I'll give the investor owned utilities credit for their persistence.  They simply refuse to give up on the idea of putting FERC in charge of high voltage electric transmission permitting and siting.

Less than three weeks ago, the Department of Energy declined to officially delegate their authority to designate National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors to FERC.  This stunningly bad idea was the brainchild of former FERC Commissioner and current NextEra Energy lobbyist Joe Kelliher as a way to provide free transportation for his company's wind power resources to coastal load centers.  Transmission lines aren't paid for by the utilities who invest their capital in the project, they are ultimately paid for by the ratepayers, with delicious double-digit incentive rates of return for the energy companies.  Building unneeded new transmission lines is a cash cow for the utilities.

Today, Platts reports that new House legislation has been introduced that will give FERC the authority to site transmission lines and repeal the DOE's NIETC authority and replace it with a new FERC authority to designate transmission planning regions.  Same stupid idea, different game plan.

This version of the game is credited to Jim Hoecker, former FERC chairman and lobbyist for the WIRES front group.  Those former FERC Commissioners now raking in the millions by returning to the industry that spawned them in the first place are a dime a dozen.

Here's how it's supposed to work:

"These regions would then propose for FERC's approval high-votage transmission projects already included in the planning process.

Regional transmission planners could propose that FERC grant certificates for specific projects and the bill would require the commission to give these planners "substantial deference" for such requests.

The proposal also would permit FERC to issue permits to build interstate transmission lines.

The issuance of FERC certificates is modeled on FERC's gas pipeline siting authority, but the bill stops short of giving the commission eminent domain to order the construction of any line over the objection of affected landowners.

It also would retain states' authority to make decisions in the siting of local transmission lines."

Okay, so they have given FERC the authority to issue permits, and then "retain states' authority" by making them the bad guys who grant eminent domain to the power companies.  No matter how they sugar-coat it, THIS PREEMPTS EXISTING STATE AUTHORITY, just like the industry lobbyists' last plan!

Once again, the investor owned utilities who stand to rake in huge profits with a new, free and easy, FERC-run, national siting and permitting policy state that:

"Sensenbrenner (who sponsored this wonderful *awful* idea) "appears to recognize that the national interest transmission corridor designation process is broken," Hoecker said."

And

"There is latitude on the part of the agencies but this would be a departure from the broad geographic approach implemented under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and therefore would likely draw congressional attention," Plaushin said."

Awww... cut the false modesty.  It's going to draw lots more attention than just that of Congress...

 
 
Late last week, PATH filed a Motion to Dismiss the Formal Challenge and Motions to Compel Filed by Keryn Newman and Alison Haverty.

I can't comment here right now, but stay tuned if you want to see how this one turns out.  The rest of you can comment your little fingers into bloody nubs, if you so choose.

If you're unaware of what's been happening at FERC, you can catch up on the filings here.  Change the date range to previous 5 months, and type in Docket No. "ER08-386" and separately "ER09-1256."  Different things have been filed on both dockets.

I'm going to be busy this week, but nothing I can't handle.  However, there may be a dearth of news here while I do other things, so go entertain yourselves at The Coalition for Reliable Power's Blog or The Power Line.  Or you could further amuse yourselves by totaling up the typos and errors in PATH's Motion.  First one to come up with the correct total wins bragging rights as StopPATH's frustrated wanna-be English teacher (well, unless you actually ARE an English teacher)!



 
 
Even PATH doesn't take itself seriously anymore, if today's 2012 PTRR "Open Meeting" is any indication.    The meeting was a total farce and they got so busy pushing each other in front of the speeding Interested Party Express Line bus that they didn't even stick to their make-believe "agenda."  They also cut the meeting short by pretending there were no more questions and hanging up real quick.
Picture
Scared much, fellas?  I could have sworn that at the beginning of the phone call we were told that there would be some additional presentations, and the agenda had an item called "closing comments," but PATH pushed the PANIC button instead and the operator announced there were no more questions, even though there were more questions in the queue (but somebody kept canceling them).  Comedy at it's finest!

On the call were PATH counsel Randy Palmer and Becky Bruner (well, at least Randy said she was there, but we never heard her say a word -- they should have tossed her under the bus once or twice, just to get something in return for that billable hour), Milo Pokrajac, who is apparently not the one holding PATH's bag any longer, and some new accounting patsy named Dave Griffing.

It started out bad when Patience Wait asked them if the $14.7M return (profit) on the PTRR was reflective of PATH's old 14.3% ROE, or their new, lower 12.4% ROE.  Of course it's based on the old one, because they haven't filed the revised PTRR for the new one yet.  They pretended that they had no idea what the new return amount would be.

Ali Haverty presented them with the dilemma of the amazing, un-depreciating rate base whereby PATH's "suspension" keeps the amount in the rate base stagnant and as a result PATH does nothing but collect a profit year after year.  *crickets*  I think this is where Dave and Milo threw Randy under the bus for a change.  Randy went blathering on about a whole bunch of nothing but basically alluding to the fact that abandonment of the PATH project is just around the corner.  No real shocker, right?  We all saw that coming.

Robin Huyett Thomas quizzed them about CWIP balances bouncing around like a yo-yo in 2012.  They keep trying to blame it on forfeited option payments that are being expensed, but really, they didn't make much sense.  Just another question they couldn't answer.

Continuing the theme, Steve Smith tried to get some detail out of them regarding the amount of depreciation showing in the rate template under "Overhead conductors and devices" (for a line that's not been constructed?).  Milo told him it was just a small amount that didn't really matter, however Steve countered that $8,500 bucks isn't chump change to him.

Debbie Royalty quizzed them about PATH's A&G expenses in 2012.  They're showing $2.4 million in expenses for a project that's sitting on a shelf.  Randy said that the $2.4M consisted of, "this call, the ongoing financial review process and 'those types of things.'"  Considering that Chorus Call cut the meeting off after the allotted, obligatory hour, maybe someone should ask Randy just how much they're paying him to put on his game face and pretend that PATH is following the Formula Rate Protocols, or that they give a crap at all anymore, $2,399,910.05?

In order to get any real answers to their questions, they were instructed to submit discovery questions (pssst... you don't get real answers that way either, but it's good for a giggle).

PATH also verified again that the piddling amount of land they have already purchased, some $30M of the rate base, would have NEVER depreciated.  That $30M only represents a handful of the thousands of properties PATH would have had to pay for, one way or another, if their project had been built.  The un-depreciating land just sits in the rate base, year after year, earning (now) 12.4% return (profit) for the PATH Companies.  This means you would have been stuck paying for PATH... for eternity.  So, thanks, victorious PATH opponents, for kicking this hole in everyone's wallet to the curb. 

Now, can't we just get to the flippin' abandonment already and quit torturing each other?  How about it, PATH?

Pictures from the PATH Breakfast Meeting Party -- more coming later, we're currently experiencing an "abeyance" of technical cohesion:
 
 
I hope lots of you will be joining us this morning for the semi-annual PATH Squirmapalooza.

Beginning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time, PATH will be presenting their 2012 Projected Transmission Revenue Requirement and answering questions from interested parties over the telephone.

If you'd like to ask PATH about the $14.7M profit they expect to earn in 2012 while their project is suspended and providing no benefit to you, join the call by dialing 800-860-2442.  No password or secret handshake is required to join the club.

 
 
A friend sent me a message today alerting me that our old pal Pinky has won an award for his campaign to sacrifice more West Virginia citizens' land, health and future for out-of-state corporate profits.  Wow!  Congratulations, Pinky, we are so proud of you!  Keep it up and maybe someday someone will create a Pinky fan club on facebook just for you!

See what Pinky won here.  Be sure to congratulate Vice-President Pinky while you're there... and also satisfy your sweet tooth on the over-the-top, cutsie-poo, imbecile fest that is CRA.

The message I received also commented on Pinky's legendary fashion sense.  It was noted that he's still got that ultra-chic look that screams, "a trailer park yard sale threw up on me!" 

Let's hope Pinky milks plenty of cash out of IOGA while the Marcellus gas craze lasts because you just never know who's going to end up holding the bag the next time CRA gets fingered in a major screw-up that makes their client less than pleased.

 
 
Contradictions.  That's the trouble with doublespeak; inconvenient and pesky contradictions keep popping up, such as this glaring faux pas in a Richmond Times Dispatch op-ed by PJM blowhard Michael Kormos.

"In the case of offshore wind projects, located miles off the coast, lines will be needed to move the electricity from the generators to the onshore grid."

But then:

"New transmission lines will be needed to move electricity from renewable sources — many in remote locations, far from existing transmission lines — across multiple states to the urban areas where the power is needed."

Whoa, there, buddy.  Why would new transmission lines crossing multiple states be needed to move offshore renewables to the onshore grid?  Last time I checked, there weren't any states located in the Atlantic Ocean.

Can't quite decide if that 800-pound industry lobbyist gorilla that lurks in the corner at PJM Interconnection is going to insist that East Coast population centers be forced to have their "public policy" goals met by Midwest wind located a thousand miles away?  Or will the big East Coast energy companies prevail and get rich on the offshore wind right on their doorstep?

"The FERC, which provides regulatory oversight for regional transmission organizations (RTOs), recognizes the problem and recently issued an order related to what can be done to ease building transmission lines that aren't strictly for reliability and providing for those who benefit from those lines to help pay for them."

Oversight?  You mean like that really cool babysitter you had back in elementary school that let you jump on the bed and make prank phone calls to the local pharmacy to ask them if they had Prince Albert in a can?    So, the overly permissive FERC babysitter is going to make it easier to build unneeded transmission lines for other reasons, which are going to end up so muddled that it will be impossible to properly allocate costs or challenge a subjective planning process.  Also, those who benefit from them will help pay for them... with the rest of us who don't benefit from them picking up the bulk of the tab, right?  That's awfully nice of PJM and FERC, don't you think?  I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees a trip to the judicial fun house in the making.  You know, sometimes when you insist on having too much of a good thing, you end up with nothing at all.

And not to change the subject, but that Governor's Conference on Energy isn't about renewables, is it?  Check out the "sponsors" here, and then check out the prices for sponsorship.  For the cost of all those "receptions" and "meals," check out the price list for how much those "sponsorships" cost here.  Yeah, Virginia is for lovers, and lobbyists, and coal companies, and coal burners, and gas companies, and oil companies, and public relations propaganda, and front groups.  What?  Front groups?  How shocking!  I'm certain the Governor's office didn't knowingly endorse industry front groups Faces of Coal and Virginians for Reliable Energy by permitting them to "sponsor" his conference!  Of course not!  The muck is getting pretty deep, I hope the conference participants brought their hip-waders...

 
 
According to this article, PJM has blinked during the stare-down it's been having with the New Jersey BPU:

"The independent operator of the regional power grid is moving to make a series of changes to its system. Its goal: fix impediments that even it agrees has helped thwart the development of new power plants, something the Christie administration has been pursuing for more than a year.

PJM detailed several steps it is taking to expedite new power plants, including overhauling its much criticized generation interconnection system. The system is designed to ensure that new power plants tying into the regional grid do not lessen its reliability by requiring high voltage lines to carry more power than they are capable of.  The interconnection process has been blamed for the time it takes to win approval as well as driving up costs for those developers seeking to build new power plants.

Michael Kormos, senior vice president of PJM, said the organization is considering retooling the process to allow it to "fast track" developers that are ready to move forward with their projects, a proposal suggested by Hess Corp, which is one of the three projects to win subsidies from New Jersey.

PJM also is considering having independent parties do the studies of what interconnection upgrades are needed when a new power supplier is trying to hook into the grid. That comes in response to questions raised by New Jersey whether there is a conflict of interest with existing transmission owners doing the studies, as is now the case, because of potential benefits that could derive to an affiliate if the required upgrades discourage new plant construction.
"

The article says that it's too little, too late though, and PJM's last minute swerve won't go far enough to resolve the dispute.

"If anything, the rhetoric seems to be turning more heated, with state officials talking about investigating whether structural market power exercised by incumbent generators creates barriers to the entry of new suppliers.

"We shouldn't gloss over the issue of market power," said Stefanie Brand, director of the Division of Rate Counsel. "I think the board should look at it more closely."

At a day-long hearing held in the Statehouse Friday, PJM officials and power suppliers dismissed that allegation, saying studies by independent monitors have found no evidence of such behavior. Instead, several consultants argued that New Jersey's own efforts to encourage power plant development are undermining the competitive market and discouraging investment in the state."


Yeah, right, PJM, guilty much?

 
 
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities held another public hearing yesterday regarding their plan to use ratepayer subsidies to fund the cost of three new, state-of-the-art gas-fired power plants.  Board President Lee Solomon said that it's too late to turn back now because New Jersey's LCAPP is a law he is obligated to pursue.  The State of New Jersey says that inadequate generation in the state is causing higher electricity prices.  New Jersey contends that PJM's markets aren't encouraging the development of new generation in constrained areas as they are designed to do, and they intend to find out how manipulation of the market by large, out-of-state energy corporations is causing PJM's system to fail.

Of course, there was no shortage of front groups who are funded by these large, out-of-state energy corporations that control New Jersey's market at yesterday's hearing.  Industry-funded front groups who showed up to oppose New Jersey's plan included the New Jersey Energy Coalition, a front group funded by Exelon which was originally intended to protect their Oyster Creek nuke plant.  Also on hand to pretend that New Jersey's plan will hurt competition in electricity markets was industry-funded and directed front group Compete Coalition.  The Compete Coalition, despite their purported advocacy for competitive markets, is actually working against competition in order to retain market share for their corporate "members," says the American Public Power Association.  APPA is a group representing the interests of community-owned electric utilities.

NJ.com has an interesting article demonstrating Compete's third-party propaganda tactics.  When asked about their opposition to New Jersey's plan, the two New Jersey-based companies whose names appeared on a letter submitted to the Governor's office by the Coalition said that they were asked to sign it by their energy providers (the big companies funding the Coalition).  Neither company knew anything about the controversy or why they were supporting the Coalition's position.  Obviously, they didn't write (or even read) the letter before signing on.

Ah, the energy corporations and their front groups... always an entertaining show.  When are they going to realize that no one is drinking their koolaid anymore?

It doesn't look like New Jersey is fooled either and they're not backing down.  Stay tuned to see how this one plays out.

 
 
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've seen the gigantic boil of corporate control of the federal government forming.  The boil has ripened and it's time to lance it!  Yesterday, The President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness released this report.  The Jobs Council consists of corporations (see pages 46 & 47) and the report uses data compiled by their paid lackeys, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

We've long suspected that this push for a "national grid" of new high voltage, long distance transmission lines and federal control of transmission siting and permitting was filtering down from The White House.  What else could get all these politically appointed federal agency heads to scramble with such alacrity?  However, the agenda being championed here is that of big business, the very same big business who got us into this economic mess.  It's not intended to bail us out.  It's intended to further screw the American Consumer and increase corporate control.  Oh, and it's also going to make a bundle of money for the corporate elite.


I tried to slice up this report to reduce file size and concentrate only on the transmission aspects, but guess what?  Someone has protected the file with a password so it cannot be altered or copied.  How very business like of them!  So, you're going to have to put up with the whole file and my direction to certain pages.  Some people have been unable to download the file at all, most likely due to its "protected" status.  Way to go, fellas, your paranoia is hurting your agenda!

Anyhow, Page 3 presents an executive summary.  Here are two of the Council's "recommendations" that are driving all this malarkey:  Accelerate job growth through new infrastructure projects and reduce regulation.

Page 8 shows "How the Council has been working."  They've been using their Chamber lackeys and other corporate players to control the outcome of their "work."  This isn't an honest effort to revive our economy, it's corporate lobbying.

Pages 13 - 16 details their plans and reasoning for building a new transmission grid.  They pretend that new transmission infrastructure will be "completely funded by the private sector."  This is a sneaky lie.  While investment that fronts the cost of building transmission indeed comes from the private sector, the ultimate financier of all this infrastructure is the electric consumer, who will pay all this money back to the investor, with double-digit interest, over the life of the project.  New transmission projects will drive up the cost of electricity, and this hurts businesses in the commercial and manufacturing sector who consume the lion's share of electricity in this country.  When their costs rise, they have to lay off workers in order to stay afloat.  Sometimes the rising costs of doing business simply put them out of business.

They whine about environmental regulation of Marcellus drilling, offshore drilling in the Gulf and the tar sands controversy.  It is implied that we should ease regulation and possibly sacrifice our environment in order to create jobs.  A job isn't going to do you much good when you're being poisoned by your environment.  Environmental regulation exists for a reason and to suggest that it be eased under the guise of "creating jobs" is a Trojan Horse that the industry thinks is hiding their desire to subvert environmental regulation that is hurting their profit initiatives.

On transmission, they whine about old transmission infrastructure and "congestion" but never recognize the simple solution to these problems -- rebuilding and modernization of existing transmission infrastructure completely within existing rights-of-way to increase its capacity and efficiency.  Rebuilds cost much, much less and are not faced with siting delays or cumbersome regulatory hurdles.

They whine about a broken permitting and siting process, which isn't really broken at all. 

They whine that "the best clean energy resources in the world" can't be utilized without a whole bunch of new transmission.  That is an outright lie.  The best wind energy resources are located off both coasts and in the Great Lakes.  These resources are located in close proximity to population centers, with enough existing transmission to get it to load.  The only thing missing is transmission to bring it ashore and the infrastructure to harvest it.  Tapping into offshore wind will end up being MUCH cheaper than trying to power the country from the Midwest via a series of huge, new transmission lines.  A "national grid" to transport land based wind is estimated to cost around $300B.  In comparison, the Atlantic backbone undersea transmission project is priced at $5B, a savings of $295B for electric consumers.

They suggest that Sec. 1221 of the Energy Policy Act can somehow be utilized to override state decisions and force a bunch of new transmission lines.  No, it can't. They suggest the President quickly issue an order for new transmission.  Well, that would help out the corporate bottom line, wouldn't it?  There wouldn't be a bunch of jobs created though.  I'm not going to repeat myself, so go read an expose on the propaganda myths being parroted by the Obama administration.  Then go check out all the Jobs Council's references on Page 48 -- either they're not reliable sources (industry biased) or they're a slice and dice of data.  Are we supposed to wager our economic recovery on a bunch of corporate propaganda?  Get real!

Pages 26 - 28 detail their plans for doing away with regulation.  C'mon, if you can't trust the industry to regulate themselves, who can you trust, right?  Ridiculous.  Pages 42 & 43 show corporate America's dream regulatory process.  They also want to stomp on "litigation" and confiscate your right to due process when your rights and property are affected by a corporate money-making initiative.

Page 36 contains a rosy summary.  However, the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow belongs to the super-rich corporate elite, not out-of-work Americans.  See Page 44 for a look at the corporations behind the "Jobs Council."  Lots of money to be made by these companies with less federal regulation, isn't there?

If these corporations want to create jobs, they need to get on with it and stop looking for more handouts.  We need to jettison this corporate agenda and create REAL energy policy.  This isn't the kind of "change" that America needs.

 
 
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu declined today to pass DOE's authority to designate National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  A scheme for FERC to take over corridor designation was proposed by energy company lobbyists earlier this year and recently championed by FERC, the industry and certain "environmental" groups whose misguided enthusiasm for renewable energy turned them into the perfect patsies for championing new long distance transmission lines. Individual states, who have always had authority over transmission lines within their borders, along with a member of Congress and other environmental organizations who live in the real world, vehemently opposed the transfer of authority.

Don't kid yourself by thinking the battle is over.  DOE's statement says they "will work more closely with the FERC in reviewing proposed electric transmission projects under section 216 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), as an alternative to delegating additional authority to FERC."

So, in other words, instead of officially giving FERC the authority, DOE is just going to let FERC unofficially run the show.  FERC's plans included allowing transmission developers to designate corridors at will when proposing a new transmission project.  DOE's plan includes this as well.  In addition, DOE says they will:
  • Begin immediately to identify targeted areas of congestion based on the evaluation of existing information and on comments submitted by stakeholders;
  • Identify narrower areas of congestion than the broad areas previously studied; and
  • Solicit statements of interest from transmission developers while considering what National Corridors to designate.
Just because a transmission developer wants to build a project does not mean "congestion" exists.  As well, transmission is probably the most expensive, most environmentally unfriendly, and least "reliable" solution to "congestion." 

At the same time, you've got FERC considering an update of their transmission incentives through a Notice of Inquiry.  Over a hundred sets of comments were submitted in that docket (RM11-26-000) and present a clear picture of what's driving development of new transmission development.  Money.  Transmission projects, whether they are "needed" or not, provide a tidy income for energy corporations and investors.  Since transmission projects are funded in their totality by electric consumers, the building of unnecessary transmission infrastructure has the potential to send electric rates skyrocketing.

Keep watching this one to see how much of FERC's original plan to anoint itself with federal transmission siting and permitting authority ends up being carried out in DOE's name.

This charlie foxtrot has reached critical mass.  Why are we still operating under 6 year old energy policy?  Six years ago, FERC, regional grid operator PJM, politicians and the energy industry thought expanded uses for coal fired resources was a good idea.  Energy and how we use it has come a long way since then.  The only smart solution is for Congress to develop new energy policy instead of observing and complaining while the energy industry, their lobbyists and the government political appointees manipulate bad policy to continue on this transmission highway to hell at electric consumer expense.

Radix malorum est cupiditas.