<![CDATA[ StopPATH WV - StopPATH WV Blog]]>Tue, 16 Jan 2018 11:37:15 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Shame On You, Transource!]]>Sat, 13 Jan 2018 13:06:37 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/shame-on-you-transourceTransource is a new joint venture of utility giant American Electric Power and Great Plains Energy.  So far, it seems that Transource's Independence Energy Connection is being managed by AEP employees.  AEP has more than 100 years of experience building utility infrastructure and interacting with consumers.  So how did they screw this up so badly?  Why has an elected representative demanded that Transource cease and desist aggressive and illegal land acquisition practices and issue an apology to all the landowners it threatened?

You've gone too far, Transource.  Shame on you!

Transource thinks that perhaps they're dealing with a bunch of rubes who are easily threatened into submission.  After all, the eastern portion of the project is only 10 miles of line in a rural community bisected by a state border... but it's a sophisticated and well connected community.  Transource, your strong arm tactics and lies don't work here!

During the past week, Transource poured the gas on their fruitless efforts to get landowners to sign legal documents giving the company permission to "survey."  Landowners are never required to sign survey permission forms.  While Pennsylvania law allows a public utility to access private property, there's a lot more to it that Transource presumes landowners don't know.
Furthermore, the Transource letter sent to landowners  dated January 5, 2018 is inaccurate  and misrepresentative of the proper procedures set in place  under the Eminent  Domain  Code and public  codes of the Commonwealth. In  the letter, your company  stated it  has obtained utility status by Pennsylvania. While the Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved Transource's application for utility  status on December 21, 2017, your company  has yet to obtain  the appropriate certificate  and orders from  the PUC to  operate as a public utility  and conduct land surveys/assessments. Moreover,  even after obtaining the appropriate approvals,  Transource must follow the Eminent Domain Code  and issue 10-day notice to all landowners before  accessing private property. As of today, Transource cannot  send such a notice until the proper certificate and approvals from the PUC.
And Transource is going to pretend, with all its lawyers and legal support staff, that it didn't know these things?  I don't believe you!  And even if Transource was completely unaware of Pennsylvania law, there's absolutely no excuse for threatening to have landowners arrested on their own property.  You went too far, Transource.

Even if Transource has the legal right to enter onto property, a landowner never has to sign a permission form.  If the company exercises its right to access property without the owner's permission it cannot expect that the landowner would release the company from liability for its use of the property.  You need never sign a permission to access form.

Numerous landowners on the eastern portion of the project reported a rash of strong arm tactics by Transource land agent Western Land Services last week.  Landowners received threatening phone calls demanding that they sign the survey permission form or the sheriff would come and arrest them.
I have received numerous complaints from constituents in my legislative district who experienced threatening behavior from your contracted land  services agent, Western Land Services. In communication with landowners,  agents from Westem Land  Services threatened to call the sheriff's office  and arrest residents who did not  sign letters granting access to their properties. This type of coercive behavior and  harassment by your contracted  agent is unacceptable  and illegal  at best. am requesting punitive actions be  taken to  ensure this type of disrespectful behavior  does not  happen again during  the remainder of  the project.
The sheriff isn't going to arrest these landowners for failing to sign a permission form.  At best, if Transource receives all its permits from the PUC the most it can do is issue a notification that it will be access the property in 10 days.  Such notice would need proof of delivery.  Only if Transource had accomplished all the necessary legal steps and had some sort of legal order to present to the sheriff, and the landowner physically threatened or interfered with property access, would the sheriff even be interested in wasting his time on this issue.  Your sheriff works for you, not some company in Columbus, Ohio.

Whose idea was this, and why did they think it would work to intimidate this community?  That person needs to be fired, first for breaking the law, second for having no morals, and third for being stupid, I mean just a complete idiot.

It really wasn't that long ago that another company got in big, big trouble in the Pennsylvania court and regulatory system by deploying threatening and coercive land acquisition tactics just like these.  And TrAILCo's application to build transmission in Pennsylvania was denied by the administrative law judge who heard he case.  Did TrAILCo's abysmal behavior play a part in its ultimate denial?  Absolutely!  Let's look at all the abusive land acquisition tactics that Transource has in common with TrAILCo... so far.
All communications with property owners and occupants must be factually correct and made in good faith.

Do not make false or misleading statements.

Do not misrepresent any fact.

Until the Company has been authorized by the state utility commission, do not suggest that the Project is a "done deal" or is "99 percent sure" or make similar statements suggesting that the state utility commission has authorized construction of the project.

All Communications and interactions with property owners and occupants of property must be respectful and reflect fair dealing.

Do not engage in behavior that may be considered harassing, coercive, manipulative, intimidating or causing undue pressure. 

All communications by a property owner, whether in person, by telephone or in writing, in which the property owner indicates that he or she does not want to negotiate or does not want to give permission for surveying or other work on his or her property, must be respected and politely accepted without argument.

Do not represent that a relative, neighbor and/or friend have signed a document or reached an agreement with the company.

Do not represent that a relative, neighbor and/or friend supports or opposes the Project.

Do not threaten to call law enforcement officers or obtain court orders.

Do not threaten the use of eminent domain.
We've hardly just begun, Transource, and already you've violated accepted conduct for land agents working on your behalf.  I know you're going to blame Western Land Services for going rogue behind your back, or a few "bad" agents who don't understand their job.  But I know that's just not true.  Land acquisition companies behave badly with the full knowledge of the company who is paying them.  So maybe it's time to fire this company.  And Transource needs to get all the money it paid Western refunded to the ratepayers so it won't cost the ratepayers anything extra to hire a reputable company with some moral and ethical standards.

Does PJM Interconnection know how badly you've screwed up this transmission project they "ordered" you to build?  If I was PJM, I'd cancel your contract and find a reputable company to build it instead.

Meanwhile, Representative Hill wants you to apologize to the landowners you harassed.  Try to be a big boy and take responsibility for your actions and don't blame them on rogue land agents or a fly-by-night company.  You all know what's going on and chose to try to strong arm this community willingly.  It blew up in your face.  

​Shame on you!
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<![CDATA[Clean Line Blames TVA For Its Failure]]>Sun, 07 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/clean-line-blames-tva-for-its-failureThe Chattanooga Times Free Press has accused the Tennessee Valley Authority of cancelling Clean Line's interconnection request because it hates clean energy.
But after running out the clock with years of study, TVA President Bill Johnson said the utility would back out of the plan — leaving the Clean Line project twisting in the wind.
This editor has confused TVA's interconnection study process with TVA's memorandum of understanding to separately study whether TVA should purchase transmission capacity to serve its customers.  These are two separate and distinct processes.  In their haste to demonize the TVA, the editors have allowed their lack of knowledge to turn them into liars.
Late last month, TVA decided not to buy the wind energy it had been window shopping for nearly six years.
Did this supposed "decision" ever happen?  An official decision would have been made public, and reported when it happened.  Except that never happened.  Instead, it is only after the Plains & Eastern project collapsed that the less than true accusations against the TVA started.  More likely the TVA simply continued its failure to make a decision, and it was Clean Line that decided to "kill" its own project by selling a portion of it to NextEra and withdrawing its interconnection position.  Then Clean Line and the armchair engineers at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy start lobbing political revenge bombs at the TVA.

The much touted "Memorandum of Understanding" between Clean Line and the TVA only required the TVA to consider purchasing transmission capacity and wind from Oklahoma to serve its load.  There was no obligation for TVA to purchase anything.

This article in RTO Insider gives the MOU authority it never had.
The deal was sealed after it became apparent to Clean Line that TVA had little appetite to complete a six-year-old memorandum of understanding to purchase the project’s wind power.
The MOU never required a purchase.  It obligated TVA to think about purchasing, which is something they could have done without the MOU.  The MOU was legally and commercially useless, but it sounded good for Clean Line to tell the media it had a MOU with the TVA.  And the media bought it, and now they can't seem to let this fake news die.  Clean Line sold a portion of its project because the company couldn't get it built.  It was only after the sale that the TVA got trotted to slaughter.

The MOU was never about the separate interconnection process.  In order to connect a new power source (because a large transmission line is a power source) to an existing transmission system, the system operator must study how the injection of power will affect the stability of the existing system.  This is a fluid process, as the electric grid is constantly changing.  Any additions or upgrades necessary to keep the system stable are the financial responsibility of the entity who has requested interconnection.  A transmission operator can't just up and decide a project can't connect because the operator doesn't want to buy power to serve its customers.  That's a mingling of responsibilities that isn't supposed to happen.  Transmission is non-discriminatory open access.

Clean Line's removal from the TVA interconnection queue was voluntarily elected by Clean Line, whether they actively withdrew or whether they simply stopped paying for the interconnection process.  When the interconnection process ends, the queue position is surrendered.

​What other lies has the media made up to soften Clean Line's failure?
In the meantime, Clean Line founder and president Mike Skelly told RTO Insider, the company will focus on its four other long-haul HVDC projects.
“We’re adapting to the headwinds,” Skelly said. “You have to adapt.”
Adapt?  If Clean Line had adapted to reality, it probably could have saved its investors $100M or more.  Any sane utility without a method to recover its sunk costs would have quit many tens of millions ago.  Also, a sane utility with 5 new and different transmission projects probably would have concentrated on just one project to see if the idea was viable before trying to get 5 of them off the ground at once.  The "headwinds" smacked Skelly upside the head.  Really hard.  I guess he wasn't using his head.  *cymbal crash*

What is Skelly focusing on?  The Rock Island Clean Line is dead.  Plain & Eastern is dead.  The Grain Belt Express has been denied and is facing years of appeals in a legal quagmire from which it cannot escape.  I have no idea what's going on with the two western projects, but its probably more of the same.  There's nothing to focus on here.  Michael Skelly's transmission projects are not viable.

But RTO Insider isn't the only one being strung along by Clean Line.
In response to several queries from Talk Business & Politics, Clean Line on Wednesday (Jan. 3) issued a statement saying a recent decision by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to drop its six-year-old interconnection agreement with the Texas partnership has put the project on hiatus.
So Clean Line really IS issuing the well-padded "statements" that are misinforming the media?
“The need for low-cost renewable energy in Arkansas remains and the benefits the Plains & Eastern Clean Line will deliver to the state have not changed. Clean Line Energy is retaining all permits and acquired rights-of-way in Arkansas while we continue to evaluate energy markets and will respond accordingly,” said Clean Line Founder & President Michael Skelly. “Unfortunately, TVA’s reluctance to enter into an agreement with Clean Line … at this time has delayed our ability to deliver low-cost, renewable energy to the Southeast U.S. and jobs and investment to Arkansas.”
What the HELL, Michael Skelly?  How do you expect the assets you still "own" to deliver anything, ever?  You no longer have a generation source at the end of your right of way assets.  You sold the portion of the line that was supposed to connect with new wind generation to another company you no longer control.  NextEra will do whatever it wants with that portion of your project.  You voluntarily withdrew from the TVA interconnection queue, so you have no end point to deliver energy either.  Clean Line has an empty extension cord without any plugs on either end.  It's useless and could never be built.  It is now truly a "bridge to nowhere" that cannot connect with any existing or new roadway.

This "bridge to nowhere" is not the same project Clean Line got approved by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA), or the U.S. DOE.  It's no longer approved.  And I doubt Skelly has the financial means to continue to make scheduled payments to landowners for optioned rights of way.  Option?  Yes.  Landowners have reported that Clean Line's "purchase" of right of way in Arkansas is technically only an option to purchase because Clean Line only made down payments, with additional payments to continue the option to purchase due at a later date.  Skelly doesn't own anything yet, he hasn't completed paying for it.
No terms of the deal were disclosed, but regulatory and court filings show that Clean Line appraised the value of its Oklahoma assets north of $1 billion.
Oh hell no.  What's a piece of a broken dream worth?  If NextEra paid anything close to a billion dollars for the OK portion of the project, I'll tap-dance on their front steps while singing Don't Be Stupid.  I'm going to guess it was less than $25M, much, much less.
But it was exactly two years ago Clean Line cleared its biggest regulatory hurdle in Tennessee when the TVA board unanimously voted to approve the Texas partnerships’ application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to operate as a wholesale transmission-only public utility in Tennessee. At the time, TVA said there was a need to connect the supply of thousands of megawatts of new wind energy in the Oklahoma Panhandle with the increasing demand of utilities in the Mid-South and Southeast.
TRA, not TVA.  Tennessee Regulatory Authority is the state entity who issues a CPCN.  The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federal power marketer who has nothing to do with regulatory authority in Tennessee.  There is a HUGE difference!  And speaking of huge differences, the project TRA approved no longer exists.  I'm betting if challenged, the TRA won't support the CPCN any longer.
Clean Line has often touted TVA’s “letter of interest” stating that the project presented a valuable option for affordable energy for the Tennessee utility conglomerate, whose largest customer is the city of Memphis.
Right.  See above.  Clean Line spun its MOU to pretend it obligated TVA to purchase capacity.  Obviously it did not.

​So, let's review:
  1. Clean Line may no longer connect with the TVA transmission system.
  2. Clean Line no longer connects with any known generation source or resource area.
  3. Clean Line has no customers.
  4. Because of these factors, Clean Line's project no longer resembles the one reviewed by regulatory and "participatory" agencies.
The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Michael Skelly needs to give his ego a rest and just admit he's done with transmission.  Continuing to pretend Clean Line's transmission idea is viable doesn't even make sense.
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<![CDATA[Plains & Eastern Clean Line Killed]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 12:11:31 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/plains-eastern-clean-line-killed...but the bullshit never stops!

Hi Gullible One-Sided Story Journalist,  Attached is some bullshit that you can use for your story.  We have also provided someone else to blame for Michael Skelly's failure.  If you need anything else to craft your biased, fantasy story, please let me know!

The Tennessee Valley Authority is getting blamed for "killing" the Plains & Eastern Clean Line.

The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is dead?  Sweet!
Time to celebrate, Mayberry Munchkins!  Do you really care who gets blamed for "killing" it?  In my opinion, the TVA is a hero who refused to bow to greenwashing political pressure and in so doing saved its customers from higher rates and landowners outside its service territory from financial and economic harm for benefit of super-rich foreign investors.

Bravo, TVA!  Well done!

Except it really wasn't TVA's fault.  It's Michael Skelly's fault.  Clean Line had no customers.  No customers, no revenue, no financing, no construction, no transmission line.  It's just that simple.  Skelly might as well blame Duke Energy, Southern Co., Entergy, Florida Power & Light, or any other utility, for not buying his transmission capacity.  Skelly was proposing a merchant project where all risk is shouldered by investors, not consumers.  Skelly was granted negotiated rate authority by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to negotiate rates for his transmission service with willing customers.  Nothing in Skelly's transmission plan obligated the TVA, or any other utility, to become customers.  If Frito-Lay goes out of business next week, will it be YOUR fault for keeping your New Year's resolution to lay off the over-processed, salty, junk food?  Of course not!  You choose what to buy and who to buy it from.  The same is true of merchant transmission projects like Clean Line.  The whining of the "environmentalists" makes me laugh!  Once again, the environmentalists completely fail at trying to plan and run the TVA from their home offices.  These "environmentalists" have no idea what it takes to run the TVA so they need to shut their pie holes and let the professionals do their jobs.

So, how dead is Plains & Eastern?
The nation's biggest wind generator, NextEra Energy Resources, has bought the Oklahoma portion of the proposed 700-mile-long Plains and Eastern Line to serve Oklahoma and Midwest customers. But for now, plans to bring wind energy from the windy areas of Oklahoma and Texas into the less-windy Tennessee Valley and Southeastern part of the United States are stalled and unlikely to be resurrected for years.

"Unfortunately, this represents a significant delay in our ability to deliver this energy in the Southeast," Skelly said of the decision not to actively pursue the project at this time. "TVA's lack of interest has certainly not been helpful."

Skelly said other utilities want to buy wind-generated power, and Clean Line is now focusing on its four other transmission projects in the Midwest and the Western part of the United States. NextEra will use the Oklahoma part of the Plains and Eastern line to begin serving parts of Oklahoma, Kansas with wind-generated power that NextEra plans to develop.

"We are hanging onto our permits and rights of way in Arkansas in the event TVA in the future says it might like this power somewhere down the line, " Skelly said. "But at this point it would take considerably more effort to get this project moving for TVA again."


"TVA obviously has to make its own decisions about its future power supply, and we understand that," Skelly said. "But for now, we've stopped the process [of pursuing an interconnection agreement with TVA] because TVA required a whole lot of money to continue in this process but they have not wanted to make any commitments to buy the energy off of this line."
Oh, puh-leeze, Michael Skelly.  Do you actually believe your own lies?  TVA required a whole lot of money to continue the interconnection process because continuing to study your project for interconnection (which is completely separated from the study of whether or not to buy capacity on the line) costs the TVA money!  The TVA isn't paying dividends to investors with all the money it was charging Clean Line to remain in the interconnection queue.  Where do you think the TVA gets its money, Michael Skelly?  It gets all its money from its customers -- regular people who pay an electric bill.  Why should those people pay extra for TVA staff to continue to study the Plains & Eastern Clean Line to determine whether it may interconnect to the TVA transmission system without causing reliability problems?  Does Skelly think that he should get a free ride on the backs of hard-working Mayberrians?

So, if TVA's "whole lot of money" was too rich for Clean Line's bank account, where is Skelly going to get the money to "hang onto our permits and rights of way in Arkansas"?  That costs money, too, and for an undetermined "maybe" period of time?  I don't think so.

Skelly tries really hard to pretend that the part of his project that he didn't sell to another company is still commercially viable.
But Skelly said other utilities have found that their projections about the costs of using a variable source of power like wind have often proven more than expected "and as battery and other storage methods become better, wind will prove even more attractive."

"We think we gave TVA a very good offer, but apparently they did not," he said. "We're still getting a lot of interest from other utilities that want to increase their renewable energy and see wind as a good way to achieve that at a reasonable cost."

Skelly said Duke Power and other Southeastern utilities have expressed interest in buying more wind-generated power, but TVA was needed to buy and/or readily transmit the 3,500 megawatts the line was designed to deliver to Memphis.

Well, goll-lee, Mr. Skelly, if these other utilities want to buy your transmission capacity then you don't need TVA at all, right?  Why would you need TVA to buy something that another company wants to buy?  If you have customers, then go ahead and build your project.

Instead, Plains & Eastern is dead.  It's dead because it failed to attract any paying customers.  It failed to attract any paying customers because it was a bad idea that failed.
Skelly said he and his partners have been working on the Clean Line transmission project for more than eight years and have had to battle local landowners who didn't want to sell their land and regulators in Arkansas who balked at permitting the transmission line rights of way to a developer from another state.
"We've been able to overcome those obstacles, but we always knew when we started it wouldn't necessarily be easy or quick," he said. "But we do think it is the right choice in the long run."

The right choice?  Eight years of misery and more than $200M dumped into a bad idea?  Maybe it was only "the right choice" because that $200M and the land along the right of way belonged to other people and not Michael Skelly.

I think Michael Skelly should stop trying to blame everyone else for his own failure.

But there's this:  The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is dead, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press! 
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<![CDATA[Something Suddenly Came Up]]>Mon, 01 Jan 2018 00:06:55 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/something-suddenly-came-upAEP seems to think that Mario Harturdo exaggerated the suitability of his Plains and Eastern Clean Line for use in its Wind Catcher project.

Shocker, right?  How could AEP possibly say "no" to Mario Harturdo's shameless groveling and begging for the company to use a worthless, failed transmission idea for their Wind Catcher project?

Just kidding!  I'm sure Mario was kidding, too.  If AEP was smart, it would have offered to buy the Plains and Eastern Clean Line, just to see what was behind Clean Line's ridiculous participation in the Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulatory proceedings for Wind Catcher.  Whoopsie, AEP!  You have to wear the dunce cap!  I mean you didn't really believe Clean Line's testimony, did you?  Have you been smelling your own fake, stilted testimony so long that you no longer recognize the scent?

What fun would it have been to disrupt Clean Line's secret deal with NextEra?  Mario never put THAT in his testimony, did he?

Michael Skelly:  "Ssssorry, NextEra, I'm going to have to cancel our meeting for Saturday night.  Something suddenly came up!"
AEP, big utility on campus, but sadly without a sense of adventure.

What did AEP say about the Plains & Eastern Clean Line in its response to Mario's testimony at the OCC?

It is my understanding based upon public information that Clean Line requested the use of federal powers of eminent domain through an arrangement with the U.S. Department of Energy under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for the Plains and Eastern project. This request required the development of an Environmental Impact Statement under  the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) within which the specific purpose and need for the project, siting considerations, and specific environmental impacts for the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project were assessed and considered in order to receive final approval through a Record of Decision for the Plains and Eastern project.

Witness Hurtado has not provided any additional insight or discussion in his responses as to what potential additional permitting requirements and schedule risks may be associated with using a portion of right of way for the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project that was originally acquired for a project that was approved under a different purpose and need, under a different regulatory authority, and potentially, with different permitting requirements.


What?  You don't believe in the power of rainbow farts, AEP?  Don't you know that success in the transmission business is 99% wishful thinking and 1% actual effort?  Just look at how successful Clean Line has been dealing in fantasy and make believe for the past 9 years!  What is wrong with you, AEP?  Oh, the missed opportunities!

And when is Clean Line going to tell the OCC and the other parties that it no longer owns the Oklahoma portion of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line and therefore  no longer has any standing to participate in the case?  And when is NextEra going to file its petition to intervene out of time as the new owner of a project that was granted standing?  Or does NextEra think it has inherited a seat at AEP's settlement table?  And why would NextEra even be interested in the Wind Catcher proceedings any longer?  It now has its very own "fully permitted" transmission project that it can use to ship wind from its own wind farms.  Except it doesn't seem to have any load to serve, or any customers.  NextEra can now play the part of Jan Brady, watching AEP flaunt its huge customer base, and dream of cutting it off...
Oh, what heartbreak caused by greed, deceit and envy, where nothing is as it seems and failure is always lurking just around the next corner....
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<![CDATA[Clean Line's Big Top Begins to Fall]]>Tue, 26 Dec 2017 15:19:10 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/clean-lines-big-top-begins-to-fallLook out below, everyone!  The Clean Line circus tent is beginning to collapse.  Any clowns remaining in the ring are in grave danger!  Abandon circus, abandon circus!
In the center ring, the Plains & Eastern Clean Line has been butchered and the tastiest cuts have been sold to NextEra Energy for an undisclosed sum.  It remains to be seen what NextEra will cook up with the piece it has purchased or whether there actually is a market for a huge amount of wind energy in eastern Oklahoma.  A NextEra spokesman commented, "...we have more work to do commercially before construction begins...".  Right.  Just like Clean Line, there are no customers.  I hope NextEra's Big Top is a little sturdier (and its pockets a bit deeper) than Clean Line's.

So, Clean Line wants to pretend that because NextEra only bought the Oklahoma portion of the project that the remainder still held by Clean Line will someday become valuable.  That crap isn't even fit for sausage.  There is no value because there are no customers who want to buy at the TVA interconnection.  In fact, it looks like Clean Line's TVA interconnection queue position has been withdrawn.  That means Clean Line no longer wants to inject energy into the TVA region.  Over.  Done.  Maybe NextEra has enough cash to speculate on the Oklahoma portion someday being viable, but even they don't think the portion from the Oklahoma border to Memphis is worth the risk.

And over in the ring to my left, the Rock Island Clean Line has fallen off the trapeze and broken every bone in its body.  The clowns have been pantomiming continuing life support, but the audience knows it's a goner.

Over in the last ring, the Grain Belt Express lies gasping while the clowns are bringing in a string of potential buyers for pieces of its carcass in their cute, little cars.  How many transmission executives can you fit into a garishly-painted VW beetle?  And what portion of GBE does anyone think is viable?

Clean Line Energy's circus is all but over.

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<![CDATA[Fire Sale at the Fire Station?]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 17:10:33 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/fire-sale-at-the-fire-station
What better place for a fire sale on bad transmission ideas than an historic fire house?  I hope Michael Skelly is sliding eagerly down his fire pole these days, giddy about shedding his failures, preserving his reputation in the business world, and maintaining his pricey lifestyle in Houston high society (such that it is in the wild, wild west).

Talk continues to swirl about Clean Line trying to rid itself of failed transmission ideas.  In addition to its stilted courting of utility giant American Electric Power to buy the Plains & Eastern Clean Line, it now seems that perhaps everything is for sale to anybody who wants to do whatever with it.  Other stalled transmission projects, such as Grain Belt Express, may also be on the auction block.  Potential buyers for GBE could be companies that may already have a transmission footprint in Kansas, such as, perhaps, a company like ITC Great Plains?  Maybe Clean Line believes that its bad ideas can be recycled into profitable enterprises?  If so, why don't they do it themselves?  Why might they be trying to sell these bad ideas to new companies?

Last time we checked, Clean Line's investors have dumped more than $200M into Michael Skelly's transmission ideas.  I guess we can't blame the investors if they're trying to salvage some value out of their investment.

But you gotta wonder about who would buy these bad ideas and legacies of hatred?  Clean Line got blamed for stirring up landowner obstinacy at a recent SPP workshop.
Landowner Opposition Formidable Obstacle to Tx Projects
Several speakers discussed the opposition Clean Line Energy Partners has faced from landowners and regulators in its plans to connect renewable resources with urban centers via long HVDC transmission lines.
“You’re going right back to the not-in-my-backyard thing,” said Ted Thomas, chair of the Arkansas Public Service Commission. “That’s causing intense pushback. ‘My granddaddy had this land. This is our family property. I don’t want this big, honking thing coming through here. You don’t understand, this property is not for sale.’”

“Siting is difficult,” agreed Missouri Public Service Commissioner Steve Stoll. “Anytime you’re dealing with private rights and eminent domain, it’s difficult. You can say you’re helping our area by giving us the ability to sell our homes and attract business, but [the landowners] don’t see much value in it.”
So why would any transmission company want to willingly jump into the pool of transmission siting fatigue Clean Line created with its arrogant, heavy-handed dealings with local communities?  Once trust is gone, it's gone forever.  I think the Clean Line projects are beyond salvage.  If real transmission companies want to build transmission for wind across Oklahoma, Kansas, or other states once affected by Clean Line Energy Partners projects, they'd do much better to start from scratch.  Any "savings" from pre-planned routes or optioned rights of way held by Clean Line would evaporate quickly in the face of regulatory and community push back that requires expensive legal battles and huge buy-off payments for acquisition of Native American land rights and local government approvals.  And, let's contemplate this... why might Clean Line be abandoning its projects?  There's your reason right there.  I believe it's because they're never going to happen.

Once upon a time there was a happy, sparkling businessman who was in the right place at the right time.  Our businessman made a bundle of money by a stroke of serendipity, and also gained a reputation as a business genius.  His genius was so bright that many other businessmen thought he farted rainbows.  So, they all ponied up their money and allowed our businessman to gamble it on one of his rainbow bright ideas.  Except it wasn't really a good idea, and the businessman struggled and grasped but just couldn't make his idea work.  The investors probably weren't too happy.  Sparkling Genius could lose not only some money, but his sparkling genius reputation as well.  So he farted some more rainbows and tried to sell his old, worn out ideas to a new crop of businessmen whose geniuses he presumed sparkled much, much less than his own.  How might this story end?
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<![CDATA[Is Desperate Clean Line Cuckolding AEP Already?]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 15:24:24 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/is-desperate-clean-line-cuckolding-aep-alreadyThe ink is barely dry on this
And rumor has it that Clean Line has already started a secret relationship with another company.

Poor, pitiful American Electric Power.  Jilted before it even got a chance.  Although Clean Line's Mario Hurtado made a grand show of batting his eyelashes at AEP, I don't think he was really that into AEP.  Maybe AEP looked sort of good at 50 feet, or maybe AEP was just supposed to be acting as a beard while Clean Line got down and dirty with another company.  It seemed to me that there really was something very contrived about Clean Line's offer to AEP at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission

I wonder if Clean Line is hoping to get a resounding and very public slap in the face from AEP in the Wind Catcher case in order to use same to bolster some new partnership that could be in the works?  What if Clean Line is working a deal with one of AEP's competitors, like maybe Next Era Energy Resources?

What if Next Era worked some deal with Clean Line to build the "first phase" of its project to eastern Oklahoma?  Wouldn't that be direct competition for AEP's Wind Catcher project?  What if AEP's Wind Catcher project doesn't get approval, but Clean Line/Next Era manage to build the "first phase" of a transmission line that Mario Hurtado claims would be very close to AEP substations in eastern Oklahoma?  Would AEP be obligated to buy energy and capacity from Clean Line and Next Era, instead of owning very profitable generation and transmission itself?

There, there, AEP.  Let me buy you a glass of wine and some chocolates and then you can have a nice, long cry.  Clean Line didn't deserve you, girl.  You're better than that.  You just stick your nose up in the air and get on with your business.  Junior High School and the energy business can be just so difficult to navigate sometimes.
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<![CDATA[Clean Line Begs Utility Giant AEP to Open an Escape Hatch]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 23:30:16 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/clean-line-begs-utility-giant-aep-to-open-an-escape-hatchUPDATE!
Is AEP just being taken for a ride in Oklahoma?
Will AEP end up stabbed in the back and dumped in a ditch?
Click here

Things seem to be winding down at Clean Line Energy Partners over the last month or so.  The rats continue to abandon the mothership.  Take a look at Clean Line's "Leadership" page and notice that a couple former executives are now missing.  It looks to me like maybe the transmission folks are leaving, with only the wind energy people still on investor Bluescape's leash.  I wonder if Bluescape is trying to salvage something out of its investment in Clean Line by jettisoning the loser transmission projects and focusing on more wind farms like Mesa Canyons?

The Rock Island Clean Line is dead.  It can't use eminent domain in Iowa or Illinois.

The Grain Belt Express is on life support.  Despite Clean Line's desperate attempt to get the Missouri Supreme Court to hear its case, there has been no response and the case has been scheduled to be heard in the Appeals Court next year.  And, on the off chance that GBE succeeds on appeal, the Illinois courts must kill it because the Illinois Supreme Court already ruled in the RICL case that Clean Line isn't a public utility.  Checkmate.

The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a zombie.  Despite the "participation" of the U.S. Department of Energy in that project, customers have stubbornly failed to materialize.  It's been nearly two years since the DOE issued its "Record of Decision" that Clean Line thinks gives its project the okay to build.  And still no customers in sight.  According to E&E News:
While not yet ready to begin construction, Hurtado said the next big milestone isn't far off, and Clean Line has turned its focus to finding key customers.

"We've been at it for a while, and we're very close to the finish line," he said.

Clean Line has yet to announce any firm agreements with Southeast utilities for transmission. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

"We think that there's a time-sensitive opportunity," Hurtado said. "I'm not comfortable waiting too much longer. The sooner we can get this done, the better. There are always risks, and you want to manage that really prudently. We're already in pre-construction. The sooner we get into full-fledged construction, the better."

"Obviously, the trick is to make sure that you have capacity at the right price to the people that are actually winning the contracts in the Southeast," Hurtado said. "There's direct commercial discussions that are going on that are confidential. There are RFPs [requests for proposals], and that's still moving forward. It's part of our overall commercial discussions that we've got that are sort of focused, but they're all sort of in the works."


One potential customer, the Tennessee Valley Authority, so far hasn't shown an interest in taking transmission service from the Plains and Eastern.

TVA signed a memorandum of understanding with Clean Line in 2011, but the utility currently has no need for more energy on its system as its long-range plans show no demand growth for the next decade, said spokesman Scott Brooks.

And any older power plants being shut down by TVA are generally being replaced with natural-gas-fired generation, Brooks said.
But wait!  A real utility has proposed a new transmission project across Oklahoma.  American Electric Power wants to buy a ginormous wind farm and build a 765kV alternating current transmission line across the state and distribute the energy to its customers.  And AEP wants ratepayers in four states where it serves customers to pay for its project.  That's right, AEP wants state utility commissions in Oklahoma and other states AEP serves to allocate the cost of their project to ratepayers.  AEP is not building a merchant transmission project, where the  utility finances the project construction and then negotiates rates with voluntary customers.  AEP will only build its project if its cost will be covered by ratepayers, along with a hefty return on equity to AEP.

A look at the Oklahoma Commerce Commission's docket (Case No. 201700267) for AEP's filing doesn't look promising.  It seems most of the parties are against it, either because they don't want to shoulder the cost, or because there was no competition in selecting the wind generator.  And AEP is trying to rush this through with only a cursory examination because it must latch onto the government teat known as the Production Tax Credit before it expires in order to bring "savings" to ratepayers.  If this project only provides "savings" from tax subsidies, then it's just not worth doing.  But AEP stands to make a bundle on its investment in a new wind farm and transmission line.  Whoever owns the assets makes the profits.

And wouldn't you know it, Clean Line intervened in AEP's project docket to support this "laudable" project.  But only if AEP uses Plains & Eastern instead of building its own transmission line.  Or maybe AEP can partner with Clean Line?  Or invest in Clean Line?  Or AEP can completely redesign the project and change its route?  Or perhaps buy the Plains & Eastern Clean Line?  Or perhaps scrape Clean Line off the underside of a park bench with a putty knife, chew it up, and spit it out?  It seems that Mario Hurtado is pretty much open to anything that would monetize his fruitless efforts to build the Plains & Eastern Clean Line for the past eight years.  Sounds like Plains & Eastern is begging AEP to open an escape hatch so they can get this cash cow off the books.
Plains and Eastern is open to PSO or other utilities customers owning all or a portion of the transmission line, commensurate with their transmission needs. In addition, Plains and Eastern is open to PSO or other utilities managing part or all of the Plains & Eastern Project's construction.

If there is a demand for Oklahoma Panhandle wind in eastern Oklahoma, the Project's first phase could be built solely in Oklahoma. Subsequent phases could be built at a later date if market demands warranted such action.

While Plains and Eastern's efforts have been focused on HVDC transmission, other technical
solutions could be constructed in the Project's right-of-way, such as 345kV AC or 765kV AC. Plains and Eastern is open to modifying the
Project to a different technology or voltage level if it offers the best value to customers.

The Project begins near Wind Catcher's generation position in the Panhandle and the route runs within 50 miles of PSO's Tulsa North substation, the proposed interconnection point for the Wind Catcher line.  In eastern Oklahoma, there are also other potential interconnection points in PSO's service territory that are even closer to the Plains & Eastern Project's route than the Tulsa North substation and could be utilized to serve PSO load and other loads.
Clean Line wastes a lot of ink touting its "approved route" and purchased easements for its project as a sure thing that will save AEP time and money.  Except Plains & Eastern's route is nowhere near AEP's proposed route and does not connect with AEP's substations.  Somehow, finding a new route to connect P&E's proposed route with AEP's proposed route gets glossed over.  Why would AEP want to take some circuitous route across the state and build many more miles of transmission than it actually needs?  But like a polished used car salesman, Clean Line tries to sell its route and "relationships" with landowners as a sure thing.  Clean Line seems to take the position that is is somehow superior to AEP in the transmission building game and can do it better.
Furthermore, the Plains and Eastern team has received many questions from landowners and other stakeholders in Oklahoma about the Wind Catcher project. The team has been asked if Plains and Eastern can be involved or assist in the Wind Catcher project given that Plains and Eastern has a construction-ready, long-haul transmission project that runs from the Oklahoma Panhandle to the east and has acquired easements on more than 750 parcels in Oklahoma.
Said no one ever?  Who are these people?  Do they have names?  Why in the world would anyone want a company that has never built anything or realized a dime of revenue to "assist" a public utility that has been around for more than 100 years?
After being approached by representatives of PSO, Oklahoma landowners have asked the Plains and Eastern team if they should work with PSO even though they have already signed an easement with Plains and Eastern.
And what was the "team's" response, Mario, do tell?  Did you say, "Transmission lines are like Lays Potato Chips, you can never have just one?"  Or did you tell the landowners to slam the door in the face of any PSO (AEP) land agent?  Or maybe you told them to try to sell your project to AEP so you'd have enough cash to make the next payment on your easement option contracts?

All of a sudden, Clean Line has changed the focus of its Plains & Eastern project.  It's no longer about bringing wind power to "states farther east."  It's about bringing wind power to eastern Oklahoma now.  Ahhh... desperation, the mother of invention...
The power markets have evolved substantially since Plains and Eastern received its order from this Commission in the past eight years and eastern Oklahoma is now a strong delivery point for the Plains & Eastern Project. The Project could be utilized to accommodate high-voltage either direct current ("HVDC") and alternating current ("AC") transmission solutions to accomplish this interconnection in eastern Oklahoma and Plains and Eastern is willing to engage to consider either option. Mr. Hurtado stated that he would explain that Plains and Eastern is open to building a first
phase of the Project that is located solely in Oklahoma.
And then Mario comes out with this gem.
SPP has no plans to build new transmission
lines in the next decade, making independent transmission necessary to enable large amounts of new wind farms to be built in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
SPP plans and orders built all transmission necessary for reliability and economic reasons within its region.  Oklahoma is in the SPP region.  If SPP doesn't order it built, it's not "necessary."

And then Clean Line says its project is fully approved.
Plains and Eastern has also secured all key regulatory approvals necessary for construction on that route.
Except the "approval" Clean Line has is for a merchant project that must first secure enough customers to finance its construction.  Clean Line does not have "approval" to build a cost allocated line paid for by ratepayers in Oklahoma and other states.  It's like using an apple when your recipe calls for an orange.  As well, Clean Line's "approval" by the U.S. DOE is currently being challenged in federal court and could very likely simply evaporate when the court rules.  And until Clean Line has enough customers to finance its project, it cannot be built.  How long is AEP supposed to wait for Clean Line to find enough customers to build the line?

Clean Line says that DOE's routing of its project "approved" a preferred route.
The DOE independently analyzed the proposed route and several alternative routes in its
EIS and ultimately approved a preferred route through its Record of Decision.
But DOE does not have statutory authority to site a transmission route, therefore it cannot "approve" a preferred route.  Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act reserves siting for the impacted states.  This point is also part of the ongoing federal lawsuit.

Clean Line says landowners in Oklahoma love them.
Plains and Eastern's careful and open approach to landowner interaction and easement acquisition established the company as a solid partner and good neighbor in Oklahoma
Gosh, that's funny.  The landowners in Oklahoma that I've talked to despise Clean Line and have vowed to NEVER sign a voluntary easement.  Perhaps all Clean Line's Oklahoma friends could be characterized as "low hanging fruit," the easy sells.  Anybody with a checkbook could acquire these easement rights.  It's the difficult ones (according to Mario's testimony more than 40%) that can delay a project for years.  I'm thinking that AEP has never built a transmission project that required eminent domain takings for more than 40% of its route.
Many landowner conversations are on-going, and Plains and Eastern is highly confident that all right-of-way necessary to start construction could be completed in time to allow for construction to start in 2018 and an on-line date in 2020.
Also hard to believe, since Clean Line is depending on the federal government to effect all eminent domain takings for its route, and the U.S. DOJ's attorney absolutely would not commit to the takings during recent oral arguments before a federal judge in Arkansas.

Does Clean Line think AEP has been in business for over 100 years because it's gullible and easily swayed by a fast-talking salesman?  AEP may be a bunch of jerks, but they're not stupid.  AEP knows a Fifty Foot Car when it sees one.

Or is this just the first act in a poorly presented regulatory Kabuki theater where AEP buys up the Plains & Eastern project and systematically cannibalizes it to extract only those land easements that work with its preferred route?  If so, Plains & Eastern is dead.    If AEP wanted to build merchant transmission, it would have proposed its own project as a merchant and wouldn't have any opposition at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.  Instead, AEP wants to build a captive ratepayer funded transmission project completely within the state of Oklahoma.  Clean Line's expensive dance with the DOE is completely useless, in that case.  But what about Clean Line's agreement to pay the U.S. DOE 2% of its quarterly profits?  Would AEP have to pay DOE 2% of its quarterly profits if it bought Plains & Eastern and used DOE's "approved" route?  I'm sure that will keep a lot of lawyers busy for a long, long time.

AEP says it will respond to Clean Line's filing by the December 22 deadline.  And, hey, Merry Christmas, Clean Line! 
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<![CDATA[Tone Deaf Transource "Listened" But it Failed to Hear]]>Tue, 12 Dec 2017 12:39:18 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/tone-deaf-transource-listened-but-it-failed-to-hearHow sad it is when a company's op ed about how much it cares about your community comes with a "fill-in-the-blank" for the name of your community?

Transource claims to have "listened" to your community, and wants you to know:
We heard about the valuable role agriculture plays in this region and our engineers worked to ensure typical farming practices in **INSERT COUNTY NAME HERE** County, from crops to orchards, could continue to exist within the right-of-way.
See York County version here.
See Franklin County version here.
Same op ed, only the county names were changed.  It's like getting a "personalized" piece of junk mail in your newspaper.
What does an electrical engineer in Columbus, Ohio, know about "typical farming practices" in Pennsylvania?  Transource "heard" what it wanted to hear  -- that its project could be built without impacting farmland.  But that's not what the community was telling Transource.  In fact, as a wise person pointed out, if Transource really heard what the community was saying, there would be a few electrical engineers tiptoeing around quite gingerly because they'd have a monopole shoved where the sun doesn't shine.

The communities in York and Franklin counties said "no" to Transource.  No, you cannot build that line across our land.  No, you cannot build the project without impacting farmland.

Todd Burns is living in some kind of fantasy world, where the communities accept the transmission project and are so happy that Transource "listened" to their opinions and "started a dialogue."  Of course, nothing much changed.  Todd just wants you to think you had some influence on the process.  Transource wants to build its project.  It will be very profitable.

The actual "folks" in the community want a "dialogue" about whether to build this project or not.  And if it's built, they want to shape how and where it's done.  Perhaps the project should be built on existing rights of way owned by other companies, or perhaps it should be buried.  The only choices Transource gave the community was to suggest that an aerial line on new right of way could be shifted onto a neighbor's property.  That's no choice at all.  That's not a "dialogue," it's a monologue.  When "folks" objected to the project, Transource tossed out some "responsible construction practices that respect the environment and your property, and the operation and maintenance of the transmission line," and some "practices to fairly compensate landowners when we acquire easements for the new line, including compensation for potential impacts or crop loss during construction and restoration."  But the "folks" were not satisfied, and they're still not satisfied.

So, what kind of performance art* was that op ed?  The affected "folks" didn't feel that their concerns were addressed.  If they did, there wouldn't be any opposition.  And yet I found myself in an auditorium filled with staunch opponents of the project last night.  And they're not giving up.  And they're not giving in.

So, yes, let's get on with this, Transource.  Let's get on to the REAL listening to "folks" that happens in the regulatory, political and public relations arena.  Let's examine the fragile claims of "need," and let's admit that this project provides no benefit to the "folks" Transource wants to burden with its impacts.

The real listening has only just begun.

*Oh for the love of Christmas cookies, Todd must think the "folks" can't read, so he needs to act it out for them on video.  I'm not sure whether to laugh or throw up.

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<![CDATA[The Dumb Argument Transmission Developers Need to Stop Using Immediately]]>Fri, 24 Nov 2017 15:44:53 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/the-dumb-argument-transmission-developers-need-to-stop-using-immediatelyTransmission developers say a whole bunch of dumb things while trying to convince a public that new transmission is necessary.  These developers will literally say anything, as long as someone tells them it advances their cause.

This really dumb argument has come from the spout of many different transmission developers over the past couple of years, and every time I hear it anew, it just sounds stupider.  What kind of an idiot thought this up and then convinced transmission developers it was a sound argument that would convince the public to rally behind new transmission?  Because I've seen it too many times for it to be an original argument gone viral.  It's not even a good argument. 

Behold!
The electric utility supply of the United States is based on a sharing of facilities and energy sources for both purposes of supply and reliability. There are two transmission corridors whose final sections exist for the benefit of Sudbury, Maynard, and Concord. One begins in Medway and passes through Sherborn, Natick, Framingham, and Wayland. The second, which begins in Waltham, passes through Weston. In effect, the citizens of Medway, Sherborn, Wayland, Weston, Waltham, Framingham, and Natick have had to sacrifice some of their environment for the benefit of Sudbury.

A large group in Sudbury, Protect Sudbury, opposes this line, either overhead or underground, if built along an existing MBTA right-of-way. The group also opposes any overhead line through any route in Sudbury. If only the citizens of Wayland and Weston could have successfully opposed the construction of transmission towers in their towns that supply Sudbury! No tower, no power!
This ad hominem basically goes something like this:  Because your home relies on power from existing transmission lines crossing someone's property somewhere, you owe it to society to have a transmission line on your own property for benefit of someone else.

When do two wrongs make a right?  This argument convinces no one.  Not the transmission opponents who are supposed to somehow feel wrong and guilty about their opposition, and not the general public who already has power and a transmission line in their backyard.  Everyone thinks this is a stupid argument, except maybe transmission developers and Gerald L. Wilson.  I wonder if Mr. Wilson has a transmission line serving others in his backyard?  I wonder if a new one serving others is proposed?  Or is Mr. Wilson just spouting stupid transmission talking points to add some purpose to his happy, golden retirement years?  

As if transmission itself isn't last century's technology, this argument is maybe supposed to take you way back to the electrification of America in the early part of the 20th century.  In order to bring the wonders of electricity to every American, it was necessary to run lines across private property.  Electric utilities were given eminent domain authority because electrifying the country was for the public good.

We've come a long way since then.  Everyone who wants electricity in this country has electricity.  No modern electric transmission line is for the purpose of bringing electricity to people who have none.  Sometimes it's about reliability (but you just can't trust them because they have a tendency to claim a project is needed to keep the lights on when it's more about padding the corporate coffers).  But more often than not new transmission these days is for other reasons that are more want than need.

1.  To make power cheaper somewhere else.
2.  To make power cleaner somewhere else.
3.  To increase annual returns at investor owned utilities.

Eminent domain should never be used for these three reasons.  They're not for the "public good" and only pit one group of citizens against the other to battle over which group's "good" can trounce the other's.  Why does someone have to sacrifice for the "public good" of others?  The 5th Amendment has been used way beyond its initial intent.  How about this?  No one loses, no one has to sacrifice for someone else.

I'm pretty sure if you asked some suburban neighborhood if they would support the destruction of hundreds of family farms so that they may save 2 cents on their monthly electric bill, nobody would go for it.  It's all in how you shape the question.

Telling the suburban neighbors that family farmers are selfish NIMBYs who refuse to do their part to sacrifice for the benefit of others and keep the neighborhood's lights on may garner a different response.

That's what this stupid transmission argument is.  Name calling.  One of the seven common propaganda devices.  It is intended to neutralize debate between groups by demonizing one of them as unacceptable and therefore ending the debate without actually engaging in it.

And it's not even a very good or convincing argument and is easily separated from the reality of today's transmission proposals.  We all have electricity.  Transmission lines to serve us were constructed years ago.  Property with existing transmission lines is less valuable because people associate a negative stigma with transmission lines.  New transmission lines are not necessary to provide electricity to new customers who are suffering without electricity.  Not everyone needs to have a transmission line on their property in order to make sacrifice widespread and "even."  Let's examine the merits of the particular transmission proposal instead of relying on the emotional push of propaganda.  Could the new transmission line be avoided by rebuilding existing transmission lines?  Could the new transmission line be avoided by building new generation closer to load?  Should people make sacrifices for their own energy needs?  Can the new transmission line be altered to be less invasive on land whose owners do not benefit from it?

The first time I heard the "someone sacrificed for you" argument I thought it was dumb.  The second time I heard it, I thought the company using it was completely disconnected from public opinion to think that was a good argument.  The third time I heard it, I started to believe that it had an origin bigger than one company's stupid idea.  Is someone telling transmission developers that this is today's good argument?  It's not.

Stop with the stupid propaganda tricks.  They only work on stupid people.  This argument is ineffective.
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