Finally got around to reviewing the Illinois Commerce Commission's 200+ page final Order on Clean Line's RICL project.  Imagine my shock and horror to find that the actual Order bore no resemblance to the posturing Clean Line did for the media immediately following the Commission's vote.

Clean Line is nothing if not optimistic about its business plan to construct nearly 2000 miles of new "merchant" transmission lines across eight Midwestern states.  However, Clean Line's claims rarely comport with reality.  Isn't it odd that Clean Line had a press release ready to go the second the Commission voted?  It's all about pretending the Commission's decision "marks a critical milestone needed to deliver low-cost wind energy to Illinois and [those mysterious, unnamed] states farther east," no matter what the actual Order said.

And the press ate it up.  Shame on them!  The rest of us have been snickering at how much egg ended up on Clean Line's face for running with a media fantasy, and now the REAL story shall be told.

The ICC's Order issued a CPCN for the proposed business plan, finding it would be "needful and useful to promote competitive electricity markets in Illinois" if it ever gets built.  However, the Commission also found that RICL is not necessary to provide adequate service to customers, and that is is not necessary.  In addition, the Order requires Clean Line to jump some pretty high hurdles to make its business plan actually happen before it can build anything.
  A couple of conditions the ICC attached to the CPCN require that the company make a compliance filing demonstrating that it has funds available to construct the entire project before beginning any construction.  The ICC also attached a stipulation making the CPCN null and void if Clean Line attempts to allocate costs of its project to Illinois ratepayers through regional cost allocation administered by regional transmission organizations and FERC.  And, all this must happen within 2 years from the date of issue.  Tick-tock, Clean Line!

Oh... where to begin?  Let's talk about that financing stipulation.  In order to convince lenders to pony up the money to build the project, Clean Line must demonstrate an income stream.  It needs to have signed contracts with shippers or end users.  It has no end users.  The proposed shippers have not even been constructed yet.  In order to construct these mythical shippers (wind farms), the wind farms also have to borrow money to construct their projects.  In order to receive financing to build, these shippers must also demonstrate an income stream via signed contracts with purchasers.  It's a headache-inducing string of dominoes fraught with risk.  Utilities hate risk.  If utilities need to purchase renewables, there's plenty of EXISTING renewables available at concrete prices.  Since none of Clean Line's shippers exist, none of their proposed prices can be negotiated into signed contracts.  Remember... only two years to get this done!  And if you think it's going to happen, I'm a fairy princess.

Because the ICC did not find the project necessary under Sec. 8-503 of the PUA, Clean Line's CPCN only authorizes the company to build on voluntarily-negotiated easements.  The easements Clean Line has managed to sign with landowners are few and far between.  The rest of the landowners have rejected Clean Line's efforts and may continue to do so.  Clean Line was so certain that it would be granted eminent domain authority to take property that it has disrespected landowners with fantastical claims that bear no resemblance to reality
, along with underhanded tactics and empty promises.  You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool a farmer.  Nobody's buying it.  And since Clean Line has already ruined any possible cordial relationship with landowners, it is unlikely to regain what has already been tossed away.

And that brings us to the match tossed into the powder keg...  the CPCN issued by the ICC:


The Commission also observes that the approval of a line route as part of this Certificate Order should facilitate negotiations with landowners, and that the issuance of the Certificate will enable Rock Island to gain access to the property to conduct surveys and related activities, which are steps characterized by Rock Island as important ones in which to engage in the near future.
That's funny.  The Commission was so uncertain about this company's financial resources that it required it to have financing in place before beginning construction, but yet this same company can now enter upon and damage private property to conduct its surveys, without the demonstrated financial resources to guarantee that landowners will be compensated for damages.  What happens when Clean Line's surveys damage private property and the company refuses to make landowners whole?  Where's the remedy for landowners?  Will the ICC be policing Clean Line's survey activities?  Will landowners be left swinging in the wind with only a civil remedy?  And, I don't think Clean Line barging onto private property and leaving a mess behind will "facilitate negotiations with landowners."  Call me jaded...

So, Illinois landowner groups now have been handed the task of figuring out how to protect their interests all on their own.  And they will.

Two years, remember that.

And, in addition, RICL has just barely begun the permitting process in Iowa, where thousands of landowners have joined forces as the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance, and hired counsel and witnesses to participate in the Iowa Utility Board's review of RICL.

Two years.

I'm thinking that this thing is NEVER going to happen.  The ICC Order requires Clean Line to perform in accordance with its fantastical business plan to get all this accomplished in two years.

So, despite sweeping bluster like
“The ICC approval is a great step forward for the Rock Island Clean Line project and brings Illinois one step closer to creating a cleaner energy future,” said Michael Skelly, President of Clean Line Energy. “We are grateful to the Commission for their careful consideration of our application and proposed route. By approving game-changing projects like the Rock Island Clean Line, Illinois will benefit from access to low-cost clean energy and job creation in the construction and manufacturing sectors.”
the Order doesn't actually move RICL closer to reality.  It simply starts the clock.  Tick-tock.

Todd Maisch, President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce should be eating the words Clean Line put in his mouth:

Companies like Clean Line that propose electric transmission projects are forced to meet a high threshold to prove that their energy project serves the public need and benefits consumers.
...because Clean Line didn't actually meet the ICC's high threshold to be found necessary, and therefore has to make its plan a reality before it could be granted the authority to build the project and take land from unwilling owners.

Michael Cornicelli, Executive Vice President of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, or BOMA/Chicago also had some inapt words:
This project should demonstrate that independent, investor-driven transmission infrastructure can become a viable business solution in a traditionally utility-driven arena.
...but only if it can make its fantastical business plan into reality.   I think the ICC's Order demonstrates that merchant transmission projects undertaken outside the traditional regional planning process cannot succeed, but time will tell.  Two years.

Clean Line also makes fantasy claims about its ability to reduce carbon emissions:
The wind energy delivered by the Rock Island Clean Line will allow other generators to run less and burn less fuel by eliminating the need for the equivalent amount of energy to come from fossil fuels, thereby reducing pollution. More than 1.4 million homes will be powered by the renewable energy generated as a result of this project.
Because it is an intermittent resource, baseload fossil fuel generators will be required to run constantly to back up Clean Line.  The ramping up and down of baseload plants actually produces MORE emissions than running at a constant rate.  Clean Line's insistence that its transmission line will reduce fossil fuel generation on a basis equal to its production is unrealistic fantasy. 

And, we'll end with this:

Developing a project of this scale is a long-term undertaking...
Yes, indeed.  Two years.  Tick-tock!
 
 
You won't be seeing variations of the word "approve" in my headline.  That's because the Illinois Commerce Commission decision yesterday was not a pivotal moment that sealed the project's success.

Far from it.

Although the actual Order has been withheld from the parties and the general public for the time being, I've been able to piece together a general idea of its contents from various news stories, along with knowledge of what was in the proposed order issued by ALJ Larry Jones several months ago.

Clean Line applied to the ICC under two separate statutes.
Rock Island therein requests an order granting it a certificate of public convenience and necessity (“CPCN” or “Certificate”), pursuant to Section 8-406 of the Act, authorizing it to operate as a transmission public utility in the State of Illinois and to construct, operate and maintain an electric transmission line (“Project”); and authorizing and directing it, pursuant to Section 8-503 of the Act, to construct the proposed line. 
News reports say that the Commission granted the CPCN under Section 8-406, but did NOT order it to construct the line under Section 8-503.

Sec. 8-406 makes it technically possible to construct the line, if it can acquire VOLUNTARY easements from all affected landowners. 

Only under Sec. 8-503 may the company be granted the authority to take property through eminent domain condemnation.  An order under 8-503 would set the company up to effect takings through mere procedural steps.  But the ICC DENIED Clean Line's application under Section 8-503.  Therefore, Clean Line would have to come back before the Illinois Commerce Commission with a second application for an order under Sec. 8-503 at some point in the future, with likely similar results.

ROCK ISLAND CLEAN LINE HAS BEEN DENIED EMINENT DOMAIN AUTHORITY TO TAKE PROPERTY IN ILLINOIS!

Big win for landowners!


Know this -- the ICC would never grant Clean Line eminent domain authority to take the majority of its route.  Usually, holdouts in transmission line cases that actually end up being taken via eminent domain are few and far between.  There's strength in numbers.

Feel free to say "no."  Isn't it ironic that a company that has been telling regulators and the media how well it has been "collaborating with landowners" would now actually have to... well... collaborate with landowners?  Perfect!  However, Clean Line's lies and underhanded tactics have inspired massive distrust by landowners.  And every farmer knows... you reap what you sow.
 
 
I got an email yesterday from DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) with a link to DOE's new Section 1222 FAQ.  FAQ stands for "frequently asked questions."  This is supposed to be a list of the questions about Section 1222 that you all have sent to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz lately.  Instead of actually answering your specific questions though, Ernie's staffers first sent out a form letter response.

The form letter encourages the hoi polloi and affected landowners to make comment on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  It insinuates that the public's only avenue for participation in a process that could ultimately condemn and take their property via eminent domain is through the EIS.  This is preposterous. 

The EIS simply decides where to put the transmission line to cause the least environmental damage.  It does not prevent environmental (or historic, cultural, and socioeconomic) damage.  Damage is allowed, as long as the company perpetrating it makes payment for "mitigation."  In other words your land and environment is for sale to the highest bidder.  Confining your comments to the EIS is a losing, feel-good way to contain you and stop you from causing a ruckus until after the decision is made.
  By that time, it will be too late.

During any state jurisdictional transmission permitting process, affected landowners may intervene and participate in the hearing process, providing evidence and pleading their case to the Public Service Commission who will ultimately make the decision on permitting and siting.  The DOE's Section 1222 "program" doesn't provide you landowner stakeholders with any due process to participate in the decision making.

Instead, companies standing to profit from Sec. 1222 were having their own little private party with DOE, urging DOE to hurry up and sign up to be Clean Line's land agent.

Due process?  No.  Landowners were being excluded.  So, the landowners crashed the party.  And the best DOE could offer them is this unhelpful FAQ?

A couple of affected landowners who looked at the FAQ last night has more questions than answers.  Everything from "what is OE?" to "what ever happened to Clean Line's Grain Belt Express Sec. 1222 application?"

What are the statutory requirements for a project under Sec. 1222?  DOE skips over this while patting you on the head and telling you not to worry about all that complicated stuff:
The DOE will conduct a thorough review that includes making all required statutory findings as well as consideration of the proposed project’s environmental impacts, the project’s technical and economic feasibility, and whether the project is in the public interest.
What are the decisional guidelines?  Or is DOE just making this crap up as they go?

What is "other due diligence?"
DOE will decide whether to participate in the proposed project, a decision which would include route selection, once all environmental reviews and other due diligence have been completed. The earliest a decision could be made is at least 30 days after issuing the Final EIS, which is not expected before 2015.
How can you participate in the decision making process outside the EIS?  How should landowner stakeholders be consulted in this process?  Where's the due process?
Issues Not Addressed in the EIS: Before DOE conducts its review of all of the factors discussed above, the applicant will be required to submit further information and update its original application. Once DOE receives the updated information, and deems the application complete, it will provide notice that the application is available for public review through a notice in the Federal Register and an announcement on the OE website. Publication of this notice in the Federal Register will begin a 45-day public comment period. The notice will describe how to comment on the application for the proposed project. All comments submitted during the comment period will be considered in the DOE’s ultimate decision as to whether to participate in the proposed project under the Section 1222 program.
Oh, now I know they're just making the rules up at they go.  Updated application?  Why?  So that Clean Line can address any shortcomings and make its application a little more legally bulletproof?  A "do-over," as we used to call it on the playground.  Where is this 45-day comment period written into the statute (hint:  it's not -- they just made it up!)

So, what to do?  Keep asking questions!  Submit your additional questions here and encourage Angela to flesh out her confusing FAQ.  And be sure to ask her... "Where's the due process for affected landowners?"
 
 
Last Monday, Illinois Commerce Commission ALJ Larry Jones issued his proposal for an Order of the Commission regarding RICL's request for authority to build its project in Illinois.  Note that this is just a proposal, it is NOT an official Order of the Commission and has no authority unless adopted by the five member Commission.

Meanwhile, the legal debate will continue.  Under Section 200.830 of the Rules, exceptions to the Proposed Order and replies thereto may be filed by the parties.

Let's just start out by stating that the Proposed Order (P.O., for short) is a beast -- 216 pages of repetitive back and forth, and lots of legal prose.  If you've actually read the whole thing, congratulations!  It took me most of the week to plow through it and to do the research to answer my own questions about certain parts.

First of all, we need to know what RICL asked the ICC to do.
In this proceeding, Rock Island Clean Line LLC (“Rock Island,” “RICL” or “RI”) filed the above-referenced petition with the Illinois Commerce Commission (“Commission” or “ICC”) pursuant to Sections 8-406 and 8-503 of the Public Utilities Act (“Act”),  220 ILCS 5/1-101, et seq.

Rock Island therein requests an order granting it a certificate of public convenience and necessity (“CPCN” or “Certificate”), pursuant to Section 8-406 of the Act, authorizing it to operate as a transmission public utility in the State of Illinois and to construct, operate and maintain an electric transmission line (“Project”); and authorizing and directing it, pursuant to Section 8-503 of the Act, to construct the proposed line. 
Section 8-406 governs the following:
Whenever after a hearing the Commission determines that any new construction or the transaction of any business by a public utility will promote the public convenience and is necessary thereto, it shall have the power to issue certificates of public convenience and necessity. The Commission shall determine that proposed construction will promote the public convenience and necessity only if the utility demonstrates: (1) that the proposed construction is necessary to provide adequate, reliable, and efficient service to its customers and is the least‑cost means of satisfying the service needs of its customers or that the proposed construction will promote the development of an effectively competitive electricity market that operates efficiently, is equitable to all customers, and is the least cost means of satisfying those objectives; (2) that the utility is capable of efficiently managing and supervising the construction process and has taken sufficient action to ensure adequate and efficient construction and supervision thereof; and (3) that the utility is capable of financing the proposed construction without significant adverse financial consequences for the utility or its customers.
Here's what the P.O. determined about RICL's request under 8-406:
Having reviewed the record, the Commission finds, with regard to the first alternative showing in Section 8-406(b)(1), that Rock Island has not demonstrated that the Project is necessary to provide adequate, reliable, and efficient service to customers within the meaning of Section 8-406(b)(1).

BUT, regarding the second alternative:


In conclusion, upon consideration of the record and the determinations contained above, and subject to the conditions set forth above and elsewhere in this Order, the Commission finds that the Project will provide an opportunity for the delivery of more renewable energy into Illinois, and will promote the development of an effectively competitive electricity market that operates efficiently, including with respect to renewable energy; is equitable to all customers; and is the least cost means of satisfying those objectives, within the meaning of Section 8-406(b)(2).
The "conditions" attached to the judge's proposed conclusion are as follows:
Prior to recovering any Project costs from Illinois retail ratepayers through PJM or MISO regional cost allocation, Rock Island will obtain the permission of the Illinois Commerce Commission in a new proceeding initiated by Rock Island. For the purposes of the prior sentence, any system upgrades set forth in an interconnection agreement with PJM or MISO and the costs of which are allocated to Rock Island will be considered “Project costs.” For the avoidance of doubt, the phrase “recovering any Project costs from Illinois retail ratepayers through PJM or MISO regional cost allocation” includes the recovery of costs though PJM and MISO transmission service charges that are paid by retail electric suppliers in respect of their electric load served in Illinois.  

AND

As a condition of this Order, Rock Island shall not attempt to effect the interconnection until it has fully complied with the applicable requirements of PJM and the other conditions in this Order, and has signed all interconnection agreements.

AND (This is a biggie!)

Rock Island will not install transmission facilities for the Rock Island Clean Line Project on easement property until such time as Rock Island has obtained commitments for funds in a total amount equal to or greater than the total project cost.  For the purposes of this condition:

 (i) “install transmission facilities” shall mean to affix permanently to the ground transmission towers or other transmission equipment, including installation of bases and footings for transmission towers, but shall not include (A) preparatory work such as surveys, soil borings, engineering and design, obtaining permits and other approvals from governmental bodies, acquisition of options and easements for right-of-way, and ordering of equipment and materials, and (B) site preparation work and procurement and installation of equipment and facilities on property owned in fee by Rock Island including the converter station sites;

(ii) “easement property” shall mean property on which Rock Island has acquired an easement to install transmission facilities;

(iii)  “has obtained commitments for funds” shall mean (A) for loans and other debt commitments, that Rock Island has entered into a loan agreement(s) with a lender(s) and has received the loan funds or has the right to draw down the loan funds on a schedule that is consistent with the need for funds to complete the Project, and (B) for equity, that Rock Island or its parent company has received the funds from the equity investors or that the equity investors have entered into a commitment to provide funds on a schedule that is consistent with the need for funds to complete the Project; and  

(iv) “total project cost” shall mean the total estimated remaining cost, at the time that Rock Island is prepared to begin to install transmission facilities, for the following Project activities: engineering, manufacturing and installation of converter stations; transmission line engineering; transmission towers; conductor; construction labor necessary to complete the Project; right of way acquisition costs; and other costs necessary to complete the Project.  For reference, the total estimated project cost as of November 1, 2012 is $2.0 billion.

To allow the Commission to verify its compliance with this condition, Rock Island shall submit the following documents to the Director of the Financial Analysis Division and the Director of the Public Safety & Reliability Division at such time as Rock Island is prepared to begin to install transmission facilities:

a) On a confidential basis, equity and loan or other debt financing agreements and commitments entered into or obtained by Rock Island or its parent company for the purpose of funding the Rock Island Clean Line Project that, in the aggregate, provide commitments for funds for the total project cost;

b) An attestation certified by an officer of Rock Island that Rock Island has not, prior to the date of the attestation, installed transmission facilities on easement property; or a notification that such installation is scheduled to begin on a specified date;

c) A statement of the total project cost, broken out by the components listed in the definition of “total project cost,” above, and certified by an officer of Rock Island, along with a reconciliation of the total project cost in the statement to the total project cost as of November 1, 2012 of $2.0 billion; and

d) A reconciliation statement, certified by an officer of Rock Island, showing that the agreements and commitments for funds provided in (a) are equal to or greater than the total project cost provided in (c).

So, the P.O. did not find that RICL was necessary, but did find that it would promote the development of a competitive electricity market (not that the current market doesn't already do that).  Therefore, the P.O. recommends that RICL be granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity under Section 8-406 because it satisfied the second part of (1) after the "or" (see 8-406 language above).  However, the proposed finding comes with HEFTY conditions and would expire two years after being granted.  Do you think RICL can get its stuff together to satisfy all the conditions AND get a permit from Iowa within two years?  Tick tock!  How many years has RICL been trying to make these projects work now?  Has it been 5 years already?

Now let's move on to RICL's request that the ICC "authorize" or direct it to construct the line under Section 8-503.  Remember that RICL told the ICC that they might not even construct the project after all if it wasn't profitable enough? 
The Commission has reviewed the evidence and arguments.  First of all, to the extent Rock Island is asserting that the criteria in Sections 8-406(b) and 8-503 are identical, and that a finding the Section 8-406(b) criteria have been met would automatically mean the Commission is required to grant the relief sought under Section 8-503, the Commission disagrees.  Such an interpretation would render Section 8-503 superfluous.    

ComEd and Staff argue that Rock Island’s request for Section 8-503 relief is premature, in that Rock Island is seeking authority that cannot be utilized given the contingencies, conditions and regulatory approvals still needed.    While the Commission is by no means suggesting that RI would have to satisfy every condition, contingency or uncertainty before Section 8-503 authorization may be granted, the Commission does agree with Staff and ComEd that under the circumstances, it would be premature to grant Section 8-503 relief to Rock Island in this proceeding.  

Rock Island claims Section 8-503 approval is needed now because it is one of the major regulatory approvals needed to satisfy potential lenders and investors; however, Rock Island does not explain how a Section 8-503 authorization is somehow more urgent or important in that regard than is the proceeding in Iowa, where the Project originates and the first 379 miles of the 500-mile line would be built.  Even Rock Island does not estimate a decision being reached in Iowa until 2015, assuming the formal proceeding has even begun there.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the request for relief pursuant to Section 8-503 of the Act is not granted at this time; this determination is without prejudice to the filing of a request for such relief in the future. 
Authority under Section 8-503 is necessary to apply for eminent domain under Section 8-509, which reads:
When necessary for the construction of any alterations, additions, extensions or improvements ordered or authorized under Section 8‑503 or 12‑218 of this Act, any public utility may enter upon, take or damage private property in the manner provided for by the law of eminent domain.
But, the P.O. is NOT proposing that RICL be granted eminent domain authority at this time.  RICL may re-apply for Section 8-503 at a later date.  Important:  RICL does NOT have eminent domain authority to condemn and take property in Illinois at this time, and this proposed order would not give it to them!

But, the P.O. also proposed that the recommended CPCN issued under Section 8-406 would allow Section 8-510 of the Code, which states:
Land surveys. For the purpose of making land surveys, any public utility that has been granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity by, or received an order under Section 8‑503 of this Act from, the Commission may, 30 days after providing written notice to the owner thereof by registered mail, enter upon the property of any owner who has refused permission for entrance upon that property, but subject to responsibility for all damages which may be inflicted thereby.
The P.O. recommended granting RICL the Certificate required to enter onto private property under Section 8-510, and reasoned:
...the issuance of the Certificate will enable Rock Island to gain access to the property to conduct surveys and related activities, which are steps characterized by Rock Island as important ones in which to engage in the near future.
The P.O. proposes that RICL be granted authority to trespass upon, enter, and damage private property, although prohibited from taking that same property by eminent domain. Yet, it's clear that RICL at this time does NOT have any dedicated funds, so how would landowners be compensated for damages incurred in the surveying process? What protections are in place for landowners in the likely event that funds are not acquired to build the project and the company goes bankrupt?  At this time... none!

But, remember, this is only a PROPOSED Order, subject to more legal filings and alternative proposed language.  What the Commission actually approves may be radically different.

Meanwhile, keep up to date on all the RICL news and action alerts by liking BlockRICL on facebook or visiting their website.
 
 
Tammy Hammond is the founder of Rosewood Services, a facility that fosters an environment of independence, inclusion and productivity for individuals with developmental disabilities through education, work, recreation, and housing designed for their unique abilities.  On this Independence Day she shares her thoughts about the nature of sacrifice and the devastation the proposed Grain Belt Express Clean Line will have on her life, her programs, and most importantly, the independence of the clients she serves in Kansas. 

Grain Belt Express is a massive high voltage electric transmission line proposed to transport energy generated in the southwestern Kansas region to expensive east coast cities.  Purposed to provide attractive returns to foreign investors, Grain Belt Express is designed to increase America’s dependence on centralized electric generation and old fashioned overhead transmission that disturbs our rural communities and way of life.  Only through development of their own sources of renewable electricity will eastern states realize their own true independence, while keeping their energy dollars at home in their own communities.

Read Tammy's declaration of independence from Grain Belt Express, entitled "This Land is Our Land."  Here's a preview to get you started:
My name is Tammy Hammond, Kansas land owner for 30 years. As I sit here on
Independence Day 2014 my thoughts are consumed with the efforts of Grain Belt Express Clean Line's plan to run High Voltage Transmission Lines across my properties.
I'm very much opposed to the Grain Belt
Express 140 feet tall transmission towers,
carrying 750,000 volts of electricity, running
across our land. I could list pages of serious
health risks to my children and grandchildren, or provide statistics to the devastating de-valuation of property these High Voltage Power Lines will cause.
Probably, you have already heard those
arguments, so I would like to explain
something which I believe to be much more
profound...
I've been struggling for days with how to tell this story; how do I express with words why a
landowner will fight till their last breath, and their last dollar, to keep what is rightfully theirs?
How do you explain this so people understand the deep-rooted patronage of owning your
piece of the American dream...your Freedom in the heartland...the place you proudly call
home... What I discovered is something much deeper, much larger than Grain Belt Express....
I believe it is "American Spirit", how fitting to tell the story on July 4th, our Country's
Independence Day.

Click here to continue reading
Tammy's inspirational treatise ends with this message to the Sam Brownback political machine that stole the independence and freedom of hard working Kansas voters by greasing the approval of Grain Belt Express at his Kansas Corporation Commission:
So Today... this Message is for you, Grain Belt Express, Elected Officials or whoever is listening...
Do not underestimate our deep rooted sense of Freedom....
This is our land, my children's land, and so on for generations to come...
Earned with "our" blood, sweat and tears, it is
"we" who have the right to call this land home....
Make no mistake. We planted our "Flag of Freedom" and we will fight to
keep it...
you cannot have it...
you have not earned it...
we are here to stay...
 
 
Our friends at Clean Line have been as busy as a nasty nest of yellow jackets this past week, while I was tied up with other things.  So, on this beautiful Sunday, let's hunker down around the campfire and catch up on some scary stories...

My multilingual, Arkansan friend, Doc, alerted me to an interesting discovery this week.  Clean Line's project manager for its Plains & Eastern "Clean" Line, slated to plow through Arkansas like Godzilla on his way to Tokyo, is a Mr. Mario Hurtado.  In the Spanish language, the word "hurtado" means "to steal."  So, Clean Line is sending out some guy named "to steal" to... ummm... steal land from Arkansans.  Brilliant!  Perhaps Clean Line watches too many old movies and expected its opponents in Arkansas to behave like movie characters...
...and not like multilingual PhD's.

So... Arkansas... Beware the Hurtado!

My friend Doc says he looks like this:
Meanwhile, in other "Clean" news from Arkansas...
"Clean" Line has submitted a second application for negotiated rate authority from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

I guess their first one wasn't good enough, since they didn't even bother to mention it in their new filing.  So, inquiring minds want to know... is "Clean" Line just stupid, or are they trying to pull something on FERC?

Negotiated rate authority is no big thing, though.  It simply bangs out a plan for the company to negotiate rates with potential customers in a fair and non-discriminatory fashion.  It doesn't get them any customers.  It is not an "approval" of the project.  FERC's only authority over this project is ensuring its rate structure is fair.  FERC has no authority over the siting and permitting of this project.  Big deal, Mr. To Steal.

And, news from Missouri...

"Clean" Line has been quoting industry-influenced WHO studies as "proof" that their transmission projects will have no health effects on nearby residents.  However, a well-respected, local physician has been compiling and reviewing medical research on the health risks of the proposed "Clean" Line.  The Moberly Monitor did an indepth report about what Dr. Smith has found.  Shocking and dangerous!  Dr. Smith's findings are a MUST READ for every person in proximity to one of these "Clean" Lines.

Other news outlets have also picked up on Dr. Smith's EMF research, and the truth is spreading like wildfire!  SeeABC News, the News Democrat, and about 18 other major news outlets.

"Clean" Line needs to finish watching the movie that they've been using as the basis for their arrogant expectations of the intelligence and cunning of their local opposition.  They must not have watched far enough to see this scene yet:
 
 
The Center for Rural Affairs has pissed off a whole new bunch of people, this time in Wisconsin, by sending out a "red alert" telling them this is their "last chance" to comment on the Badger-Coulee transmission project.  Of course it's not their "last chance"!

Carol Overland, who has been fighting the legal fight against unneeded transmission for many years, tells CFRA what the people REALLY think:
I'm disturbed to see that you're regarding Lu Nelsen and Center for Rural Affairs as a primary source.  Center for Rural Affairs is not an intervenor in this project.  Center for Rural Affairs is a paid transmission advocate, through the RE-AMP program, it is paid to to promote transmission.

A CfRA Director also sits on the RE-AMP Steering Committee.   It's unfortunate that these facts are not included in your article -- this interest should be disclosed, because they are neither objective nor representing public interests or farmer interests.  If their paid advocacy was not disclosed to you, that's an even more significant problem.
Read more about transmission toadie CFRA here, and check out the organization's source of funding.  It is receiving grants from entities I like to call "the environmental 1%" -- super rich, super clueless, city folk whose environmental tyranny is not a compliment to rural interests.

CFRA does not represent the people, although they are being paid well to pretend that they do.  Tell them they don't represent you!
 
 
Congratulations, Mayberry!  Your entrenched opposition to Clean Line Energy Partners' transmission projects across the Midwest has pushed the company into the untenable position of having to perform massive eminent domain condemnations and takings.  Of course, this would never be allowed to happen in reality.  The political and public opinion costs would simply be too high.  As well, Clean Line has not been successful in convincing all state regulators to grant it the ability to effect eminent domain takings.

Check mate!

Clean Line Energy's only hope at this point is to try to trick you into supporting a new scheme to steal your land.

Last year, Clean Line sycophants at the Center for Rural Affairs and the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with other "big green" and "big wind" players, published a self-aggrandizing "report" they arrogantly dubbed "America's Power Plan" (although no actual "Americans" were involved in its creation).  In Clean Line's sponsored "plan," the important folks discussed several new ways to steal your land using eminent domain so that they wouldn't be forced to commit massive eminent domain takings.

One of the ways Clean Line wants to steal your land is called a "Special Purpose Development Corporation" ("SPDC").  A SPDC is a government-sponsored legal entity created especially to become the "bad guy" in an eminent domain situation.  Instead of Clean Line stealing your land, a government-blessed SPDC will steal your land and sell it to Clean Line.  The SPDC and the government that operates it will also profit in the transaction, paying itself a portion of the proceeds from the sale of your land.

Here's how it works:

1.    State or local government, or even a private corporation with government-granted eminent domain power, forms a SPDC for a particular purpose, such as securing new transmission line rights of way across private property.

2.    Landowners in the target area are given a choice:

        a.  Voluntarily deed their land over to the SPDC in return for "shares" in the corporation.
        b.  Refuse to voluntarily turn over your land and have it taken by the SPDC via eminent domain.  You will not receive any "shares" in the corporation.

       This allows your friends and neighbors who choose to join the SPDC to force you to sell your land for their personal profit.

3.    Once all land is acquired, the SPDC sells it to Clean Line and distributes the proceeds to the "shareholders" of the corporation, after first paying all sorts of legal, financial and management fees for the corporation and the costs of its employees.  There is no guarantee that a landowner's "shares" in the SPDC would be worth more at the end of this game than the landowner could expect to receive through traditional eminent domain processes.

It's all just a scam to encourage communities and local governments to take the fall for Clean Line's unconscionable land grab.  It pits neighbors against neighbors in local communities and causes local strife.  It absolves Clean Line from the consequences of its greedy action.

Don't be fooled by legal gibberish, fantastic promises of incredible riches, or empty claims of "better deals."  Just say "no" to Special Purpose Development Corporations.

The coordinated and knowledgeable opposition to Clean Line across eight states CAN stop these projects.  Hold on to your land -- you will be glad you did when Clean Line folds its tent and slinks back to Texas with its tail between its legs.
 
 
Have you been perturbed by Clean Line's violation of its own "Code of Conduct" for land agents?  Are you gasping for breath in clouds of land agent smoke?  Are you unsure how to respond to the outrageous lies and pushy behavior of Clean Line land agents?  Like a lot of Mayberry denizens, you were probably raised to be polite and to take others at their word.  What is a person with morals to do when faced with outrageous land agent schemes?

Scott at RidiculousRICL has got your back.  He has so helpfully put together a Code of Conduct for Landowners to guide you.  We're pretty sure this Code doesn't cover everything, so feel free to make additional suggestions.

Scott's Landowners' Code is just as official and just as enforceable as Clean Line's Land Agent Code.  As recently admitted by Clean Line, and as I've been telling you for the last year, Clean Line's Code is nothing but a "feel good" piece of paper.

Clean Line's "Code" was copied from another transmission line fight that occurred in Pennsylvania in 2008.  In its original form, it was part of settlement of a case where the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate sought an injunction against transmission owner TrAILCo to end abusive practices.  Read the OCA's Motion for Injunctive Relief for a detailed description of harassing and coercive land agent behavior that sounds hauntingly familiar to stories of Clean Line's current tactics.  In the Pennsylvania case, the Code was enforceable by the court.  In Clean Line's case, nobody is enforcing it, not even Clean Line!

So, landowners should feel free to invent their own "code" and share it freely!
 
 
Clean Line's latest public relations mantra is to accuse its opposition of spreading "misinformation."  It's a desperate, failed attempt to group its forthright and knowledgeable adversaries as unacceptable and to characterize them as liars, a propaganda technique known as "name calling."

But who is really spreading "misinformation?"  Two of Clean Line's most recent one-sided media excursions contained information and quotes from company executives that were outright lies.

First, the "miscommunication" in Arkansas Business about the Plains and Eastern Clean Line:

It has been in the works for the past half-decade and will build two lines intended to connect the Midwest’s wind resources to surrounding areas with less potential to generate wind, such as Missouri and southern Indiana. About 7,000 megawatts of power in Oklahoma would become available to surrounding states.
Clean Line quickly fell on its sword here, and the publication corrected its article to remove this reference.  Supposedly there is only ONE line on this project, with a capacity of 3500MW.  But then the company turned right around and signed a certain legal document with the same error in it!  How many lines does Clean Line intend to build, exactly?  "Misinformed" minds want to know!

The second lie was apparently just a "miscommunication" in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial.  Matthew Stallbaumer from Kansas has been chasing that one around all week.  What he found was a shocking lack of honesty.  In Matthew's own words:
"Mr. Lawlor has been through this before, in Kansas, where he says the company has completed buying the land it needs for that portion of the line."

The landowners know this isn't true. But there was some hope on my end that our land would no longer be impacted, so I called the St. Louis Dispatch and spoke with Deborah Peterson, Editorial Writer, who told me she was involved with writing the editorial. She assured me that what was printed was what Mr. Lawlor communicated to her.

So I tried to call Mr. Lawlor, his reputation for not answering his phone or responding to messages is accurate, so I called Clean Line's office and waited on hold rather than leave a message. I spoke with Grain Belt Express representative Ally Smith. She admitted they are still negotiating easements in Kansas, which conflicts with Mr. Lawlor's statement, and promised to check into the situation and call me back the next day to explain how something so wrong could be communicated/printed.

Three days go by, no call back. I called Ms. Smith again, but had to leave a message, no call back. Finally, this afternoon, Ms. Smith answers her phone, she claims to have tried to call me earlier in the day (I had no missed calls on my phone) but let bygones be.

Turns out there was a "miscommunication" between Mr. Lawlor and the STL Dispatch editorial board. That was the extent of the explanation. No mention of what he really meant or said, but to me it seems pretty hard to confuse anything with owning all the property they need in Kansas. (I wonder if lies count as miscommunication, I guess one could argue they do, I wonder, was Ms. Smith miscommunicating to me?).

I asked Ms. Smith about Clean Line's Code of Conduct found on their website and these lines specifically:

I c. Do not misrepresent any fact.
II h. Do not represent that a relative, neighbor and/or friend have signed a document or reached an agreement with Grain Belt Express Clean Line.
III b. Do not discuss your negotiations or interactions with other property owners or other persons.

It's pretty evident that some if not all of those codes have been ignored by Mr. Lawlor. I asked Ms. Smith who is responsible for enforcing those codes and what the penalty is. I was asked to be put on hold. Then she made efforts to dodge the questions, instead offered that they had contacted the paper to report the error, that it may or may not be corrected, and there is nothing else they can do. I asked again who enforces the code and what the penalty is, doesn't seem like that tough of a question for a company who touts their transparency and integrity and efforts to inform every chance they get, but Ms. Smith couldn't answer the question beyond "it's a managerial process". Perhaps Mr. Lawlor will enforce the code upon himself and penalize himself. I was told I must file a complaint regarding the code and their internal managerial process would determine its merits. I thought I was filing a complaint with my initial call, but it turns out it has to be in writing. I asked whether she could file a complaint on my behalf as she is aware of the situation now, turns out Clean Line employees can't file a complaint, they aren't in a position to hold themselves or each other accountable regarding their own Code of Conduct. So, how can their managerial process result in any penalty if they can't enforce it upon themselves?

Does anyone still think Clean Line will be accountable for any other promises or statements they make to property owners, commissioners, press, politicians or investors?
Miscommunication is defined as "failure to communicate adequately."  For instance, giving your instructions in French to an employee who only speaks English.  "Miscommunication" is also a weasely synonym for not being truthful.  For instance, politicians and bureaucrats are never dishonest, they simply "miscommunicate."

In Mayberry, we just call that "lying."