<![CDATA[ StopPATH WV - StopPATH WV Blog]]>Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:04:13 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Delightfully Serving Master]]>Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:27:01 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/delightfully-serving-masterRemember how "delighted" Michael Skelly was to have Bluescape on board as a new investor in 2015?  I wonder if his delight has turned to horror lately?

The terms of Bluescape's investment were laid out in a regulatory filing Clean Line made to the ICC:
In the transaction, Clean Grid Holdings LLC (“Clean Grid”), a new investor in Clean Line, will be entitled to convert its Preferred Units in Clean Line, which are a convertible preferred security, into common equity interests in Clean Line, with the result that the current majority common equity owner of Clean Line will no longer be the majority common equity owner.

Clean Grid is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bluescape Resources Company LLC (“Bluescape”), a Delaware limited liability holding company. Bluescape is a private investment and operating company with its headquarters located in Dallas, Texas. Bluescape pursues investment opportunities in the oil and gas and power and utilities industries. The Bluescape management team has significant experience in these industries and in making investments and managing assets and companies across the energy sector.

On June 30, 2015, Clean Grid invested $12,000,000 in Clean Line in exchange for 12,000,000 newly issued Preferred Units (comparable to preferred stock in a corporation). In addition, as a result of this investment, Clean Grid is entitled to appoint two directors to Clean Line’s Board of Directors (the “Board”), which has expanded from five members to seven members. After approval of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (“OCC”), pursuant to Oklahoma law, is obtained for further investment by Clean Grid in Clean Line, (1) the Board can require Clean Grid to make an additional $5,000,000 investment, for a total investment of $17,000,000; and (2) Clean Grid, at its option, will have the right to invest another $33,000,000, for a total investment of $50,000,000.

If Clean Grid exercises its option with respect to the 12,000,000 Preferred Units it already holds, then the common equity interests of Clean Line Investor, LLC, GridAmerica Holdings, Inc., Michael Zilkha, and Clean Line Investment LLC, would decline from 54%, 39%, 2% and 5%, respectively, to 47%, 32%, 2% and 4%, respectively. Clean Line Investor, LLC would then own less than 50% of Clean Line and as a result, would no longer be the majority owner of Clean Line.

The transactions described herein will result in an additional investment of $12,000,000, a subsequent investment of $5,000,000, and potentially an additional investment of $33,000,000, in Clean Line. Clean Line can invest this new capital (potentially up to $50,000,000) in the projects of Clean Line’s subsidiaries, including the Rock Island Project.
It appears that the "additional investment of $33M" is completely at Bluescape's discretion.  So, if Clean Line was running out of cash and needed that $33M, it would be completely at the mercy of Bluescape.  If Bluescape wanted Michael Skelly to tapdance on top of the St. Louis arch dressed up like a hound dog before releasing the additional $33M, I suppose that could happen.
And if Clean Line seemed to be suddenly budget conscious, there's practically no limit on the things one could imagine the company doing in order to please Bluescape and unlock the cash.

Like suddenly becoming a wind farm company.

Or joining the head of the American Gas Association and 13 other energy industry leaders in writing a letter to Congress that urged lawmakers to fully fund the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Or begging the Missouri PSC for a decision on its GBE application, even if that decision is a denial.

Or giving up on the transmission dream in order to follow the whims of an investor with a corporate raider reputation.

Who knows what Clean Line Energy could become?  It may not be delightful for Michael Skelly, but perhaps the fat paychecks will continue for a little while.

What head scratching act do you think Michael Skelly will perform for Bluescape next?  Is the St. Louis arch really that improbable?  And can he tap dance fast enough to unlock that $33M?
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<![CDATA[If Grain Belt Express Wants a MO PSC Decision, it has to be a Denial]]>Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:55:35 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/if-grain-belt-express-wants-a-mo-psc-decision-it-has-to-be-a-denialRemember when GBE's Mark Lawlor told the media that the MO PSC Commissioners "were confused" about the project when they denied its application in 2015?

Now GBE and its allies have again informed the PSC that they got it wrong at a recent Commission agenda meeting when they unanimously decided to put a decision on hold until the matter of Neighbors United v. Ameren is firmly decided by the courts.

Grain Belt Express, MJMEUC, Infinity Wind, and some environmental group all filed whiny, superfluous briefs urging the Commission to issue a decision on Grain Belt Express and repeat the legal mistake they made on the Ameren case.  They rehashed their prior arguments that the GBE case is different than the Ameren case.  Obviously the Commissioners read those arguments the first time and rejected them.  What's changed?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  They just increased the volume of the whining, made specious claims, and behaved like spoiled brats who can't stand it that they're not getting their way.

The whiners claim that delay will make it impossible for Infinity Wind to claim this year's 80% production tax credit and if it can't qualify, then the price for MJMEUC will go up.  Say what?  MJMEUC signed a contract for wind at a cost that wasn't fixed?  Well, wasn't that poor planning on your part, MJMEUC?  Didn't your momma ever tell you not to count your chickens before they hatched?  And if MJMEUC's cost to purchase wind from Infinity Wind goes up, doesn't that also mean that the claimed "$10M savings" disappears and that the Commission can no longer rely on that to make a decision?  You didn't think this one out too well, did you?

So, let's see... the production tax credit is paid for by U.S. taxpayers.  Infinity Wind claims it will use that credit to sell power to MJMEUC at a low price.  It's not like it's "free"... any PTC not claimed equals a tax break for everyone, including MJMEUC customers.

And maybe I missed something, but I don't remember anything from the evidentiary hearing saying that MJMEUC's contract with Infinity Wind was dependent upon the company scoring an 80% PTC, and that prices would go up if the MO PSC doesn't approve GBE this year.  So, is this claim even true?

GBE also whines that no decision is a "defacto denial" of its application.  Is that sort of like a "pocket approval?"  They both belong in the land of make believe.

The Commission just can't issue an approval of GBE and make it conditional upon future county assent.  The last time they did that with Ameren, the court vacated their approval.  The Commission can't issue an approval and pretend that county assent isn't needed at all.  The court also said that was wrong.  The only thing the Commission can do is delay, or issue a denial.  It seems that GBE is either so arrogantly sure of itself that the only decision can be approval, or they actively want a denial of their application so they can put the project on a shelf and stop wasting cash on it.
Grain Belt Express must invest tens of millions of dollars in engineering, environmental permitting, and easement acquisition to continue to develop the Project. The Company’s ability to make this investment is severely limited by the present state of regulatory uncertainty in Missouri. If the Commission grants a CCN in this proceeding, that uncertainty will disappear and Grain Belt Express will continue to develop the Project. While parties opposed to the Project may appeal such a decision because of the lack of certain county assents, planning for the Project can continue. Because the Company has agreed that the Commission may condition the CCN to provide that Grain Belt Express will not begin construction until it has obtained all Section 229.100 county assents, no party will be prejudiced.

The parties are entitled to receive a decision by the Commission. Whether that decision grants or denies the Application, the parties and the public at large deserve to know whether the Commission believes that Grain Belt Express has met the Tartan criteria, and if it has, what conditions should govern the CCN. Any significant delay in the Commission coming to a decision benefits no one.


It's not true that the Commission can issue a decision on whether or not the project meets the Tartan criteria and either condition it, or ignore completely, county assent.  County assent is the threshold issue, and there's no point in an advisory opinion on Tartan criteria when the threshold has not first been met.  The only thing GBE "deserves" is to have its project denied for failing to acquire county assent.  It's not like GBE is out there pounding the pavement trying to get county assent, which would definitively clear up this matter and allow the Commission to issue a decision on the Tartan factors.  GBE is doing nothing to help itself, instead urging the Commission to commit a legal error and accept responsibility for GBE's failure.

Show Me Concerned Landowners' response succinctly sums it up:
If the Commission desires to rule on this case now, it must reject the Application.
Let's end this debacle now.
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<![CDATA[Columbia Missouri Should be Renamed NIMBY City]]>Tue, 13 Jun 2017 11:49:11 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/columbia-missouri-should-be-renamed-nimby-cityWhen the irony is so thick you can cut it with a knife...

The City of Columbia, Missouri, made a big announcement earlier this month that it has reached an agreement to purchase wind energy from Kansas, but that the agreement was contingent upon the Missouri Public Service Commission approving a new transmission line cutting clear across the state.
The Columbia City Council approved an agreement with Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission to purchase wind energy from Kansas-based Iron Star Wind, LLC during its Monday meeting, but the means of receiving the energy — a transmission line that still needs to be constructed — needs the OK from the Public Service Commission.

The Grain Belt Express project is a 780-mile transmission line that will start in southwestern Kansas and cut through Missouri and Illinois, providing energy to those states and Indiana. The direct-current line will go to Hannibal, where a substation will convert the direct current to alternating current, the type of current used by Columbia’s electric system, said John Conway, chairman of the Water and Light board.

The Grain Belt Express is asking the PSC for eminent domain authority to condemn and take land from resistant landowners in order to build its project.  The proposed route of the project travels through private property, and affected landowners say the lines run too close to homes and schools, and many fear adverse health effects from the electric lines overhead.

The City of Columbia supports the building of Grain Belt Express on rural properties outside of its own borders.

However, the City of Columbia has spent years opposing a new transmission line in its own city because, "the lines ran too close to homes and schools, and many feared adverse health effects from the electric lines overhead."

So, when a transmission project Columbia thinks it needs to fulfill its environmental goals is in someone else's backyard, it's okay to run it close to homes and schools, but don't try that in Columbia's own backyard.  In Columbia, a transmission line is unacceptable.  NIMBY = Not in my backyard.  Don't build a transmission line in Columbia's backyard, build it in someone else's backyard.

Hypocrites.

If Columbians don't want a new transmission line in their backyard, neither does any other Missourian.  You're really not that special, Columbia.  I think I shall rename you NIMBY City.

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<![CDATA[At Liberty To Pick Your Pocket]]>Fri, 02 Jun 2017 11:53:43 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/at-liberty-to-pick-your-pocketWell, here we go again... a transmission company has made an announcement that it will be building 40 miles of new greenfield transmission, but the folks in the bullseye have no idea it's about to happen.  Somehow Transource's press release failed to percolate down to the local media in affected areas.  The local community has not been consulted, but will have this fait accompli dumped on them during a series of "open house" dog & pony shows next week.  See maps of proposed transmission routes at the bottom of this page.  A "greenfield" transmission project is one built across land that currently does not have transmission lines.  Current routes run from Smithsburg, Maryland to a substation east of Letterkenny in Pennsylvania, and from Harford County, MD to York County, PA.

The inaptly named "Independence Energy Connection" pretends it's "critically" needed to "provide millions of customers throughout the Mid-Atlantic access to more affordable power".  This project has been percolating at PJM Interconnection for more than a year, but conveniently waited to get its financial house in order before engaging the community.

How did they get their financial house in order?  They developed the mechanism to get paid for developing it, even if it's never built.  That's right... Transource has received a federal transmission incentive that allows the company to recover every dollar it spends on this project from electric ratepayers in 13 states, even if it is later abandoned and never built.  It also established its rate mechanism, a formula rate, and received other transmission incentives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including a 50 point increase in its return on equity for being a member of the PJM cartel.  FERC said this project was worthy of so many financial incentives because it was so risky (see paragraphs 21-26).

Transource states that it meets the nexus test because its requested incentives are narrowly tailored to the significant risks and challenges the Project presents. Transource states that it will face considerable risks and challenges in developing and constructing the Project, such as: (1) financial challenges; (2) regulatory and site control challenges; and (3) risks related to the Designated Entity Agreement (DEA) with PJM.

Moreover, Transource states that it will need to work with individual landowners to acquire the necessary land and easements to construct the 42-mile combined route of the two new 230 kV lines. Transource notes that the required easements are expected to cross approximately 300 parcels, including state game lands owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. In addition, Transource does not expect that it will be able to use any existing rights of way (ROW). Transource states that Transource Maryland cannot obtain electric utility status under applicable Maryland law, because it does not serve retail customers and thus will not have the authority to use eminent domain to acquire ROW along the approved route. Transource states that this lack of eminent domain authority presents significant additional risk to the Project development schedule.

Furthermore, Transource states that there is a risk for economic projects such as this because PJM could later find, based on changing conditions, that the Project is no longer needed to relieve congestion.
Transource states that this risk is compounded by the long development lead time for the Project.

Other risk factors include the fact that this is the company's first transmission project and it currently has no revenue, that it has to receive numerous permits from federal and state offices, including two state utility commissions, and that its agreement to construct the project with PJM requires it to meet a development schedule with mandatory dated milestones or risk termination.

And still, this company has not even contemplated the public's reaction to its project or the likelihood that serious opposition will develop in affected communities?  Transource doesn't really think it's going to get this project built, does it?  Maybe it's just financially satisfying enough to spend buckets of development cash that can be recovered without ever putting a shovel to the ground?  When all the financial risk of a transmission project becomes the risk of electric ratepayers, it's all gravy!

Transource has requested that it receive a 10.4% base return on equity for its project, and a 60% equity hypothetical capital structure until the project goes into service.  The 50 additional bonus points would be added to that base, to create a 10.9% yearly return on 60% of its capital costs.  The remaining 40% would earn at the cost of debt.  With a total project cost of $197M, that's a lot of gravy for the company's investment.  And where is a new company with no assets and no revenue going to get 60% of $197M to invest in this project?  From its parent companies, that's where.  Transource is a partnership between utility holding company giant American Electric Power and Great Plains Energy.  Neither of these two companies are local, nor do they provide service to, Maryland or Pennsylvania.  Of course, that probably also means they don't have any influence with state and local authorities who must approve their project, so cue the expensive lobbyists and gladhanders.

I certainly hope Transource isn't counting on PJM's "approval" of this project as their golden ticket to getting this thing permitted and built.  Without eminent domain authority in Maryland, Transource is at the complete mercy of the community it's about to invade.  This just can't end well for Transource.  Lots of schmoozing must happen and lots of money is going to have to change hands... and maybe all those costs aren't recoverable from ratepayers. 

Keep your eyes on this, it's going to be a scary ride!
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<![CDATA[Trump's Infrastructure Plan:  Maybe Not What Clean Line Bargained For]]>Wed, 24 May 2017 17:17:48 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/trumps-infrastructure-plan-maybe-not-what-clean-line-bargained-forWho hasn't laughed over Michael Skelly's recent news show commentator appearances where he's tried to spin his projects as part of Trump's great (really great, believe me, the greatest of all time, it will be great) infrastructure plan?

Well, laugh some more, little Schadenfreuders,* because not only does Trump's plan not include a project list, it actively neuters Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act.  For years, Clean Line has used Section 1222 as its trump card (heh, the jokes just won't stop here) to threaten states with losing jurisdiction over its projects if they fail to approve them.  Clean Line even went to far as to go all the way with the DOE on its Plains & Eastern project, spending millions of dollars to secure the "participation" of one of DOE's federal power marketers in that project, with the idea that would allow federal eminent domain authority where Arkansas failed to grant it.

Whoops.  Whoops.  Whoopsie!

Trump's budget includes a plan to sell the transmission assets of three of DOE's federal power marketers, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Western Area Power Administration, and, yes, the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA)
SWPA is the federal power marketer that is supposed to "participate" in the Plains & Eastern project, and use its federal eminent domain authority to condemn and take property in Arkansas for transmission right of way.  In order to do that, SWPA must "own" the right of way and the project assets in Arkansas.

Except Trump wants to sell off all SWPA's transmission assets to private industry.  Setting aside the fact that Clean Line doesn't have the assets to buy its own project back from the government, once they are no longer owned by SWPA, there is no federal condemnation authority!

Section 1222 authorizes:
The Secretary, acting through WAPA or SWPA, or both, may design, develop, construct, operate, maintain, or own, or participate with other entities in designing, developing, constructing, operating, maintaining, or owning, a new electric power transmission facility and related facilities (“Project”) located within any State in which WAPA or SWPA operates...
Without WAPA and SWPA owning transmission facilities, any eminent domain authority the DOE currently thinks Section 1222 authorizes collapses.  Once PMA transmission assets are no longer held by the federal government, federal eminent domain authority ceases.

Is that what you thought being on some fake infrastructure list was going to buy you, Michael Skelly?  Seems to me that Trump's infrastructure plan only further complicates  Plains & Eastern.  Who would want to sign a contract to purchase capacity on a non-existent transmission project that is in danger of being sold to the highest bidder?  Trump's plan to sell PMA transmission assets makes Plains & Eastern more risky and uncertain than ever!

But, the idea to sell PMA transmission is unlikely to happen.  However, it could, hypothetically speaking.  The uncertainty is likely to stall PMA transmission plans for the foreseeable future.  It's not like the idea to divest PMA assets is new.  It's been floated several times in the past and been defeated.  Already, legislators and users of PMA transmission are up in arms about the proposal, and for good reason.  It's a really stupid idea.

But it's Trump's really great idea.  And it's going to cripple any PMA transmission projects for now.

I hope Clean Line didn't actually think getting on a list was going to solve its problems, or else someone is going to be crying himself to sleep tonight.  Boo.  Flipping.  Hoo.

Ding-Dong!  Karma calling!
*Making up new words is really great, believe me!
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<![CDATA[Iowa Law Prohibits Eminent Domain for Overhead Merchant Transmission Lines]]>Fri, 19 May 2017 14:23:00 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/iowa-law-prohibits-eminent-domain-for-overhead-merchant-transmission-linesThird time's the charm for Iowans battling the Rock Island Clean Line merchant transmission project.  The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance has been working with legislators for the past three years to put meaningful legislation in place that would release them from the threat of eminent domain taking of their property by an overhead merchant transmission project.

PRIA recently announced:
Today is a day to celebrate!! It is a historic day for property rights!

Governor Branstad signed a bill into law forbidding merchant high voltage transmission lines such as RICL from having condemnation power to take private property by eminent domain.  Click here to read Senate File 516:  an Act relating to state and local finances by making appropriations providing for legal and regulatory responsibilities, concerning taxation, and providing for other properly related matters, and including effective date and retroactive applicability provisions.  This bill passed the Iowa House on April 21, 55-39 and the Iowa Senate on April 21, 27-13.  Read the lanquage related to merchant transmission lines beginning on page 18 of the bill.

This means that even if RICL decides to try and come back into Iowa they CANNOT take your property by use of eminent domain.  This is a huge win.

A very dedicated and amazing board of directors donated their time, energy and talents to continue this mission for nearly 4 years.

Many people across Iowa and outside the state spent endless volunteer hours and contributed money to assist PRIA legislators in making this possible.

We need to also remember the leaders in private property rights in other states who provided leadership and guidance as they continue their fight!
The legislation prevents the use of eminent domain for overhead merchant transmission lines in the state of Iowa.  If Clean Line wants to construct its private purpose transmission line across the state, it's going to have to purchase easements in a free market, where the true cost of hosting a ginormous transmission line for the use of other states will be realized.

Third time was not the charm for RICL though.  The company has tried multiple times to get the Iowa Utilities Board to grant it public utility status and eminent domain authority ahead of any actual application for the project.  The IUB stood firm, however, and refused to allow a birfucation of its transmission application process that would coerce landowners to grant easements before the project application was even filed.  RICL tried to do this because filing requirements in Iowa require the company to produce a packet of information at the time of filing for each property it may take via eminent domain.  RICL complained that was too expensive, and too difficult, and wanted eminent domain authority to wield against landowners so that they would grant easements before application, saving RICL the trouble of creating the information packet for the majority of the properties.

Iowans refused to make it that easy for RICL.  They did something amazing instead... they stood together and refused to negotiate easements with RICL.  To stand together against a company waving their checkbook around is something that doesn't happen every time.  Iowans demonstrated the power of community by sticking together.  And they demonstrated backbone by continuing their fight, both at the IUB and in the legislature.  RICL was never about providing electricity to Iowa.  It was a one-way highway to ship electricity out of state for private profit.  That's not something that should be granted eminent domain authority.

And this is precisely the argument heard by the Illinois Supreme Court this week.  Why RICL continued trying to reverse the appeals court's decision to vacate their permit granted by the Illinois Commerce Commission, even after they were shut out of Iowa where their project was planned to begin, is anyone's guess.  Pretty pointless, but so is everything Clean Line does anymore.

A while ago, I compared Clean Line's permitting debacle to a game of whack-a-mole.  Every time the company wacked a mole and received a permit, more moles popped up as impediments to its projects.  And everyone knows how a game of whack-a-mole speeds up at the end, where it's impossible to whack all the moles that pop up, and then you lose.  Clean Line's whack-a-mole game is running double time.  Clean Line was shut out of Iowa before Illinois even heard its appeal.  What now, Clean Line?  What now?  RICL needs to be re-routed to another state, or abandoned altogether.  The project is dead.  Please just admit that.

Congratulations to PRIA and the Iowans who came together and fought so hard to protect their communities from out-of-state profiteers!  They are an example to emulate in other transmission battles.
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<![CDATA[A Good Day at the Illinois Supreme Court]]>Thu, 18 May 2017 16:18:32 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/a-good-day-at-the-illinois-supreme-courtLandowner opponents of the Rock Island Clean Line transmission project hoped that the Supreme Court oral argument yesterday would be the last they will see of Clean Line Energy Partners.  They could be right.

Clean Line arrived overly confident, conflating the Court's desire to hear the case with a desire to reverse the decision of the Third District Appellate Court.
Hans Detweiler, vice president of Clean Line Energy Partners, Rock Island's Houston-based owner, said he's "encouraged" that Illinois' high court will review the case and hopes it "will recognize that privately funded infrastructure projects" like Rock Island "serve a public purpose."
But softball questions and encouraging smiles were not to be had from the Supreme Court Justices yesterday.  The Justices asked a plethora of questions regarding how RICL could legally be for "public use."

In response they got a whole bunch of complicated explanations on physics, Open Access Transmission Tariffs, and the idea that FERC's rules on a non-discriminatory auction process satisfied Illinois law regarding a utility's non-discriminatory service to the public.  It's quite unfortunate for RICL that they decided the ICC's attorney should go first with his argument that the ICC is entitled to deference in how it interpreted Illinois law.  The Justices didn't seem too interested in that, instead asking Matthew Harvey questions about how RICL could legally be a public utility.  Poor Mr. Harvey... his answers did not satisfy RICL's bevy of attorneys in the first few rows and drew skeptical faces and negative headshakes from them.  I was afraid that if Owen McBride's eyebrows knitted themselves any closer together whether he'd go cross-eyed.  Despite this superior attitude from RICL, I can't say RICL's attorney fared any better before the judges than Mr. Harvey.  RICL's attorney met the justices' questions with complicated circular answers and lots of smoke and mirrors that failed to shed any light on the issue.

When asked by a Justice if RICL's desire to be a public utility was for the sole purpose of acquiring eminent domain authority, RICL's counsel chose to deny it and blame the ICC for telling them they had to be a public utility.  Really, now?  I'm thinking that a straight up admission of how hard it is to build transmission without eminent domain authority would have served them much better than a ridiculous story nobody believed.

The appellees lead off with a strong argument defining "public use" that managed to answer all the Justices' questions that had remained basically unanswered after the appellants had their say.  Matthew Price, representing Com Ed, was positively brilliant compared to the bombastic, uninspired arguments of the ICC and RICL.  He explained public use so simply that it could be understood by anyone.  Public use is a utility's obligation to serve all who want service.  A public utility doesn't get to choose which customers it will serve in order to maximize its profit.  RICL will pick and choose its customers in a way that maximizes its profits.  A public utility must serve everyone, not just allow them to bid for service, or use service available when no one else is using it.

Mr. Price made it clear as a bell.  And the Justices pretty much stopped asking the questions about public use, so I guess their questions were answered by Mr. Price.  It's pretty clear to me that the merchant transmission business model doesn't comport with Illinois law.  Price said something about a FERC-land determination of non-discrimination does not satisfy a determination in the Land of Lincoln.  Right... because FERC is only looking at whether the auction process is fair.  It does not concern itself with whether the merchant transmission company is discriminating against members of the public by only providing service to select customers.  Just because FERC approves it does not mean it comports with Illinois law.

Mr. Price brought up the issue of RICL's refusal to expand capacity on its line if it gets more requests for service than it can provide.  RICL claims it has to stick with the original plan because that's the project in its application.  Maybe it could build another line if it had multiple requests, but why bother with that if it can increase its profits by limiting available capacity? 

Price brought up the idea that RICL could pro-rate its available capacity at the auction, with each bidder receiving a share, instead of trying to maximize its profits by selling only to the highest bidders.  And then the most humorous thing happened... in rebuttal, RICL's counsel decided it could pro-rate its capacity to auction bidders.  I've never heard anything about this from RICL before, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't in their FERC application for negotiated rate authority.  Nor was it in the Order of the ICC granting the CPCN.  So now the Court is supposed to believe RICL has fundamentally altered its auction process on a whim?  Way to admit you're wrong, RICL!

The ILA presented a short, cogent argument about how eminent domain is basically procedural once a CPCN is issued.  And got snotty looks and smirks from the RICL attorneys for their trouble, along with an arrogant rebuttal that attempted to minimize and disparage landowner concerns.  RICL showed the Court that it doesn't give any consideration whatsoever to the landowners it wants to get into perpetual easement partnerships with.

So, now we wait for the Court to issue its opinion.  Some people say that you can tell which way a court is leaning by the questions its judges ask during oral arguments.  Hans Detweiler better not count his chickens before they hatch.  He's no constitutional scholar.  Commerce Clause.  Heh.
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<![CDATA[Is MJMEUC's Contract With Infinity Wind a Regulatory Stunt?]]>Wed, 17 May 2017 12:27:46 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/is-mjmeucs-contract-with-infinity-wind-a-regulatory-stuntDuring the Missouri Public Service Commission's hearing on the most recent Grain Belt Express application for a permit, much was made of a supposed power purchase contract between Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) and Infinity Wind.  In Rebuttal Testimony before the PSC, Infinity Wind's Matt Langley stated:
I am referring to a contract that was just entered into on January 23, 2017, between Infinity and MJMEUC. Because the contract is contingent upon the approval of the Grain Belt Express Project, many of the terms remain confidential, but what I can say is that it is a 20-year term fixed-price contract that provides for the purchase by MJMEUC of a minimum of 100 MW of capacity and energy per year from our Iron Star Wind Project, a maximum purchase of 300 MW per year, and a likely purchase amount of 200 MW per year.
So, if we believe MJMEUC is committed to purchase at least 100 MW (but more likely 200 MW) from Infinity's Iron Star Wind Project, and that the energy must be delivered to MJMEUC via the Grain Belt Express, then the construction and operation of Iron Star must be contingent upon Grain Belt being in operation.

But, a recent article in the Wichita Eagle stated
The 400-megawatt Iron Star wind farm near Dodge City is in advanced development and likely will be built this year.
Even if the MO PSC approves Grain Belt Express this year, the soonest the project could be online is somewhere after 2020.  And even that is a stretch, considering that GBE doesn't have near the amount of customers needed to finance its project.

So how is it that Infinity Wind will be building its 400 MW Iron Star project this year, when a committed customer that would purchase half the project's capacity cannot take delivery until sometime after 2020?  Is Infinity Wind going to build the Iron Star project and let half of its turbines sit idle until sometime after 2020?  Does Infinity Wind have another committed customer who promises to buy MJMEUC's share of the project, delivered over existing transmission lines, until GBE is built and MJMEUC can take delivery?  Or is the MJMEUC contract simply a stunt designed to persuade Missouri regulators to approve GBE, and that Infinity Wind doesn't believe will actually come to fruition?  Infinity Wind simply can't have it both ways.  Either Infinity is going to build Iron Star and sell the full capacity to another customer, or Infinity is not going to build Iron Star, and forego the opportunity to make money from the project for many years.  It just doesn't make sense.

In its Amicus brief at the Illinois Supreme Court (in the matter of Rock Island Clean Line's appeal of the Third District Appellate Court) Infinity Renewables stated
In sum, in the absence transmission certainty,
with regard to both the existence of the physical line and the user fees, wind generation developers, such as Infinity, will not commit capital to develop new generation projects in areas that currently lack such access.
So Infinity will not tie up its money developing new generation until the transmission it plans to use for delivery to customers is physically online.

But yet, Infinity claims that its Iron Star project is in "advanced development" and will likely be built this year, even though Grain Belt Express has not been approved and can't possibly even deliver until sometime after 2020.  "Advanced development" most likely indicates that Infinity has invested some capital in "developing" the project.

So, which is it, Infinity?  Are you developing Iron Star for production and sale of generation without the existence of Grain Belt Express?  Or are you committing capital to develop new generation without transmission certainty?

Or was Infinity's testimony to the Missouri Public Service Commission just a bunch of hot air?  These contradictions just can't be reconciled.  One of those Infinity Wind statements just isn't true.  Which one do you think it is?
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<![CDATA[A Letter of Thanks to Michael Skelly]]>Mon, 15 May 2017 23:55:23 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/a-letter-of-thanks-to-michael-skellyYou know how sometimes you laugh so hard that no sound comes out and you can't catch your breath?  That's what happened this evening when I watched the video of you on Fox Business News today.
Remember when you ran for Congress as a Democrat?  Although it was a decade ago, did that Democratic candidate running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives ever think he'd end up pretending to be an expert on Fox News?  I bet 2008 Michael Skelly thought Fox News was full of fame whores pretending to be "experts," and made up, fake news.

2008 Michael Skelly probably made fun of guys like 2017 Michael Skelly.  Pretending to be an infrastructure expert.  Pretending to be part of a Republican administration.  Pretending that his project is shovel ready.  Pretending that he's actually building things.

I'm pretty sure that's the last stop on the road to obscurity for you.  Have a nice trip!

And, thanks for the laugh!
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<![CDATA[Why Electric Transmission Projects Don't Belong in Trump's Infrastructure Plan]]>Mon, 15 May 2017 19:35:42 GMThttp://stoppathwv.com/stoppath-wv-blog/why-electric-transmission-projects-dont-belong-in-trumps-infrastructure-planWhether you believe in the idea that building infrastructure will "make America great again" or not, one thing is clear:  electric transmission projects don't belong on a federal infrastructure project list.

But electric transmission appeared on lists released earlier this year under the guise that the Trump administration created the lists.  However, men touting themselves as infrastructure "experts" created those lists, so you'd think maybe they actually had some knowledge about different kinds of infrastructure, and the specific projects they added to their independently-created lists.  Apparently the only criteria needed for inclusion on these lists was a desire to be on a list.

Turns out not only do those infrastructure "experts" not really know much at all about the projects they're pimping, but they fundamentally misunderstand the way electric transmission is permitted and paid for.  A recent article in Marketplace tosses a bucket of cold water on the transmission infrastructure woody the "experts" have been sporting.

More than 500 infrastructure projects are pitched to Trump, who will favor private money and speed says that not only do the infrastructure "experts" not know anything about the projects on their lists, but they also don't understand the difference between funding and financing infrastructure.

The Marketplace article highlights a dispute between two states over a flood diversion project in the Fargo, N.D., area.  The project is touted as "shovel-ready" on the "expert's" list, but just a little digging for information by the reporter revealed that the project is embroiled in a gigantic controversy between states, and a federal lawsuit.  Not "shovel-ready" by any stretch of the imagination.  But it appears that what got that project on the list was someone lobbying for it... someone who wanted to pretend it was "shovel-ready" in order to get it on one of the "expert" lists, as if that would magically make the huge controversy disappear.  It doesn't.  It can't.  And the "expert" showed his decided lack of expertise by failing to even take an independent look at the project with a quick google search.  These projects got on lists at the request of their owners, and nobody cared to look past the information provided by the owner. 

The "expert" also knows nothing about the Plains & Eastern Clean Line electric transmission project that appears on his list.
Slane acknowledged, though, he didn’t know about the legal dispute between Minnesota and North Dakota.

Other high-profile projects listed from around the country are entangled in legal and political problems, too.

A proposed high-power transmission line that would deliver wind energy from Oklahoma to several southeastern states is under fire. The federal government approved the line in 2016 despite objections from landowners and the Arkansas Congressional delegation.

Since then, several landowners have sued to stop the line and several members of Congress introduced legislation that would require projects to receive state approval. Officials representing the company believe the line will be approved.
That hardly makes this project "shovel-ready," either.  Officials believe it will be approved?  I thought Clean Line already thought the federal government "approved" their project?  I thought Clean Line said their project didn't need state approval?  But it looks like now Clean Line believes it can get state approval.  Is that what Clean Line is saying?  Or is that what the infrastructure "expert" is saying on Clean Line's behalf?  Because that just doesn't make sense. 

And you know what else?  The Plains & Eastern Clean Line has no customers.  It has no revenue.  There's no need to build something that nobody is going to use.  In fact, it's just not possible to do that, no matter how many lists this project gets put on.

Electric transmission is not like a highway, or an airport.  Electric transmission is always paid for by its user.  It's not a "free" highway that the public can use on a whim.  Electric transmission is always built with private investor cash, in exchange for a return on equity.  There are two distinctly different kinds of transmission projects. 

The first kind is ordered by a regional transmission planner and cost allocated to a select group of electric ratepayers who will pay to use it.  The ratepayers are forced to create the future regulated revenue stream.  This kind of project's return on equity is set by regulators, who must approve the rates it charges in exchange for creating a captive ratepayer revenue stream.  Investors receive a regulated rate of return paid by customers.

The second kind of transmission project is the kind these "experts" have included on their many lists.  It's a merchant transmission project that has not been examined or ordered by a regional transmission planner.  It has no captive ratepayers to create a future revenue stream.  Instead, merchant transmission projects are the financial responsibility of their owners, who must create a future revenue stream from signed contracts with voluntary customers.  This project's return on equity is created by the market.  If there's a need for it, voluntary customers will set market price for its use, and the return for investors comes out of any profits it can earn through rates.  A merchant project must have confirmed customers that create a revenue stream before it can be financed and built.

A transmission project, no matter which kind, must have a confirmed future revenue stream before investors will plunk their money down.  Who invests without knowing how, if, or how much, return they will receive on their investment?  Nobody, that's who.  And that's another thing seriously wrong with the "expert" infrastructure list.
And private investors are not going to build the projects without a return on investment, which might come from tolls for a new road or higher utility rates for an energy project, for example.

Greg DiLoreto with the American Society of Civil Engineers says that difference is important.

“Financing infrastructure is not the funding of infrastructure,” he said. “Financing is access to capital to do that funding, but at the end of the day you have to have cold, hard cash to build these projects that need building…”
Because the infrastructure "experts" don't have a clue how electric transmission is built and paid for, they seem to think transmission is a good fit for their "shovel-ready" list.  Only a transmission project with a guaranteed revenue stream is anywhere near "shovel-ready."

Clean Line has no customers for its projects.  It has no revenue stream.  Being on an infrastructure list does not create one.  Being on an infrastructure list does not create captive customers. 

These infrastructure "experts" are nothing more than uninformed clowns, but the real Bozos are the merchant transmission companies schmoozing and lobbying and wasting their money to get their loser projects on some list.  List or no list, the Clean Line projects just aren't happening.
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