A long time ago, when I held the purse strings of a certain corporation, I used to have a sign on my office wall. It said:
Lack of planning on your part
does not constitute an emergency on my part.
I'd point to it with regularity when various co-workers would show up with requests to issue checks outside the normal, weekly, computerized process (yes, friends, they had did have computers back in the dinosaur days!). The rules were that I would run checks once a week. If someone needed a check issued, they had plenty of time to get their invoices or requests in before the deadline. Invariably, some sales-critter would show up after the deadline with some payment request that absolutely, positively HAD TO be done right now. *point to sign* Bite me.
I have little sympathy for people or companies who fail to plan according to existing rules.
Clean Line thought it was so cool that it was certain to overcome any obstacles that the existing rules could throw in its path. The naysayers brought up any number of problems with Clean Line's business plan, including the fact that utilities are unlikely to stick their neck out to contract with non-existent generators using a non-existent transmission line. No customers, no construction loan for the transmission project. It's not rocket science here. Clean Line should have listened to what the transmission industry was trying to tell them. Smug is sometimes really hard of hearing.
And here we are. Those existing rules that Clean Line thought would be easily scaled have turned out to be not only higher hurdles than originally thought, in most cases they are simply insurmountable.
Clean Line didn't plan according to the rules, so now they want to pull their projects out of the toilet by changing the rules. Whether it's federal eminent domain authority (after state authority failed), or the regional transmission planning process that doesn't fit Clean Line's business plan, Clean Line thinks that the rules should be changed to accommodate their business plans.
Been wondering why we haven't been joined by any Clean Line opposition groups from southwestern states? Because Clean Line didn't bother to check the CAISO rules before dreaming up a transmission line from New Mexico to California. Seriously, who does that?
And who sends off letters to the editor calling for a complete reform of CAISO when they don't even have their basic facts straight? Love the editorial question mark here...
As California moves beyond its 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard goal [?--Ed.] and strives for deeper reductions in harmful emissions...
Meanwhile, back at Clean Line headquarters....
I've been trying to keep my nose to the ol' grindstone and ignore the calliope music coming from PJM's "Annual Meeting"
in Atlantic City
. But it's really hard to ignore it when a clown scampers across your computer screen before you've even had your morning coffee.
I started my day today with the latest issue of RTO Insider. I figured it went well with coffee and would be a pleasant way to wake up before going back to work on something that matters. I love RTO Insider almost as much as chocolate donuts!
Bowring, Gates’ Consultant Spar over PJM Traders’ Obligations on Loopholes
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — To shake or not to shake the Money Tree?
That was the question Independent Market Monitor Joe Bowring posed during his Year in Review presentation at PJM’s Annual Meeting last week, setting off a lively debate with one of the consultants that Richard and Kevin Gates, enlisted in their high profile defense against market manipulation allegations.
“If the rules are imperfect, is it OK to do anything not explicitly prohibited?” Bowring asked.
He quickly provided his own answer. “It is not permissible,” he said, citing what he called the “duty” of market participants to inform RTO officials and federal regulators of such “money trees.”
Is this rule supposed to apply equally to every entity FERC regulates? Doesn't Bowring realize that utilities routinely exploit "unclear" rules in order to pocket a little extra scratch? If regulated utilities had a duty to report all their "misinterpretation" money trees to FERC, we're going to need a couple more hotlines. Of course, if the utilities are so busy self-reporting all their shakes (or kicks, flicks, and karate chops) of the "money tree," they might not have time to "accidentally" misinterpret any rules that result in a profit for their shareholders, would they? Or will they simply have to hire new monkeys to shake the tree, while the old monkeys watch and phone in a report to FERC's hotline?
Utilities large and small routinely interpret FERC rules in incorrect and bizarre ways in order to squeak some additional profit from them. Except FERC never fines its utility pets $30M when they get caught breaking the rules. It's all giggle, giggle, hush, hush, slap my wrist, I promise to be good if you overlook this little "misunderstanding." FERC needs to tighten that shit up and adopt Bowring's "Money Tree Methodology" for everyone!
I do so admire Bowring's enthusiasm. You go, sport! I hear there's going to be a vacant spot on the Commission soon! Maybe you should be Chairman?
What do you suppose caused Bowring's money tree epiphany? Do you suppose he participated in the "Spa Toccare"* leisure activity in order to relax and clear his mind before giving his report to the membership?
Whatever you do, don't click on the clown picture above.
No, don't do it!
Well, that would explain things then. Thanks a lot, Joe, for making me snort with laughter before the coffee was even ready to drink.
*Dedicated to undoing the effects of your day, Spa Toccare offers relaxing treatments guaranteed to exhilarate. Here, tensions melt, knots disappear, skin glistens and eyes sparkle. A new you emerges just in time to wave bye-bye to your worldly cares.
Journalists are trained to be independent reporters of the facts. The readers are supposed to take those facts and form their own opinion. But what happens when a "journalist" tries to spin her opinion as "news?"
"Clean Line receives pocket approval from legislature."
On the heels of lawmakers voting to reject a House bill designed to stop the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project, Michael Skelly, President of Clean Line Energy, visited a Ralls County site of a Grain Belt Express Clean Line’s delivery station, a $100 million facility that proponents say will allow Missourians to receive low-cost, clean power from the Grain Belt Express Clean Line.
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a proposed electric power line that will deliver competitively-priced renewable energy to Missouri. The House Energy and Environment Committee voted down House Bill 1027, which would modify provisions relating to eminent domain powers of utilities, on April 28. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, who represents Monroe, Lincoln, Pike, and Ralls Counties.
“With the vote this morning, Missouri lawmakers have demonstrated that they stand behind market based solutions to bring low-cost, renewable energy to the state,” said Mark Lawlor, Director of Development for Clean Line Energy. “The Grain Belt Express Clean Line will deliver enough low-cost clean power to Missouri through a direct connection to the electric grid to power 200,000 Missouri homes. We look forward to continuing to work with landowners and community members to develop the project in Missouri in a collaborative way. This project is very important to Missouri’s energy future.”
At the hearing on the bill, supporters spoke of the benefits that the Grain Belt Express Clean Line project would bring to the state and asked legislators to block HB 1027.
According to the Legislative Drafter's Deskbook: A Practical Guide
, a "pocket approval" happens when the President does not sign a bill, but fails to return it to the legislature within 10 days. In that case, it becomes law through "pocket approval."
Is that what this reporter meant? That HB 1027 became law because the President failed to return it to the House? Or is this reporter just desperate to include the words "approval" and "Grain Belt Express" in a headline?
There was no "approval" for Grain Belt Express in Missouri. The legislature does not have authority to "approve" a transmission project. "Approval" can only come from the Missouri Public Service Commission, and the Staff of the MO PSC just last week reaffirmed their recommendation that the PSC DENY APPROVAL for Grain Belt Express.
This headline is simply the reporter's opinionated fantasy. The only thing that actually happened at the legislature is that Clean Line's expensive lobbyists managed to twist enough arms to prevent legislation supported by the people from passing. Big deal... there's always next year!
The reporter conveniently skips over the fact that GBE won't provide ANY energy to Missouri that is not purchased by an actual utility that serves electric load in the state. Evidence at the PSC indicates that there are no utilities stepping up to purchase electricity from GBE's Missouri converter station.
The article also claims: "Grain Belt Express project moves process forward, receiving public support."
Moves forward? Forward to where? GBE is still stuck in the Molasses Swamp waiting for a decision on its application from the MO PSC. It's not going anywhere.
And where's the proof that GBE has any "public support?" The evidence at hand indicates that GBE is receiving record public opposition. This is backed up by the fact that when "Mike" Skelly called a recent press conference at a field in Ralls County, the only "supporters" who showed up were brought in by GBE from many miles away. On the same day, the Ralls County Commission re-iterated its opposition to GBE, no matter how much of a company man their assessor wants to be in the media.
Here's Block GBE MO's press release that reflects what REALLY happened:
Two Counties Clarify Opposition to Grain Belt: Chariton and Ralls Legalize Letters of Rescission
Texas based Clean Line Energy, that hopes to build a 750 mile high voltage-transmission line across the state, just hit another snag. Five out of eight counties crossed have now officially rescinded permission for Grain Belt Express to access their county. In Missouri, each county and the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) must grant permission to erect any towers.
The staff of the Missouri PSC recommended denying Grain Belt last fall. They stated “Grain Belt Express has not shown it is needed, economically feasible, or promotes the public interest in Missouri”. They also stated, “Section 229.100 RS Mo precludes Grain Belt from building its proposed line without first obtaining the consent of the County Commission in each of the eight counties in northern Missouri where the line would be located.”
Grain Belt questioned the validity of the rescission letters from two counties that were written in the summer of 2014. They stated that Chariton County’s letter had not specifically withdrawn section 229.100 authority or permission to build.
They also stated that Ralls County had said they would consider granting franchise only after the commission approved Grain Belt. Because the county must give permission for the PSC to grant a certificate it created a chicken and egg situation. Grain Belt asked for the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity first and promises to get the consent of each of the counties afterwards.
In response, both Chariton and Ralls County submitted new letters to the PSC to reiterate that Grain Belt does not have permission to build transmission lines in their county.
Ralls County’s new letter reads, in part, “Accordingly, if our grant of authority of August 23rd, 2012 to Grain Belt Express was valid, the County Commission does hereby rescind and revoke any authority granted that date to Grain Belt Express."
Wiley Hibbard, Presiding Commissioner of Ralls County stated, “I, as well as the other two Commissioners in Ralls County, felt it was important that we should restate our opposition to GBE's application to the PSC.
"By pure coincidence, we chose to send our letter to the PSC on the same day GBE held a press conference in Ralls County. It is my understanding that no landowners from Ralls County attended. GBE had to bring a person in from a county many miles away to speak to the press. This will show Grain Belt and the PSC that landowner's rights are very important to the citizens of Ralls County.”
Jennifer Gatrel of Block Grain Belt Express Missouri stated, “We are delighted that five out of eight counties have withdrawn their permission. We are very hopeful that the Missouri PSC will quickly deny Grain Belt and allow landowners to resume our lives."
A reporter who purposely misstates the facts to promote a corporate agenda does so at the peril of her own reputation.
Let's get the profitable infrastructure project party started!
A landowner from southeast Iowa today said he has recorded proof a land agent for the proposed Bakken Pipeline offered to get him an 18-year-old prostitute if he’d grant access rights to his property so the pipeline may pass through.
Hughie Tweedy of Montrose said he recorded two of his conversations with the land agent.
“On these recordings you will hear evidence of my senior pipeline representative offering me not once, not twice, but three times the sexual services of a woman,” Tweedy said, “the last time being a $1200 teenage prostitute.”
“If anybody knows of anyone who’s been dealt with unfairly,” Boeyink says, “get the names to me and we will deal with it swiftly.”
I'm thinking Boeyink didn't move too "swiftly." Or maybe he's been a whirling dervish but simply can't keep up with the unsavory activities of his hired land agents.
Whether it's offering ponies and prostitutes to landowners in exchange for easements, or pizza parties and puppy chow to college students in exchange for signatures on petitions of support, buying public support for infrastructure projects is big business!
And who do you think is first in line for the free cheese?
“If an old junkyard dog like me was offered the sexual services of little girls to get my hackles down, I wonder what was offered to the powerbrokers of this state to gain their support for silence,” Tweedy said. “Shame, shame, shame.”
Can't add anything to that wisdom.
While up to my elbows in dirt yesterday, I got a little buzz on my phone telling me that PJM had awarded the Artificial Island project to... LS Power. I laughed -- loud and hard. If you laugh in the garden, and nobody is around to hear it, did you really laugh? Or do your neighbors simply think that you've finally gone off the rails?
PJM's Artificial Island project window has been fraught with problems from the get-go. The RTO initially awarded the project to one of its favored incumbents, but was set upon by other competitors who made a convincing case that the process was not competitive.
PJM hired some wacky "constructability" study to try to prove that its selection was based on the ease with which the project could be constructed. That was a big waste of money. The study failed to note the single, most-important reason projects get delayed -- public opposition! Opposition is directly related to routing and the physical impact of the project, and the way its public relations are handled -- the worse the transmission developer does
at this, the bigger the resultant opposition. That's a big, big factor in "constructability."
PJM got schooled on what "constructability" really means.
And the project PJM ultimately selected makes an underground crossing of the Delaware River and avoids protected wildlife refuges.
Lesson learned, PJM?
Here's your "constructability" checklist, for future reference:
1. Does this project make use of existing infrastructure that could be upgraded or rebuilt to lessen impact of a new right-of-way?
2. Can this project be buried along existing or new rights-of-way?
3. Can this project be avoided entirely with non-transmission alternatives?
4. What alternatives are there to the project that you can share with the public?
If these things are truly considered, you could avoid the worst part of public opposition and win the "constructability" war.
It's also of note that LS Power proposed a cost cap for its project. LS Power now has a firm budget for its project. If it exceeds budget, it's going to have to justify why and beg on bended knee to recover its overruns. A cost cap also acts as a performance standard. If LS Power doesn't perform to get this project built on time and within budget
, it does so at its own peril.
Let's hope the cost cap is also a lesson well-learned by PJM. It's what Congress intended when creating financial incentives for transmission
, and cost caps effectively end the "the more we spend, the more we make" attitude so pervasive in the transmission industry today, to the benefit of electric ratepayers.
Great news out of Iowa yesterday! Legislation targeted to restrict the use of eminent domain by private companies not serving Iowans advanced as hundreds of landowners and other stakeholders gathered to speak out at a subcommittee meeting at the Capitol.
NPR has the story. Listen to the audio, it's better than the print version.
Several landowners spoke out about abusive practices of land agents attempting to secure right-of-way.
“I've heard this from other landowners being told the same thing,” Murray says. “Right-of-way agents are saying this is inevitable so you better take the easement deal before you.”
A spokesman for Bakken crude pipeline company Dakota Access said what the companies always say when faced with the transgressions of their shifty land agents:
“If anybody knows of anyone who’s been dealt with unfairly,” Boeyink says, “get the names to me and we will deal with it swiftly.”
Yada, yada, yada, we will fire any land agent who violates the "code of conduct." Tell me, if land agents were regularly subjected to firing for using abusively coercive tactics to secure easements, why does it still happen with such regularity? I don't think I believe it. I think it's merely window dressing for instances where a land agent is caught by a landowner in a pack of lies. I think that companies routinely look the other way when violations occur, as long as easement agreements are being filed. Because for every one unscrupulous land agent that gets reported in the media, there are probably hundreds of others that got away with it. I have heard numerous horror stories about transmission right-of-way land agents, continuing up until the present. Where there's this much smoke, there is certainly fire.
The Sierra Club seems to be backing off its hypocritical support of Clean Line transmission projects, while simultaneously opposing pipelines as an abuse of eminent domain.
Wally Taylor of Cedar Rapids, a lawyer for the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club, said his organization is worried about an "extreme risk to property and the environment" if the pipeline project proceeds. There is no doubt that oil spills will occur and it will be many years before the land can be farmed again, he added.
It's also clear that if Bakken crude oil is transported through Iowa, it will be shipped from Illinois onto the world petroleum market via the Gulf of Mexico, Taylor said. "This is all about private property. It isn't about benefiting Iowa or the nation," he said. Similarly, the Rock Island Clean Line would not provide a way for Iowans to connect to the line or to obtain energy from the transmission facility, he added.
That's right, Sierra Club! Clean Line does not provide a way for pass-thru states to benefit from its projects! The projects also destroy the environment and economy of pass-thru states and won't actually shut down any coal plants. Not one! Sierra Club should really get its act together here and stop worshipping at the alter of grant funding and renewable energy make-believe.
Clean Line's spokesperson tried to get the committee to believe the company plans on acquiring more than 90% of the easements it needs voluntarily.
Paula Dierenfeld, representing Clean Line Energy Partners, said her company currently has obtained voluntary easements from about 15 to 20 percent of property owners and has a goal of obtaining "well in excess of 90 percent" voluntary easements. But she questioned the proposed requirement to obtain 75 percent voluntary sign-ups before eminent domain can be requested. She said a company could spend millions of dollars on obtaining easements without even knowing whether a project could move forward. She asked whether any businesses would support that idea.
Paula must be new. Clean Line has obtained all the voluntary easements it's going to get, even with the hard sell tactics reported by Mr. Murray. 15%. That's it. The rest is a fairy tale. The people of Iowa aren't buying what you're selling. You know, Paula, risk is a big, big part of being in the merchant transmission business when you don't have an order to construct the project from a regional transmission authority. Maybe you should ask your bosses at Clean Line why they're supporting the company spending millions of dollars on obtaining easements without even knowing whether their project could move forward?
Way to go, Iowa!
Yesterday marked the official conclusion of the FERC hearing that's taken up so much of my time over the past month or so.
I'm sure numerous celebrations occurred.
Some were more fun
For those who remarked that the second celebration didn't look like much fun, I offer that the beer was picked up off the table, the light turned out, and the room vacated. Instant fun!
Now, where did I leave my life? Anyone seen it?
First, I offer this article from WSJ* (I admit it, the world has been revolving even though I paid it little attention). It's finally been recognized that utilities may be investing in infrastructure as a cash cow. Ya think?
The way the regulated rate world works is that the more they invest, the more $$ they make. Although utilities have a built in O&M component in most stated rates, if they don't spend it all, they can use the money for something else, such as increasing shareholder dividends. And they did. But, as less power is sold, profits go down and the utility must turn to other profit centers, such as increased capital spending on long-neglected maintenance, or new transmission lines. And rates go up.
And they wonder why we drink...
*If you can't read the article, google the headline "Utilities' Profit Recipe: Spend More" and you should be able to access it directly.
Drama, drama, drama. I'm pretty sure the media over-dramatized the outages in DC yesterday. Maybe not a bad thing to raise awareness, but they've missed the real message.
OMG - like this outage affected IMPORTANT people doing IMPORTANT things! Like Pepco is sooooooo bad!
This article covers the basics, and with a few additional details from WaPo's more dramatic version, here's the story:
A hot 230-kV transmission line (conductor) just randomly fell off its tower in Southern Maryland. No storm. No damage. It just broke for no apparent reason. Live, uninsulated transmission line on the ground started a grass fire. Lucky it didn't fall on any people, vehicles, etc. that happened to be in the right-of-way at that time. The fault caused a bunch of other lines and generators to trip offline in self-defense against resulting voltage swings. And the lights went out many miles away in Washington, D.C.
So, no big deal, faults happen. But the grid is supposed to be designed so that other lines instantly spring to life and take the load of the one out of service and the fault ends up being nothing more than a barely-noticed blip. But that didn't happen, it started to cascade to other lines and generators. Comparison was made to the 2003 northeast blackout, when a fault on a transmission line in Ohio cascaded into a regional blackout. The concept is quite the same, but the effect not as far-reaching. Do you suppose we'll need a multi-million dollar government task force to examine the incident?
What's the real problem here?
Lack of maintenance and upgrades to existing transmission lines. The industry is so busy chasing the big profits that come from building NEW transmission that they aren't investing their money in maintaining the assets already in service. Perhaps our federal regulatory agencies need to start encouraging maintenance and rebuilds of aging lines with financial incentives?
And then there's the problem of parasites like DC that have no generation of their own and depend on transmission lines from distant generators. The more transmission lines we build, and the more centralized the system that supplies electricity, the bigger this problem becomes.
Stop it. Stupid.
Distributed generation and less transmission lines = reliability.
Disturbing news out of Colorado this morning. The Denver Post reports
that the legislature is playing games with funding of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) for the next 10 years. Without funding and authorization, the OCC will simply cease to exist under Colorado's "sunset" law.
A concerned legislator likened the refusal to deal with the re-funding of the OCC to "Washington, D.C.-style politics."
"If people disagree on the policy, the substance or the process, that's fair; that's what we're each here to do," Garcia said. "But what we're seeing here is Washington, D.C.-style politics where you put something off to the side, and the committee chair doesn't give it due regard until it's too late."
Why is consumer counsel so important? Because it is the utility consumer's only defense against high rates and utility policy that compromises their interest. Only the consumer counsel is looking out for residential and small business interests during utility rate cases. Without the OCC, residential consumers would have no choice but to represent themselves in every utility case before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Who can afford the time or expense of that? Nobody, therefore consumers would be unrepresented. It's just not true that outside consumer groups, contingency-based lawyers, or class-action lawsuits can take the place of an independent, governmental advocate that defends the interests of all
residential and small business consumers.
According to a report prepared last fall, the OCC regularly saves this class of consumers between $40-50 million per year in increased rates. The cost of this representation is a mere $1.5M/year. The funding for the OCC comes from fees paid by regulated utilities, not out of the state's general fund. It costs consumers nothing, and it consistently saves them money. The report recommends continuing the OCC until 2026. However, the legislature is ignoring it, and without their nod, the OCC will sunset.
Don't let the Colorado legislature rob you of the representation that keeps your utility bill in check. Without the OCC, out-of-control rate increases could have you lamenting that "someone" should do something about that. The OCC is the consumer's "someone," even though most consumers don't even know they exist. Get educated and take an active role in the processes that control your utility costs -- support the re-funding of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel.
Halt The Power Lines makes it quick and easy to do your part! Visit them here to find out how to take action!
If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Clean Line's Grain Belt Express Project was trying to unload a whole bunch of 90s beanie babies. Once upon a time, beanie babies were so popular, it was a seller's market. Now, you can't give the critters away.
Same deal with GBE.
Big announcement that the results of GBE's open season attracted requests for service totaling more than 4 times available capacity. Beanie babies for sale!!!
However, GBE's open season didn't attract any buyers for the power in Missouri. Poor, homeless, unwanted beanie babies!!!
And why would that be? Because, according to the staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission, none of the utilities in Missouri need to purchase wind power to meet their renewable portfolio standard goals.
"Grain Belt Express has not shown its project is the most cost-effective means of compliance with renewable energy standards in Missouri, as all but one of Missouri's investor owned utilities has already disclosed that it has existing capacity and new contracts that will meet or exceed the 15% renewable portfolio standard target by 2021."
GBE's mouthpiece tried to pretend Missouri was always the intended terminus of his project.
Ten respondents submitted requests for service to deliver some 3,000 MW of power to Missouri, more than six times the available capacity at that delivery station, Lawler said.
“We have 500 MW going to Missouri, which is enough to power 500,000 Missouri homes,” he said. “The rest of it will go farther east, to Illinois and Indiana.”
“Originally we had it all going to Missouri, but the grid there is not robust enough to take full delivery, so we had to bust it up and make an additional delivery point.”
Something got busted up here, and I think it's Clean Line's propensity to make crap up. The Missouri converter station didn't exist until Clean Line came to the realization that there was NO WAY they could get their project approved in Missouri as long as it was intended as a fly over state to lucrative eastern energy markets. But, despite Clean Line's offer of beanie baby consolation prizes for Missouri, they're still in serious trouble.
“In Missouri, we’re at the very tail-end of the regulatory process,” Lawler said. “We expect an order from the (Missouri Public Service Commission) in the next couple of months. There is no regulatory time frame (for approval) like there is in Kansas. We expect a decision in the first half of this year.”
Sure, everyone expects an order from the MO PSC, but there's no guarantee that it will be a favorable decision. How much longer is Clean Line going to pretend everything is hunky dory while the SS Clean Line is rapidly taking on water? That's awfully brave of them, don't you think?
And what about the rest of the power that's intended to be delivered into PJM's eastern grid... any interest from buyers there? Nope. The eastern U.S. doesn't need any beanie babies, either.
So, just like its open season on its Plains & Eastern project, Clean Line is holding a bag full of beanie babies that nobody wants. None of these generators have been built yet, and won't be built until they have buyers for their product. Who is going to contract with an unbuilt generator to maybe supply power via an unbuilt transmission line that can't get state approvals? Utilities hate risk (and beanie babies).
Take a memo, Clean Line: There's no interest in your product. The utility industry has been trying to tell you this since your inception. You just can't overcome the chicken/egg scenario that makes utilities shy away from resource uncertainty. Yes, I understand Mikey thought they were wrong when he decided to market beanie babies way back in 2009. But time has been unkind to his beanie baby market. The sooner he admits it and stops this farce, the better off we'll all be!