was too preliminary to get answers about their town of Middleton home, in the study area.

“My concern is how close the lines would be to residential areas,” Robert Pyzalski said. “To say there would be no danger would be naive.”
Dominion has begun blowing smoke up the behinds of communities in Virginia, pretending to pioneer new ways to work with communities to site transmission lines.
Members of a new resident-led work group created to grapple with Dominion Virginia Power’s plans to run a transmission line through Alexandria did not mince words following the utility’s first presentation on the project.

“I’m just looking at statements here with nothing to back them up.”

Both officials and work group members are growing more suspicious as Dominion’s application date creeps closer.

“There’s some healthy skepticism,” Smedberg said. “While Dominion says they don’t know what a final route would be, many people in the community find that a little hard to believe. They know exactly what they want to do and have known for a while.”
Use of the Delphi technique really isn't new, Dominion! 
Energy companies fight over building new transmission to import power to a big city vs. building new centralized generation in or near the city itself.  How about you folks in Houston cutting back on your conspicuous consumption and slapping some solar panels on a roof or two?  That would certainly be cheaper for the poor ratepayers these companies pretend to care about.  Energy efficiency and local renewables are within reach.

Same stuff, different day.  Energy company greed to invest capital for big returns never changes.  The only thing that has changed in this scenario is the opposition of the people to big energy projects.  It's getting more organized, more knowledgeable and more successful.  Try building big energy anything anywhere and there's guaranteed opposition that increases costs and delays projects.  Finding new ways to neutralize the NIMBYs is a losing game.

But, what if there were no NIMBYs?  Underwater and underground transmission lines are sailing through approvals with little to no opposition.  The Champlain Hudson Power Express project is a go, and the New England Clean Power Link isn't far behind.  If you're going to build new transmission, this is the way to do it.
With permits to build an underwater and underground power line from the Canadian border to New York City all but fully in hand, the developer is turning its attention to a similar proposal for a 1,000-megawatt power line that would run down Lake Champlain and then across Vermont to feed the New England electric grid.

Once out of the water all the cable will be laid in public rights of way and the company TDI New England has been working with the state of Vermont and local communities along the route on the minutiae: Everything from how to be sure the under-road conduits don’t worsen spring frost heaves to how the cables cross beneath bridges or how to ensure that once the cables are buried they aren’t disturbed.

Benson Selectboard member Sue Janssen said TDI New England has worked hard to meet the concerns of her community of just over 1,000. They are even paying a lawyer of the town’s choosing to represent the community in the detailed discussions that are coming.

“I have the impression if we’d said we wanted our dirt roads painted pink they’d have done it,” she said.

So far there has been no significant opposition to TDI New England’s major electrical infrastructure project such as has faced plans to build ridge-top industrial wind projects, extend a natural gas power line from the Burlington area to Rutland or build a 180-mile above-ground power line between the Canadian border and northern New Hampshire.

“I think that one of the key differentiators of other proposed projects is that we are all buried,” said TDI New England CEO Donald Jessome.
That's right... people can support transmission projects proposed by companies willing to work with communities to lessen a project's impact.

Opposition has a cost.


Meanwhile, as more buried projects are proposed, traditional overhead transmission builders are whining about the cost of buried lines.  Funny position for companies that make money on transmission investments -- the more they spend, the more they make.  Why not bury the projects?  Oh, right, they don't know how.  They're still living in the horse and buggy days, telling the same lies about how the technology doesn't exist to bury lines, or that the cost will be 10 or 20 times an overhead line.  That just isn't true.
Matt Valle’s solution to energy shortages in Eastern Massachusetts eschews the usual approach of running miles of new transmission lines on unsightly towers. Instead, Valle proposes to bury 50 miles of high-power cable in the ocean floor, using an underwater robot that resembles a lunar rover.

The robot would dig a trench 4 to 6 feet deep in an arc from Salisbury to Lynn for a power line that would bring 520 megawatts of electricity from the Seabrook generating station into Greater Boston.

If approved, the so-called SeaLink line would be the first underwater transmission line in Massachusetts, and Valle argued that it would be more reliable than high-voltage lines that are exposed to New England weather.

“It’s a buried system. It is protected against extreme weather — high winds, flooding, icing,” said Valle, president of New Hampshire Transmission, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, one of the country’s largest power companies.

But there is one major drawback: With a price tag of more than $1 billion, SeaLink looks on paper to cost about $350 million more than a competing project, which includes a new 25-mile transmission line running from Londonderry, N.H., to Tewksbury, as well as upgrades to the existing high-voltage power network.

“Ours is the most cost-effective solution. That’s a fact,” said Rudy Wynter, president of the transmission business at National Grid, which is partnering with Northeast Utilities on the project. It would feature a combination of high-voltage 115 kV lines and extra-high-voltage 345 kV lines constructed on rights of way that are already held by the two companies.
SNAFU.

Is it really all about the cost to ratepayers?  Anyone thought of asking ratepayers if it's worth a few extra cents in their power bill to bury high-tech transmission projects in order to make them more reliable?  I think the people would overwhelmingly support buried lines from a reliability standpoint alone.  A majority would also probably support more expensive buried lines in order to get lines built quicker and with less burden on host landowners, viewsheds and the environment. 
 
 
Hint:  It's not the Sierra Club or their inexpert volunteer leadership.  It's not merchant transmission developers operating outside the regional planning process, either.

It wasn't too long ago that I suggested that Sierra Club should stick to hugging trees and quit trying to engineer the power grid.
  Although they were soundly rebuffed by the TVA in that instance, it appears that the Sierra Club isn't done trying to engineer the power grid yet.

A member of the Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club has decided that he can proclaim a transmission line "needed" if, in his opinion, it's in the public interest.

That's not the way it works.  Need for transmission lines is determined by regional transmission organizations in most parts of the country.  This is done through a pretty extensive and technical process.  It's not done by a gaggle of arrogant know-nothings sitting around a campfire getting high and dreaming about creating a green utopia.  It's not done by Sierra Club volunteers, either.
 

Sometimes, even real grid planners get a determination of "need" wrong.


The Clean Line projects have not been determined to be "needed" by any regional transmission organization.

  Instead, the RTOs have selected other projects "as a way to reduce carbon emissions and thus reduce the risk of the damaging effects of global warming."  But they have not selected Clean Line, therefore, Clean Line is not needed.

Because Clean Line is not needed, it is a venture in "capitalism."  Capitalism is a "free market" system, where trade and industry are controlled by private owners.  In a capitalistic society, no one may be forced to sacrifice his or her private property solely for the profit of another.  Capitalism would mean that Clean Line would be required to negotiate to purchase the private property it needs for its unneeded project.  It is in a communist state that private property rights do not exist.

When an infrastructure project is determined to be "needed" and in the public interest by a qualified entity with the knowledge and authority to approve it
, private property may be taken for the public use.  Clean Line has not been determined needed, nor granted authority to condemn private property, in Iowa, Missouri, or Arkansas.  Eminent domain, need and public interest is not determined by the Sierra Club.  None of the Clean Line projects has been fully permitted and are not "in progress" anywhere.

Clean Line has no customers, either generators or load serving entities.  It is not needed.  It will not shut down any coal plants.  Not one.  It also won't do anything to meet EPA regulations in importing states.  The credits for wind generation may only be taken once, not multiple times by exporting states, and every other state on the way from generator to load.  Clean Line will NOT speed up any carbon reductions.  It's simply a plan for a transmission line that could carry energy produced by any type of generator.

Clean Line is greed masquerading
as green.  Because the Sierra Club knows little about electric transmission, some clubs have made the short-sighted decision to endorse it.  An arrogant, confrontational, scorched earth path to a "cleaner" society will never succeed.

Sierra Club should be doing its transmission homework, instead of jumping on the first "clean" trojan horse that rolls by.


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

Missouri showed them!

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

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

You believe her, don't you?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Smith also discovered the following statute:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copies of the Clean Line emails can be viewed here.
 
 
W T
PPL?
I think PPL needs to do a round of drug testing of its employees.  Whoever came up with this idiotic idea must be on something.

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

Never going to happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Commissioner Hott seems to agree:

“What I think would help is to get some of these guys with ties on to come down and see what’s actually going on. They need guidance at a higher level,” Hott said.
Like maybe Charlene should have brought this character along yesterday?