And then the people of Arkansas happened.
Clean Line Energy Partners have been inspired to take their medicine show on the road in Arkansas and rent display space at local county fairs from which to sell their unneeded Plains & Eastern Clean Line.
And then the people of Arkansas happened.
Two different opposition groups opened booths at local county fairs yesterday, and word is that Clean Line might want to bring along a good book, because they're going to be pretty lonely this week.
The final four PSC public hearings on Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project were held in Missouri last week, and the Caldwell County News has the best coverage of the Hamilton hearing.
Over the course of eight hearings spread across the state in the last month, Missouri's patient and empathetic public service commissioners listened carefully to thousands of Missourians who oppose granting eminent domain authority to Clean Line for its speculative, unneeded 700-mile transmission project.
This is a huge victory for the people of Missouri, who came together to show the PSC and Clean Line a united front. The final hearings even attracted a dedicated contingent of opponents from neighboring Kansas, who were thrown under the bus by their own regulators last year. And what a difference for them! The respect that the Missouri regulators have for the people they serve was a breath of fresh air, as reported by one of the Kansans.
Many thanks to Jennifer Gatrel and Russ Pisciotta, who have dedicated themselves to this effort for the past year, and delivered for their members with the best public hearing effort possible. The "we the people" pinnacle reached last week is their only reward for the hours of tireless work they have put into the effort. These are the moments hard working opposition leaders live for, and the feeling is indescribable. I'm only sorry I had to miss it due to other commitments, but I am fully confident there will be other moments of victory as this group moves into the evidentiary hearings in November and toward their ultimate victory over Clean Line!
Good job, Missouri! You are an inspiration to transmission opposition everywhere!
A good friend of mine came up with an apt acronym for the few diehard fans of the Clean Line Energy projects.
MIMPSY: Money In My Pocket, Screw You!
The MIMPSYs are in high gear in South Dakota, eagerly salivating at all the money they will rake in if the states of Iowa and Illinois allow their people and their land to be used to build Clean Line's money-making "road to market."
For years, Clean Line has been telling Iowa's economic development types how much money will flow into Iowa if it only forces approval of its Rock Island Clean Line project.
But, it now appears that at least a third of the riches promised to Iowa in exchange for its sacrifice will flow to South Dakota instead.
Dakota Power Community Wind has been pumping itself up in the media lately, trying to raise enough capital to build a wind farm of up to 1,000MW in eastern South Dakota. This is nearly one-third of RICL's proposed 3,500MW capacity.
A recent article claims the benefits South Dakota will reap from the building of RICL:
"The economic potential for our area is tremendous and uses South Dakota's renewable resources to help solve our country's energy needs," said Beresford Mayor Jim Fedderson.
But, wait, all that money is flowing directly out of the money RICL has promised to Iowa in exchange for allowing RICL to be built as a closed highway through the state. South Dakota's windfall is coming directly from the pot of money RICL promised to Iowa! How much more of RICL's economic promise to Iowa is going to evaporate if RICL is permitted?
Pure and simple greed can turn even the finest men and women into blinded fools.
Or MIMPSYs. A handful of South Dakota landowners hosting turbines are expected to rake in $6 to $7 MILLION dollars per year if RICL is built. What are the thousands of landowners hosting the line in Iowa and Illinois expected to be paid for their contribution to the effort by hosting the line? I think I heard something like $500 annually for each tower, if the landowners accepts less than fair market value for the easement and opts for the annual payment scheme.
Why the disparity? Why are just a few landowners in South Dakota going to rake in $6-7 million annually, while the rest of the host "team" must settle for $500?
Stop. Think. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't let greed blind you.
Mountain Party candidate for the 66th District seat in the WV House of Delegates, Danny Lutz, had great success with a petition against Potomac Edison's recent request for a 17.2% rate increase when he circulated it at the Jefferson County Fair a couple weeks ago.
Danny presented a sweet 500 signatures of protest to the PSC last week!
Miss your chance to sign the petition at the fair? Danny's got you covered! He's made copies of the petition available for you to sign at several supportive local businesses.
Visit these establishments and ask to sign the Potomac Edison rate increase petition:
Roger's Tire and Auto Martinsburg
Orr's Farm Market Martinsburg
D&D Meats Inwood
Mountain View Diner Charles Town
Hampshire's Body Shop Kearneysville
Cantuta Cafe Charles Town
Needful Things Charles Town
Weber's Store Shannondale
And be sure to attend the Public Service Commission hearings on the rate increase in Shepherdstown on October 6 to watch Danny present his handiwork to the Commissioners.
If you'd like a blank copy of the petition to circulate at your business, with your friends, neighbors, or family, just ask. Unless you're that other guy who works for the utility... he can't have my petition... or my vote.
The WV Public Service Commission issued an Order today scheduling public comment hearings on Potomac Edison's proposed 17.2% rate increase.
Two local hearings will be held in Shepherdstown at the Shepherd University Frank Center on October 6, 2014. The first hearing begins at 1:00 p.m. and will be followed by a second hearing beginning at 6:00 p.m.
Customers are strongly encouraged to attend and sign up to speak briefly about how the proposed rate increase will affect you. If you can't make the start time, that's okay, late arrivals will still be permitted to speak as long as they arrive before the hearing concludes.
This hearing is also the place to tell the Commission how you feel about its decision to make you pay the $7.5M cost of Potomac Edison's monthly meter reading ordered as a result the General Investigation into the company's meter reading and billing practices.
See you there!
The Amish are a peaceful people. They rarely get involved in worldly things like electric transmission permitting battles. They don't get involved in legal matters, even to protect their own financial interests.
But now Amish communities in three Missouri counties have submitted a petition containing 85 signatures to the Missouri Public Service Commission. A large group of Amish also came out to the first MO PSC public hearing earlier this month, with smaller groups at the following hearings.
According to Jennifer Gatrel of BlockGBE, "They are extremely concerned. They truly believe that power lines are dangerous. Their cousins in Wisconsin suffered tremendously when their dairy cows were negatively impacted. The line would go about a mile from their school. It is truly a matter of religious freedom."
The Amish have an interesting approach to electricity. They refuse to use the public electric grid and instead use limited amounts of electric power generated on-site. The Amish believe that reliance on others to generate and deliver power to them would tie them too closely to the world and symbolize a physical connection to it and reliance upon it.
But, Grain Belt expects the Amish to "do their part" by voluntarily hosting a transmission line they will never find useful, in order to provide for the needs of big cities in other states, who want to make their conscience a little "greener."
Can't help but wonder... Were the Amish farms targeted when siting Grain Belt Express due to their presumed unwillingness to fight back? The fact that so many of them have signed the petition is a major break in Amish precedent.
...and they can start by overcoming their presumption that massive amounts of new overhead transmission is necessary to move to a clean energy future. It's not.
But, CFRA is funded by ReAMP, whose "clean energy" money comes from deep pocketed and mysterious foundations and "Energy Funds". Environmental groups are just as shady, and just as well-funded, as the fossil fuel energy interests at which they point the finger. And the people have had enough of that nonsense!
Transmission advocacy toadie CFRA has taken the funding offered by these big green groups to act as a voice for rural landowners, and to somehow convince these landowners to accept gigantic new transmission lines across their land. It's not working. CFRA has done nothing but anger rural landowners, who feel that CFRA has strayed far from its mission to represent rural interests.
CFRA begins with the incorrect presumption that we MUST build massive amounts of new transmission across the midwest in order to have clean energy.
CFRA has been rejected time and time again by the very rural landowners it pretends to represent. But, now they're back, telling rural landowners that they can "change transmission for the better" if they simply accept it.
NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.
Earlier this month, several hearings were held across Missouri concerning a proposed transmission line that has the potential to carry Midwest wind energy to eastern markets. The Missouri Public Service Commission heard testimony from Missouri residents concerning the Grain Belt Express project, one of several new transmission projects in the region that could help boost new renewable energy projects.
The only thing that needs changing here is the way we go about transitioning to a clean energy future. It's not going to happen overnight. And it's not going to happen on a grandiose scale. It's going to happen gradually, in the local communities, where energy can be produced at point of use.
CFRA has failed to actually LISTEN to what rural Americans are saying about energy. They want local solutions, sustainable solutions, that don't require rural America to make a sacrifice for the needs of far-flung urban areas. Urban areas are just as capable of developing their own local renewable energy sources and should be permitted to do so. Instead of wasting billions on new long-distance overhead transmission, couldn't that money be better spent on sustainable solutions, such as on-site solar or offshore wind conveniently located near the big demand centers?
CFRA has failed to learn the first lesson about the people it supposedly represents -- it's not about the money, it's about a way of life.
Loren Sprouse, a Block Grain Belt Express-Missouri member and electrical engineer, went to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) earlier this year with his concerns about the electric fields that would be created by Grain Belt Express, and their possible corrosive effect on nearby infrastructure. In response, MoDOT has compiled a research report of the most current studies available on the subject. The report, entitled "Effects of Ground Voltage of Stray Current on Infrastructure Caused by High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Transmission Lines," cites numerous studies which indicate that DC lines may have a harmful impact on metallic infrastructure when operated in the monopolar mode, or under emergency conditions.
Although Grain Belt Express's website claims that its project will be a bipolar line, Sprouse is still concerned about the extremely high voltage of the line, and the electric fields and stray currents it may produce.
"This is just another example of not fully understanding the potential long term negative consequences of this project. Our regulators need to enforce extremely high design standards when reviewing such projects around distances from homes, areas where people work around and under these lines, and especially around proximity to pipelines carrying natural gas and other petroleum products," Sprouse said.
The report indicates that monopolar HVDC transmission lines have an extremely corrosive effect on adjacent infrastructure, such as pipelines. Sprouse says that electric fields will always produce some stray currents, even in Grain Belt Express's bipolar HVDC model, or alternating current (AC) transmission lines.
The report confirmed Sprouse's worry, stating "The effect of stray current corrosion on underground infrastructure has been a concern for decades. As one example, a 1967 article warned about the "stray current corrosion of underground metallic structures" caused by HVDC transmission lines. In the literature, most studies are concerned about potential damage to pipeline structures." The report also quoted a 2008 GAO report that identified a risk "associated with siting HVDC electric transmission lines along active transportation ROW ... Stray current could interfere with railroad signaling systems and highway traffic operations, and accelerate pipeline corrosion, resulting in accidents."
Curt Jacobs from Erie, Illinois, echoed the concerns of Sprouse when commenting on a pipeline explosion that occurred last August adjacent to an AC transmission line near the proposed Rock Island Clean Line route.
"This pipeline explosion opened our eyes to the dangers of power lines close to pipelines. The suggestion that DC power can be even more corrosive than AC power raises significant safety questions for those of us that would be forced to live and work near Clean Line's proposed projects and the existing pipelines the routes attempt to parallel," he said.
Block GBE spokeswoman Jennifer Gatrel is worried that siting Grain Belt Express parallel to buried pipelines for approximately 119 miles across Missouri is too risky to the families who live and work close by. Approximately 53% of the GBE proposed route is sited within a mile of the pipeline corridor.
"We are very concerned about the implications of this report. Grain Belt wants to run their massive line close to pipelines through much of the state. The report makes it clear that there could be a real and present danger of doing so," she said. "As a mother to small children the idea that they could be put in danger is not acceptable!"
Some of Block GBE's major concerns, in addition to safety issues, are property rights, property devaluation, health effects, and the impediments to farming posed by the lines. Citizens interested in reading the report in full or learning more about the issue can find more information at www.blockgbemo.com or by calling 660-232-1280. The public will also have a chance to weigh in on the issue directly to the Missouri PSC who will decide whether to allow Grain Belt to build the lines. The schedule is located at the group's website here.
Last Monday, Illinois Commerce Commission ALJ Larry Jones issued his proposal for an Order of the Commission regarding RICL's request for authority to build its project in Illinois. Note that this is just a proposal, it is NOT an official Order of the Commission and has no authority unless adopted by the five member Commission.
Meanwhile, the legal debate will continue. Under Section 200.830 of the Rules, exceptions to the Proposed Order and replies thereto may be filed by the parties.
Let's just start out by stating that the Proposed Order (P.O., for short) is a beast -- 216 pages of repetitive back and forth, and lots of legal prose. If you've actually read the whole thing, congratulations! It took me most of the week to plow through it and to do the research to answer my own questions about certain parts.
First of all, we need to know what RICL asked the ICC to do.
In this proceeding, Rock Island Clean Line LLC (“Rock Island,” “RICL” or “RI”) filed the above-referenced petition with the Illinois Commerce Commission (“Commission” or “ICC”) pursuant to Sections 8-406 and 8-503 of the Public Utilities Act (“Act”), 220 ILCS 5/1-101, et seq.
Section 8-406 governs the following:
Whenever after a hearing the Commission determines that any new construction or the transaction of any business by a public utility will promote the public convenience and is necessary thereto, it shall have the power to issue certificates of public convenience and necessity. The Commission shall determine that proposed construction will promote the public convenience and necessity only if the utility demonstrates: (1) that the proposed construction is necessary to provide adequate, reliable, and efficient service to its customers and is the least‑cost means of satisfying the service needs of its customers or that the proposed construction will promote the development of an effectively competitive electricity market that operates efficiently, is equitable to all customers, and is the least cost means of satisfying those objectives; (2) that the utility is capable of efficiently managing and supervising the construction process and has taken sufficient action to ensure adequate and efficient construction and supervision thereof; and (3) that the utility is capable of financing the proposed construction without significant adverse financial consequences for the utility or its customers.
Here's what the P.O. determined about RICL's request under 8-406:
Having reviewed the record, the Commission finds, with regard to the first alternative showing in Section 8-406(b)(1), that Rock Island has not demonstrated that the Project is necessary to provide adequate, reliable, and efficient service to customers within the meaning of Section 8-406(b)(1).
The "conditions" attached to the judge's proposed conclusion are as follows:
Prior to recovering any Project costs from Illinois retail ratepayers through PJM or MISO regional cost allocation, Rock Island will obtain the permission of the Illinois Commerce Commission in a new proceeding initiated by Rock Island. For the purposes of the prior sentence, any system upgrades set forth in an interconnection agreement with PJM or MISO and the costs of which are allocated to Rock Island will be considered “Project costs.” For the avoidance of doubt, the phrase “recovering any Project costs from Illinois retail ratepayers through PJM or MISO regional cost allocation” includes the recovery of costs though PJM and MISO transmission service charges that are paid by retail electric suppliers in respect of their electric load served in Illinois.
So, the P.O. did not find that RICL was necessary, but did find that it would promote the development of a competitive electricity market (not that the current market doesn't already do that). Therefore, the P.O. recommends that RICL be granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity under Section 8-406 because it satisfied the second part of (1) after the "or" (see 8-406 language above). However, the proposed finding comes with HEFTY conditions and would expire two years after being granted. Do you think RICL can get its stuff together to satisfy all the conditions AND get a permit from Iowa within two years? Tick tock! How many years has RICL been trying to make these projects work now? Has it been 5 years already?
Now let's move on to RICL's request that the ICC "authorize" or direct it to construct the line under Section 8-503. Remember that RICL told the ICC that they might not even construct the project after all if it wasn't profitable enough?
The Commission has reviewed the evidence and arguments. First of all, to the extent Rock Island is asserting that the criteria in Sections 8-406(b) and 8-503 are identical, and that a finding the Section 8-406(b) criteria have been met would automatically mean the Commission is required to grant the relief sought under Section 8-503, the Commission disagrees. Such an interpretation would render Section 8-503 superfluous.
Authority under Section 8-503 is necessary to apply for eminent domain under Section 8-509, which reads:
When necessary for the construction of any alterations, additions, extensions or improvements ordered or authorized under Section 8‑503 or 12‑218 of this Act, any public utility may enter upon, take or damage private property in the manner provided for by the law of eminent domain.
But, the P.O. is NOT proposing that RICL be granted eminent domain authority at this time. RICL may re-apply for Section 8-503 at a later date. Important: RICL does NOT have eminent domain authority to condemn and take property in Illinois at this time, and this proposed order would not give it to them!
But, the P.O. also proposed that the recommended CPCN issued under Section 8-406 would allow Section 8-510 of the Code, which states:
Land surveys. For the purpose of making land surveys, any public utility that has been granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity by, or received an order under Section 8‑503 of this Act from, the Commission may, 30 days after providing written notice to the owner thereof by registered mail, enter upon the property of any owner who has refused permission for entrance upon that property, but subject to responsibility for all damages which may be inflicted thereby.
The P.O. recommended granting RICL the Certificate required to enter onto private property under Section 8-510, and reasoned:
...the issuance of the Certificate will enable Rock Island to gain access to the property to conduct surveys and related activities, which are steps characterized by Rock Island as important ones in which to engage in the near future.
The P.O. proposes that RICL be granted authority to trespass upon, enter, and damage private property, although prohibited from taking that same property by eminent domain. Yet, it's clear that RICL at this time does NOT have any dedicated funds, so how would landowners be compensated for damages incurred in the surveying process? What protections are in place for landowners in the likely event that funds are not acquired to build the project and the company goes bankrupt? At this time... none!
But, remember, this is only a PROPOSED Order, subject to more legal filings and alternative proposed language. What the Commission actually approves may be radically different.
Meanwhile, keep up to date on all the RICL news and action alerts by liking BlockRICL on facebook or visiting their website.
Yesterday, Sierra Club announced that it opposes PPL's "Project Compass," at least the parts that it thinks will carry "dirty" energy.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said his group "will definitely oppose" the section in that state.
But what about the sections that environmental NGOs think will carry "clean" wind energy from the Midwest? How is Sierra Club going to support the western parts of this project without connecting them to the eastern parts that deliver the load?
Tom Schuster, a regional Sierra Club representative, said the group hasn't taken a position on the entire project because there are still too many unknowns.
Meanwhile in Midwest states, Sierra Club is supporting new transmission lines intended to move electricity hundreds of miles across multiple states. Aren't those also transmission lines that rely on far-off plants to send power into populated areas? Yes, they are.
Environmentalists who testified said they support the [Grain Belt Express] plan. James Harmon of Kirksville, a member of the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s Missouri Chapter, said it would help Missouri and other states meet the new federal goals for reducing carbon emissions.
This is what happens when your policies are hypocritical. Either you like big new transmission "for wind" (and everything else they carry), or you don't. There are no "electron police" standing by to keep dirty electrons off new transmission lines.
Hello, left hand... let me introduce you to right hand. May you two have a long and hypocritical life together!
So, how does Sierra Club want to plan our electric grid? This is what happens when you let a bunch of "public policy" wonks have a seat at the table. It doesn't sound like there's any real plan at work here.
Meanwhile, equally silly arguments about "mine mouth" gas plants hijack the reporter's attention:
Jay Apt, director of the Carnegie Mellon University Electricity Industry Center, said that enormous natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale has led to significantly cheaper wholesale prices in areas of drilling. In other words, a power plant could produce electricity cheaply in Pennsylvania and a utility could transmit it to places with higher electric prices, such as Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.
Ever heard of a gas pipeline, Jay? Gas can be transported to plants that burn it in places with higher electric prices. You're going to have to transport something somewhere, and what's easier to get permitted? A FERC-jurisdictional gas pipeline, or a state-jurisdictional 725-mile high voltage transmission line that meanders through four very urban states? We all know that FERC has never met a gas pipeline it didn't like.
PJM says what it always says -- because when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. PJM never changes, no matter how many new rules get made. PJM simply finds a way to bend the new rules to continue to support its generation and transmission incumbents.
PJM Interconnection of Audubon, Pennsylvania, which oversees wholesale electric demand for 61 million customers in a 13-state mid-Atlantic region, has said that the electric grid is "undergoing an extraordinary transformation" as coal-fired plants retire.
Dotter goes... doddering... on making silly analogies:
PJM spokesman Ray Dotter said it's like a huge version of the dilemma many individuals face: Is the most effective thing to buy a new car, or fix the old one you have?
So, if PJM decides to buy PPL a new car, are they planning to trade in the old car? Or do PJM and PPL intend to continue driving that old, inefficient car AND the brand new one? New transmission that ignores current inefficiencies and outdated equipment simply adds to the problem, it does not solve it.
Then Tittel says something sensible:
"We have better places to invest our energy money" in or near in New Jersey, Tittel said, such as offshore wind, solar, and energy efficiency projects. He added that if money was spent in those ways "you wouldn't need the power line."
I hope this means that Tittel will now be supporting smart, new local transmission projects in New Jersey!
But, just in case the Sierra Club simply continues to flap its arms ineffectually and contradict itself, the citizens of the affected states will most likely be the REAL opposition that kills PPL's transmission project.
The citizens have each other's back, because they can't count on organizations like the Sierra Club to deliver a coherent message about new electric transmission.
We always show up to get the job done!
So, with that in mind, PJM wants to hear your comments about "Project Compass." Tell them what you think.