<![CDATA[ StopPATH WV - StopPATH WV Blog]]>Sun, 18 Mar 2018 20:44:35 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Top Ten Clean Line Mistakes:  #7 Theresagate]]>Sun, 18 Mar 2018 17:32:03 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/top-ten-clean-line-mistakes-7-theresagateMayberry didn't think Clean Line's attempts to cheat and take advantage of them at public hearings were as cute or funny as Clean Line did.

It's well known that utilities attempt to compete with affected citizens by presenting purchased or coerced supportive testimony during  regulatory public hearings.  But do they have to cheat to do it?  Not normally.

But Clean Line did.

At its first regulatory public comment hearing before the Illinois Commerce Commission regarding its Rock Island Clean Line, the company actively worked to shut out the testimony of affected citizens and replace it with its own coerced supporters.

The crowd was much bigger than Clean Line (or even the ICC) expected.  The auditorium simply wasn't big enough to seat everyone who showed up, nor was enough time allowed to hear everyone.  BlockRICL was prepared for a large crowd though.  They advised their folks to arrive early, sign up to speak right away, and find a seat in the auditorium.  The ICC's sign-up table was manned by a couple of BlockRICL volunteers, who took their task seriously, and the line to sign up was soon out the doors and winding around the outside of the venue.  And many of Clean Line's coerced supporters had yet to arrive!

Gosh, that's just too bad, Clean Line.  Maybe you should have planned better.  Maybe you should have realized that citizens would come a long way to have their couple minutes before the judge.  Maybe you should have delivered your supporters to the venue earlier, even if they were way too important to have to cool their heels for a couple hours before the hearing.  But you didn't.  Instead, Clean Line decided to cheat and take advantage of the situation in order to cut down on the number of citizens who were allowed to speak, and increase the number of Clean Line coerced supporters who were allowed to speak.

Clean Line recruited the few supporters who had arrived early to get back in the sign up line in order to sign up speakers who had not yet arrived, but Clean Line expected to arrive later.  And the volunteers, who were being closely supervised by Clean Line employees lest they give some unfair advantage to project opponents, were overwhelmed.  It is unknown how many people were signed up early in the speaking order who actually were not present until much, much later.

Now consider that speakers had to stand in line for a long time to get to the sign up table.  When you're standing in a long line, you glance around, maybe chat a bit with your neighbors in line.  You'd recognize those folks later, right?  What were you thinking, Clean Line?  That nobody would notice or care that the names called didn't match the faces in line?  That people wouldn't take note of what their line neighbors were saying?

When the woman behind me in line was called and spoke early in the hearing, we thought perhaps the judge had mixed up the sign in sheet and was calling late arrivals before early arrivals.  All of a sudden, the order we'd observed in the sign up line was out of whack and we could no longer judge when it might be our turn.  It all became clear when the woman whose name was called after me, "Theresa Hoover," didn't come to the microphone when called.  Of course she didn't... because "Theresa Hoover" had already spoken early in the line up, and I guess then she had a different name... her real name.  Nancy Somebody, from a local economic development office.  Clean Line should have just let it go when "Theresa" was called and didn't respond.  Except they tried to insert one of their VIP speakers in her place, a male vice president of a wire company flown in from Atlanta for the event.  Why did Clean Line think this guy was so important he needed to line jump over all the citizens who had stood in line for a long time to get a place in the speaker line up?

That's rude.  And unfair.  And when the judge was alerted, he was having none of it.  Mr. VIP was instructed to wait to be called in the order in which he'd signed up.  And he had signed up when he arrived, he just wanted to line jump over all the peons and go earlier so he could scoot out of there and get on with his life.  He didn't want to sit in a crowded auditorium with the locals and wait his turn.  So, Clean Line provided him with an earlier spot in the sign up line that it had obtained through signing up people who weren't there and who did not plan to speak.  But poetic justice saved the day.  When Mr. VIP finally got his rightful turn at the microphone, the judge announced it was 10 p.m. and the hearing was over.  He never got his turn to speak at all.  Now maybe if Clean Line hadn't wasted valuable time trying to unsuccessfully jockey him into position earlier in the hearing, he may have had a couple minutes to speak there at the end.  I love poetic justice!

In the grand scheme of things, none of this really mattered.  The ICC held an additional public hearing because so many citizens who had traveled a great distance were not allowed to speak.  And at the next hearing, there was no sign up line, and there were plenty of seats.  All that wasted effort and attempts to cheat the system merely demonstrated the dishonesty of Clean Line.  If the opponents ever needed reason to suspect the motives of Clean Line, Theresagate served as a demonstrative reminder.

The utility has unfair advantage over citizens throughout the administrative hearing process.  It's bad enough that the utility tries to horn into the public hearing process, but apparently non-utilities like Clean Line also try to cheat and line jump.  And that didn't go unnoticed by the public, or even the hearing officer.  Yes, Clean Line demonstrated its true colors to everyone that it intended to win by unfair means.

Silly Clean Line, cheaters never win!
<![CDATA[Illinois Court Snatches Away Permit for Grain Belt Express]]>Thu, 15 Mar 2018 14:21:45 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/illinois-court-snatches-away-permit-for-grain-belt-expressIt's dead folks.  Dead, dead, deader than dead.

This isn't a "casting of doubt" or a "speed bump."  This is the end of Grain Belt Express.

On Tuesday, the 5th District Appellate Court of Illinois "reversed where the Commission lacked the authority to grant a nonpublic utility company a certificate of public convenience and necessity under the expedited review process set forth in the Illinois Public Utilities Act."

If that's not clear as a bell, there's also this:
The order of the Commission is hereby reversed and remanded where it granted a
nonpublic utility company the authority to construct and manage an electrical transmission line project under the Act's expedited review process without the requisite
finding that the applicant was a public utility.
That's right, Grain Belt Express no longer has a permit to construct in Illinois.  Grain Belt Express has no approvals in Illinois.  It's back to square one.

And appeals will be fruitless, because the court cited last year's opinion from the Illinois Supreme Court that determined the exact same thing.  Clean Line is not a public utility and therefore the Illinois Commerce Commission cannot grant it a certificate of public convenience and necessity.  Done deal.

Does Clean Line have legal options?  Sure.  But those options will be very, very expensive and very, very time consuming.  Only an idiot would commit to spending millions and trying to fight this battle for several more years, when its also engaged in a similar battle in Missouri.  At what point will Clean Line run out of money?  And will its investors give it more cash to waste pretending there's still a chance for these projects?  My opinion is no.  No, this is the last hurdle GBE just can't jump.

This turn of events is completely unsurprising.  I've been remarking for months that Illinois was about to snatch away GBE's permit.  There was absolutely no chance that the court would decide otherwise after the Illinois Supreme Court decision.  The die was cast.  It's another case of permit whack-a-mole.

So, what did the 5th District opinion say?
Pursuant to section 8-406.1, the section utilized by GBX in the instant case, "[a]
public utility may apply for a certificate of public convenience and necessity pursuant to
this Section for the construction of any new high voltage electric service line and related
facilities (Project)."

Section 3-105 of the Act defines a "public utility" as follows:
"[E]very corporation, company, limited liability company, association, joint stock company or association, firm, partnership or individual, their lessees, trustees, or receivers appointed by any court whatsoever that owns, controls, operates or manages, within this State, directly or indirectly, for public use, any plant,
equipment or property used or to be used for or in connection with, or owns or controls any franchise, license, permit or right to engage in ***

We note, however, that the definition of "public utility" was recently clarified by the Illinois Supreme Court in Illinois Landowners Alliance, NFP v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 2017 IL 121302. In Illinois Landowners Alliance, NFP, our supreme court determined that when the Commission grants a company a certificate of public convenience and necessity under section 8-406 of the Act, the "central question remains: Does it even qualify as a public utility under Illinois law so as to be eligible for such a certificate under section 8-406 of the Public Utilities Act?"

Our supreme court determined that Rock Island, a new entrant, was required to present ownership of utility infrastructure assets to qualify as a public utility, as defined in section 3-105, in order to obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity under section 8-406 of the Act. Id. ¶ 48. In order to qualify as a public utility, our supreme court concluded that "the company must also own, control, operate , or manage, within this State, directly or indirectly, a plant, equipment, or property used or to be used for or in connection with (or must own or control any franchise, license, permit, or right to engage in) the production, transmission, sale, etc. of one of the specified commodities or services." Id. ¶ 39. The supreme court noted that the statute is phrased in the present tense because it requires that a company must own, control, operate, or manage, within the state, a plant, equipment, property, franchise, etc. at the time it seeks certification by the Commission.

The supreme court reasoned that when the General Assembly repealed the prior language in section 3-105 of the Act, which defined a public utility as "every corporation *** that now or hereafter *** may own, control, operate or manage" specific plants, equipment, or property (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 1112/3, ¶ 10.3), it intended, as the court
must presume, to speak only to ownership in the present tense when it eliminated the words "that now or hereafter *** may." Id. ¶ 42. As a result, the court determined that courts must read the statute as "evincing an intention by the legislature to limit the definition of 'public utility' to situations where the subject entity meets the ownership test
at the present time."

Here, GBX similarly fails to establish that it was a public utility at the time it filed its application with the Commission. It is undisputed that GBX does not presently, or at
the time it filed its disputed application with the Commission, own, control, manage, or operate any plant, equipment, or property in Illinois used or to be used for or in connection with the production, transmission, sale, etc. of one of the specified commodities or services. Accordingly, GBX did not meet the definition of a "public utility" under section 3-105 of the Act at the time it filed its application with the

...we are not persuaded that the legislature intended for the expedited review process to be an available avenue for nonpublic utility entities. The Commission's conclusion that any nonpublic utility may apply to be a public utility under section 8-406.1 ignores the express language set out in section 8-406.1(a). Significantly, section 8-406.1 of the Act clearly and unambiguously reads that "[a] public utility may apply for a certificate of public convenience and necessity pursuant to this Section ***."  As such, our interpretation of section 8-406.1 requires that the applicant must meet the definition of a public utility. In order to obtain status as a public utility, the applicant must meet the ownership test at the time of application, the same prerequisite in section 8-406, and the Commission must make this finding before issuance of a certificate. Here, GBX holds an option to purchase property that would serve as the site to place equipment for the proposed project. "[H]aving an option to buy something is not the same as owning or even controlling it," and an option agreement "does not involve the transfer or [sic] property or an interest therein." Illinois Landowners Alliance, NFP
The court says that Section 8.406.1, the "expedited process" under which GBE applied for its permit is specifically reserved for existing public utilities.  GBE is not a public utility because it doesn't own or control any utility property in Illinois.  It uses the Supreme Court's opinion in Illinois Landowners (RICL decision) as the basis for its finding.  The only place for Clean Line to appeal this is at the Illinois Supreme Court.  That's a dead end.  The Supreme Court is unlikely to reconsider the same argument and come to a different conclusion.

But don't despair, Clean Line, there's still a "way forward" for GBE... you don't need a permit from Illinois to build your project at all!  The only thing is, without a permit and a public utility designation from the ICC, you won't have eminent domain authority.  I mean, you have always said you weren't seeking eminent domain for your projects, right, Clean Line?  Go ahead, try to obtain needed rights of way across Illinois without the coercion of eminent domain.  Landowners love you, right?  That's what the court has instructed you to do:
The supreme court noted, however, that the Act does not prohibit new entrants from commencing development as a purely private project before applying to become a public utility in Illinois:
"Once their projects are further underway and they have obtained the ownership, management, or control of utility-related property or equipment required to qualify as public utilities, they may then seek certification to operate as public utilities if they wish to conduct their business in a way that would make them subject to the Public Utilities Act's regulatory framework."

As a result, the Commission must find that an entity is a public utility at the time of application in order to utilize the expedited review process in section 8-406.1 of the Act.
Unable to meet the requisite ownership test, GBX is not a public utility under section 3-105 of the Act, but rather an entity with a purely private project that does not require the
Commission's authority to proceed.
The media says, "Clean Line officials couldn't be reached yesterday."

Maybe Michael Skelly simply couldn't reach the telephone?

<![CDATA[Top Ten Clean Line Mistakes - #8 Hypocrisy and Ego]]>Tue, 13 Mar 2018 13:25:50 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/top-ten-clean-line-mistakes-8-hypocrisy-and-egoThe party doesn't start without Michael Skelly Not in his own home, anyway.
On Tuesday evening, Skelly and his wife, Anne Whitlock, hosted an intimate bash for the Houston Parks Board inside their loftlike EaDo residence, Firehouse No. 2. The founder and president of Clean Line Energy Partners arrived fresh off a flight from Washington, D.C., making quite the midreception splash.

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Michael Skelly's wind energy party also doesn't start without thousands of landowners across the Midwest, and they haven't been impressed.  In fact, Michael Skelly's ego, false bravado, and ability to create personal puff pieces in the media are one of the root causes of Clean Line's failure.

Transmission opponents realize the transmission guys and gals they intersect with are just doing their jobs, for the most part, and their dislike is related to the lies these employees are paid to tell.  Maybe some of these transmission folks would be likeable in the real world, but we're unlikely to ever know them in that way... because their personal lives aren't splashed across major newspapers in an egotistical fashion.

And then there was Michael Skelly.

Michael Skelly happened to be in the right place at the right time when wind was a new thing.  He made a fortune flipping a small wind company to Goldman Sachs.  But was it so much his genius and business acumen that caused it, or was it serendipity?  There are plenty of businessmen who create a string of business successes through intelligence, strategy, and opportunity.  I think one of them has Michael Skelly on a leash right now.  But it appears that Skelly's success was a one-off that has been squandered in its aftermath by pure self indulgence and a gigantic ego.  I can't find anything else at which Skelly succeeded (because jungle trams in third world countries really don't impress me).

He ran for Congress... and lost.

Then he had an idea to start a transmission company that wanted to build more than 2,000 miles of new transmission across the Midwest.  That hasn't worked out so swell, either.

Landowners threatened with eminent domain to make way for Skelly's projects have been treated to a string of revolting newspaper articles about Skelly's charmed life in Houston, all while he was intent on systematically destroying their own simple way of life, and their farm businesses.  Ya know, there is internet service in Mayberry now, and "a bunch of farmers" know how to use it.

First there was the big to do about Michael Skelly selling his rich man's home in one of Houston's best neighborhoods (on Robin Hood Street no less, the irony of that was not lost on anyone, because farmers also read the classics) and buying a run down firehouse in a not so nice neighborhood.  Opponents had a bit of fun taking a virtual look at Skelly's Robin Hood home, complete with zebra pelt on the floor of the study and a farmhouse sink (lifted from a real farmhouse to imitate trendy shabby chic fakery in a home that's only claim to "farm" is most likely in the pantry on a bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish?).  Thanks for that.  It helped the landowners see how the other half lived... if that's what you want to call occupying that movie set dwelling.  So, here's this guy who lives in a fancy house in the city who wants hardworking regular folks to sacrifice their business, their finances, their sense of place, to make way for a transmission line that won't benefit them in the least.  And he lives like a king.  No transmission line in Michael Skelly's backyard.  Not In Michael's Back Yard.

So then this guy pretends he's slumming at a dilapidated fire house.  Except that remodel is probably really, really expensive, and then he buys up other dilapidated homes in the area and has them moved to his "compound."  A compound?  This guy has created his own little fiefdom with a "compound?"  Yeah, lifestyles of the rich and famous.  And then he hosts a bunch of snob parties at his firehouse that are reported in the city paper.  When there's a party down on the farm, nobody thinks to invite the media.  Probably because no one wants to pose for glittering glamour shots, cocktail in hand.  "Look at me, world, I'm so important!  Even the cocktails I drink are worthy of being news!" 

And Michael Skelly is quite intent on remaking Houston into the town of his dreams.

Walkability.  Do you know how far a farmer walks each day to produce the food you serve at your glittering parties?  The safari costume was a nice touch, Michael Skelly. 

Bike trailsBike repair stations.  Because when you don't have any wide open spaces to recreate on your mechanical devices, things get a little cramped, right?



City growthUrban development.  Is this about not having enough parking again?

Hurricane heroics.  This was probably the pinnacle, the straw that broke the camel's back, for many landowners struggling against nature and recovering, year after year.  And their did it on the land, with blood, sweat and tears, not with their feet up on a table.

And the vanity pieces on energy.  Where Michael Skelly tells reporters that he builds transmission lines.  And gives them tours of his deserted office.

This is what the landowners Michael Skelly wanted to "partner" with to host his transmission lines saw.  Day after day.  Year after year.  While Skelly performed his heroics for the press, the landowners lived under a threatening cloud that Clean Line would condemn their modest homes, their parks, their community development, their history, their genuine farmhouse sinks, their trees, their livelihood, their way of life, to make way for a transmission line that would only make Michael Skelly richer and feed his insatiable ego.

It wasn't a good plan.  Someone attempting what Michael Skelly was attempting should have lived his rich man's life a little quieter.  It's impossible to like the public persona Michael Skelly has created.  It's impossible for regular, hard-working folks to develop any rapport with someone whose glittering lifestyle is so alien from their own, especially when it's constantly thrown in their face -- Michael Skelly matters, and you do not.  No matter what this guy was trying to sell to Mayberry, he was destined to failure.

Perhaps he should try again for a career in politics... in Houston, where the poor and downtrodden are suitably impressed with his philanthropy and ego.  Mayberry was not.
<![CDATA[Top Ten Clean Line Mistakes - #9 Buying Influence]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 18:51:48 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/top-ten-clean-line-mistakes-9-buying-influenceUtility "playbooks" call for buying influence and controlling public opinion about a transmission proposal.  They do this through lobbying and front groups to create an appearance of public support for their proposal.

And then there was Clean Line.  No matter how much money they threw at this problem, it continued to grow out of their control.

Did Clean Line not buy the right people?  Or was their buying just directed at the wrong people?  When a real utility does it, they're playing on established relationships and an intimate knowledge of the movers and shakers in the regulatory world.  As a new entrant into the utility business, Clean Line had no idea what it was doing and it had no relationships with state leadership.  It simply found the most obvious and eager people and opened the money faucets, hoping the money by itself would cure all ills.  Not by a long shot.

The most successful Clean Line ever was with the schmoozing was at the U.S. Department of Energy, who agreed to "participate" in its Plains & Eastern Clean Line project after many years and many millions of dollars invested.  That Clean Line had to buy that agreement by offering 2% of its quarterly profits to the U.S. government speaks volumes.  And still, participation by the DOE got them nowhere.  The Plains & Eastern Clean Line still failed.

In the states, Clean Line spent its money on fast talking political operatives who couldn't quite get the job done.  The few permits Clean Line was able to schmooze were subsequently ripped away by the judicial system, where Clean Line's claws couldn't quite reach.

You know what the problem is with fast talking political operatives?  You can't trust them.  They're so busy pumping out the manure you never can be too sure if they're telling the truth, or some other version of the truth that will keep the money flowing.  Some of the people Clean Line bought to schmooze it up with states and local communities were the wrong people.  They didn't have the right connections, and more importantly they didn't have the respect of the people they were trying to schmooze.  The guys who are for sale to out-of-state companies, who will gladly throw their community under the bus for a few bucks, aren't very effective.  Do you think the community doesn't know this guy is for sale to the highest bidder?  Of course they do!  They know what goes on in their own community, and guys who are always trying to enrich themselves by selling out their community are not respected or listened to.  You know who is respected and listened to?  Members of the community.  The ones who have done good things for their community over the years without looking for some sort of reward.

Mayberry had this over Clean Line throughout the process.  The minute landowners and community leaders found out about the Clean Line projects, any favorable opinion gained early on was flipped.  And ultimately, it was forthright and determined opposition that killed the Clean Line projects.

Clean Line's few pathetic attempts at front groups provided only comic relief.

Remember Windward Iowa?  That was entertaining for a few days.  I wonder how much that flop cost?

And then there was the Consumer Energy Alliance's EDJ initiative in Arkansas.  That didn't last very long either.

Every time Clean Line tried to start a front group supporting one of its projects, the opposition quickly outed it for what it was.  You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool a farmer!

To add emphasis to the point that these groups were fronts, the groups have completely disappeared.  Once they were outed, the money stopped flowing and the "passion" for the cause evaporated as quickly as it started.  Boom!  Now you see it, now you don't.

But, but, but, Clean Line followed the utility "playbook" and bought local influence.  Why didn't it work? 

Because Clean Line is not a utility.  Simply pretending wasn't enough.
<![CDATA[NJ Judge Denies FirstEnergy Transmission Plan]]>Fri, 09 Mar 2018 13:54:52 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/nj-judge-denies-firstenergy-transmission-planCongratulations, RAGE!  You did it!

Residents Against Giant Electric (RAGE) formed several years ago to fight FirstEnergy affiliate Jersey Central Power & Light's insane plan to construct a 10-mile, 230kV transmission line in a narrow commuter railroad right of way abutting dense residential development in Monmouth County.  As the judge recognized in her decision handed down yesterday, "RAGE took up the predominant oar in mounting the opposition to the MCRP, understandably, in light of the fact that the Project is in the back yards of its members."  This victory is yours, RAGErs!  The citizens group was incredibly well-organized and managed and its members worked incredibly hard toward denial.  The effort put forth was nothing less than stellar, but effort alone cannot always guarantee victory.  RAGE also worked an incredible strategic game and left no stone unturned, no task undone, and no decision left to chance.  They worked this case in an aggressive, take no prisoners fashion.  They assured their own victory.  Bravo, RAGE, well done!

JCP&L's response to having their ass handed to them whined:
"We strongly disagree that JCP&L failed to prove the need for the Monmouth County Reliability Project," the utility said. "The initial decision contradicts the findings made by the regional grid operator and industry experts."
Clearly, the judge did not feel that the regional grid operator and "industry experts" were credible.  Is that going to be JCP&L's thing on exceptions to the BPU?  That the judge who spent hours and hours evaluating testimony and exhibits failed to recognize the superiority of utility arguments?  That the BPU should disregard her "in the trenches" view of the case and substitute their own judgment of whether or not JCP&L met their burden?  That is truly unlikely.  Judge Cookson was very thorough, carefully evaluated the evidence, and made a reasoned decision.  JCP&L couldn't even point to an error she made, it simply whined that it didn't win.

PJM was not credible.  RAGE presented evidence that JCP&L had begun working on this project, and its preferred route, months before PJM even found a "problem" for it to fix.
I FIND that the preponderance of credible evidence proves that JCP&L commenced studies to justify the MCRP as its preferred route months before any “problem” was even identified as needing a solution.
PJM and its utility members suffer from a serious case of chicken/egg.  This isn't the first time a utility came up with a solution for a problem that PJM had not identified and then used PJM's planning process as a "vehicle" to advance a utility plan by finding a "problem" for it to fix.

Judge Cookson also recognized that failure to kowtow to PJM as an omnipotent grid planning oracle who must be obeyed isn't really a big deal at all.
During the hearings, PJM concurred that JCP&L will not suffer any financial penalties if the Board rejects the MCRP. Both PJM and JCP&L agree that if the MCRP is not approved, they will return to the planning stage and find another way to solve the P7 contingency.
Bravo!  This is the first time a state has recognized that denial of a PJM transmission proposal won't make the lights go out.  Such a simple thing, buried under mounds of rhetoric and projections of doom and gloom.
New Jersey can be a shining example in recognizing that states have the ultimate say in whether or not a RTO planned transmission project is constructed.  Instead of cowering and simply accepting regional grid plans as beyond question, states can say "no."  A regional grid authority was never intended to be the final arbiter of transmission plans.  If it were, there would be no purpose to state transmission permitting authority.  States need to stop acting like a rubber stamp and assert their authority under the law.

The judge also questioned the veracity of every RTO and utility's favorite word, "robust."  Personally, I hate that word.  It means nothing.
There were four alternative 230 kV lines into Red Bank on the narrowed list but apparently no technical studies were undertaken of them because they were considered by JCP&L to lack the appropriate level of “robustness.” Palermo could not find any definition for that term and was unfamiliar with its use generally in the transmission industry.
Let that term go back to the world of salad dressings.
Now let's talk about those "industry experts" JCP&L wants us to believe.  Because I knew the outcome of this Order before I read it, I didn't have to skip to the ordering paragraphs first.  I was able to start at the beginning and read through the synopsis of the evidence before getting to the judge's conclusions.  There was some pretty ominous foreshadowing in the way the judge presented her statement of the evidence.  And once I got to the findings, there were no surprises.  As far as JCP&L's "expert," who found no effect on property values, the judge opined:
Applying these standards, I FIND that Dr. Moliver’s expert opinion is entitled to greater weight than that of McHale. I FIND that McHale’s credibility was undermined by his careless quotation of synopses of studies he never read. He utilized a general search engine that returned results for terms “effect of HVTL at 15 ft” and followed a link to a New Hampshire Siting Commission webpage, copied the summaries, and deleted the attribution footer from his reprint. As reluctant as I am to express this, in my opinion, such “scholarship” by a student would produce an “F” and subject one to claims of plagiarism. It is certainly not the work product of a professional entitled to much weight to count the number of supportive studies versus the number of unsupportive studies without regard for the study criteria and quality. The merits, depths, sampling size, and commonality must be taken into account before a study can be cited as persuasive to a novel setting. I also FIND that his opinion as an expert witness was blended with several lay perceptions that fell outside the scope of his presentation for the Company and were unverified.
The utilities need to quit using this guy.  It sure appears that he put little effort into his testimony, but yet he most likely billed the utility thousands for his "work."  Because utilities believe their expert's opinions are beyond question, apparently some of the "experts" believe likewise.  JCP&L should ask for its money back.  Of course, it's not really JCP&L's money... they paid this guy with funds they will recover from ratepayers.

While the judge did not make a finding on the EMF issue, I got the distinct impression that maybe she believed that the industry has influenced science and that "experts" like Dr. Bailey make a tidy living being utility "experts" and making the same denials over and over.  Perhaps Bailey made a grave error by trying to make the opponent's witness look like a quack.  The judge mentioned that she didn't find him "eccentric" at all.  All those delicious ad hominem utility arguments tossed out to avoid any real debate of the EMF issue... wasted!

The best expert witness overall was clearly RAGE electrical engineer Jeffrey Palermo.  It's obvious that he developed an early rapport with the judge that the other engineering witnesses just couldn't touch.  The technical aspects of electric transmission are extremely difficult for laypeople.  Utility witnesses are usually more about complicating things with unfamiliar words and technical terms in an effort to make the judge give up and simply just trust his opinion because they can't put everything together to devise their own.  From reading this decision, I surmise that Palermo approached it differently and was able to explain the technicalities in a way the judge could understand and equip her to make an informed decision on the technical merits of "need."  He also presented a workable alternative that could be much cheaper and less invasive to the community.  And he clearly explained this alternative to the judge, who adopted it as a possible future solution.  Well done!

JCP&L needs to take a look at its own failed regulatory strategy at this point.  It didn't work on this judge.  She saw right through it all.
The evaluation directed by JCP&L was both pre-emptive in the timeline of the “need” for the Project and created an unlevel playing field tipped in its obvious favor. This is not a close case of general public interest versus parochial interest, with a tie going to the public utility company. I CONCLUDE that JCP&L’s application for municipal waivers pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-19 must be denied because the Company has not supported its application by the preponderance of the relevant and admissible evidence. The MCRP is not a safe or reasonable response to the potential P7 violation.
Any transmission opposition group that seeks to have a transmission regulatory application denied has to show up and play ball.  RAGE played hard, but more importantly it played smart.  It gave the judge the tools to deny this application.

But the regulatory process isn't the only game transmission opponents need to play.  Public opinion and politics also play a huge role in driving a denial.  RAGE rocked this game as well.  In her summary of the public hearings, the judge remarked:
The prepared summary of written statements indicates that eighty-three (83%) percent were opposed to the MCRP; and, seventeen (17%) percent in favor. Approximately twenty-five (25%) percent of the statements opposing the Project were form letters; and ninety-two (92%) percent of the statements in favor of the Project were form letters, of which eighty-eight (88%) percent were not from the impacted area.
And where did those 92% favorable form letters come from?  The judge elaborated:  "Those backing the MCRP primarily based that support on reliability and economic concerns, and were primarily from businesses not in the five impacted municipalities on a form letter prepared by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce for its members."
The utility popularity contest was a flop in this instance.  Regulatory public comment hearings are intended to give voice to the community.  The utility's opportunity to make its opinions known comes during the hearing process.  But yet utilities consistently attempt to intrude in the public's opportunity by coercing supportive statements from entities who care little about the project.  It's strictly a numbers game to the utility -- how  many supportive comments can they coerce, and how "important" are the supporters?  RAGE completely drowned these shills out by showing up in record numbers and making honest, heartfelt, personal testimony opposing the project.  Perhaps JCP&L had a hand in its own defeat here by enraging the community to counteract JCP&L's underhanded efforts to set up its numbers game.  Utility efforts to coerce supportive comments from the community is a tactic that has backfired on more than one occasion and it needs to be jettisoned from the utility bag of tricks.

RAGE's victory should be celebrated and admired.  They not only accomplished their goal, but they provided an example that will be studied over and over by transmission opponents on other projects (and dare I say utilities, if they ever pull their heads out of their own behinds long enough to recognize they have a serious problem with opposition groups).
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.  --  Margaret Mead
Well done, RAGE!  You changed the world!
<![CDATA[Top Ten Clean Line Mistakes:  #10 - Greenwashing]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 16:18:49 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/top-ten-clean-line-mistakes-10-greenwashingThere was a top secret Mayberry meeting over the weekend!  Well, maybe it wasn't so top secret, but Clean Line wasn't invited.  We had a great time re-hashing all the ways in which Clean Line screwed up and made us laugh over the years.  And now that Clean Line is nothing but a "would have" and no longer a "will," an idea was born to create a Top Ten Clean Line Mistakes blog series.

From the first time I read about Clean Line, it has always struck me as a bunch of clueless knuckleheads pretending to be a transmission utility company.  It's not like anyone at Clean Line had any experience whatsoever building regional or national transmission lines.  The most the staff could claim is that they used to work for a wind company that built some generation tie lines that relied on voluntary landowner easements.  That's a whole entirely different animal.

I'm not sure they actually fooled anyone with their "monkey see, monkey do" imitation of real utilities.  But what ensued was a hugely expensive comedy of errors that has ended in failure.

Mistake #10:  Greenwashing

Green is good.  Green is beyond question.  Everyone loves green!  If we just tell everyone our transmission line is for "clean" energy, everyone will support it!


Transmission lines are open access.  There is no such thing as a "clean" line.  Once a transmission line is built, any customers can use it.  In Clean Line's case, it needed to find customers to use its line before it could be built.  Clean Line tried for years to find customers for its transmission capacity, first proposing that its customers could be wind generators, or utilities who wanted to connect with wind generators.  When that didn't work, Clean Line started trying to sell its service as an "arbitrage opportunity" to move fossil fuel power between electric regions.

"Clean" Line?  What is that?  All the "clean" seemed to wash off the line when push came to shove.

And where did it get them?  Nowhere.  Clean Line wasn't useful as an "arbitrage opportunity" either.  There simply weren't any customers.
The only ones fooled by Clean Line's greenwashing were gullible environmental groups.  And they simply didn't matter.  It's all fine and good to say that there's a "demand" for clean energy, but when you can't produce any actual customers, the project fails.

So, attempts at greenwashing the transmission proposals were a mistake.  Greenwashing only succeeds in selling cleaning products, not transmission lines.  When the targets of the greenwashing are knowledgeable, greenwashing fails.  While Clean Line sold its product to clueless environmentalists in cities far, far away from its proposed transmission lines as "clean" and "green," ultimately those who fell for Clean Line's greenwashing didn't matter.  The only ones who mattered were the utilities to whom Clean Line attempted to sell its transmission capacity.  Greenwashing didn't work on them because they knew the truth about transmission and Clean Line didn't provide any benefit for them.  Likewise the landowners in the local communities.  Clean Line destroying their properties in order to provide greenwashed transmission capacity to utilities hundreds of miles away didn't work either.  Landowners spoke their opposition loud and clear and fought Clean Line every step of the way.

Greenwashing proved to be a poor substitute for proposing a transmission need to regional grid planners and getting them to agree and add it to their plan.  It turns out there really wasn't any need for a "clean" line and being "green" really didn't work to convince any customers to buy capacity.

Tune in as we count 'em down over the next ten days, folks!  And don't be shy about sharing your own personal Clean Line mistakes in the comments.  It's our own little virtual Block party!
<![CDATA[Federal Transmission Permitting Is a Bad Idea]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 15:22:41 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/federal-transmission-permitting-is-a-bad-ideaThis guy.  Ugh.
The Republican Party’s current infrastructure spending bill is missing one item: a provision establishing federal siting authority for electric transmission lines. Oddly, this idea has few champions in Congress and only tepid support from environmental groups.
That's because its an awful idea that nobody supports.  Congress doesn't support it.  And do you know why that is?  Because states and citizens oppose it.

While natural gas is limited by its geographic sourcing, electricity generation can take place anywhere.  The days of coal mine mouth electric generation plants and long distance transmission lines are over.  It's much more efficient to move fuel to generation plants located closer to load.  And it's much easier to move fuel than it is to build electric transmission lines.

We don't need federal authority for transmission lines.
Problematically, the best locations for wind and solar power plants are far from population centers—in the windy central plains or the sunny southwestern deserts.
That's absolutely not true.  The "best locations" for wind plants are offshore, conveniently located within just a few miles of the largest population centers.  The "best locations" for solar are right on your own roof, where source and sink align to create the most reliable system.
More than ever, consumers want green power.
Also not true.  When consumers were given an opportunity to purchase renewable energy transmission capacity from the Midwest, there were no takers.  Whether it was a matter of price (new transmission will produce a cost to consumers in the billions of dollars), or a matter of favoring local resources, or both, consumers rejected Clean Line Energy Partner's plans for new transmission.  Consumers who say they want "clean" energy in a random survey are never given complete information about how much this "clean" energy is going to cost, and when the rubber hits the road, consumers vote with their wallets.  Any consumer truly dedicated to a "need" for clean power can make it happen at home.  We don't need big utilities and expensive new infrastructure to make it happen.
Conservatives claim that federal transmission siting authority would threaten state sovereignty or landowner property rights, but those claims ring hollow. Why are those values worth protecting against transmission lines but not against natural gas pipelines?
Those claims don't ring hollow to the affected landowners, and those are the only parties who matter in this instance.  Landowners, frankly, don't give a shit if some policy wonk in the big city thinks their legislators' protection of private property rights sounds hypocritical.  Those policy wonks won't be voting in the next local election, but the landowners will.

Why is it that these liberal wind bags demand that you abandon your own beliefs if you don't support theirs?  "Okay, so you're against transmission lines, therefore you must also be concerned about my issue."  No, we're not.  Attempts to reframe the argument to paint opposition as hypocritical serve no one and are just a waste of time.  But while we're on the subject of hypocritical arguments, that's where your environmental groups come in.  They attempt to use landowners to serve their environmental goals by latching onto non-environmental arguments, such as eminent domain.  And then they get caught supporting eminent domain for electric transmission lines, but not for gas lines.  And then the people start to feel used.

Dude, your argument is crap.  Federal permitting and siting for electric transmission has been attempted many times over the years and it has consistently failed.  Elected officials know it can't happen.  That's why they don't support it.


Never going to happen.
<![CDATA[Pulling Back the Curtain on Protect Our Pocketbooks]]>Wed, 07 Mar 2018 13:50:18 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/pulling-back-the-curtain-on-protect-our-pocketbooksWell it's about time you started fighting back, AEP.  Mysterious Wind Catcher hate group Protect our Pocketbooks thinks it can continue to blow smoke up everyone's rear end without revealing its financiers.  Ya know what?  That can't happen.  The credibility of a group spending buckets of dark money in an attempt to derail an energy proposal just can't pass the sniff test.  At some point, the ones responsible for Protect our Pocketbooks are going to be outed.  And how embarrassing is that going to be?

Reporters in Arkansas seem pretty curious about who's funding Protect our Pocketbooks, and a curious reporter is like a dog with a bone.  They don't stop until they find the answer.

Give a listen to this report by NPR's Jacqueline Froelich.  Froelich gets the lobbyist/attorney who incorporated the mysterious group on the air, and he sounds rather peeved when asked who is funding his group.  Justin Allen says, "As a 501(c)4, as it's right to do under state & federal law, supporters and contributors are anonymous and choose to remain that way."

Well, for now.  At some point, Protect our Pocketbooks is going to have to file an IRS-990 (if it really is registered with the IRS like it claims*) and then all bets are off.  What kind of information is revealed in an IRS-990?  Total receipts.  Total expenditures (including who they paid and what for).  Total end of year assets.  Compensation paid to employees.  Names of its Board of Directors or Board of Trustees members, and any compensation received by these parties.  An IRS-990 must be made public.  You can only hide so long, Protect our Pocketbooks.

Now wouldn't it be better to just slink away and hope nobody follows up after you file your taxes?

You know what happens when a person tells a lie?  They have to tell supporting lies, and then lies to support their supporting lies.  Lies upon lies upon lies until even they can't keep their own lies straight.  I love when that happens!

And its not just NPR.  Arkansas Times also wants to know who is funding Protect our Pocketbooks.  Except the author makes some wrong conclusions about whether the organization is "political."
Little is known about the opponents. A  consultant for Renewable Arkansas, a nonprofit offshoot of a group called  Americans for Affordable Energy, has placed an op-ed article recently opposing the SWEPCO project. The author, Grant Tennille, former director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, questioned the reliability of the savings estimate and also said it would provide an advantage to SWEPCO in continuing to sell excess electricity from existing coal-fired plants in Arkansas into the open market. Bringing in wind lowers the company's overall cost of power and makes the sales more profitable, he wrote. He has not responded to my email asking about his employer on the issue. He suggests, by the way, that SWEPCO should invest in solar power in Arkansas.
And then the peanut gallery accuses "fossil fuel interests" ... "like the Koch Brothers" of funding Protect our Pocketbooks.

But Justin Allen told Froelich that there's no association between the Windfall Coalition and Protect our Pocketbooks.  Protect our Pocketbooks claims to be for renewable energy and distributed generation.  Distributed generation is roughly defined as many small, local generators located close to electrical load.  Where are a bunch of small, local, renewable generators going to get the kinds of money being spent by Protect our Pocketbooks?  There's a huge amount of money in play here, which means there's a huge amount of money to be made by someone if Wind Catcher fails.  Protect our Pocketbooks own spokesman claims that SWEPCO will continue to generate and sell power from its existing coal-fired power plants.  Sounds like Wind Catcher isn't going to hurt fossil fuel interests, so why would they spend buckets of money on biased TV commercials?  Think about it.

The answer is pretty simple.  I've got a pretty good idea where the money is coming from, but just like Protect our Pocketbooks, I don't have to reveal any information I don't want to.  The only problem with a failure to reveal information is that you may lose the public's trust.  Lose the public's trust and your entire effort to manipulate public opinion falls flat.  Not so much a problem for me, since I don't have a dog in the Wind Catcher fight, but it becomes a huge problem for Protect our Pocketbooks.  Without a gullible public who takes their ads at face value and acts without thinking, Protect our Pocketbooks is a gigantic waste of money.

Which brings us to... AEP, finally attempting to fight back with a news release directed towards the veracity of Protect our Pocketbook's claims and its source of funding.
“A group known only as Protect Our Pocketbooks – which does not reveal the names of its backers or the sources of its substantial funding – is presenting misleading information to the public, including manipulation of statements by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson,” said Brian Bond, SWEPCO Vice President of External Affairs.

Gov. Hutchinson wrote to the Arkansas Public Service Commission on Jan. 11 asking that the benefits of federal corporate tax cuts be passed on by utilities to Arkansas families and businesses. “In its latest television ad, Protect Our Pocketbooks misleadingly associates the governor’s comments about corporate federal tax cuts with the group’s campaign against Wind Catcher,” Bond said.

“The anonymous, tax-exempt opposition group claims that Arkansas gets none of the benefits of the project, which is incorrect and misleading. Arkansas will receive the benefits of generation with no fuel costs, cost savings immediately and over the life of the project, the full value of the federal Production Tax Credits available to the project, and the economic development benefits of wind turbine components being manufactured in Arkansas,” Bond said.
I was really hoping for the entertainment of a competing front group funded by AEP, but they chose to take the high road this time.  And you can take it from the horse's mouth, AEP knows a fake grassroots support group when it sees one.  It's been responsible for enough of its own over the years.

But at least, for now, they're slapping back, and a huge, public bitch-slapping contest can still be fun for everyone!

And, remember, I'm worse than a reporter.  I never forget.  I'm sort of patient that way.

Carry on!
<![CDATA[Transource "Respects" Landowners by Filing for Court Order to Trespass and Damage Property]]>Thu, 01 Mar 2018 16:33:24 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/transource-respects-landowners-by-filing-for-court-order-to-trespass-and-damage-propertyTransource Urges Court to Deny Due Process for Landowners
Transource has sunk to new lows this week.  Hard to believe they could go any lower, right?

Transource filed petitions in Pennsylvania and Maryland courts asking the court to order landowners along its proposed route to permit entry for "surveying," including "geotechnical surveys (including soundings and drillings for testing soil and bedrock)," and "civil surveys (including trimming or cutting vegetation necessary for survey purposes)."  That's right, in addition to all the other things it wants to do to private property, Transource wants to clear cut your trees and bring large equipment across your place so that it may drill into your bedrock.  And guess what you're going to get for this intrusion?  A promise that Transource will give you money to repair the damage they do.  You believe them, don't you?

I couldn't think of a more certain way to demonstrate to landowners how little they matter and how much this company disrespects them than this statement in a court filing:
Defendants will suffer no damage as a consequence of granting immediate possession, because any damage to the land will be remedied by the payment of money, per the statute.
Money can't put 100 year old trees back where Grandpa planted them.  And it probably can't fix compacted and mixed soil, not really.  And if your horse steps into a random drill hole and breaks a leg, maybe you can buy a new one with your free Transource horse voucher.  It's just a possession, right?  It's almost as useful as getting a free $10 meal voucher for having to spend 11 hours at an airport waiting for a cancelled flight to be rescheduled.
So what's the problem here?  The problem is that Transource has no legal authority to enter private property to "survey," and landowners have refused to voluntarily give permission to enter.  Transource is in a big, giant hurry to get its project built.  In fact, they're in such a hurry that they can't seem to wait for the state public utility commissions to find their project necessary and they want to pretty much "move forward" on building their project ahead of state approval.

​Transource spokespuppet Abby Foster tried to pretend it's just a few landowners holding up progress:
Transource appreciates that many landowners have granted them access to conduct surveys, Foster said. 

"Transource and its representatives are committed to treating landowners and their properties with respect," Foster said. "While reaching a voluntary agreement with property owners is a high priority, it is imperative for Transource to continue through the phases of the project as the company seeks regulatory approvals. The approval of this filing will allow Transource to proceed with field work for those landowners who have not yet granted the company access.”
How many landowners have granted them access on the proposed Eastern right of way?  Well, Transource's application says there are 38 owners in York County.  The media says filings were made against 36 landowners.  Two out of 38 is "many?"  No, it's not.  If it was only a few landowners, Transource could go around them and wouldn't need to file these desperate, reaching petitions.

It is not "imperative" for Transource to continue through the phases of its project before it has been determined needed by the state utility commissions.  Just because Transource and PJM signed an agreement setting pretty impossible deadlines is not reason enough to trespass upon private property, damage it, and then take away any due process for landowners to object.

​Transource says:
Transource PA will not be able to begin construction in time to allow the Project to be completed to meet the in-service date set by PJM.  If Transource PA misses the PJM-mandated in-service date, the public will suffer irreparable harm in the form of continued electric gridlock, and delay or ultimate failure  of the project.  Furthermore, Transource P A will suffer irreparable harm as Transource Energy has invested considerable time and money in attempting to obtain access rights to the route.

In fact, Transource PA has invested more than $6.0 million to date in siting, design and engineering. The foregoing harms would also result if Transource PA's access is obstructed by Landowners, or other unauthorized and untrained third parties who are present on the Property in the vicinity of the work corridor at the invitation of Landowners
Suffer?  The public will suffer?  How about those landowners whose property you've commandeered?  I mean, it sure sounds like you want to take over the place and make sure no "untrained parties" are allowed to use their properties while you are surveying.  Hey, guess what?  I read Transource's attachment on how to survey for bog turtles.  Complete instructions included.  Maybe landowners can do their own surveys?  Seems simple enough.  Either you see one or you don't.  And, by the way, can you define "electric gridlock" and list the actual harms that will be experienced by the public because of it?  You make it sound like people are going to drop dead if you're not allowed to trespass on private property.

And as far as your whining about how much money you've "invested?"  You act like this is your own money, Transource, and if you don't complete the project you'll lose your "investment."  That's absolutely not true!  Transource is guaranteed to recover its prudent "investment" in the project, plus 10.4% interest, even if the project is cancelled.  If the project is delayed and/or cancelled, Transource won't be harmed at all.  Transource will be made whole (plus 10.4% for its trouble) by electric ratepayers across the PJM region.  No harm to Transource.

But you know what's most galling of all?  Transource's attempt to prevent due process for affected landowners in Maryland.
Accordingly, this Court may issue an Order, granting this petition and authorizing Transource MD to enter onto the Subject Property to conduct surveys, and obtain information in connection with the acquisition and project, without the need for a hearing prior to the issuance of the Order.
Not only is Transource's legal pondering in its petitions unsound, but they want a judge to wave his magic wand and grant them the right to trespass without the landowner being able to question the company's facts and legal conclusions.  Only a lawyer who knows his work is shockingly wrong would insist that no other parties be allowed to participate and expose him for the corporate shyster that he is.

This just can't happen.

This is a train wreck waiting to happen.  You can't bully your way onto private property with the intention of destroying it just because you *want* to build something on it, maybe, later on, if you get actual permission.  Seems to me that cutting vegetation and drilling ARE construction.  Construction without a permit.

Tick tock, Transource!
<![CDATA[United Airlines Is Ridiculous]]>Thu, 01 Mar 2018 16:28:48 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/united-airlines-is-ridiculousIf you need to get somewhere, don't fly United.

When your early morning flight is delayed until evening.

Maintenance issue my ass.

How much fun is it to spend an entire day at the airport?

And where should I spend my oh so generous $10.00 meal voucher?

Why isn't there free beer?

Screw you, United Airlines.