<![CDATA[ StopPATH WV - StopPATH WV Blog]]>Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:20:36 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Transource Releases Routes... and Propaganda]]>Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:52:19 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/transource-releases-routes-and-propagandaTransource hit the media up with its proposed routes for its Independence Energy Connection early this week.  Transource included lots of propaganda designed to pacify the opposition beast as well.  I don't think it's working.  The route announcement only served to incite even more opposition, as people who maybe thought they were safe, or hadn't paid much attention to the problem before, came out of the woodwork to voice their opposition.

What was it Transource said about its project?
The goal is to alleviate congestion on the high-voltage electric grid, and benefit customers in the region, including parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland, Transource said in a news release. 
But who exactly will benefit from the project, and to what extent?

Regional grid operator PJM Interconnection has already done the math and assigned project cost commensurate with benefit.  80.5% of the project costs will be paid by ratepayers of Baltimore Gas & Electric, PEPCO, and Dominion, therefore 80.5% of the benefit will be realized by those ratepayers.  However, 100% of project impacts will be realized by landowners in communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland that will receive just 6% or less of the project's benefit.  Although Transource continually attempts to gloss over this fact, it doesn't change the math.  Communities along the proposed route are not receiving benefit commensurate with their sacrifice.

New transmission projects dreamed up by PJM to "alleviate congestion" and promote the increased use of certain types of power generators have a long track record of failure.  "Congestion" is a fleeting economic concept used to justify building more transmission for export across the region.  You'd think PJM might have learned its lesson about manipulating markets from the crashing failure of its Project Mountaineer initiative, but obviously that's not the case.  After retreating to its lair and licking its wounds for 10 years, PJM is at it again.  And the victims of its latest scheme are having none of that.

Transource also says:
Abby Foster, a community affairs representative for the company, said typical farming practices in both counties will be able to continue in the rights-of-way. She also said that based on the feedback from the community, Transource will use a monopole structure for the towers, instead of the lattice structure which was in the original proposal. 
“By including community members in the siting process, rather than engaging them after decisions were made, we were able to consider and accommodate many landowner requests,” said Transource Director Todd Burns.
Abby Foster is a public relations spinner employed by The Bravo Group, under contract to Transource to put a nice face on its transmission proposal.  Abby says:  "My experience and strengths include targeting audiences with well-crafted messaging using both traditional and new media to gain exposure, persuade and motivate. Whether it be a product, campaign, event or reputation management and exposure, I can develop the campaign from strategy, to content and graphics, to launch. I will work with you to set benchmarks, track progress and achieve your campaign goals."   What does Abby Foster know about "typical farming practices"?  Any farmer who relies on Abby Foster to educate them about "typical farming practices" may find themselves in a bit of a bind.  And what about that "feedback" she received about monopoles?  I don't know of anyone who opposes this project whose opposition would be ameliorated by the use of monopoles.  In fact, I haven't heard one opponent even mention a preference for monopoles.  The preference for monopoles is parent company AEP's preference, touting what it characterizes as its revolutionary "BOLD" design, a rather flaccid attempt to make people believe everyone else loves smartly designed transmission structures.  How can Abby say that they're making some accommodation towards the public when those people have not indicated a preference?  It's like asking people how they want to ingest poison... would you like to drink it or chew it? 

Todd Burns is another poison purveyor who tells the community how they were included in the decision making, but that's not entirely honest.  The community doesn't just want to be "included" in the siting of the project, the community wants to be included in the decision to build this project in the first place.  That's where community involvement should have begun.  Instead, Todd asks the community how it would like to ingest its poison, without asking them if they would like to be poisoned in the first place.

Transource must think the communities are really gullible, pretending to make concessions so that the company appears reasonable.  Transource's concessions are imaginary and not what the community asked for at the "Open House" meetings.  I'm pretty sure the communities asked for no transmission project at all, not one with monopoles that encourages the community to fight with itself over placement.  The monopoles and "community inclusion" are nothing but a smoke screen.

Then Abby asks the community to get into the Kool Aid line:

Foster added that over the next couple of weeks the company will contact  landowners with property on the proposed route. She said during this time, owners can raise issues like potential crop loss during construction or access roads that need to be built, and negotiate compensation.
 
"They're really looking to minimize and reduce any impacts that might occur to any agricultural practices," Foster said on behalf of Transource.
Maybe landowners don't want to talk to land agents this early in the game.  After all, this project isn't a sure thing until it's been carefully examined and approved by state regulators.  Chances are that one or both states will deny the application, or simply delay it until the project collapses underneath the weight of its own hubris.  Why purchase easements when a route has not been approved?  Because Transource is guaranteed to collect its sunk costs, even if the project is later cancelled.  And if it is cancelled, who wants to be left with an open easement across their property that can then be used for some other project?  Landowners should also consider how easements are typically purchased for transmission line projects.  A company may pay up to 10% of the purchase price at signing, with future small payments made over time as indicated in the contract, with the balance paid at the time construction begins.  Once signed, a landowner (or his heirs) must honor the contract until the easement is released.  This project could be tied up by regulators and courts for years. 

Any landowner who even considers talking to a Transource land agent should first consult with an attorney.  Although Transource will tell you that you don't need an attorney, remember that the contract the land agent presents to you was written by Transource's attorney, for the benefit of the company.  Don't you think you should protect your interests, too?

Transource seems to be in an all-fired hurry to get folks "managed" to go along with its project.  It's your land, it's your choice.
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<![CDATA[Clean Line STILL Has No Customers]]>Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:48:52 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/clean-line-still-has-no-customersYou're going to have to dig really deep to get past the out-of-control ego and the made up facts in this fake news story, but once you do, here's what emerges:
The company, which has almost 40 employees, has no current source of revenue.
No source of revenue.  For eight years.  How many other companies do you know of that haven't made a dime of revenue in 8 years and still pretend to be successful?  And then there's the claim that there are "almost" 40 employees.  How many is "almost" 40?  Is it 35?  Is it 30?  Is it 15?  Is it 10?  In the photo of the "team room" I count 8 desks and 2 people.  Was it lunch time?  After hours?  A holiday?  Why would a reporter visit the office when there's hardly anyone in it?  Or does Clean Line no longer have a team?  Clean Line's physical "team" room looks pretty much like their late "our team" webpage... unpopulated.

But yet Skelly claims they're all heroes.
“You would think in eight years, you would have sort of a lull, but it’s a sort of a mad dash every day to move these projects forward,” Skelly said. “It’s more like an Ironman [Triathlon], not a marathon. It’s more like a decathlon, but it goes on for eight years.”
Iron parts aside, there's a fine line between fiery determination and hopeless lunacy.  It's probably going to go on a lot longer than eight years, because:
... neither TVA nor any other utility has signed a contract to buy the power the project would transmit.
Poor, poor, pitiful Michael Skelly.  Everyone's against him.
Skelly said that while landowners’ opposition to transmission projects is “understandable,” the pushback from within the industry is more frustrating.
...................
Pointing to Commonwealth Edison’s opposition to the Rock Island project in Illinois, he said, “Why are they doing that?..."

Skelly tells a "story" about an anonymous person saying Clean Line can't build its projects fast enough, touts an old MOU with the TVA that required TVA to merely consider the project (which they did and declined to sign up), and shares that "very large consumers of power ... care about carbon..." but yet Clean Line has no customers.

The article also claims
Clean Line has worked hard in Missouri to gain community support for Grain Belt.

“You have to build alliances,” Skelly said. “We’ve got support from labor groups, environmental groups, business groups, from political leaders … doing these projects without building those types of alliances would be really, really difficult.”
And it's really, really, REALLY difficult to permit a project that does not have "community support" that's not bought and paid for.  Here's what the ACTUAL community members along Clean Line's proposed route have to say about how Clean Line tried to build "community support":
And when community support fails and states deny permits?  Threaten to go whining to the Feds.
Skelly has said seeking DOE authority for the Grain Belt and Rock Island lines is an option but not his first choice because it is slow and costly.
Clean Line sorta jumped the gun on that one, don't you think?  It had applied to the U.S. DOE as a Section 1222 project before it was even rejected by the Arkansas Public Service Commission.  And then the APSC's denial stated specifically that it was denied because Clean Line didn't intend to serve any customers in the state.  All Clean Line had to do was propose a converter station in the state and reapply.  But it ignored that and persisted with the DOE to secure the wonderful, awesome, powerful participation of the Feds in its project.  And what did that change, anyhow?  Well, it cost millions.  And it took years.  Skelly is right about that.  But it also bought them nothing.  A year and a half after DOE agreed to participate, Plains & Eastern is still going nowhere.  Because it has no customers.  DOE participation hasn't turned out to be so magical after all.

Clean Line's investor line up keeps shifting.  Clean Line likes to pretend its investors are quite hush-hush, but they manage to drop enough bits of random information in different venues that one merely needs to collect them all and do a bit of math to bring the picture into focus.
Clean Line spokeswoman Sarah Bray said Bluescape is now the company’s “principal investor,” although National Grid, ZBI and the Zilkha family have retained equity stakes.
The last time I did an info compilation in 2015, the investor totals looked like this

GridAmerica Holdings (National Grid) has invested $55.7M and currently owns 40% of the company.

ZAM Ventures (Ziff brothers) has invested $73.8M and currently is the majority owner, with a 53% stake.

Michael Zilkha has a piddling $2.8M invested, which gives him a 2% ownership interest.

The remaining 5% (or $6.7M) is owned by "Clean Line Investment" which is some vague investment vehicle owned by "service providers and employees of Clean Line."

Total investment:  Around $140M

Now Sarah Bray informs us that Bluescape is the majority investor, which indicates that Bluescape has dumped more than $73.8M into the Clean Line sink hole.  Clean Line must be more than $200M in the hole to their investors over all, and still not a glimmer of hope in sight.

Here's what's REALLY going on with Skelly's projects (pay no mind to that "summary" in the article, it's missing quite a few key facts):

Rock Island Clean Line: The Illinois Supreme Court opinion said that Rock Island Clean Line is not a public utility, and therefore may not use eminent domain to acquire land for its project. The Court reasoned that since RICL had claimed it has not asked for eminent domain authority, that it didn’t need it and should proceed to build its project without eminent domain authority. I urge you to read and report on the actual Opinion, instead of taking the loser’s view of the case as a fact. See http://www.blockricl.com
In addition to not being a public utility in Illinois, RICL has also been denied the ability to ever use eminent domain in Iowa through new legislation passed last year. See
https://www.iowastopricl.com

Grain Belt Express: The Illinois Supreme Court opinion on RICL determined it was not a public utility. If RICL isn’t a public utility, than neither is GBE, which is an identical project that also runs through Illinois. There is currently an appeal in the Illinois 5th District Court, an opinion can come at any time. The issue in that appeal is whether GBE was a public utility at the time it applied for its CPCN at the Illinois Commerce Commission. If RICL cannot be a public utility even after receiving a (since vacated) CPCN, than GBE cannot be a public utility before it even applies. GBE is denied for the third time in Missouri, and the opponents also filed an appeal in the Western District Court of Appeals. It is unclear which court will hear the appeal, and unlikely that the Western District will be overturned. Remember, the Western District’s opinion has already been examined by the Missouri Supreme Court and let stand. These are all fatal issues for GBE.

Plains & Eastern: The Arkansas delegation met with Rick Perry again just recently. Maybe you should ask them what they think, instead of asking Skelly what they think? While Skelly reports they have bought right-of-way, he failed to mention that right-of-way acquisition stopped months ago, and a land agent told a landowner that Clean Line was stopping all land acquisition because it had “bought too much right-of-way.” Skelly also forgot to tell the reporter about the recent rejection of Clean Line’s offer of $80M to the Cherokee Nation in exchange for rights to cross the Arkansas River. Without the Cherokee Nation’s permission, P&E is sunk. The reporter also completely failed to mention the ongoing Federal court challenge to DOE’s presumption that Section 1222 gives it condemnation authority. An important hearing is coming up next month.
Really, what's there to be optimistic about here?  Are the investors really looking forward to dumping more money into lobbying and paid advocates, lawyers, and hopeless legal actions?  How many more years are the investors going to watch their money pissed away on fire stations and paid political hacks when what Clean Line so desperately needs is customers?

A fire station "compound" and pictures of Bob Marley in your deserted office doesn't make one successful in the energy world.  Perhaps one would need to pop one's head out of one's own derriere now and again to do a bit of a reality check.  Maybe some of us are laughing with you... and maybe some of us are laughing at you.

I believe this looks like a portrait of a dying company whose leader is floating merrily down de Nile in an overpriced party boat.  Party till the cash dries up (or the overly bright orange carpeting and quasi-mod decor makes you so dizzy you throw up).  And don't forget to take a spin around the fire pole on your way out.
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<![CDATA[Southern Cross Transmission Wants a Free Ride From Texas Ratepayers]]>Wed, 11 Oct 2017 13:08:32 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/southern-cross-transmission-wants-a-free-ride-from-texas-ratepayersThat seems to be the conclusion of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) in its most recent Order regarding the Rusk to Panola transmission connection that will move cheap electricity out of Texas as part of the Southern Cross Transmission project.

Southern Cross is another merchant transmission project supposedly "for wind" that wants to export cheap Texas power into Southeastern states via a new 400-mile HVDC transmission connection.  A "merchant" project is one for which investors shoulder the risk because it doesn't have a guaranteed ratepayer-financed revenue stream.  Merchant projects are not found needed for reliability, economic, or public policy purposes, therefore ratepayers shall not be forced to finance them.  Merchant projects generally negotiate rates with willing customers to finance their projects.

Southern Cross had to jump an additional hurdle that other Midwestern merchant projects did not.  Southern Cross proposes to export wind generated transmission from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) into another electric region.  ERCOT is its own little one-state electric region island in order to escape the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that applies to other multi-state electric regions.  In order to connect ERCOT resources to another region, Southern Cross went through a process at FERC that allowed the connection without compromising ERCOT's independence.  Part of that deal required a connection from within ERCOT to another portion of Texas that was not within ERCOT.  This is the proposed Rusk to Panola project, a double-circuit 345kV line.  Southern Cross's transmission project would then connect to this project and move the electricity further across Louisiana and Mississippi, and connect with the grid in Alabama.  Rusk to Panola (known as RPTP by Southern Cross) is only necessary to provide electricity to Southern Cross.  RPTP needs the permission of the PUCT to build the project.  While PUCT acknowledges that it must approve the project, it may do so with conditions.  And the conditions PUCT placed on its approval have been met with resistance by Southern Cross.

Holy shell companies, Batman!  RPTP is supposedly owned by the City of Garland, Texas, but will be paid for by some entity known as Rusk Interconnection, LLC.  Just like peeling an onion... layer after layer after layer... but back to the main event...

PUCT has directed that any costs caused by the RPTP be assigned to Southern Cross Transmission, and not ERCOT ratepayers.  ERCOT ratepayers are already shouldering the burden of ERCOT's CREZ projects, a series of new transmission lines intended to move wind-generated electricity from western Texas to load centers in the eastern part of the state.  CREZ hasn't come cheap for ratepayers, and it looks like Texas may have overdone it, supplying so much "cheap" wind power that there is a surplus.  Southern Cross proposes to alleviate that surplus by exporting it to other states.  But yet, Southern Cross doesn't want to pay the full cost of its project's effect on the ERCOT system, instead purporting that ERCOT ratepayers would receive some "benefit" from Southern Cross and must therefore pay for that "benefit."  Except these aren't "benefits" that ERCOT ratepayers need.  At best, they are "benefits" that ERCOT ratepayers don't need or want, "benefits" that are foisted upon them because of Southern Cross's project.  Who wants to pay for "benefits" they don't need?

PUCT says:
The current market design in ERCOT primarily places the responsibility for system costs on ERCOT customers. This docket has revealed that the Southern Cross DC tie will result in additional costs to ERCOT, which include extraordinary costs that arise specifically from the Southern Cross DC tie, the Garland line, and the Garland or Oncor substations. Because the customers of exported power are not ERCOT customers, under the current market design and rules, they will not bear any responsibility for the extraordinary costs specific to the Southern Cross DC tie, Garland line, and Garland or Oncor substations that they impose on the ERCOT system. Southern Cross believes that those customers—and therefore Southern Cross—should get a free ride as to these extraordinary costs. The Commission disagrees and determines that the public interest demands that ERCOT ratepayers should not bear any of the costs associated with the Garland line, the Oncor substation, the Garland substation, or the Southern Cross DC tie that are properly borne by others.
The costs that a user of the ERCOT system causes cannot be determined simply by focusing on the costs of the facilities on the last forty miles of a multi-thousand-mile network. There is little doubt that additional facilities will be required in ERCOT because of the electricity flowing over the Southern Cross DC tie. Southern Cross believes that the costs of those facilities should be borne by customers in ERCOT, not the out-of-ERCOT customers that cause those costs.  And Southern Cross opposed even an investigation into whether revisions to the current ERCOT cost-allocation method were needed. Southern Cross attempts to justify this free-ride position based on theoretical benefits that this project will provide to ERCOT.

The Commission agrees, however, that no party met the burden of proof to prove what benefits, if any, Texas ratepayers will enjoy as a result of the Garland line and the Southern Cross DC tie and concurs with the ALJs that any benefits are questionable.  This is one of the issues that will be evaluated by ERCOT and if subsequent investigations show any benefits, then any such benefits could be reflected in the new market-design rules. The record in this case does not justify a free ride for these questionable benefits.  Texans are in the process of paying billions of dollars for the newly constructed CREZ transmission lines, and for substantial other facilities, that are integral to transmitting electricity to the Garland line and the Southern Cross DC tie. As proposed by Southern Cross Transmission, the Garland line would simply interconnect with these CREZ lines and reap benefits without paying its fair share of costs.

Further, Southern Cross argues that the DC tie will not cause a substantial increase in ancillary services needed in ERCOT, and that no change in the current manner that ancillary costs are assigned is necessary.  Southern Cross argues that the DC tie should get a free ride on these extraordinary costs also. The Commission agrees that this is a highly technical question and has requested ERCOT to evaluate this matter. The Commission also agrees, however, with ERCOT and other parties that additional ancillary services will likely be required to support the operation of the DC tie, and at certain levels, that requirement may be significant.  And, as with the other extraordinary costs discussed in this Order, it is appropriate that the cost causer be responsible for the costs, not for ERCOT customers to bear the costs of others. The Commission does note that Southern Cross softened its position some by agreeing that it could and would provide reactive-power service through the DC tie.

One benefit offered by Southern Cross is the lowering of the price of electricity in ERCOT during high-load periods.  However, Southern Cross Transmission's analysis does not appropriately account for the effect on the ERCOT energy market, which sends market signals through scarcity pricing when electricity resources are becoming scarce. Distortions to ERCOT's market signals could prevent the energy-only market from appropriately responding to shortages, leading to inadequate resources in this market. This risk to ERCOT's market structure and the grid's reliability must be assessed and addressed through recommended changes.

PUCT did a great job fishing out the "but for" costs of the project, that is those costs that would not occur "but for" the construction of RPTP.  Other states could take a lesson from this Order.

Southern Cross has asked for another rehearing on this matter by PUCT.  Just paying their own way doesn't seem to be an option for Southern Cross.  Is that because the project is not profitable unless it is subsidized by ERCOT ratepayers?

Meanwhile, Southern Cross doesn't seem to be very popular in Mississippi, where numerous landowners have intervened in the permitting process at the Mississippi Public Service Commission.  Bravo, landowners!  To see the Mississippi docket, go here and search for Case Year 2017, Case Type UA, and Case No. 079.

Southern Cross seems to have at least as many problems as the Clean Line projects proposed to its north.  It's a fact:  Landowners in fly-over states object vociferously to the use of eminent domain on their property to benefit electric ratepayers in other states and financially support private enterprise that wants to make a killing speculating in the electric power markets.  Multi-state transmission projects "for wind" are money pits on regulatory minefields that will never succeed.
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<![CDATA[Grain Belt Express Was...]]>Mon, 09 Oct 2017 18:03:45 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/grain-belt-express-wasThis needs no explanation.  Just watch.
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<![CDATA[Transource Lies About Project Benefits]]>Mon, 09 Oct 2017 12:52:48 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/transource-lies-about-project-benefitsIt's a noun, not a verb.

When Transource was faced with the reality that its Independence Energy Connection (also known as "Projects b2743 & b2752" and "Market Efficiency Project 9A" in PJM parlance) did not provide much benefit to the geographic area sacrificed for the new transmission lines, it re-wrote its project "Fact Sheet" to gloss over this shortcoming.

Transource now says:
Who benefits from the project? For this project, PJM projects $622 million in cost savings for consumers in 10 power zones. Those zones are listed below and displayed on the map to the right. Generally speaking, when low-cost electricity is introduced into the market, it helps drive the overall competitiveness of the electric grid for all power zones.

Benefiting Power Zones Identified by PJM:

American Electric Power Co., Inc, Allegheny Power Systems, Baltimore Gas & Electric, ComEd, Dayton Power and Light Company, Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky, Duquesne Light, Dominion, East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Potomac Electric Power Company.

The high-voltage electric grid operates across towns, counties and state boundaries. As such, the benefit of this project is not confined
to geographical boundaries. Customer-driven improvement projects in one area of the grid can benefit customers on another part of the electric grid. For example, recent improvements made in Indiana and Westmoreland counties, more than 100 miles away, improved how the grid operates in York County.


Transource wants the public affected by this project to believe that benefits will be spread evenly over all power zones.

But that is not the case.  Transource must have run out of room because it did not also supply the Cost Responsibility percentages for the power zones on its map.  Or maybe they purposely didn't include it because it did not support their propaganda narrative.

One of the most basic rules of assigning cost responsibility for new transmission projects is that cost must be commensurate with benefit.  Therefore, the first step to assigning costs to certain zones is to determine benefit for each zone.  PJM did that analysis and posted its cost responsibility assignments here.
Since cost is directly proportional to benefit, you may interpret this chart to show the percentage of benefit to each power zone.
  • AEP zone = 6.56%
  • APS zone = 8.73%
  • BGE zone = 19.73%
  • ComEd zone = 2.16%
  • ConEd zone = 0.06%
  • Dayton zone = 0.59%
  • DEOK zone = 1.02%
  • DL zone = 0.01%
  • Dominion zone = 39.92%
  • EKPC zone = 0.45%
  • PEPCO zone = 20.87%
If you add up the BGE (Baltimore Gas & Electric), Dominion (Northern Virginia) and PEPCO (Washington, DC) zones, you will get 80.52%.  That means that 80.52% of the benefits of this project will be confined to those zones.  Baltimore, Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, will receive more than 80% of the benefit from this project.

There will be no new transmission lines in Baltimore, Northern Virginia or Washington, DC (oh, the horrors, the horrors!).  If PJM tried to build new transmission in these urban areas, even to lower prices by a few cents per year, the pushback would be enormous.  Instead, PJM (and Transource) have moved the burden of new transmission lines into the APS zone (8.73% of project benefit) and Metropolitan Edison Co. zone (ZERO percent of project benefit).  The APS zone will receive just 8% of the $622M benefit, but it will shoulder 100% of the project burden.  In the case of MetEd, the people will shoulder 100% of project burden in exchange for... NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER.

So, when Transource says that everyone benefits, that's just not true.  Some benefit more than others.  And the ones receiving the lion's share of benefit from this project are people who have sacrificed absolutely nothing in exchange for saving a few pennies on their electric bill.

As well, "generally speaking" providing new pathways for power exports from a constrained area serves to raise prices for the previously constrained area.  If an area is flooded with cheap power that has no where else to go, competition is at work to keep prices at the lowest possible.  Once the area is no longer constrained, the area must now compete for pricing with new areas where power is more expensive.  If a generator can sell its power at double the price in Baltimore,  it has no incentive to compete with other suppliers to keep prices low in the previously constrained area.  Instead, power prices in the previously constrained area will rise, becoming competitive with prices in Baltimore.  Market efficiency transmission projects perform a leveling of prices across certain regions between source (generation) and sink (power users).  Transource forgot to tell you this, as well.

Baltimore, Northern Virginia and Washington, DC, will receive more than 80% of the power savings from this project.  Transource has lied through omission.

Hmm... maybe it is a verb after all.
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<![CDATA[Doom and Gloom for Grain Belt Express]]>Sun, 08 Oct 2017 12:41:48 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/doom-and-gloom-for-grain-belt-express
I keep hoping that Clean Line Energy Partners will invest in some media training for "director of development" Mark Lawlor.  When this guy gets stressed out by reporters he says the dumbest things!  When interviewed recently about the Illinois Supreme Court's opinion that Clean Line's RICL project is not a public utility, and how that might impact the Grain Belt Express project, Lawlor said:
“Anytime you have legal clouds pending, you’re not going to spend a lot of time with that uncertainty,” said Lawlor. “We’ll see how the decisions play out before we put a lot of people to work building the project.”
Legal clouds?  A decision by the Illinois Supreme Court is just a "legal cloud" that could blow away any day now?  Not hardly.  But more interesting is Lawlor's admission that he's "not going to spend a lot of time with that uncertainty."

Wack-a-mole, Waldo?  No matter how many moles you whack, more are going to pop up somewhere else, you know... sort of like I've been telling you for years.  So why bother spending all that money on an appeal in Missouri (not to mention your very expensive political spokespuppet, Jay Nixon), when Illinois has determined your projects cannot be public utilities until sometime down the road after they're built?

Because this finally gets pretty close to the truth... it's not about simply purchasing some land.  It's about Clean Line not being able to use eminent domain to condemn land for its projects in Illinois.  Without eminent domain, Clean Line would have to negotiate with each and every landowner to purchase right of way.  No sweat, Clean Line has been telling the public that it wasn't applying for eminent domain for years and that it planned to negotiate fairly with each and every landowner to secure right of way.  So, what happens now when Clean Line has to actually do it?  It's legal clouds, uncertainty, and doom and gloom for the project.  That's because Clean Line wasn't being honest about eminent domain all along... what Clean Line meant was that it wanted to negotiate fairly with each and every landowners to secure right of way, but only when it was holding the sledgehammer of eminent domain behind its back.  That's not fair negotiation.  That's coercion.  Now all of a sudden, when the sledgehammer isn't a tool, Clean Line can't negotiate at all.  Clean Line only wanted to pretend to negotiate, but what it really wanted to do was threaten landowners with eminent domain condemnation if they didn't agree with Clean Line's terms and price.  The Court called this one spot on!

So, let's look at the last stupid thing Lawlor said...“We’ll see how the decisions play out before we put a lot of people to work building the project.”  What?  You were ready to "put a lot of people to work building the project" before the Illinois Supreme Court ruled?  How were people going to build the Grain Belt Express without state approvals from all affected states?  How were people going to build the Grain Belt Express without rights of way across the route?  Without contracts?  Without financing?  Without money?  Without customers?  Sounds like you were ready to put people to work in the same way you were willing to negotiate fairly with landowners.   As in... not at all.

What a thoughtless and stupid thing to say!

Lawlor also whines about Illinois by saying the same stupid things he said about Missouri:

The ruling, Clean Line director of development Mark Lawlor said last week, would discourage renewable energy development in Illinois.
“It is clearly a setback, and a signal not only to our investors, but to other developers, on the tremendous amount of legal barriers in Illinois,” said Lawlor. “It goes beyond Rock Island. It goes beyond Grain Belt.”

Hey, guess what?  Other developers aren't buying your cries of "wolf, wolf, wooooolffffff!"  If no "clean lines" are ever built in Illinois, it will not affect the development of renewable energy in Illinois, because none of the Clean Line projects were ever proposed to move renewable energy produced in Illinois.  No, they were just one way highways through the state for energy produced in other states, with no on or off ramps for local use.  And people care even less about your investors and their signals.  These filthy rich, silver spoon brats invested in your company with their eyes wide open, and besides, they'll hardly miss the millions they're going to be out when Clean Line folds.  They'll probably just write it off their taxes and push the tax burden off onto working class taxpayers anyhow.

It's probably only a matter of time before the investors buy Mark his own wind farm, like they did for RICL's former development director, Hans Detweiler.  Buh-bye!

Rock Island Clean Line is dead.
Grain Belt Express is dead.
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<![CDATA[Maryland Sues States for Providing Cheaper Power for Marylanders]]>Fri, 06 Oct 2017 19:10:13 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/maryland-sues-states-for-providing-cheaper-power-for-marylandersNo, that's not a riddle.  Maryland really is suing neighboring "upwind" states who foul its air with their fossil fuel burning electric generators.  According to The Baltimore Sun:
The lawsuit seeks to require 36 generating units at 19 plants in upwind states to install the same scrubbers and other air-cleaning technology that Maryland requires plants within its borders to install.
Maryland produces little of the electric energy it consumes.  How little?
Maryland's electricity consumption exceeds its net generation. Almost half of the power consumed in the state comes from the PJM Interconnection, the Mid-Atlantic regional electricity transmission grid.
...according to the U.S. Energy Administration.  Maryland is an energy leech, sucking "dirty" fossil fuel electricity from neighboring states.  And now Maryland is suing those states to demand they clean up their cheap, dirty generators.

Also in the works is the Independence Energy Connection, a set of new transmission lines intended to funnel more dirty Pennsylvania electricity to Maryland.  Grid planner PJM Interconnection says that the project will produce lower electric costs for Marylanders, especially in the Baltimore metro area.

But what if Maryland's lawsuit is successful and those cheap and dirty Pennsylvania generators PJM is counting on are required by court order to install new scrubbers and air cleaners?  The cost of that equipment is going to increase the cost to produce that dirty power to be shipped to Maryland by IEC in the future.  I'm going to make a wild guess here that the increased cost of power produced in Pennsylvania is going to change the projected economics of the IEC significantly, negating any benefit at all.  No benefits, no need to construct IEC.

Maryland has also recently outlawed shale gas fracking.  Maryland doesn't want to compromise its own environment to produce cheap shale gas, but yet it has no problem helping itself to cheap shale gas electricity produced in the fracking state of Pennsylvania.

Maryland, you're a big, fat hypocrite.  How about you stop depending on dirty fossil fuel generators in other states and step up to produce your own clean electricity?  You've got an ocean of offshore wind opportunities just off your shore.  Offshore wind is so clean it produces no emissions at all.  Start walking your talk, Maryland!

But wait, clean electricity is more expensive!  And Maryland doesn't want to pay more for electricity.  It wants to pay less by supporting the construction of new transmission lines from dirty Pennsylvania generators.

You can't have both, Maryland.  What's it going to be?  Cheap electricity?  Or clean air?   Or you could just shut off the lights.
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<![CDATA[Perhaps the DOE Should Start in its Own Backyard]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 19:11:11 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/perhaps-the-doe-should-start-in-its-own-backyardRick Perry's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking... oh, the opportunities for blog fodder.  One more post before I stop (for now).

So, Rick Perry thinks that we need to stop the untimely retirement of baseload generation resources, namely coal and nuclear in order to preserve "resiliency."

He could start in his own backyard.

The DOE's "participation" in the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project is supposed to facilitate the development of renewable energy (and therefore the closing of coal-fired generators it would displace), and the DOE's Record of Decision supporting participation in the Plains & Eastern project used this justification for its decision to support the project.
The already-strong demand for imports of low-cost wind energy into the mid-South and Southeast would likely increase if and when states in the region are subject to regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, published in October 2015 and scheduled to mandate compliance beginning in 2022, aims to “continue progress already underway in the U.S. to reduce CO2 emissions from the utility power sector” and is part of a suite of air quality improvements sought by other national environmental regulations. These improvements could be accomplished through retrofitting of older generation plants, plant retirements, and an increasing reliance on local or imported low-carbon generation including renewables. The Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the Clean Power Plan would result in strong growth in renewable generation, particularly in regions currently lacking robust renewable portfolio standards such as the Southeast. Implementation of the Clean Power Plan would also shift the regional fuel mix away from baseload capacity with on-site fuel supplies (such as coal, nuclear, hydroelectricity, and oil) towards capacity that tends to utilize real-time fuel delivery (wind, solar, and natural gas).  Overall, wind generation is projected to play a major role and become increasingly economically competitive. Although the EIA’s analysis did not look at the degree to which such a fuel mix would be imported to the Southeast or conduct a detailed model of the transmission system, it did find that “[c]ompliance with the proposed rule could necessitate significant investment in electric transmission system infrastructure to integrate renewables from remote areas.”

The Clean Power Plan is dead, smothered under its own hubris.  But yet DOE is still puttering merrily down the road supporting the Clean Power Plan through legacy "decisions" made by the previous administration to participate in an impossible transmission project with no customers intended to facilitate renewable competition for baseload generators in the Southeast.
In fact, the DOE was so hung up on facilitating the development of renewable energy, that it illegally added that extra-statutory factor to its RFP for Sec. 1222 projects, and used it a basis for its decision to "participate" in the project.
To be sure, wind power delivered by the Project will compete with other sources of renewable energy in markets in the mid-South and Southeast. But such competition is healthy, and ultimately benefits consumers and the renewable energy sector as a whole. Indeed, new transmission links such as the Project create value through their ability to foster healthy competition among generators. As the Commission has observed: “New interconnections and transmission service generally meet the public interest by increasing power supply options and improving competition.” The Commission has also explained that “as a general matter, the availability of transmission service enhances competition in power markets by increasing power supply options of buyers and sales options of sellers, [resulting in] lower costs to consumers.”
Right.... healthy competition, but renewables wouldn't be the only competitors.  Baseload generation would also be competing against imported renewables, and perhaps that sort of competition could cause the closure of baseload resources in the Southeast.

In addition, DOE's Environmental Impact Statement gushed on and on about the tons of carbon a Clean Line would save from entering the atmosphere.  I don't have the time and patience to dig that up, so you'll have to accept my paraphrasing here.  A "clean" line couldn't remove carbon from the atmosphere by itself, therefore it could only accomplish this through displacement of existing generators that produce carbon.  Therefore, Clean Line is intended as a vehicle to close existing baseload generators that produce carbon.

So, get with the program, Rick!  Instead of trying to put your thumb on the scale at FERC, why not start a little closer to home by extricating the DOE from its "participation" in the Plains & Eastern Clean Line?  It would probably be a whole lot easier to change policy in your own department than it would be to demand an independent regulatory agency act as your minion on some impossible time line.  Clean up DOE's own backyard first!
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<![CDATA[FirstEnergy's Cornucopia Runneth Over]]>Wed, 04 Oct 2017 13:27:12 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/firstenergys-cornucopia-runneth-over
What happens when a company plants too many greed seeds and they all ripen at the same time?  Dilemma!

FirstEnergy has been experiencing a serious issue with low market prices in PJM making its merchant coal-fired generators unprofitable over the past few years.  FirstEnergy's merchant generation company is in serious trouble, with the word "bankruptcy" being mentioned more than once.  These generators operate on a market basis -- that the cost to produce power (plus a profit) is recovered in the sales they make.  If it costs more to produce power than can be recovered through sales, then these generators create a loss, not a profit.

Instead of simply selling these money-losers at a loss and shedding the liability though, FirstEnergy got greedy and has tried to turn them into a profit for the company.  FirstEnergy has been busy trying to stash these plants into its affiliates' regulated rate base in fully regulated states like West Virginia.  Once successful, the plant can earn "cost of service" rates at the state level, where FirstEnergy is fully compensated for the cost of operating the plant, plus a regulated profit, by captive ratepayers.  Any excess generation produced not needed by affiliate load is sold in the unprofitable regional energy market.  And affiliates don't need the generation from these plants when they can purchase cheap power in regional markets instead.  Any loss from selling excess power at rates that don't cover the cost to produce it are covered by the affiliates' captive ratepayers.  Such a scheme!  Why it's positively brilliant to generate a profit from an asset that has been producing a loss!

And so that's what FirstEnergy did.  It sold its money-losing Harrison Power Station to Mon Power and Potomac Edison, which has produced a $160M loss to ratepayers in just a few short years.  And it is currently deep into the process of selling its Pleasants Power Station to Mon Power and Potomac Edison as well, which will produce additional losses for ratepayers in the future.

But then what happens if the energy markets recover and coal-fired plants are once again made profitable through new revenue streams meant to compensate them for "resilience" and other currently uncompensated benefits provided by baseload generators with on-site fuel supplies?  Will new market rules make merchant generators profitable again?  Will FirstEnergy suddenly want to own merchant baseload plants again?  And, more importantly, will Mon Power and Potomac Edison suddenly want to "sell" these formerly merchant plants back to its merchant generation affiliate because they make more money as merchants than they can in a state regulated system?

What's a greedy company to do?

FirstEnergy, along with other merchant generators, has been pumping the political well for years trying to find some mechanism to make merchant plants profitable again by raising market prices.  When that didn't happen quickly enough, FirstEnergy charted a course to dump its unprofitable merchant generators in the state regulated system.

But suddenly, the political seed has sprouted!  Last week, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry lobbed a curve ball at FirstEnergy.  Perry issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at FERC that requires:
Each Commission-approved independent system operator or regional transmission organization shall establish a tariff that provides a just and reasonable rate for the (A) purchase of electric energy from an eligible reliability and resiliency resource and (B) recovery of costs and a return on equity for such resource dispatched during grid operations. The just and reasonable rate shall include pricing to ensure that each eligible resource is fully compensated for the benefits and services it provides to grid operations, including reliability, resiliency, and on-site fuel assurance, and that each eligible resource recovers its fully allocated costs and a fair return on equity.
The Rulemaking also defined just which resources would not be subject to the new rule, such as those generators "subject to cost of service rate regulation by any state or local regulatory authority."

So, if FirstEnergy is successful in "selling" Pleasants to state regulated Mon Power and Potomac Edison, it cannot take advantage of any new rule to make its merchant plants profitable again.

FirstEnergy must now consider a gamble.  Will the new rule happen, and if it does, will it make Pleasants more profitable than it might be in the state regulated system?  Or should it continue on with its plans to sell Pleasants into the state regulated system and possibly lose future profits?  Or might FirstEnergy have the best of both worlds by selling Pleasants into the state regulated system now, with the intent of buying it back at a later date if the new rule happens and it proves more profitable to operate the plant as a merchant generator?  After all, the West Virginia Public Service Commission is just a patsy, standing by to assist while FirstEnergy buys and sells generators into and out of the state regulated system in order to squeak the most profit out of them.

Will West Virginia ratepayers be left holding the bag on FirstEnergy's losses from Pleasants forever more, unable to take advantage of any new rule?  Or will FirstEnergy change its mind and decide to gamble that Pleasants will once again be profitable for them under any new rule and withdraw its request to sell Pleasants to Mon Power and Potomac Edison?  Or will the WV PSC actually grow a set and deny FirstEnergy's request to sell Pleasants, forcing the company to rely on other new alternatives to bail itself out of bankruptcy, such as new rules?
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<![CDATA[So Many Fires, So Few Firemen]]>Fri, 29 Sep 2017 16:04:16 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/so-many-fires-so-few-firemenThere's an inferno of opposition to Clean Line Energy Partners burning across the Midwest.  And Clean Line is running out of resources to fight them all.  Several fires are currently burning out of control.  For instance, the bonfire currently alight in Missouri as Clean Line struggles to find some way forward for its Grain Belt Express project in the wake of its third rejection by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

Maybe Clean Line thought it would be easy to appeal through the court system, or through legislative change.  But this is only being met with increased resistance from Missourians and the making of new enemies.  Missourians are not looking favorably on Clean Line's new plans to usurp local authority and manipulate Missouri's legal system for its own benefit.  While the fires of opposition burn out of control, getting larger and more widespread, Clean Line tries to control the fire with ridiculous propaganda from out-of-state interests.

Like this opinion piece from some yahoo named Brydon Ross of the Consumer Energy Alliance.  The Consumer Energy Alliance is a well-known front for the energy industry.  The CEA pretends to represent consumer interests, but the reality is that they're just a hired mouthpiece for company talking points.  Just last year, CEA was described like this:
The Consumer Energy Alliance, which you may know from greatest hits like “submitting a petition full of fake names” and “writing letters to federal agencies signed by people who have been dead for 18 years” is at it again.
Why would Missourians be convinced by anything the CEA manufactures?  If you even take the time to read this propaganda, you'll notice how the CEA guy completely skates over the real issue and creates an issue that doesn't exist.  Then he demands that Missourians "show the world" that they are easily manipulated to "fix this problem" that doesn't exist in order to benefit the CEA's client.

And then there's this opinion piece from Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.  Kiernan also glosses over the real issue to  "return the power to approve transmission lines" to the PSC.  Nobody removed power from the PSC.  The county governments in Missouri have had the authority to grant assent to transmission projects for 100 years.  That's the way it works!  It's the law!  Nothing changed.  The only change here is proposed by Clean Line, who wants to take that authority away from counties, instead of aligning its plans with local government priorities to create a project that the counties can approve.  Kiernan also wants Missourians to "fix" something that's not broken for the benefit of its member company, Clean Line Energy Partners.

Neither of these polished PR pieces put Missouri first.

But in between Clean Line setting this propaganda in motion and finally getting it published, another inferno flared up in Illinois, when the Supreme Court determined that Clean Line's Rock Island project is not a public utility.  If RICL isn't a public utility in the state, neither is GBE.  So here's Clean Line dumping buckets of money into a PR campaign in Missouri, when another state negates any progress that can be made on GBE.  Looks like GBE's efforts in Missouri are wasted.

And the snazzy propaganda campaign isn't all.  GBE also hired former governor Jay Nixon to lead their appeal of the MO PSC's denial.  I'm pretty sure that cost a bunch, considering Nixon appears to have gotten Grain Belt confused with Green Backs on his appeal.
I'm sure it's just a minor Freudian slip.  Nothing to see here, folks, let's move on.

And remember, when in office, Governor Nixon "negotiated" with Clean Line to secure "important landowner protections" for Missourians.  Since Nixon is now raking in the bucks representing GBE's interests on appeal, I do wonder how hard he really "negotiated" for the best interests of Missourians.  I'm thinking that maybe that whole "landowner protections" package was pure propaganda for benefit of his future employer, Clean Line Energy Partners.

And what would Clean Line "win" on appeal in Missouri if its project is denied in Illinois?  Clean Line is regressing, not progressing.

I guess Clean Line has money to burn.  After all, it's not their money.  It belongs to their deep pocketed investors.  Don't you wish these investors would do something constructive and beneficial with the hundreds of millions of dollars they've dropped down the Clean Line sewer?  Like humanitarian aid.  Or energy efficiency.  Or local clean energy.  Or anything other than arrogant greed.
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