Customers in the deregulated states of Illinois and Ohio are up in arms about FirstEnergy's plan to stick it to them with a $5 - $15 one-time charge to pay for what it says are "unexpected costs incurred during the polar vortex."

"FirstEnergy Solutions is preparing to bill about 2 million of its 2.7 million retail customers a surcharge for expenses the company will soon have to pay for reserve power it needed when temperatures plummeted below zero."  2,000,000 x $15 = $30M

That's $30M being transferred from consumers pockets into the pockets of FirstEnergy.  A company spokeswoman opined, “We consider that pretty nominal.”

I wonder if she also considers CEO Tony Alexander's annual $23M compensation "nominal."  If the big guy took a pay cut, it would almost cover the cost of the "polar vortex," wouldn't it?


Crain's described the reason for the charge like this:

"The company confirmed that it will impose a one-time charge of between $5 and $15 on customer bills in June to recover a portion of its power-purchasing costs made through PJM Interconnection LLC's regional grid, which serves 61 million people in all or part of 13 states from northern Illinois to the Mid-Atlantic, as well as Washington. In January, PJM — which acts as a market referee for power generators — lifted caps on the price natural gas-fired power plant operators could charge as the cost of gas soared due to record demand, and electricity consumption likewise spiked.
"

The Plain Dealer described the reason for the charge like this:

"When the arctic blast hit the region in early January, demand for electricity spiked - and simultaneously dozens of power plants failed because of the weather, mechanical problems or because of fuel problems.

About 20 percent of the PJM region's power plant capacity went down, he said, threatening the stability of grid. And because the cold was widespread and lasted many days, PJM grid operators found that they could not import power from other areas.

Wholesale power prices then skyrocketed. PJM reduced voltages by 5 percent, asked for voluntary conservation and even briefly considered rolling brownouts to avoid a grid collapse and blackout.

But PJM also ordered more expensive power plants to begin generating, just to keep the system stable, he said
." 

But here's another reason:

FERC compounded the problem by lifting a $1000 price cap and allowing these greedy corporate entities to further game PJM's malfunctioning markets.  FERC has allowed generators to charge whatever they want, and is in denial about any "harm" that may result: 

"FERC said PJM's proposal met the commission's criteria for approving waivers, as doing so would remedy a 'concrete problem,' would not harm third parties and would be limited in scope."


It's really not sounding very "limited in scope," is it?


In addition, FirstEnergy ended up purchasing so much expensive power because many of its generation plants were out of service.  Where does FirstEnergy's fault in that end and the consumer's responsibility for the charges begin?


Not all electric companies are passing these "polar vortex" charges on to their customers, however.  But, FirstEnergy is shuckin' and jivin' like a champ
on a "special website" the company has set up to serve you some koolaid, as well as in the media:

"
Francis of FirstEnergy Solutions declined to say how much her company has been billed by PJM, except to describe the amount as unprecedented. She said the company is passing on only a portion of the charge to customers."

FirstEnergy also said the company has no idea how much it will have to pay
.

"Ms. Francis declined to say how much in unanticipated vortex-related costs FirstEnergy Solutions must pay, saying that figure was confidential. FirstEnergy will know next month precisely how much the surcharge will be, she said."

Yes, it seems that the real cost to FirstEnergy is going
to remain a deep, dark secret, not even revealed to the company's investors.

That's because:


"We thought it was necessary to pass through these costs to customers where contracts allow,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Diane Francis said."

Necessary?  FirstEnergy thought using the fine print in its contracts to stick it to customers in deregulated states was so very funny during its last earnings call.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Yeah. Hi, good afternoon.

Tony Alexander - President & CEO
Hi, Steve.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Hi, Tony. I guess this question might be for Leila. I think you mention the PJM ancillary cost that some of those get pass through the customers?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
Yes.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Is that just in certain states or how does that work? How do we know which areas get pass through or not?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
It is pursuant to contract in a specific language within the contract so it is not a state by state kind of thing, Steve.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Okay. So it is certain types of your customer classes?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
In?

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
In a retail business?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
It is not even the same throughout particular classes.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Okay.

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
It is as that contract language was developed for that particular customer or grouping of customer. So there is no way I can even give it to you by segment.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Okay. So some of the cause when you get this data come up will be cause that you absorb but some of those would be available to essentially pass through your contracts to the customers?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
Correct.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
And in the future, do most of your contracts have that clause, so new ones do or not older ones or vice versa?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
I think it would be safe to say that we are going to be adding that language where we can in the future.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Got it. Okay. Thank you. Just want to clarify that.

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
Okay.
So, if you don't want to get stuck with these kind of charges in your deregulated electric bill again, do like the City of Rockford and look for a new supplier ASAP.
 
 
"Transmission siting fatigue."  I ran across this rather apt phrase recently while poking through a FERC docket.

FERC defines "transmission siting fatigue" as:
Transmission siting fatigue is the idea that, after a transmission line is sited and permitted in an area, it will be significantly more difficult to get an additional transmission line sited and permitted in that same area.
Reasons for this were noted as:
  1. Regulatory concerns - A state public utility commission will begin to look skeptically at multiple projects vying for permission to accomplish very similar goals. 
  2. Environmental concerns - Multiple new rights of way through environmentally sensitive areas are going to cause trouble with Big Green.
  3. Urban areas - There's only so much open land available in urban areas.  Having it all clogged up with multiple transmission lines means there may not be room for more!



Let's add to that list, shall we?
PEOPLE
Once an attempt is made to site a line through a community, the people get informed and organized and will oppose the transmission project.  Siting a second project in the same community would likely rekindle this knowledge base and organization.

In the past, opposition groups would rise up when transmission was proposed.  But after the immediate, personal threat to each individual was ameliorated, interest would fall away, and the momentum and assembled knowledge would be lost.  This is why routing changes were often effective tools for transmission developers, because with each new route, new opponents would have to start all over again with the education and organization process.  With each new route, the time available for the opposition becomes shorter, and, like a game of hot potato, someone finally ends up with the transmission line on their land.

But that was then, this is now.

Because of "transmission siting fatigue" and today's quick and easy sharing of information via the internet, transmission opposition no longer has to re-invent the wheel each time a transmission route threatens.  "NIMBY" is no longer part of the game and opponents from many different projects have joined forces against their common enemy.

The growing transmission opposition knowledge base can easily be accessed to jump start new opposition groups, and effective opposition strategies can be quickly passed from one group to the next.  Nothing draws kindred souls together like the threat of eminent domain and new transmission rights of way.  Opposition is a brotherhood, a private club, a state of mind that outsiders don't understand.  We are one cohesive unit.

Transmission siting fatigue is everywhere and can no longer be avoided.   It's here to stay!
 
 
Opponents of FERC's Order No. 1000 made oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last Thursday.

Order No. 1000 requires interregional transmission planning and broad cost allocation, introduces competition to build transmission, and mandates "consideration" of state renewable energy goals to allow regional planning authorities to interpret and decide how such goals may be accomplished with long distance transmission, instead of in-state resources.  And they wonder why there's been a run on repeal of state RPS laws this year?


A few oral argument summaries have popped up online that seem to agree that the Court pretty much gave the authority and ROFR arguments the hand.  Reporters also agreed that opponents' cost allocation arguments fared better.

Read the RTO Insider summary.

Read an E&E summary.

Cost arguments drone on about eliminating "free ridership" whereby some electric consumers may receive benefit from an interregional transmission project but not have to pay for it.

That same argument could be used for the "free ridership" of some electric consumers who receive benefit from new transmission lines but don't have to sacrifice their land, homes, businesses, and health for the "good" of others.  There are a multitude of unrecognized "costs" of transmission that aren't monetary and cannot be sufficiently compensated by one-time right of way payments.  But I don't think anyone bothered to stick up for sacrificial landowners at the D.C. Circuit.

Unless the Court reins in FERC's heavy-handed transmission exuberance, the arguments will continue.  This will tie the matter up in the courts forever and result in nothing of substance getting built.
Utilities and groups also contend that FERC is infringing on states’ rights because several states already regulate transmission planning. FERC countered that the order would not interfere with state authority, and if the state vetoed a project, it wouldn’t be built.
States will continue to exercise their authority over siting and permitting, denying projects that provide no local benefits.  And the feds will continue trying to usurp state authority through Secs. 1221 and 1222 of the Energy Policy Act.  Isn't this where we've been stuck for years now?

When are the needs of consumers going to be considered?  Consumers aren't buying the specious arguments that billions of dollars of new transmission provide benefit to them.  In fact, more and more consumers are taking steps to check out of the grid and invest in their own onsite generators.  Only then will these ridiculous and expensive arguments end.  Meanwhile, fight on fellas.

You can listen to a recording of the 3-hour oral argument here, if someone's paying you gobs of money to stay awake and pretend you care (or if they're not, you can do it anyhow if you have a 3-hour supply of tasty alcohol on hand, and a twisted sense of humor).
 
 
The Missouri Landowners Alliance has retained excellent counsel to defend its interests against the intrusion of Texas-based Grain Belt Express.

After a long career with a big utility, attorney Paul Agathen brings a wealth of experience to the Alliance's legal team.  Paul has gone on the offensive with a Protest of the Grain Belt Express Application for Negotiated Rate Authority at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a Formal Complaint before the Missouri Public Service Commission alleging that Grain Belt Express has violated and continues to violate the Commission's rules regarding ex parte communications.

First, let's take a look at the FERC Protest.  As a merchant (self-funded) transmission project, Grain Belt Express must concoct its own rate scheme to recover its cost of building and operating its proposed transmission line from customers.  GBE's rate scheme is under the jurisdiction of the FERC and must adhere to FERC's rules, including its non-discriminatory open access transmission rules.  GBE's rate scheme proposes that the company be allowed to negotiate rates with willing transmission customers in a open and non-discriminatory bidding process.  FERC's job is to review and approve GBE's proposed negotiation process BEFORE it occurs.

And, according to the protest, that's just the problem.  Although GBE hasn't "officially" initiated its "open season" for potential customers, GBE has already started soliciting interest from its preferred customers via a "Request for Information" directed solely toward wind project developers in Kansas.  Directing its solicitation to only wind developers discriminates against other forms of electric generation, such as solar or gas, that could potentially bid for capacity on GBE's transmission line.  This discrimination violates FERC's open access transmission rules.

GBE has been doing an elaborate fan dance with FERC, promising to provide access to all forms of generation, while touting its project as a "wind only" transmission line and soliciting interest from wind developers.

The Alliance's Protest asks that the Commission determine that GBE's proposed solicitation of customers is unduly discriminatory and dismiss GBE's application for negotiated rates.

Without negotiated rate authority from FERC, GBE will have no way to collect its cost of service.  No money, no GBE.

Moving on to the Missouri PSC Complaint, the Alliance alleges that GBE has been violating the Commission's ex parte rules.  Ex parte means "one side only" and refers to communication between the decisional authority and only one of two (or more) parties in a case.  It's like one person getting to have a private conversation with the judge in order to sway his opinion against the other person.

But that's not exactly the way the Alliance alleges GBE has violated this rule.  The ex parte rules state:
It is improper for any person interested in a case before the commission to attempt to sway the judgment of the commission by undertaking, directly or indirectly, outside the hearing process to bring pressure or influence to bear upon the commission, its employees, or the presiding officer assigned to the proceedings.
The Complaint alleges that GBE violated this rule through its extensive public relations campaign intended to influence public opinion through statements on its websites, the gathering of boiler plate letters of support for its project, public statements and media interviews, and meetings with local government officials.

The Alliance is not objecting to GBE providing legitimate information to the public:
The Alliance is not objecting here to  everything on the two Grain Belt websites.
It recognizes, for example, that it is perfectly acceptable for Grain Belt to provide  nonargumentative factual descriptions of the Line and its supporting towers; to include maps of the alternative routes of the Line; to provide information for potential suppliers of
component parts for the line; and to address any other matter which is not likely to be a
contested issue at the forthcoming  Commission hearings.
The Alliance is objecting to GBE's elaborate public relations campaign:
As is apparent from all of the above, Grain Belt has engaged and continues to engage in an elaborate PR campaign designed to sway public opinion on matters which it will litigate in the forthcoming Commission proceedings. Their campaign is extensive, it is expensive, and it is professionally managed in all of its various aspects. They have even incorporated Facebook and Twitter into their PR arsenal, and added links in their website to a number of video presentations.

For example, it its Application to the FERC for approvals regarding the proposed Line, Grain Belt refers to their video "that describes the need for the Project and how Grain Belt Express will bring significant economic benefit to states through much-needed transmission expansion for new wind energy projects .... " (Exh. 23, p. 8).

This description of the Grain Belt PR efforts is not intended in the pejorative sense at all. The Grain Belt publicity campaign is undoubtedly effective, and will no doubt accomplishing two of its principal goals: to sway public opinion on the Line in Grain Belt's favor, and to thereby convince members of the public to sign on to the computer-generated letters of support which Grain Belt will file with the Commission.

The letters may have no effect at all with the Commission. However, the ultimate impact of Grain Belt's efforts should not be the deciding question here. If Grain Belt has violated the Commission's ex parte rules, their conduct should not be excused by some sort of "no harm, no foul" escape clause.

We may never know how many people in Missouri were exposed to and influenced by Grain Belt's one-sided presentation on issues which they themselves will raise later at the Commission. Nor could the Alliance ever hope to present its own position to all of the people reached by Grain Belt. Grain Belt has been waging an extensive PR campaign for about four years, and will likely win that battle.

Just how Grain Belt has gone about doing so is illustrated in materials presented at a recent conference in Houston, where participants spent two days learning various techniques for "selling" a transmission project to the public.
A copy of the initial brochure for that  conference is attached here as Exhibit 18.
As noted on the first page, the conference was held this past January, and was to be
hosted by Grain Belt's parent company- Clean Line. As noted at page 3 of that brochure, the keynote speaker at the conference was to be the Executive Vice-President of Clean Line.

According to the brochure, this is a sample of what those involved with building and siting transmission lines were to learn in Houston:

• How best to utilize social media to "engage the public", including who you can expect to reach, and how to go about doing it. (Exh. 18, p. 4) Not surprisingly, an expert in social media from Clean Line was to be one of the two speakers on this subject.
• How to deal with people disparagingly referred to as "NIMBYs" and "BANANAs". Ironically, the audience at that session was also told that a driving force behind the emergence of community-based opposition groups has been the push to build more infrastructure to support more renewable energy. (Exh. 18, p. 4).
• In "Marketing to Mayberry" the attendees would learn, among other things, how to talk down to people in small town, rural America, by communicating with them "in a conversational tone rather than corporate tone ... "  Presumably, these techniques were designed with the citizens of rural northern Missouri in mind.
• "How to frame and 'sell' infrastructure projects ... ", and how to use "effective
strategies and tactics, and share in critique of on-camera training ... "
• How to deal with the media, including:  "Getting into a reporter's head"; "How to answer questions you don't want to be asked"; and how to "position" your message to the media. (Exh. 18, p. 6)
• Finally, the Executive Vice President from Clean Line was to explain "how to ensure that our stakeholders feel they are informed and part of the process". (
emphasis added). Apparently, it is not important to Clean Line that stakeholders actually be informed, or actually be involved in the process, so long as they are somehow made to feel that they are.

The Complaint asks the Commission to find that GBE violated the ex parte rules, order it to revise its websites to conform to the rules, "that the letters of support included by Grain Belt with its Application for
Commission approval of the Line constitute the fruit of a poisonous website, and be therefore stricken from the record in that case,"
and other just and reasonable relief.

Everyone needs to read this Complaint.  The uneven playing field on which transmission owners and the public who oppose them do battle has been clearly defined as unfair.  This is the new normal of transmission opposition, so transmission developers may as well get used to it and turn over a new leaf to play fair.
 
 
Reports of mysterious explosions in the vicinity of Dominion Power's Mt. Storm - Doubs transmission line in Jefferson County, West Virginia, continue to upset local residents.

Rumors have begun circulating that Dominion's transmission rebuild project is actually only a front for a different, more sinister company objective recently initiated to help tide Dominion over during this period of ultra-low capacity prices in PJM.

The scuttlebutt is that Dominion's blasting is part of a company expedition to locate El Dorado, the mythical "lost city of gold."

Community notice before blasting could garner too many nosey neighbors that might try to lay claim to Dominion's hoped-for treasure, therefore, residents should remain in their homes and expect random explosions to continue to rock their world, and clear shelves of fragile items, until PJM's markets recover.
 
 
Over the past year, confidential settlement discussions have been held at FERC between PATH and parties to the consolidated case of PATH's request to recover $121M of  abandoned plant, and the three Formal Challenges filed by Ali & Keryn seeking return of $11M they allege was wrongly recovered by PATH between 2009 - 2011.

This morning, the settlement judge issued a report informing the Commission that the parties "
...have reached an impasse in their efforts to reach a settlement in Docket Nos. ER09-1256-000 and ER12-2708-000.  Accordingly, I recommend termination of settlement proceedings..."

Therefore, the next step is for the cases to proceed to "a public trial-type evidentiary hearing."

 
 
There's been lots of discussion in the news over the past year about the "disruptive challenges" increased deployment of distributed generation resources, such as onsite solar, pose to traditional utility business models.  Even the Edison Electric Institute publicized a report urging utilities to devise a way to continue to collect monthly payments from you, even when you disconnect from the grid.

ITC Holdings Corp. builds, owns and operates transmission.  Unlike other utilities that also own generation or distribution (your "local" electric company), transmission is all ITC does.

More distributed generation means less transmission.  ITC must have found that pretty terrifying, because the company recently "...conducted research, including an online survey of national audits and in-depth interviews with business leaders on grid and transmission development, to measure whether businesses and the general public understand the complex and significant economic benefits that stem from a fully functioning electric transmission grid."
And wouldn't you know it, "[t]he research found that 99 percent of Americans polled think the grid is important to the United States, the national economy and their local economy. Ninety-one percent of Americans agree that investing in transmission will help local, regional, and national businesses grow and succeed. Further, 89 percent of Americans included in the ITC Holdings research believe that investing in the electric grid will benefit consumers by increasing competition and lowering electricity prices."

Oh, poppycock, ITC!  It's all in how you ask the questions, right?  A "hired gun," or advocacy survey is carefully constructed to lead the participants to the desired responses through carefully worded questions, false choices, or limiting possible answers.

Let's take a look at ITC's "survey:"
  • The survey included an upfront, conclusive statement before any questions were asked of the 800 sample "Americans":
After reading the following short description about the electricity transmission grid, nearly all Americans (99%) think that the grid is important to the United States, the national economy and their local economy.

"As you may know, an important part of our nation’s infrastructure is the electricity transmission grid. The grid is made up of transmission towers and power lines that deliver electricity from power generating sources to the distribution network and the millions of businesses and consumers across the country. It’s often useful to view the transmission grid as the “backbone” to the country’s electricity infrastructure. The pieces that make up the transmission grid are very old and outdated. More than 70% of the nation’s transmission lines are at least 25 years old."
  • Questions consisted of asking participants if they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:
Investing in the electricity transmission grid will ensure reliable access to power, especially during severe storms, for consumers and businesses.
Investing in the electricity transmission grid will help America’s economy by promoting job creation and economic growth.
Investing in the electricity transmission grid will help regional local, regional and national businesses grow and succeed.
Investing in the electricity transmission grid will increase competition by facilitating
access to more efficient forms of energy and thereby reducing costs.
Investing in the electricity transmission grid is important to national security.
Everyone benefits from investments in the electricity transmission grid.
Investing in the electricity transmission grid will accelerate access to all types of power.
  • Participants were asked "Why do you think the United States should invest in the electricity transmission grid? Select all that apply."  Why is it assumed that all participants think the U.S. should invest in the grid?  And why isn't one of those choices "To make my electric rates go up while providing corporate welfare for transmission companies?"  Instead choices were limited (and surprisingly sappy):
To lower electricity prices, helping to save consumers like me money
To reduce the number of power outages, especially during severe storms, making electricity more reliable
To make a difference for future generations, including my children and grandchildren
To give businesses more reliable power and make our economy stronger
To minimize the impact of cyber security risks
Here's what ITC concluded from the above question:
• The majority of Americans (61%) prefer investing in the electricity transmission grid rather than building power-generating facilities to increase energy efficiency.
The majority of Americans would rather give their money to ITC every month than invest it in their own power producing equipment or energy efficiency improvements that lower their bills overall?  That is a plainly ridiculous conclusion.  What was in the koolaid they handed out?
  • For some reason, a majority of ITC's "Americans" think that the government invests in the grid from some magic pool of money that doesn't cost the "Americans" anything:
Despite agreement around the benefits of investing in the grid, Americans are divided over who is primarily responsible for actually investing in it.
• More than half (56%) say either federal (Congress) or local/state government is responsible for investing in the grid, while a quarter say electric utility companies are. Small percentages think that President Obama, consumers, or private investors are responsible.
Only a small percentage of these "Americans" know the truth -- that consumers pay for grid expansion in their monthly electric bills.  Oh, if only we really did have a magic grid expansion investment fairy, then there would have been no need for this "survey!"
Now you know how ITC reached its desired conclusion that "Americans" want ITC to build even more transmission to increase corporate dependence and profits!  Then ITC turned this into a white paper for use in trying to convince the federal government to create laws mandating more transmission.  We don't need more transmission!  We need more generation near point of use and less unreliable and expensive transmission!

Since ITC's "survey" was scientifically carried out online, let's undertake our own online survey to see if we can arrive at the same results as ITC's pollster.

    Americans Online Transmission Survey

 
 
The filing flurry on RICL's Illinois Commerce Commission application has finally ended.  RICL didn't hold up very well under careful examination.  It's all a house of cards, a fantastical "business plan" that relies on speculation, or as counsel for the Illinois Landowners' Alliance phrased it, "bold, lofty aspirations."

ILA points out the fragility of this company's plan and the unlikelihood of its success by taking apart RICL's stack of Matroyshka dolls to reveal the true impossibility of RICL ever being built.
Rock Island wants this Commission to grant its requests for a CPCN and Section 8-­‐503 order despite, among other things, (i) not having any generation, or commitments for the development of generation, to connect to the western terminus of the proposed line; (ii) not yet having any commitments for shippers, or customers, to take service on the planned transmission line; (iii) not having commitments from any equity or debt
providers to construct the Project; (iv) and not having completed interconnection studies and agreements needed with MISO and PJM.
Despite RICL's "build it and they will come" game plan, ILA points out that a real business plan needs actual commitments, not simply a string of dominoes that may or may not fall in line when the first one is toppled.

RICL's possible future financing to build the transmission line is dependent upon it having committed customers, or shippers.  RICL supposes that as-yet-unbuilt wind farms will sign contracts to purchase capacity, creating a revenue stream for the company that will enable it to obtain financing to build RICL.  In turn, the potential wind farms must obtain their own construction financing before they can sign contracts with RICL.  In order to obtain financing, the wind farms must secure their own revenue stream by having committed customers sign agreements to purchase power. 

RICL is supposing that unidentified utilities will sign contracts to purchase power from unbuilt wind farms that will in turn sign capacity contracts with an unbuilt transmission line.  Never going to happen.  There's too much risk involved here for any investor's comfort. 

Utilities don't like risk.

 
 
Do you suppose our friend Mark Lawlor is humming the Cheers theme song this morning?

He should be, after a national news story about his transmission line project got the name of the project wrong.
Sometimes you wanna go...
Where everybody knows your naaaaaaaame
And they're always glad you caaaaaaaame...

Ain't that right, Waldo?
Check out one of the hundreds of identical AP stories that have been distributed coast-to-coast:  Wind Power Line Proposal Irks Some Midwest Farmers.

The story pits "Green Belt Express Clean Line" against "some farmers" that don't want the transmission line on their land.  But, it's more than that... the farmers hold title to the land "Green Belt" desperately wants, and they're not giving in.  This situation has resulted in an epic battle over a private company's use of eminent domain for its speculative, privately-owned, for profit project.  This isn't just "some farmers," but thousands of landowners all over the Midwest who are opposing all of the Clean Line projects.
Many along the route worry that a private company could simply take over land that in some cases has been in families for generations.

"We have sacrificed everything for this land," said Jennifer Gatrel, 33, who, along with her husband, Jeff, farms a 430-acre cattle ranch in western Missouri. "We don't go on vacation. We don't go out to eat. Everything we have is tied up in this land. The idea that somebody can come in and take it from us is appalling and it goes against what it is to be an American."

Lawlor said the company prefers not to use eminent domain and wants to reach agreements with landowners. He also cited studies showing that power lines and towers have no effect on property values.

"When they sit down and talk to us and get the information about the reality of the project, I think we're succeeding in clearing the air," he said.

Not as far as Gatrel is concerned.

"There are already significant barriers to farming," Gatrel said. "This would be another major barrier."
Lawlor is only kidding himself about succeeding in clearing the air.  Opposition to his project is growing by leaps and bounds and nobody seems willing to sit down with him in the first place.  Maybe he needs to offer some free ham?  Pulled pork?  The truth?

"Negotiating" with landowners while threatening them with eminent domain condemnation is not negotiation.  As the Illinois Farm Bureau stated in their ICC brief:
In addition, if granted § 8-503 relief, what Rock Island characterizes as “voluntary” easement negotiations with farmers will actually sound something like “Rock Island has been directed by the Commission to construct a transmission line on an approve[d] route, which crosses your land.” Characterizing the easement negotiations as voluntary under these facts is kind of like giving someone the option of jumping off of a cliff before you push them.
The AP reporter did about as good a job fact checking the snowstorm Lawlor dumped on him as he did listening to the name of the project.

But, all press is good press, and this story moves the struggle for landowner rights to the national stage, where the truth is revealed:
The biggest hurdle for these projects is their intent to use eminent domain for pecuniary gain. Traditionally, utilities have been bestowed with eminent domain to build transmission for reliability reasons. But these "renewable" projects are not necessary for reliability or economic reasons -- they are solely an attempt to increase the percentage of "renewable" energy consumed in far-flung areas remote from the generator. And further, these particular "Clean" Line projects are an attempt to corner the market on "renewable" energy so that urban communities are precluded from developing local renewables. Instead of investing in our own communities, "Clean" Line proposes that we send all our energy dollars to midwestern states and into "Clean" Line's pockets. "Clean" Line has publicly stated that its transmission line will add considerable cost to the energy delivered and has provided no proof that the energy it proposes to transport will be economic or competitive with local renewables in the east. Stating that "Clean" Line will "drive down electricity costs" is disingenuous when "Clean" Line has no idea how much its delivered product will cost. It is just as likely that "Clean" Line will drive up electricity costs. "Clean" Line calls itself a merchant transmission company. A merchant transmission company depends on the free market to make itself competitive. "Clean" Line is depending on eminent domain to keep its cost of building the project down (cost of project shows up in the cost of delivered energy) and on renewable portfolio standards in other states to force utilities to purchase its product at any cost. In addition, this company has made noises about passing the cost of its project on to captive ratepayers, or using federal eminent domain authority to override state authority to site and permit its projects. Not the actions of a company depending on fair market competition for its success or failure! Right now, there is no market for "Clean" Line. There are no generators, and no purchase agreements. Opposition to "Clean" Line by affected communities and elected officials is increasing, and with each new opponent, the chance of success decreases just a little bit more.
When is "Green Belt Express Clean Line" going to quit dumping its investors' money down this rat hole?
 
 
Much to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's chagrin, Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Smith continues exposing our dangerously centralized grid's foibles.

WSJ published another article yesterday that said "[t]he U.S. could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country's 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day, according to a previously unreported federal analysis."

To read the article, plug this phrase into Google: "U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack" If the WSJ really wanted the public to be aware of their investigative journalism coup and foment an army of misguided public outrage, it shouldn't stick all its articles behind an easily avoided pay wall.  Just a suggestion.

The article seems to have drawn its information from "sensitive" FERC documents:
A memo prepared at FERC in late June for Mr. Wellinghoff before he briefed senior officials made several urgent points. "Destroy nine interconnection substations and a transformer manufacturer and the entire United States grid would be down for at least 18 months, probably longer," said the memo, which was reviewed by the Journal. That lengthy outage is possible for several reasons, including that only a handful of U.S. factories build transformers.
Acting Chairman (woman?) Cheryl LaFleur was quick to reach out and slap WSJ for its impudence by issuing a statement that read, in part:
"Today’s publication by The Wall Street Journal of sensitive information about the grid undermines the careful work done by professionals who dedicate their careers to providing the American people with a reliable and secure grid. The Wall Street Journal has appropriately declined to identify by name particularly critical substations throughout the country. Nonetheless, the publication of other sensitive information is highly irresponsible. While there may be value in a general discussion of the steps we take to keep the grid safe, the publication of sensitive material about the grid crosses the line from transparency to irresponsibility, and gives those who would do us harm a roadmap to achieve malicious designs. The American people deserve better."

In response to the WSJ's last grid vulnerability expose, FERC Commissioners issued statements on February 20 designed to quell panic and a rush to throw money -- your money -- at the security risk posed by our interconnected grid that is currently being designed to support Enron-style energy trading.  Only one of the Commissioners showed an understanding of the real underlying problem.  Commissioner Norris noted that efforts to decentralize the grid would address resiliency:
“To address physical vulnerability, it is also important to focus our efforts on modernizing our electric grid. Building the grid of the future will play a key role in addressing multiple security and reliability threats or situations. We should look to further deployment of phasor measurement units, wide-area management systems and enhanced situational awareness. Furthering efforts in the development and deployment of microgrids and smart grid technology will also greatly assist in addressing grid resiliency. These efforts, along with system-wide planning, are just a few examples of how we can increase our ability to make the grid more reliable and efficient.
Last week, FERC directed NERC to "address physical security risks and vulnerabilities related to the reliable operation of the bulk-power system."
But the WSJ plowed right on ahead with their next article, which fails to even mention decentralization.  Instead, the WSJ focused on more centralized "solutions."
Because it is difficult to build new transmission routes, existing big substations are becoming more crucial to handling electricity.
This isn't about building new transmission and "safer" substations to further centralize our energy production and delivery system, but about decentralizing by building more small-scale, fuel-free generation at point of use.

But that doesn't sell newspapers, fill days and days of Faux News programming, or plump up corporate balance sheets.  When are these people going to start telling YOU the truth?