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 this afternoon.

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.
 
 
Sorry, you're going to have to do your own analysis on this one.

A story in the New Haven Register reports that the ruling is a setback for New England ratepayers.

Here's the dissent of Commissioner Norris mentioned in the article:

He's concerned, "...that this determination subjects consumers to unjust and unreasonable rates in this proceeding and potentially in future ROE proceedings."

Here's a geekier article about it.

Here's the entire Order, for those with "super geek" status.
 
 
Can't resist this...

In Akron, Ohio, Tony the Trickster wants to increase taxes to provide for more "public safety."  Maybe he needs a few more cop cars out in front of Casa de Alexander to keep his employees away?
Whatever the reason, Tony is tossing $50K into the effort and he held a "private" breakfast to talk about it this morning.
The breakfast meeting will include “the standard list of characters,” he said when asked who will attend.
Hmmm... standard list of characters.

Is he talking about this list of characters?

Or maybe he means these characters:
But in reality, he probably just means these characters.
I hope Tony's serving big, fluffy, cream pies...
 
 
After enough wrangling to make a cowboy cry, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmed the nomination of Norman Bay as Chairman of FERC... as long as he keeps the training wheels on his regulatory tricycle for the next 9 months.

Bay can be a FERC Commissioner, as long as Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur gets to continue to "act" for the first 9 months of Bay's tenure.

RTO Insider has the best coverage of today's events here.

RTO Insider notes that our own Plastic Senator Joe Manchin sold out in a hurry.
Among those who had expressed concern over Bay’s limited energy policy experience was Manchin, who helped sink the bid of Obama’s previous nominee, former Colorado regulator Ron Binz.

That sparked a flurry of negotiations over the last several days among the White House, Murkowski and Energy committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.), which resulted in the president’s concession not to appoint Bay chairman immediately.
Poor, old Plastic Joe.  Some days, he just can't seem to make up his mind.
 
 
Clean Line Energy Partners is getting increasingly desperate as its "business plan" to build 3,000 miles of high voltage DC power lines across the country begins to come apart at the seams.

Clean Line's Plains & Eastern project stretching from Oklahoma to Tennessee thought it would help itself to Section 1222 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and arranged a cozy RFP from the DOE that coincided with its intent to build its project.

Except Clean Line's project does not fit the plain language in the statute.

In an attempt to remedy its failings, Clean Line facilitated a secret flurry of form letters to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz from wind energy companies that stand to profit from the project.  The form letters urge Secretary Moniz to approve Clean Line's Section 1222 application.

But the comment period, and the letters, were conducted IN SECRET.  The citizens and landowners affected by Clean Line's use of Section 1222 were not afforded an opportunity to comment.  In fact, the citizens have been continually told by DOE personnel that their only opportunity to weigh in on this matter is through the DOE's Environmental Impact Statement.

This is being done despite the fact that DOE is accepting letters in support of Clean Line that have nothing to do with the EIS.

Don’t let Clean Line’s lies be the only voice Secretary Moniz hears before he makes this important decision!  It is imperative that you tell Secretary Moniz not to approve Clean Line’s application NOW.  He wants to hear from YOU!

Send your letters to: 

The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585

Or Call him:  202-586-5000

Send him a fax:  202-586-4403

Send him an email:  The.Secretary@hq.doe.gov

Comment on his Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/ErnestJMoniz

Send him a Tweet:  https://twitter.com/ErnestMoniz

Let’s bombard Secretary Moniz with REAL comments from REAL people and drown out the comments Clean Line’s toadies submitted!  Your voice will make a difference! 

If you need help composing your comments, email me!
 
 
Never underestimate the power of the citizens to find stuff out!

A citizens' group opposing Xcel's Pawnee - Daniels Park Transmission Line Project came across some interesting information a couple weeks ago.

The citizens uncovered a letter the Douglas County School Board sent to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that urged the CPUC to "approve the project."  The letter prattles on about economic growth, increased electric use, and reliability, all things not within the expertise of the Douglas County School Board to determine.

The letter is signed by Board President Kevin Larsen, but none of the other school board members remembered approving it, or even discussing it.

Why would the School Board write this letter?

Maybe because Board Member Douglas Benevento, who is listed on the letter as Vice President of the school board, is also Vice President of Public Affairs for Xcel?

Imagine that!  What a coincidence!

Channel 7 reports that Benevento has "recused himself" from any discussions of Xcel and that he will not be in attendance to face the music tonight when the citizens of Douglas County show up at the school board meeting to ask the following questions:

1) Why would the school district get involved at all?
2) Did the district check with its constituents in the affected areas before endorsing?
3) Was this a unanimous decision made by the board?
4) What analysis of the project did the board undertake to understand the need and impact of the project before endorsing?
5) What expertise did the board utilize to make this decision?
6) What meetings with Xcel and its representatives has the board (or school staff) held regarding Xcel's proposed plan, when were those meetings held and what was the substance of those meetings?
Ut-oh, Xcel!  When are power companies going to get with the program and realize this ain't their Daddy's transmission line battle?

Opposition has evolved and the rules have changed.  Forever.

UPDATE:  Last night, the school board voted 4 to 2 to rescind the letter it had sent to the PUC. In its place, it will send a letter saying they don't want the power lines near schools. We believe this is a huge (and quick) victory!

Several Halt the Power Lines supporters were there and two spoke, including Colonel Curt Dale.

Board president (Kevin Larsen) reported that when he signed the letter in early May, he thought it related to a different matter and signed it without anyone else seeing it beforehand. He voted to let the letter stand as sent to the PUC. He said he likes and defended Xcel's proposal (as long as they keep the lines a safe distance from schools). We asked what about the kids in residential neighborhoods. Director Richardson, who was the second vote to let the letter stand as is, later said not having it close to schools (but close to residents) was a matter of density. I'm pretty sure, unbelievable as it is, that he actually used the word "density." Nettled, he also said he might personally send a letter to the PUC endorsing the project. (For what it's worth, he works for a gas pipe company that has many business dealings and business arrangements with Xcel.)

Voting to rescind the letter were directors Geddes, Reynolds, Robbins and Silverton. The four felt that the school board had no business in the matter, except ensuring the power lines weren't near schools. (Mr. Benevento was not at the meeting.)
 
 
The Pollyanna Planners of PJM Interconnection are at it again.  Today, PJM announced it had made a decision about the building of a new 18-mile 500kV transmission line in Salem County, New Jersey.  As the first project awarded under FERC's new "competitive" transmission building system, PJM proved that old habits die hard by awarding the $250M project to incumbent transmission builder PSEG. 

PJM kicked a plan by independent transmission builder LS Power to the curb.  LS Power's plan was to build a 5.5-mile 230-kV line and a new transformer and switchyard by mid-2017 for $116 million to $148 million.  But, PJM's delusions of grandeur made it decide in favor of a longer, bigger and more expensive plan proposed by one of its incumbents.

PJM says that siting and permitting prospects were one of several factors it considered when making the recommendation, although the selected project may have issues securing a permit for a river crossing and will cross the Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the Alloway Creek Watershed Wetland Restoration Site and the Abbotts Meadow and Mad Horse Creek Wildlife Management Areas. 
PJM officials said that while this solution was comparable to other projects based on such factors as cost, schedule and the ability to address the reliability concerns, the Hope Creek-Red Lion 500-kV line was superior in terms of constructability.
Seriously, PJM?  Who's giving you advice about "constructability?"  The same geniuses who thought PATH and MAPP were good ideas?  Those two projects turned out not to be so "constructable" after all, and have left PJM ratepayers footing a bill for more than $350M for projects that never even put a shovel in the ground!

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities said PJM’s analysis of the 500-kV option underestimated likely public opposition.

Ya think?  Just because the new transmission line parallels an existing one does NOT mean that affected landowners will welcome it with open arms.  In fact, these landowners already know what it's like to live with a transmission line across their land, and feel they have already made the ultimate sacrifice for "the public good."  They will NOT want another one, and will fight tooth and nail to kill this project.

And, guess what?  They'll have plenty of help from other transmission opposition groups that have perfected the art of public opposition.  After all, we've had some of the best teachers in the world to show us all the ins and outs of transmission project strategy, and we like to "pay it forward."

So, if you're a landowner in Salem County, New Jersey, who already has a 500kV transmission line in your backyard, check out the map at RTO Insider to see if you're one of "the chosen."  I am looking forward to meeting you!