FERClitigation.com has published a new letter to the U.S. Department of Energy's Inspector General from Senators Collins and Barrasso
The Senators are asking the same questions that have been stinking up the FERC's aura for months.
1. Are parties who "do not otherwise appear frequently before FERC" held to different standards than the utilities who are part of the daily scenery at FERC?
2. Are there clear rules about what constitutes market manipulation? Are market participants given adequate notice about what constitutes a violation and treated fairly during an investigation? Is FERC pursuing "market manipulation" that was perfectly legal when it occurred?
3. Are deals made with utilities that could be construed as quid pro quo enforcement settlements in order to receive FERC approval for a different transaction?
Tough questions. Where are the answers?
You don't have to be one of the "white shoe" FERC regulars to think that something's off here. There's been enough written to make even common consumers question whether our recently politicized FERC plays favorites with its incumbent utility friends while saving its scary investigations and worst punishments for energy "outsiders" that dare to venture into its lair.
The Wall Street Journal gets right to the point:
Ad hoc settlements win political plaudits, but because companies usually neither admit nor deny wrongdoing, the settlements set no meaningful or coherent legal precedents.
Does FERC's mindless pursuit of settlements really serve consumers? Or is it all about the occasional big headline to draw the passing attention of the common consumer and give him a false sense of security that regulation is working to protect his interests?
Does FERC play footsie with gigantic utility holding companies? Case in point: FirstEnergy's 2012 scheme to drive up capacity prices in ATSI, which cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. Regulators didn't bat an eye because what FirstEnergy did was legal when they did it. But, not so for some of FERC's red-headed step children that aren't regulars at the Sunrise Cafe. Their ignorance of FERC's mysterious enforcement methods has cost them dearly.
Will DOE's Inspector General shake some of the political rot and decay out of 888 First Street and restore the public's respect and trust in the important work of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission?
I hope so.
Common Pleas Judge Jane M. Davis on Wednesday granted the request by Akron-based FirstEnergy against the Utility Workers Union of America, System Local 102 and its union members.
On Saturday, according to the complaint, about 25 to 30 pickets showed up at the Green home of FirstEnergy Chief Executive Officer Tony Alexander at 9 a.m. By 10:30 a.m., more than 65 protesters on the sidewalk and along the street in the residential neighborhood were holding signs reading: “Bonus for bosses, cuts for labor” and “Tony is a Rat.”
The pickets also used air horns, with the majority of the pickets staying until 12:15 p.m. A few remained until 2:45 p.m.
A neighbor complained to the pickets about the traffic and nuisance, according to the complaint.
The complaint also says there have been at least eight protests at Alexander’s house since April, usually involving eight to 12 people.
I'm thinking that maybe Tony isn't the most popular guy at neighborhood barbecues and pool parties. Doesn't this guy have enough money to go buy himself a private estate somewhere, with vicious watch dogs, like Charles Montgomery Burns,
and quit inconveniencing his neighbors by bringing his work home with him?
Apparently all the proletarian partying on the sidewalk has gotten to the old grouch. Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Tony, WAHHHHHHHHHHHH!
I wonder if it's half as inconvenient for Tony as all the burdens he wants to put on his workers so that he can rake in more profits?
Send in the spies...
An affidavit said FirstEnergy officials learned there were sign-up sheets for protests planned for the next two Saturdays at the Bath Township home of Charles Jones, FirstEnergy executive vice president and president of FirstEnegy Utilities, and the Richfield home of Lynnette Cavalier, senior vice president of human resources.
...and the FirstEnergy legal team. FirstEnergy says it isn't trying to stop the protests, just make them more polite.
The request for the restraining order asked that the protests be limited to no more than five people and that they prohibited from using bullhorns or air horns and screaming, yelling or changing “in a manner intended to disturb.” [typo alert! I think the reporter meant "chanting," not "changing."]
FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider said the company’s actions were in response to the large, “inappropriate” demonstration in a residential area.
“Protesting in front of our corporate headquarters is one thing. Protesting in a residential neighborhood is a different thing,” he said. “It was truly disruptive on a Saturday morning for them to be using a bullhorns and air horns.”
Alexander was not home at the time of last week’s protests, Schneider said, but has been home during some of the eight other protests there.
He confirmed that an off-duty local officer has been patrolling the area near Alexander’s home since the protests began in April. At times, the protesters have approached the home and neighbors’ homes, Schneider said.
He declined to say whether Alexander had hired security at other times of the day.
FirstEnergy is not trying to shut down future protests at homes, Schneider said, but requested they be limited to five people or fewer.
In granting the restraining order, however, Davis — or someone in her court — wrote “0” on a line next to the number of pickets allowed. She also set a hearing date of Sept. 29.
Is this even legal?
Bob Whalen, president of the Utility Workers of America System Local 102, said he would send word to his members to comply with the retraining order but questioned whether it violates the workers’ rights.
“We certainly will not be there. There won’t be anything sanctioned by the union. I don’t want to put my people in harm’s way [legally], and we’re not that kind of organization,” Whalen said. “We are looking at the constitutionality of that judge’s order right now.”
Whalen said he was not present at the protest in front of Alexander’s home and was not sure whether there were protests planned for the next two Saturdays, but said he has a retired worker who organizes protests.
“They have a calendar full of plans, and I really don’t micromanage it,” he said.
A call to Davis’ court chambers asking about the legality of the restraining order was not returned.
ACLU spokesman Gary Daniels said that without knowing the specifics of this case, he would comment only in acknowledging that a 1998 Supreme Court ruling allows the government to limit pickets at a single residence.
Meanwhile, 680 workers of West Penn Power, Potomac Edison and a small power plant called AE345 continue to work without a contract.
Who's paying for all these legal shenanigans? I do hope Tony is paying to rake the ruffians from his dooryard and not recovering the cost from FirstEnergy electric customers...
Just one more example of the growing divide between the haves and the have nots, the worker bees and the figureheads. Shut up and row, slaves.
And opposing testimony is filed in Clean Line's Grain Belt Express permitting case in Missouri!
Read it here! Enter case number EA-2014-0207
The citizens of Missouri scored a huge, definitive victory over Grain Belt Express at the recent series of public hearings sponsored by the MO PSC. Thousands of citizens showed up at the hearings, decked out in neon green, and spoke from the heart (transcripts of the public hearings are also available on the MO PSC docket). This is reality.
This is fantasy. In the wake of its public spanking, Grain Belt's super spunky and personable project manager, Mark Lawlor, sent what he characterized as a "press release" to the Caldwell County News. The "press release" contained Mark's revisionist version of the public hearings, to make it seem like Grain Belt didn't get its butt kicked so hard.
The Caldwell County News printed Mark's "press release" in the opinion section as a "Letter to the Editor," where it rightly belongs.
And Clean Line toady Sierra Club came out with its own press release to attempt to make it seem like its members made more of a showing than they really did. This ridiculous article downplays the reality of the crowd in favor of the fantasy of a just a few speakers. This isn't balanced "news," it's one-sided propaganda. The comments on the story expose the fantasy and replace it with reality. Grain Belt's intention to use eminent domain to take private property from Missourians so that it can ship electricity from Kansas to Indiana is "DOA."
But that's not even the half of it. Sierra Club's claims about the wonders of Grain Belt Express are also fantasy. Grain Belt will do little to "move Missouri away from its reliance on coal" when the majority of the electricity on the line will simply pass over Missouri's head on its way to other states. The converter station is called a "token" by Missourians who realize that in order to even be built in the first place this converter station requires Missouri customers to buy the power. There are none. No customers, no converter station! *poof*
Here's a better plan for Missouri: Development of in-state renewables located close to point of use. Increased energy efficiency. Both of these options provide more jobs and economic benefit to Missouri than importing electricity from another state. Importing Clean Line's power EXPORTS Missouri energy dollars to Kansas and other states.
Keep it clean. Keep it local. Keep it smart!
Reply briefs on exceptions are in at the Illinois Commerce Commission!
In the matter of Rock Island Clean Line's petition for an Order granting it a CPCN and authorizing and directing it to construct a transmission line, the dust has settled for now and it's up to ALJ Larry Jones to consider and decide if or how to modify his original Proposed Order.
You can read the briefs linked on the ICC Docket here.
I haven't read them all yet, but the few I have sampled are chock full of reality. I think my favorite bit of snark so far is found in ComEd's brief:
"Generic statements that transmission reinforcement is desirable do not amount to establishment of need."
This has been Clean Line's shtick from the beginning. The basic tenet of propaganda is to develop a simple message and repeat, repeat, repeat. If you say it long enough, and loud enough, the more unaware and uninformed among us begin to accept it as reality and repeat it.
Clean Line wants the public and the environmental community to believe that its project is "clean" and "needed." But it doesn't look like Clean Line's aspirational propaganda monologue held up to regulatory scrutiny in Illinois. And it's not holding up in the public dialogue either.
The tide is turning and Clean Line's continued insistence that, if it is only allowed to take land from thousands of families and businesses across nine midwestern states to build its project, it will be a "needed" and "clean" success is falling on deaf ears. Regulators are starting to explore these generic claims and seem to be finding nothing of substance to back them up. Need can only be definitively determined through participation in an established process for doing so. It cannot be manufactured out of thin air, hopes and dreams.
In all the states where Clean Line intends to do business for its Rock Island, Grain Belt and Plains & Eastern projects, there is already a thorough, federally-regulated process by which new transmission projects are proposed, vetted and approved. Clean Line chose to operate OUTSIDE this process and instead substitute generic claims of "need." It appears that Clean Line's claims just can't stand up to any real scrutiny. Organizations that continue to parrot these baseless claims and support Clean Line are buying a piece of pie in the sky, and ruining their own credibility with the public.
The public opinion verdict is in, and the message is simple.
The Pufferfish Foundation
wants to let folks know that the U.S. Department of Energy's Inspector General would like people who have been harassed by FERC's Office of Enforcement to contact their office.
They can contact the IG hotline at:
D.C. Metro Area: (202) 586-4073
Toll free: (800) 541-1625
FAX: (202) 586-4902
This information comes from U.S. Senator Robert Casey's office, and may be a response to the Senator's inquiry
into FERC's investigation of Powhatan Energy Fund. The investigation has been made public on the website ferclitigation.com
Powhatan sent this letter to the Inspector General in July.
So, if FERC's bullies come knocking on your door, who ya gonna call?
On August 19, the U.S. Department of Energy issued its long overdue "National Electric Transmission Congestion Study" for public comment. You're the public! Serendipity!
I'm not sure what DOE is trying to hide, but I didn't get any notice about this study, although I participated in one of the webinars, and usually get 15 copies of these kinds of notices forwarded to me from lots of different folks when they get them. Nope. *crickets*
Maybe it's because I've been engrossed in the project from hell and not paying attention to much else?
Virtual paper cuts be damned, I happened across it the other day while putting together some links for a transmission opposition group. Serendipity, again!
It looks like the DOE really didn't pay much attention to the comments it received before writing this study. They still seem to think that we need more transmission to make sure that every electron produced can be used anywhere else, no matter how far from the generation source.
The DOE is supposed to do a triennial congestion study. That means every three years. But after it got the stuffing kicked out of it in the 9th Circuit over its 2009 designation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) without properly consulting the states, and without performing a proper environmental review of said corridors, we can understand why DOE is only just now getting around to the triennial study it was supposed to complete in 2012. It's taken them this long to venture timidly out of their cave. I'll guess that this "study" is only a tentative foray back into the game, since it states that another study will be completed in 2015, to keep to the original triennial schedule. It's September, 2014 now, right? DOE moves at a glacial pace... Seriously? What's the point of this year's study?
Anyhow... please do read the 175 page study, paying particular interest to your particular geographic area, or transmission project of concern.
And I'd like to mention a few special things that DOE said in this report that you should be thinking about while crafting your comments.
The first is a particular pet peeve of mine. Perhaps in my next life I'll finally find time to do the full accounting of the TRUE cost of building new transmission that I've been constructing in my head over the last few years while listening to how transmission proposals affect hundreds of opponents across the country. Maybe we can start making a dent in it by addressing it here. DOE says:
Construction of major new transmission facilities, in particular, raises unique issues because transmission facilities have long lives – typically 40 years or more. Evaluating the merits of a proposed new facility is challenging, because common practices take into account only those expected costs and benefits from a project that can be quantified with a high degree of perceived certainty. This has two effects:
First, it leads to a focus on the subset of cost and benefits that can be readily quantified. Not taking into account the costs and benefits that are hard to quantify has the effect of setting their value to zero in a comparison of costs and benefits.
Second, it leads to projections of costs and benefits that are generally on extrapolations drawn from recent experiences. Projections based only on recent experiences will not value the costs and benefits a transmission project will have under very different assumptions or scenarios regarding the future because they ignore or discount the likelihood of these possibilities. Such a narrow view of the range of costs and benefits that could occur provides a false sense of precision.
Transmission developers are all about tossing made up, speculative, or fantasy "benefits" onto the table in order to make their projects appear to pass a cost-benefit analysis. But no one has ever quantified the REAL cost of transmission. I'm not talking about a project's total capital spend, or its annual revenue requirement. I'm talking about the very real costs to landowners who are unlucky enough to be picked to sacrifice their homes, businesses, retirement, health, peace of mind and countless other intangible COSTS for the benefit of the electricity-slurping public in some far off city. Market value payments for the involuntary sale of transmission right of way only attempt to compensate for the value of the land, not all the other costs to the landowner's way of life that can't be... in DOE-speak... "readily quantified."
Also, the DOE still seems to think that offshore wind is experimental.
As will be discussed later in this chapter, many states adopted Renewable Portfolio Standards with requirements or goals to use more renewable‐sourced electricity.
Because much of the best utility‐scale renewable resource potential is relatively remote from the load centers, the states then had to authorize new transmission construction to enable the desired renewable‐based electricity to reach the grid.
Maybe you can give DOE a link to its own map
showing the best utility-scale renewable potential located just a few miles offshore, conveniently near load centers? Quit tinkering, Einstein, and get 'er done!
And how about this?
Many points of transmission congestion today result from the need to deliver electricity from
changing sources of generation. For example, generation sources are changing because of
state‐mandated RPSs. The best renewable resources (i.e., those with the highest potential capacity factors) tend to be located far from load and sometimes in areas with less transmission than desired for effective resource development. Existing transmission constraints may deter development of these resources. While this is not a challenge in all parts of the Eastern Interconnect, it is a principal cause of evolving congestion concerns in the Midwest.
Maybe you could let the DOE know about the economic benefits that come with LOCALLY-produced renewable energy? Jobs, tax revenue and economic development happen where renewables develop. States that buy, rather than create their own, renewables are only exporting their energy dollars to other states or regions and hurting their own communities.
Oh, and let's make this next part a fun scavenger hunt... can you find all the little hidden mentions of the Clean Line projects in this report?
So, what's the point here? The DOE is going to use this draft and the comments it receives to create the final report. From that report it may designate National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs). NIETCs are very bad news, and a stupid idea left over from the 2005 energy policy act (don't ya wish your congress-person would get off their tookus and fix that mess?)
Designation of an area as a National Corridor is one of several preconditions required for
possible exercise by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of “backstop” authority to approve the siting of transmission facilities in that area.
No. No. NOOOO!
So, what can you do? Read the report. Write a comment. Send it here. Do it now! Comments are only going to be accepted until October 20. If you don't participate, no one's going to care what you think later...
They're not fooling Len Chidester of Montrose, West Virginia
. He's heard some nasty rumors about the shoddy way FirstEnergy treats its linemen, neglects maintenance of equipment, and fails to read electric meters. Apparently this is all being done under the mandate of some company named PJ+M.
Mr. Chidester believes PJ+M is in bed with FirstEnergy. If they breed, the child would probably behave a lot like this one:
Mr. Chidester concludes that FirstEnergy bought Mon Power and Potomac Edison. FirstEnergy is bleeding these companies for every nickel they can squeeze by their phoney meter reading process, doing minimal repairs, and who knows what other practices. And he advises that a very major investigation be launched into exactly what the power companies, FirstEnergy, Mon Power, Potomac Edison and the company PJ+M have been and are continuing to do.
He's exactly right!
The union busters at FirstEnergy are at it again. The Herald-Mail reports
that local union members have rejected FirstEnergy's contract offer. The local union represents workers from Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, the Waynesboro area in Pennsylvania, and West Virginia's eastern panhandle.
The company and the union have been negotiating for a new contract since March 2013. Federal mediators have been involved during the past several months.
Whalen said union members are upset at FirstEnergy demands such as that they use their own "vehicles on their own time" to reach construction and maintenance worksites, and, because the utility is at "an all-time low staffing level," each worker is being forced to respond to emergency calls far more often than was normal a few years ago.
Union rep. Robert Whalen said that by rejecting the contract offer, union members have authorized a strike, if necessary.
But never fear, Potomac Edison customers... useless PR flack Toad Meyers has promised to keep your lights on by magic!
...the utility has plans to continue providing electrical power to its 382,000 customers in Potomac Edison’s Maryland and West Virginia territory “no matter what happens,” company spokesman Todd Meyers said.
“We’ll keep the lights on for our customers,” he said.
It must be magic, because I don't think Toad could cut it in lineman school. I'm still waiting for him to come read my electric meter and he hasn't shown yet! I wonder if they'll let him use a company truck for that, or will he have to use his own vehicle? In case your lights go out, don't bother with the emergency number, call Toad: (724) 838-6650.
I'm going to stock up on candles and gas for the generator. I have no faith in Toad's promises.
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!