A "media tour"
is a public relations tactic used to control the way the media frames a certain story so that only one point of view is presented, and differing viewpoints are not mentioned. A media tour can take many forms, but one involves schlepping an executive or "expert" around to different reporters in a city or region for face-to-face meetings with news reporters/editors. The idea is that a reporter will connect with the executive, and more sympathetic press will be created.
Media tours rely on the card stacking propaganda technique whereby only one side of an issue is presented to the audience. Opposing viewpoints, or facts that don't support the proponent's argument, are omitted from the discussion. Because the media tour provides a one-sided rendition of fact, the stories produced can often take the form of "puff pieces." A puff piece is a distorted story that only presents a glowing review of the proponent's product. In contrast, a balanced article examines both sides of an issue and the reporter talks with leaders on both sides to present their views.
Because it was getting absolutely pummeled in the Missouri media by a fresh-faced amateur, Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project has concocted a new media plan. The first item appears to be a media tour starring Clean Line president Michael Skelly. This guy rarely shows up in the localities affected by his planned projects, and when he does he's always described as incredibly arrogant and out-of-touch with local sentiment, priorities and values. Therefore, to drag him through a media tour in Mayberry, Missouri, informs that Clean Line is in real trouble in the all-so-important court of public opinion.
So, how did it go? I think this reporter was wise to him.
Mr. Skelly’s visit comes amid an upsurge in opposition to the project.
And the true nature of that opposition is reported:
Opponents recently have banded together in a bid to thwart Grain Belt Express, with some sessions held in Buchanan and Clinton counties. They contend landowners are being coerced into signing easement agreements.
So Skelly starts telling some unbelievable whoppers:
However, Clean Line believes it is gaining more supporters rather than detractors and say the process in Kansas already has erased doubts.
“We’re having those conversations in Missouri,” Mr. Skelly said. “We’re out there having negotiations with landowners ... We find out that people get more comfortable with it.”
Check out the comment from an actual Kansas landowner at the bottom of the article:
I can tell you how negotiations with landowners in eastern Kansas is going. They're telling Skelly where he can put his power line, to put it mildly. The vast majority of landowners in eastern Kansas have resolved to not even negotiate with Clean Line until they get regulatory approval in Missouri and Illinois. The routing approval handed down by the KCC last fall was contingent upon them gaining regulatory approval in these two states. Why would anyone want to sign an easement agreement with a company that will more than likely sell the easement pre-construction to a foreign interest like National Grid, and not even be around when and if construction ever begins.
Erasing doubts. Right, Mikey.
But Mikey's media tour to "defend his project" got completely upstaged by the opposition when the Missouri Farm Bureau put out a release about its intention to intervene in the Grain Belt Express case at the Missouri PSC at the same time. The Farm Bureau opposes the use of eminent domain for this project.
In addition, the university that Clean Line schmoozed with promises of pizza parties in exchange for signatures on a petition supporting the project has taken the initiative to exercise their journalistic muscles with some balanced reporting.
And another opposition op-ed got published.
What was that you said, Mikey? I can't hear youuuuuuu... and neither can anyone else you were trying to convince with that lame media tour.
I guess he will just have to concentrate on the other tactic Clean Line has recently re-deployed, the "community roundtable" and "governmental and environmental organization" private meetings that attempt to inspire advocacy in unaffected and uninterested populations.
But, don't worry, citizens of Missouri, there are some public meetings where your participation and opinion are valued.
Meanwhile, another Grain Belt Express spokesman recently buggered things up further by cluelessly insulting Missouri lawmakers by stating that they are merely "dabbling in legislation" that affects his project and he's "paying attention" to their interference with his plans in their state. What an idiot!!!
It's not going to work. Give up, Clean Line. You've been bested in Missouri and there is no recovery from public knowledge of your true intentions.
Eminent domain. Two ugly little words.
Here's two more: Clean Line.
Mary Mauch of BlockRICL was on the radio this afternoon talking about Clean Line's proposals to take 3,000 miles of new transmission line right of way through eminent domain in numerous states across the Midwest.
Historically, we haven't spent too much time worrying about the right of public utilities to take private property using eminent domain. It was a necessary evil to bringing electric service to every citizen in the last century.
But, let's take a look at where we are now in order to understand that transmission line eminent domain has reached the tipping point, where revolution is imminent.
It's no longer about bringing electricity to Mr. Smith's remote farmstead so he can read seed catalogs after the sun sets. It's about trading electricity as a commodity, as new transmission lines get bigger and costlier. It's no longer about providing a necessary service, it's about supporting markets and investor profits.
Transmission lines "ordered" by regional grid planners for reliability, economic or environmental reasons are bad enough, but one could argue that they are still ostensibly serving a "public" purpose by stabilizing the grid, the market, or saving the planet. These projects are paid for by all users of the electric grid, therefore there is some justification for the use of eminent domain in order to keep ratepayer cost in check.
And then we have the merchant transmission projects, like Clean Line. This company is proposing transmission that has not been vetted or approved by regional grid planners. They simply want to build a transmission line because it would be profitable. Merchant projects are paid for entirely by their owners. The merchant recovers its costs by selling capacity on the line to generators or load serving utilities (who then pass it on to the users of the project). The merchant enterprise depends on the cost of building the line being less than the amount of profit to be derived from selling capacity. If the cost of the line is greater than the profits, then it isn't an economic endeavor and it won't be built.
A merchant transmission developer has an interest in keeping its costs low to increase profit and make the project economic. But a merchant transmission project isn't a public necessity. It's a profit center, plain and simple. That a successful merchant project would transmit electric power for purchase by utilities if the price is right does not a "public purpose" make.
Clean Line proposes that state regulators anoint it with public utility status and its attendant power of eminent domain so that it may take whatever property it needs for its project at a low price. This would keep the costs low for Clean Line, so that it could increase the amount of profit it may derive from operation of its line.
This is where the disconnect starts. A merchant project that depends purely on economics for its purpose should be required to operate completely on an economic basis. If Landowner A requires 150% market value for property, then that is the cost of the transmission line. An economic project absolutely cannot rely on the power of the state to make itself profitable.
Landowners across Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee have taken a stand. No eminent domain for privately financed economic projects. The landowners are becoming highly educated about electric transmission, property rights and civic engagement. And it's spreading like wildfire.
As a result, we are reaching the tipping point where absolutely NO transmission is going to be built, even that which may be needed.
The urban decision-makers with their quarter acre plots maintained by hired landscapers and gardeners simply cannot understand a farmer's or rancher's connection to his land. Or why they are prepared to fight for their livelihood.
We have just been told by an elderly landowner that they had been contacted by Clean Line and were told that the project was a done deal and that he has to come in and sign an easement. This could not be farther from the TRUTH!!!! If they ever get Public Utility Status, and they are a LONG way from getting that, then it would be crucial to consult with an attorney! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE share this with elderly landowners especially those in nursing homes. Please share, if we had not talked with this landowner, he would have signed with Clean Line!!!!!
Remember Grain Belt Express Clean Line's "Code of Conduct?"
We were discussing it just the other day. Serendipity!
The "Code of Conduct" was plagiarized from the former Allegheny Energy (now multi-state energy holding company FirstEnergy), who used it for their TrAIL and PATH projects as a placebo to deny responsibility for shady land agent conduct.
The company hides behind its "Code," pretending that its contract land agents are supposed to follow it. When a land agent is caught in a violation, the company acts all shocked and "fires" the land agent. Responsibility for the violation is pinned on the land agent, not the company. Therefore, the company is free to continue to violate its own "Code" as many times as necessary.
Land Agents are trained in psy ops. Landowners usually resist utility overtures to purchase land or right of way. It's all a psychological game by the land agent to trick the unwilling or unwitting into signing on the dotted line. Land Agents attend continuing education sessions where they learn:
Understanding Behavioral and Personality Styles for Negotiation Success
Using practical and personal exercises, this session will provide attendees with a framework for understanding the behavioral and personality styles used for negotiation. Attendees will develop a better understanding of behavioral styles and how they can recognize and relate to the diverse styles of people they deal with.
With 20 years of experience in the right of way and land management consulting business, Dr. Mazie Leftwich is a nationally known presenter and corporate trainer in the energy industry. Dr. Leftwich serves as Director of the CLS Professional Development Institute and has been the catalyst behind CLS's extensive employee training, project training, and team-excellence programs for supervisors and managers. In addition to her work at CLS, Mazie maintained a limited private counseling practice for over 30 years, specializing in organizational and personal relationships and executive coaching. Her education includes a Bachelor in Psychology, a Master's in Administrative and Clinical Social Work and a Doctorate in Applied Psychology.
Dr. Mazie works for Contract Land Staff
, the company Clean Line has been using for right of way acquisition
Land agents will say or do anything necessary to get their job done. The story from Missouri tells us that perhaps they will even lie and violate the "Code" of the company that contracts them. Perhaps the land agents even troll nursing homes, preying on the elderly. Nothing more despicable than that.
Remember, the "Code" was developed as part of a legal settlement between Allegheny Energy's TrAIL transmission company and the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate. The settlement was the end result of a vicious court battle over the reprehensible way landowners in Pennsylvania were lied to and manipulated by land agents.
The "Code" is not enforceable by any authority. It's a worthless piece of paper designed to give a false sense of security to landowners and regulators. However, please do document and report any violations to your state consumer protection authorities, such as your Attorney General, because any despicable tactics perpetrated will most likely be a violation of your state's consumer protection laws.
Just don't talk to land agents. There's no rush to enter agreements before a project has all its permits. If you sign early, the company will still have a right to your property, even if the transmission line is never approved or built. Do you really want that encumbering your property forever and making future sales or use difficult for you and your heirs?
There's plenty of time to negotiate a deal, with the recommended help of your own attorney, AFTER a project has all permits to begin construction. In fact, if you wait to negotiate, chances are that the price you will receive may be greater than folding early in the process. The longer you hold out, the more powerful your bargaining position becomes.
Don't be victimized by any possible Clean Line Grain Belt Express strong arm tactics that may be used. Get educated, and more importantly, educate your friends and neighbors!
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?
A settlement has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the matter of recovery of costs of PJM's failed Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) project
MAPP was one of four unnecessary transmission projects proposed by PJM in their Project Mountaineer initiative to increase the use of coal-fired resources by shipping 5,000MW of coal-fired electricity from the Ohio Valley to the East coast. Of these 4 projects (MAPP, PATH, TrAIL and Susquehanna Roseland), two have been cancelled, one has been completed, and one is under construction. The only difference between them is timing and execution by their owners.
All four of these projects took advantage of newly-minted transmission project incentives available from FERC, brought to you by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. One of the incentives granted to these projects was the guaranteed recovery of prudently-incurred project investment in the event the project was abandoned and not built through no fault of the owner.
Therefore, once MAPP was abandoned, its owner, Pepco, filed with FERC for permission to recover its investment in the unbuilt project. Unrecovered investment included capital expense "construction work in progress" costs, which is roughly defined as all expenses for electric projects under construction, including such items as land purchased, labor, engineering and regulatory costs. The amount Pepco filed to recover was $87.5M.
Because some parties intervened and protested the recovery, FERC set the matter for settlement and hearing. A settlement was reached and recently approved by the Commission.
The settlement allows Pepco to recover $80.5M in abandonment costs over a three year period, and allows the company to maintain ownership of all land and land rights purchased as part of the project. However, Pepco must remove the land from its rate base (capital account) that earns a yearly return paid by all electric consumers in the PJM region.
In its cost recovery filing, Pepco valued its land acquisition activities at $38.1M, although actual land values would most likely be much less. So, how much land did Pepco buy for MAPP that the company now owns free and clear?
Converter station sites in Calvert and Wicomico County, MD and Sussex
County, DE were acquired;
Takeoff points into and out of the Chesapeake Bay were acquired;
Transition station locations in Dorchester County were acquired; and
Transmission line right-of-way for entire length was acquired, except for one property in Dorchester County where negotiation was pending.
Looks like Pepco has enough land to concoct another unnecessary transmission project at ratepayer expense, and it looks like Pepco still holds these landowners' lives in limbo under the threat of building a transmission line across their properties. Let this be a lesson to you... do NOT sign right-of-way agreements early in the process, before a project is approved and receives a permit from all states through which it is routed.
Ratepayers in 14 states will remember PJM's failed Project Mountaineer as they pay off Pepco's unbuilt MAPP debt in their electric bills for the next three years. Thanks, PJM!
Honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!
Thousands of small, independent farm businesses and other residents of the Midwest are being asked to suck it up and make a financial sacrifice to accept the burden of new high voltage transmission lines through their land proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners.
There is no proven need for Clean Line's projects. They are a speculative venture that assumes "states farther east" will pay outrageous prices for wind energy exported from Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma. These projects aren't needed to keep the lights on. They are intended to supplant current generators in "states farther east" and replace them with generation imported from thousands of miles away. This is not economic, nor reliable.
Clean Line Energy Partners is financed by a couple of billionaires, who expect that they will make a huge return on their investment by selling capacity on new transmission lines at a huge profit.
Clean Line has identified one of its investors as Michael Zilkha of Houston, whose inherited fortune was made in the oil industry.
Who is Michael Zilkha? I'm sure he's a perfectly nice man who just happens to live in a 20,515 sq. foot stone manse that features 17 rooms. Built in 1999, the residence features a pool with pool house and lavish grounds including gardens and courtyards.... but no transmission towers. Nasty energy infrastructure is Not In Michael's Back Yard.
Our perfectly nice Mr. Zilkha also supports the arts, making Houston's society pages by "saving lives through words" by supporting poetry at the Houston Writer's Ball.
(go ahead, click through and check out all the photos of our glittery social heroes saving the world with ostentatious panache). Well, that's very helpful for all the Midwesterners who are being asked to make financial sacrifices to enable his transmission line investment to pan out. Maybe he'll write you a poem about eminent domain?
I think I'd rather hang out at a barn dance. At least the people are real.
The target of their legislation is the Rock Island Clean Line, a $2 billion, 500-mile overhead direct current transmission line.
Rogers called private property rights “critically important to our way of life.”
“Many farmers in my district live and work on land that has been in their family for generations, and they want to allow their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to continue to farm that land and feed the world,” Rogers said. “Our laws must adequately protect their property rights.”
requires that any power line project requesting eminent domain authority must deliver at least 25% of its power to consumers in Iowa. RICL intends to export power from northwest Iowa direct to eastern Illinois, where it will be interconnected with PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator for mid-Atlantic eastern states.
The second bill requires legislative approval of any request to bifurcate an application for a transmission project in order to separate the determination of need from the request for eminent domain authority. RICL tried to use bifurcation to force landowners into a weak negotiating position for rights-of-way, but was rejected by the Iowa Utilities Board.
Be sure to check the lobbyist declarations on both these bills. Clean Line doesn't appear to be happy about them. I suppose fair is fair though... Iowans don't seem to be very happy about RICL, either.
I wonder if our Clean Line heroes envisioned this kind of opposition when planning their get-rich-quick power line scheme back in 2011? I've heard it said that they gleefully dismissed any possibility of trouble, expecting nothing more than "a couple of ticked off farmers." Personally, I'd never want to tick off any farmers. They have pitchforks. And I like the food they grow.
And speaking of eminent domain, legislators in Missouri are livid over the Arkansas Public Service Commission's approval of a SWEPCO transmission route through 25 miles of Missouri. Within 10 days of the APSC decision, legislators had proposed:
The bill states that “the Missouri Public Service commission shall lack jurisdiction to approve the construction of any electric facilities to be built in accordance with Arkansas Public Service Commission Order 33, Docket Number 13-041-U, authorizing Route 109 as a ‘reasonable route’ for the construction of new three hundred forty-five kilovolt electric transmission lines.”
The overbuilding of new transmission of questionable necessity as a utility or investor profit center has finally gone too far. The people have had enough of this nonsense and their elected representatives are taking action. This transmission craze is now making it difficult to build ANY transmission, even that which may actually be needed. Their cash cow is down and slowly bleeding to death, and it's their own fault. Ooops.
Clean Line Energy's Grain Belt Express transmission project proposes to plow through fifteen (15) counties in Missouri on its route from southwestern Kansas to western Indiana.
Clean Line has indeed awoken the sleeping giant, or as they like to think of it "poked the bear."
On January 13, 2014, Clean Line's Grain Belt Express subsidiary filed a Notice of Intended Case Filing with the Missouri Public Service Commission. The notice is legally necessary at least 60 days prior to filing its application to be granted public utility status and a certificate to own and operate the project in Missouri.
You can participate in this process once the application is filed.
For now, you can file your comments about this case with the PSC
on Docket No. EA-2014-0207. Click the "Public Comments" tab on the horizontal menu of the MO PSC's EFIS
and fill out the form. You can also mail your comments to the PSC. Be sure to mark them with the case number.
You can also let Missouri Governor Jay Nixon know that you do not support this project. Click here to submit your comments online.
The good people of Missouri are standing up and banding together in record numbers to successfully stop this incredibly destructive project.
If you have questions or concerns about the Grain Belt Express, get in touch with Block Grain Belt Express to be connected with a group in your local area, and to find out how you can defend your interests.
This project is far from "a done deal," and prospects for future approval continue to dim with each citizen of Missouri who joins together with others to create a formidable chain of opposition that cannot be broken.
Citizen action has stopped transmission projects and can stop Grain Belt Express! Take action now!
The "Right-to-Take Action" must be Settled BEFORE CPCN May be Granted
Guest blog by Pat Conway, Ontario, Wisconsin
The main purpose for the Wisconsin Public Service Commission's approval process of the CPCN (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) is to determine the NEED for ATC's Badger Coulee Line. At the PSC's hearing (docket 05-CE-142), it must be proven that the NEED for the high tension power line is so great that it justifies granting ATC the authority to condemn private property and take the land it needs under "eminent domain".
The fifth Amendment to the US Constitution states: "No person shall be denied life, liberty or property without due process of the law..." And Wisconsin Statute 32.06(5) "Right-to-take Action, provides that a private property owner may challenge a taking for any reason other than just compensation". In the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision of July 13, 2013 it states: The challenge to ATC's condemnation..."is not a meaningless exercise swallowed up in the compensation process," but a property owner's assertion to protect his or her rights."
Common sense tells us that any property owner who has been notified that his or her land is under consideration for ATC's Badger-Coulee line, has the right to begin a "right-to-take" action immediately, before the PSC hearing, in order to protect his or her property rights BEFORE the ROUTE for the line IS CHOSEN. For instance, an Amish man has a right to challenge the condemnation of his land because his farm house is also a church. Or an organic farmer has the right to challenge the right to condemn any portion of his farm because ATC's taking would endanger his or her organic certification and that would threaten their livelihood.
Therefore, any property owner who is threatened by the possibility of the PSC granting ATC condemnation rights, should become an "intervener" in PSC Docket 05-CE-142 and request that the PSC postpone their consideration of ATC's application until after any challenges to ATC's possible taking of their private property, under a "right -to-take action", is settled in the courts. That is the only way a private property owner can assert the protection of his or her private property rights. To grant the authority to condemn before giving the property owner his or her "day in court" is to put the cart before the horse. Not allowing a property owner his or her right to prevent condemnation of their private property through a "right-to-take action" would be to deny them "due process under the law", which would be a violation of the fifth amendment of our Constitution.
"It is clear that the Alliance will seek to make this process unnecessarily burdensome and overly complicated before the board can even make its initial determination on whether the franchise should be granted," the company's lawyers conclude.
Let's take a look at who is making the process "unnecessarily burdensome and overly complicated," shall we?
Each state has a different process for transmission line permitting. In Iowa, a hearing must be held if objections are filed, or when a petition involves the taking of property by eminent domain. The Alliance has helped lots of landowners file objections, therefore a hearing is guaranteed. Also, Iowa law requires informational meetings for landowners before they can be approached by RICL's land agents. But, because RICL will stretch across nearly 400 miles of Iowa, eminent domain will most likely be needed to secure easements. When a company files an application for its project, it must also state whether eminent domain will be sought. If so, the applicant must provide an "Exhibit E" with specific information on each property it expects to take by eminent domain, to include specific ownership, legal description, a map of the property showing buildings, electric lines, and other features, as well as the names of any tenants on the property.
Clean Line can't be bothered to spend this much time and money on each property it wants to acquire, so they have asked the IUB to bifurcate (separate) the franchise process into two separate proceedings. First, Clean Line wants the IUB to determine if its project is needed and serves a public purpose. That way Clean Line can try to keep affected landowners out of that part of the process. Only after that determination has been made would Clean Line bother to spend the money to provide "Exhibit E" information for eminent domain takings. Clean Line also states that an affirmative determination granting it the requested franchise would "put Clean Line in a better position" to spend the money. What they really mean is that it would put them into a better position to threaten landowners and tell them it's a done deal, hoping that would result in less eminent domain takings and less "Exhibit E" material.
Let's take a minute here to talk about Clean Line's "RSVP" for the initial public hearings. I'm not sure why the IUB let them get away with this, but landowner notice of the project and meetings included a superfluous "RSVP" for the meeting, and a "request for information." What kind of information does RICL want? "Exhibit E" info. it would have a hard time gathering on its own, the names of any tenants. This is the same info. it is whining about having to supply in order to apply for eminent domain.
Much to Clean Line's chagrin, however, the Alliance has some very smart attorneys who have filed a motion to resist the motion to bifurcate. First of all, they argue that a motion to bifurcate is premature until the actual application for the franchise is filed because it deprives any potential intervenors of due process to object to the bifurcation. They also note that Clean Line unsuccessfully lobbied for legislation to bifurcate the franchise process in 2011. What Clean Line was unsuccessful at legislatively, they are now trying to acquire through the IUB. They also point out how Clean Line intends to use any potential approval of the franchise before eminent domain proceedings to coerce landowners to voluntarily sign easement agreements.
Now, here's where it gets funny. Clean Line starts to squeal and whine. First, they want to limit the Alliance's participation in the case. I'm sure our friends in Kansas, who were denied due process by having their own participation limited by the KCC, will identify with this tactic:
Clean Line does not object to the Alliance's limited intervention at this stage; however, Clean Line reserves the right to request specific limitations be placed on such participation depending upon the participation of other parties who may have the same interest as the Alliance. Such limitations may include but shall not be limited to prohibiting the Alliance from preparing direct testimony, submitting exhibits or other evidence, or conducting cross examination of witnesses. If the Alliance seeks to "advance the mutual arguments of all its members" as stated in its Petition to Intervene, limiting its participation to briefing legal arguments will satisfy the Alliance's goal.
And then Clean Line starts whining
about how it got outsmarted by quoting information it harvested from the Alliance's website:
...the motive of the Alliance is clear: to make sure Clean Line does not build this transmission line. A recent statement
from the Alliance Board President Carolyn Sheridan to the Alliance members concisely details the strategy:
"From the Board President
Think about it: Imagine you're [Rock Island Clean Line ("RICL")] and you have to file all
this information about a parcel of land in a distant location: How much time would it take
you to learn the names and addresses of all persons with an ownership interest in the land?
How much work would it be for you to prepare a map showing the location of all electric
lines and supports within the proposed easement; and the location of and distance to any building w/in 1OOft. of the proposed line? A lot of work. Multiply that by hundreds; and
you have an idea of how important it is to the success of RICL's project that it obtains.
The more parcels upon which RICL has to do all this work, the less likely this project is to
succeed. Every parcel upon which it has to do all this work is one more shovel of dirt on
the grave of this RICL line. Join the opponents of the line. DO NOT sign an easemnts
[sic] with RICL.
Without bifurcation, it is clear that the Alliance will seek to make this process unnecessarily burdensome and overly complicated before the Board can even make its initial determination on whether the Franchise should be granted.
Umm... so? The Alliance is just using existing laws that were put in place to protect Iowa landowners from out-of-state speculators like Clean Line. If the process is "overly complicated" Clean Line ought to be taking its whining to the Iowa legislature, who made this law.
Clean Line also gives away another one of its strategies: to financially break the Alliance by requiring them to participate in two separate legal processes, hoping they'll run out money and determination somewhere along the way.
I really don't think Clean Line's strategy is working. It's only encouraging landowners to dig in even deeper and resist a voluntary easement. If Clean Line is going to be met with a brick wall in either case, why bother with two different hearings? That doesn't serve administrative efficiency.
And this about sums up Clean Line's little pity party:
The Alliance seeks to force Clean Line to waste time and resources, and consequently also the time and resources of the IUB, with the hope that Clean Line eventually gives
up on the project.
Well, if Clean Line wants to waste the time and resources of the people of Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana, as well as regulatory boards in all these states, adjudicating and opposing its unneeded, speculative projects, I'd say Dr. Karma is making a long overdue house call to Clean Line headquarters!
Give up, Clean Line. You've been completely outsmarted by the people of Iowa!
See the following newslinks about Clean Line's public meetings in Iowa this week:
Clean Line's Beth Conley tells a BIG LIE in this story:
Landowners Skeptical of Wind Energy Transmission Line
"...other states to the east that have little wind power potential but a strong demand for clean, reliable energy." First of all, we have a better wind power resource 12 miles off the Atlantic coast, and furthermore, we are not "demanding" this project.
Clean Line Opponents Speak Out
Crowds Grow at Clean Line Public Meetings
Proposed Power Line Leaves Farmers Concerned
The faces and snarky comments from the anchor and reporter in this story are worth watching!
Details on Transmission Line Aired Out
Proposed Power Line Project Sparks Controversy in Northeast Iowa
Property owners sound off on Clean Line plan