Two groups representing landowners are suing to block an electric transmission line planned for delivering wind-generated power across Arkansas from Oklahoma to Tennessee.
The federal lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Jonesboro by Golden Bridge LLC and Downwind LLC, the two landowner organizations, will test the legality of a decision by the U.S. Department of Energy to aid construction of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line through provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
The landowner groups are represented by Christopher L. Travis and Jordan P. Wimpy, both of the Gill Ragon Owen firm in Little Rock. The complaint lists as defendants the Energy Department and Ernest Moniz, the U.S. secretary of energy, as well as the Southwestern Power Administration and its administrator, Scott Carpenter.
The lawsuit questions the Energy Department's authority to approve the construction of one of the nation's largest electric lines without seeking state-level review. It also challenges its power to exercise the federal right of eminent domain to condemn and acquire private property under the Energy Policy Act. Landowners, it says, should have played a bigger role in the Energy Department's review of the project, which is being carried out by Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston.
CLEAN LINE OFFICIALS SAY ‘FULL STEAM AHEAD’
Late Monday evening, Clean Line officials said they had not seen the legal complaint against the DOE regarding their project and would not be able to provide specific comment. However, a Clean Line executive reiterated the company’s ongoing refrain that the Houston-based venture group has already invested nearly $100 million of private capital to develop the project and anticipates making more than $30 million in payments to Arkansas landowners for easements and upfront transmission structure payments.
In addition, Clean Line will pay Arkansas counties that host the electric transmission project a total of approximately $140 million in voluntary payments over the first 40 years of operation, which will support local schools, fire departments and other community services.
“It’s no secret that the United States suffers from an infrastructure deficit and that we must push through gridlock to move the country forward. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see legal complaints filed against the most important infrastructure projects,” said Mario Hurtado, Clean Line’s executive vice president of development. “In order to modernize the grid, enable the delivery of low-cost energy, create new jobs and enhance our energy security, the private and public sectors must come together to bring new infrastructure projects to fruition.”
Hurtado, who recently told Talk Business & Politics that the multibillion dollar project is expected to get underway in early 2017, added: “The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is the largest clean energy transmission project in America and is moving full steam ahead.”
"The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a pro-jobs, pro-consumer, pro-environment public energy infrastructure project," said Mario Hurtado, executive vice president for development.
The media sells it and you live the role
Mental wounds still screaming
Driving me insane
I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train
I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train
I know that things are going wrong for me
You gotta listen to my words, yeah, yeah
DOE executed the Participation Agreement, which creates a "Coordination Committee," which "shall be composed of two (2) representatives from Holdings and two (2)
representatives from DOE." One of Holdings' representatives is the chair of the Coordination Committee. Unless Clean Line has defaulted, the Coordination Committee requires a representative of both Holding and DOE to have a quorum. The Coordination Committee can only make "public announcements relating to DOE's involvement in the Project" if such public disclosure is approved by "one (1)
representative of each of Holdings and DOE on the Coordination Committee."
"...a Clean Line executive reiterated the company’s ongoing refrain that the Houston-based venture group has already invested nearly $100 million of private capital to develop the project..."
Since the complaint specifically states that DOE "violated Plaintiffs' and the public's due process rights," are you saying that your investors $100 million is more important than due process rights? It sure sounds like it. In fact, it sounds like you think rich people are more entitled to get a return on their investment than regular people are to the right to due process under the law. That's pretty disgusting. And un-American.
Your blather about jobs and taxes also doesn't dispense with the people's right to due process. Are you saying that you can break the law as long as you create a few jobs and pay some taxes? And another thing... jobs and taxes are not a basis for eminent domain. If that were the case, I'm sure YOUR house would provide more jobs and pay more taxes if it were a Walmart. How would you like that, Mario?
“It’s no secret that the United States suffers from an infrastructure deficit..." What? What infrastructure deficit? I haven't seen any identified infrastructure deficit that requires thousands of miles of HVDC transmission to be solved. Sounds like you're making crap up. In fact, plenty of infrastructure is being built. It's just not infrastructure that puts a buck in Mario's pocket. Clean Line is not the be all and end all for keeping the lights on. It's not part of any grid plan.
"...it is not uncommon to see legal complaints filed against the most important infrastructure projects..." No, it's just common to see them filed against destructive and unnecessary projects. A legal complaint does not make an infrastructure project "important" any more than being charged with a crime makes the crime "important." I guess Mario thinks this legal complaint makes him and his project "important." *sigh*
“In order to modernize the grid, enable the delivery of low-cost energy, create new jobs and enhance our energy security, the private and public sectors must come together to bring new infrastructure projects to fruition.” Clean Line isn't "modernizing the grid." Clean Line is creating a separate grid operated solely for corporate profit that only serves people who can afford to pay for it. As well, Clean Line cannot guarantee "low cost energy." Clean Line has no role in the price of energy that could be transmitted over its line, and none of the proposed generators currently exist. You cannot price a commodity that doesn't exist and that you do not control. Enhance our energy security? What kind of jargon is that? Did Mario think that sounded good? How would a 700 mile transmission line "enhance energy security?" The most secure energy system is one where generation and load are located at the same place. A transmission line adds insecurity to that system because it's just one more piece that may fail.
"The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a pro-jobs, pro-consumer, pro-environment public energy infrastructure project..." Oh, puhleeze. If you say that enough times, will you start to believe it? Jobs, consumer prices, and the environment is not an excuse to do away with due process.
It's not a political or policy argument at this point. Judges don't make policy. They interpret the law.
So, do enjoy your ride on the crazy train, Mario. While it lasts.