New kids on the Block! Block Clean Line Plains & Eastern (Pope, Newton, Johnson & Conway Counties)
has launched as a geographically-based offshoot of Arkansas Citizens Against Clean Line Energ
y, and in concert with the larger nationwide "Block" movement against all Clean Line Energy transmission projects. Arkansas is on fire!
After several years of Clean Line's unnoticed, cozy planning with federal agencies and environmental and business interests, affected landowner "stakeholders" have recently found out about Clean Line's destructive plans for their private property, and word is spreading quickly. The Clean Line cat is out the bag! (Along with some deee-licious ham!)
These resourceful grassroots activists have managed to dig up even more embarrassing Clean Line foibles (just when you thought we'd gotten to the bottom of the barrel!)
First interesting tidbit is the Tennessee Regulatory Authority Clean Line Plains & Eastern docket. Clean Line filed a petition to be granted public utility status back in April, along with the usual letters and resolutions of support from various business interests and local government entities. No landowners or other stakeholders stepped up to intervene or protest. Should be smooth sailing for Clean Line, right?
The TRA issued an Order on May 13 Convening A Contested Case And Appointing A Hearing Officer. No rubber stamp for Clean Line in Tennessee! Toto, I think they're not in Kansas anymore!
The TRA docketed the exchange of letters between Senator Alexander and Rep. Fincher and the TVA.
Clean Line's submitted testimony is rife with the same old specious claims about how much the project is wanted and needed by the TVA and mysterious "others."
Clean Line president Michael Skelly says:
The TVA and other load serving entities have a strong and growing demand for cost-effective electricity from renewable resources.
There has and will continue to be a demand for affordable and reliable renewable energy in Tennessee, the larger TVA service footprint, and throughout the Mid-South and Southeast.
The Project will allow TVA and other utilities in the South to reliably and consistently access the country’s most cost-effective wind energy resources.
In particular TVA has been a leader in realizing the benefits of wind energy in the Southeast. In its most recent Integrated Resource Plan, TVA called for 2,500 MW of renewable energy purchases by 2020. Wind energy from economical locations such as the Oklahoma Panhandle can provide a consistent, long-term, low-cost energy supply to TVA and other load-serving utilities in the Mid-South and Southeast.
These wholesale buyers may include TVA as well as other utilities inside and outside of Tennessee that seek to purchase low-cost electricity generated in the Oklahoma Panhandle region.
I guess Skelly is now in charge of the TVA's integrated resource planning? Maybe not. TRA staff recently submitted their first data request
, covering some of the same hard questions landowners across the Midwest have been asking the company, to no avail. This time, Clean Line has to answer.
The Petition states that the Company will provide wind power to TVA and other potential customers. Please identify all other potential customers that Plains and Eastern has had discussions with regarding the purchase of power and provide copies of any agreements reached with these customers.
On page 6 of David Berry's testimony, he provides a list of wind power purchase
agreements involving the TVA (purchaser). To your knowledge, discuss the TVA's process for choosing to enter into such projects, including whether the projects go through the RFP process.
Is TVA or other potential wholesale purchasers under any obligations (including any state or federal requirements) to purchase additional wind power to meet its renewable energy objectives? Provide supporting documentation. To your knowledge, is TVA currently meeting its renewable energy objectives? Will TVA be able to meet its renewable energy objectives absent approval of Plains and Eastern's petition?
Provide a copy of all Memorandums of Understanding with TVA.
Please explain and describe in detail any guarantees or assurances that Plains and Eastern can provide lower cost renewable energy to TVA than TVA currently purchases.
Please list all available state and federal tax credits that Plains and Eastern currently
receives related to projects in other states and federal credits that the Company anticipates receiving upon completion of the project proposed in this docket. Are these federal credits figured into the pricing model used by Plains and Eastern? If so, please explain in detail the impact on rates, as well as the Company's overall operations, that
would result if these federal credits were discontinued by the federal government.
On page 9 of Michael Skelly's direct testimony, he states, "The TVA and other load serving entities have a strong and growing demand for cost-effective electricity from renewable resources." Provide the source from TVA and other potential entities stating they have a growing demand for renewable resources.
On page 11 of Michael Skelly's direct testimony, he states, "The Project will allow TVA and other utilities in the South to reliably and consistently access the country's most cost effective wind energy resources." Please provide all underlying support and rationale
relied upon for the assertion that this project will allow access to "the country's most
cost-effective wind energy resources."
For clarification, please provide the estimated number of construction jobs that would be
created in Tennessee if the petition is approved. Also provide the estimated duration of these temporary construction jobs.
For clarification, please provide the estimated number of permanent full-time jobs that
would be created in Tennessee upon completion of the project.
Please describe any assurances and/or guarantees that Plains and Eastern will hire
Tennesseans for the temporary construction and permanent jobs detailed above.
Provide the latest update on the environmental impact statement being prepared by the DOE under NEPA. Also provide the latest update on all federal reviews/environmental studies being performed by the DOE.
Provide an update regarding Plains and Eastern's CCN application in Arkansas.
Well done, TRA!
Also, the trade press has developed a sudden and voracious appetite for all things Clean Line after Arkansas NPR affiliate KUAF did an in-depth story.
First the "Recharge News" wrote a piece all about Clean Line's aspirations to use the federal eminent domain power of the Department of Energy to take privately held land from the people of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee. Except, the reporter got it wrong and had to correct his original assertion that Clean Line had received eminent domain authority in Oklahoma. The reporter got schooled about the legal status of Plains & Eastern by an Arkansan, not by company president Michael Skelly. The reporter also "miscommunicated" the authority for the federal EIS, claiming that "Clean Line is in the process of preparing a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project, which it hopes to release later this year for public comment." Oh, so that explains why DOE personnel, who are actually preparing the DEIS for release and public comment this fall, act more like minions of Clean Line than the federal government. Something really stinks in that stall!
The reporter also tells us that the DOE approval of this scheme to take privately held land for corporate profit is "eventual," although even he couldn't use the word "partnership" without quotes.
The eventual “partnership” with DOE through its agency Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA), which markets power in six south-central states, would be limited to use – if needed – SWPA’s eminent domain authority to obtain right-of-way in Arkansas.
SPRA has concerns in general about implementation of Section 1222, and specifically about the proposed Plains and Eastern project. Of specific concern is the protection of SPRA’s federal power customers from any and all liabilities arising from the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and/or ownership of Section 1222 projects. Other concerns include the
demonstrated need for any proposed project and that such projects promote interconnection of the grid in which they are located.
And maybe Coombs thinks that Section 1222 isn't exactly legally bulletproof:
SWPA’s original authority to construct transmission facilities is limited by Section 5 of the Flood Control Act of 1944 to “only such … facilities as may be necessary in order to
make the energy and power generated at … [Corps] projects available” to its wholesale
customers. SPRA is concerned about extending SWPA’s authority to construct transmission facilities beyond this original mandate.
Well, it looks like the wild and crazy X Partay going on between the California Public Utilities Commission and utility PG&E has come to an end, for now.
Fierce Energy reports that the City of San Bruno and the CPUC have reached a settlement in the City's suit over CPUC's violations of the public records act. In exchange for dropping its suit and agreeing to assume its own legal expenses, the City will finally get access to the documents it's been requesting for more than a year.
CPUC thinks it's scored big time in the settlement because it always intended to hand over the documents anyhow:
"The CPUC is committed to facilitating access to records requested under the California Public Records Act and always intended to meet the broad public records requests of the City of San Bruno," said CPUC interim General Counsel Karen V. Clopton in response to the allegations. "The delay in doing so was due to the breadth of the city's requests, the volume of records to be located and reviewed, and the limited availability of staff resources to conduct a comprehensive search and review. Under the settlement, the CPUC has produced records that it would have made publicly available regardless of the complaint."
So, what was in the documents?
"[The] disclosure (from more than 7,000 pages of documents received after San Bruno filed the Public Records Act lawsuit against the CPUC) demonstrates an ongoing, illicit and illegal relationship between the CPUC and PG&E," said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane in a statement. "Not only do these private communications violate the law, but they provide evidence of a relationship between the utility and the CPUC that is familiar, collegial and cozy."
The private emails over the past 36 months are alleged to expose more than 40 violations of the law against ex parte contact by Peevey and top CPUC staff in the San Bruno case.
In a statement, the City of San Bruno said: "We cannot have the same man who has proven to be biased presiding over the so-called 'penalties' that the CPUC will levy against PG&E. Nor should the citizens of our state be endangered by the CPUC's inability to ensure pipeline safety issues."
Time to clean house at the CPUC, and about a thousand other captured regulatory agencies.
Marcelino Cuadra is in big trouble.
He's been sentenced to seven years’ probation after he pleaded guilty to charges of corrupt organizations, theft of services and conspiracy to commit theft of services in connection with electric meter tampering incidents in Pennsylvania. He also has to complete 60 hours of community service and re-pay nearly $350K to electric utility PECO.
Cuadra was convicted of tampering with numerous business and residential electric meters to "fix" them so monthly usage would be reduced. He says the electric customers paid him for the "fix."
Compare Cuadra's plight to West Virginia's recent meter scandal, where FirstEnergy subsidiaries Mon Power and Potomac Edison were found by the Public Service Commission to have failed to read customer electric meters bi-monthly as required. This resulted in consecutive estimated bills where monthly usage would be reduced, only to show up on an actual read bill months later that amounted to thousands of dollars.
What was FirstEnergy's sentence? A $7.5M yearly rate increase to pay for monthly meter readings.
I think it must have all been in the technique employed to commit the act, since both seem to be the result of corrupt organizations and conspiracy.
But, don't call Marcelino, there are safer ways to save energy.
After being pelted with correspondence from transmission developers, regulators, and environmental organizations
promising vehement opposition, the PJM Board of Managers "delayed action"
on PJM staff's recommendation of PSE&G's "7K" project to solve its Artificial Island problem.
But lest you think sanity has finally prevailed and the Board has rolled back the process to ensure it is carried out fairly and transparently going forward, don't be silly! The Board has merely kicked it back to staff in order for the other four "finalist" bidders to "supplement" their projects to try to undercut finalist LS Power's self-imposed cost cap on its project.
So, how hard can it be to simply make up a number lower than LS Power's $171M construction cost cap? It's not like anyone's going to hold them to it, right? PJM doesn't have any performance standards for transmission developers and is unlikely to bat an eye at "unforeseeable" cost overruns.
PJM's Herling also says that his TEAC will "review" specific issues with process and transparency that were raised in the letters. Who wants to guess how that will go? Herling rules the TEAC with an iron fist. He also babbles on about how "especially challenging" new process can be. I have to agree, it's especially challenging to continue on like nothing's changed when you're supposed to be following new rules and the unruly children challenge your authority.
Still no recognition about PJM's incorrect determination of the "constructability" of the PSE&G project. This despite an even more pointed letter from the Delaware Riverkeeper, promising "active and committed opposition" to the selected project.
But don't worry, PSE&G also made an appearance with a letter defending its project. Send in the clowns!
PSE&G says that they are the preferred choice of park rangers everywhere when it comes to having precious national park resources destroyed by transmission developers:
For example, the Susquehanna-Roseland project had environmental and other types of challenges, but PSE&G and its co-developer, PPL Electric Utilities Corporation, overcame the challenges to get the line sited and built. The
National Park Service spokesperson for Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area recently stated: “They worked through one heck of a winter. They didn't miss too many days. ... If you have to have somebody building a power line in your backyard, these folks were great to work with.”
So, if you want to have your backyard destroyed, remember to call PSE&G for fast, prompt and friendly service!
And is this supposed to be a threat or a promise?
The same PSE&G team that brought Susquehanna-Roseland to a successful conclusion is committed to this project.
Oh, dear heavens, NO! The Susquehanna Roseland project was a permitting disaster that cost ratepayers $60M in hush money
to the Department of the Interior in exchange for allowing the destruction of a park that belongs to these very same ratepayers. The $60M "mitigation" fronted by PSE&G will be re-paid to the company over the many decades that this project will be in service. The re-payment will come out of ratepayer pockets and will reward PSE&G with a 12.9% yearly return on its "investment" in the "mitigation" hush money.
With friends like that, ratepayers are sure to be smiling all the way to the poor house!
Stay tuned... sounds like the PJM fun is only beginning at Artificial Island!
So, what's been happening in the aftermath of the recent confirmation of a new and a returning FERC commissioner?
Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey sent a letter to Energy Department inspector general Gregory H. Friedman asking some hard questions about FERC's enforcement office and requesting an "examination."
The Philly Inquirer wants to inquire why Senator Casey voted for Norman Bay before sending his letter:
Except, shouldn't the investigation come before a guy's promoted?
How assertive will Acting Chair Cheryl LaFleur be as a lame duck? And will she remain for her five-year term after she has to relinquish the gavel?
With Commissioner John Norris openly musing about his post-FERC future, who will replace him and how soon?
How will Bay resolve the investigation into Powhatan Energy Fund, whose principals have been running a public relations campaign accusing FERC of heavy-handed enforcement tactics?
And, this morning, an opinion piece by investigative reporter David Cay Johnston
accuses that federal regulators let utilities gouge customers.
Although my understanding and consumer's perspective of FERC probably differs from Johnston's, it seems that his nose works just fine. Something stinks here!
Regulator, regulated, regulator, regulated, regulator, regulated, regulator, regulated.... the door is spinning! Johnston gets right to the root of the problem:
FERC commissioners, however, disregard the just and reasonable standard, routinely ignore evidence and act more as agents of utilities than fair-minded regulators.
Absent from the commission is anyone who represents the rights of consumers.
Johnston ends by painting Norman Bay as a "ray of hope" for consumers.
I think perhaps FERC needs some public relations polishing. Maybe these guys would be willing to help?
Power struggle in Parker, Colorado, tonight!
Grassroots group Halt the Power Lines takes to the streets to pack the Pace Center for tonight's PUC hearing on Xcel's plan to add a second overhead high voltage transmission line to an existing right-of-way that snakes through dense urban development south of Denver.
Xcel has claimed that its plan will have no ill effects on the neighborhoods affected, and that its much too expensive to bury the line. Xcel has also gathered some unlikely advocates under mysterious circumstances.
No matter -- the grassroots group is strategically prepared to pack tonight's hearing. May the loudest (and most genuine) voices win!
Norman Bay barely squeaked by a Senate vote yesterday to officially become a FERC Commissioner. The vote on Bay was close, 52 - 45, and RTO Insider reports
that it was a "party-line vote." Just what we need... more political manipulation inside a federal regulatory agency.
Incumbent Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur was easily confirmed for a second term.
And here's where the political manipulation happened... it has been reported that a political deal was struck to allow LaFleur to remain as Acting Chairman for 9 months, at which time newcomer Norman Bay will ascend the throne. I'm not sure what that was supposed to accomplish... what's on the agenda for the next 9 months that's so crucial? Maybe FERC is planning a long, hysterical pregnancy of some kind.
The Senate doesn't have any say over who is appointed Chairman, it can only confirm or deny Commissioners in general. Or at least that's the way it's supposed to happen according to the law...
As if consumers don't already have enough problems with regulatory capture and the revolving door whereby regulated and regulator switch places with amazingly incestuous ease, now Harry Reid wants to run FERC.
Why? In order to turn his state into the "Saudi Arabia of renewable energy," says Trib-Live. Because none of the other 49 states want to produce their own renewables and reap the economic benefits of a distributed generation energy renaissance within their own borders. Or maybe the other state representatives just don't have the cojones to stand up to Reid and serve their own constituents?
At any rate, it looks like the beatings will continue until morale improves. I wonder what's going to happen to the guys at Powhatan Energy Fund now, in the wake of their very public campaign against Bay's nomination?
FERC is turning into a real circus lately. The environmentalists have finally located the headquarters in DC and tried to block the entrance the other day.
FERC has even been serenaded.
I think this situation calls for more lobbyists! Or perhaps just some comedy...
Read the recent Motion to formally Lodge this as the longest filing name in Commission history, where a former energy insider has gone rogue and spills... in a most delightfully humorous way.
I am just a private citizen with an unnatural interest in (a fetish, if you will) and some history in dealing with unreserved use. I apologize to any and all for my cheekiness and informality, but I ain’t getting paid to do this and if I never see the information for which I am asking I will not miss any meals. With that said, I’ve got nothing better to do except enjoy a glass of tequila and write this quickly, so here goes....
Whatever happened to regulation in the interest of protecting consumers?
Is that song stuck in your head now, too?
Holy corporate reputation issues, Batman!
FirstEnergy wannabe-spinner Charlene Gilliam (All right?) crashed and burned at a Hampshire County Commission meeting yesterday. Bless her heart, it probably wasn't all her fault. It's because she works for a company that has ruined its reputation in this state (and beyond) through a series of greedy, self-interested attacks on its customers and employees.
The people have had it with FirstEnergy's corporate disinterest in the hand that feeds them. And FirstEnergy is too STOOPID to have seen this one coming. Sometimes, I wonder how my lights stay on at all, and then I remember that any smart people who still work for FirstEnergy are the ones driving the bucket trucks that come to our rescue. It's upper management that has been snorting the STOOPID sauce.
Commissioner Hott seems to agree:
“What I think would help is to get some of these guys with ties on to come down and see what’s actually going on. They need guidance at a higher level,” Hott said.
Like maybe Charlene should have brought this character along yesterday?
A familiar face peered out at me from my RTO Insider newsletter
Commissioner Jon McKinney made a statement at the annual MACRUC (Mid-Atlantic Conference of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) conference last week that goes a long way toward explaining why the WV PSC always seems to be at odds with the needs of West Virginia's utility consumers. In explaining why West Virginia might not be able to cooperate with other states in a regional effort to comply with the EPA's new carbon rules, Commissioner McKinney admitted:
“For [a regional solution] to actually happen, it goes way beyond the public service commissions. It has to get [approved by] the governors and the legislators,” West Virginia Public Service Commissioner Jon McKinney told the Mid-Atlantic Conference of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners’ (MACRUC) annual education conference. “I’m handcuffed in my ability to do that. It has to start someplace else.”
And Commissioner McKinney is "handcuffed" by West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin because he owes his day-to-day employment to the grace of a controlling, corporate-owned political figurehead.
Commissioner McKinney's 6-year term as Commissioner expired in 2011, three long years ago. However, he continues to serve at the will of the Governor, without being officially re-appointed. At any time, Governor Tomblin could appoint someone else and punt Commissioner McKinney into the wild, blue yonder. But he doesn't.
By playing games with Commission appointments, Governor Tomblin rules the PSC with an iron (corporate-funded) fist.
It's not that Governor Tomblin is too busy to re-appoint Commissioner McKinney, or appoint someone else. Earl Ray was "Johnny on the Spot" when former Allegheny Energy attorney Michael Albert's commission appointment expired last year. Albert was quickly reappointed to a third term, and "our" state senators lined up to rubber stamp his appointment.
So, when Commissioner McKinney says he's handcuffed, he probably really means it.
Is this any way to serve the public?
Whoopsie, New England States Committee on Electricity!
In emails released this week, NESCOE demonstrates the cozy relationship that exists between regulated and regulator that's designed to dampen public opposition to energy projects by withholding information while "deals" get made with energy companies behind closed doors:
In one back-and-forth, a staff lawyer for the group representing the six New England states said that a deal about hydroelectric power from Canada is best hashed out in private.
"I am less worried about the Canadians' strategy and more suggesting that deal strategy be formulated behind closed doors," Ben D'Antonio, a lawyer for the New England States Committee on Electricity, the group pushing the projects, said in August 2013.
"The court of public option can be fickle and recalcitrant," he continued in the email, to Thomas L. Welch, the chairman of Maine's Public Utilities Commission.
"True," replied Welch.
And when that pesky public manages to intrude despite best efforts to keep them at arm's length, deals are fixed by convincing legislators to toss their constituents under the bus:
In one case before all states were on board with the regional plan, Daniel Esty, then Connecticut's energy commissioner, called on the deputy counsel of National Grid, an electric and gas utility to convince a New Hampshire official of the benefits for the pipeline and transmission line, according to an email with the subject "Esty's Vision."
Think this is particularly shocking? It's not. This kind of stuff goes on ALL THE TIME, and will continue as long as the public allows it. General rule of thumb: Whatever your fertile and cynical imagination thinks your sneaky energy company is doing, or has done in the past, you're most likely right.