Electric transmission permitting and siting has historically been the responsibility of states. This has caused problems for utilities who want to increase their profits by building new lines because the states may deny applications for lines where need is not proven, or where the state's citizens receive no benefit from the project. Your state public service commission is the ONLY authority who is looking out for you.
The utilities who build transmission lines would much rather have the federal government site and permit interstate transmission lines. The federal government would champion national interests. Under federal authority, all decisions would be made in D.C. by politically appointed regulators and you would be disenfranchised from any meaningful participation.
The utilities and their bought and paid for congressional representatives, along with certain federal agencies, have been trying to take authority from the states for years, but their aggression has been as yet unsuccessful. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Cheney's Secret Energy Task Force) put several vehicles to usurp state siting authority into law. One was to give "backstop" siting authority to FERC in the event that a state failed to act on a transmission line application for more than one year. FERC defined "failure to act" to also include denial of an application, however their backstop authority was neutralized through the courts. Another vehicle to usurp state authority that has not been seriously utilized until now is the authority granted to states by the EPAct to form interstate compacts to site and permit transmission lines on a regional, instead of a state-by-state, basis.
Now the utilities, federal agencies, and their "corporate bill mill" are asking states to voluntarily relinquish their authority by passing interstate transmission siting compacts into law. They intend to accomplish this through the use of an "education" (indoctrination) campaign targeted at state legislators and "model legislation" to be introduced by state legislative puppets and shepherded through approval by corporate lobbyists. The corporate bill mill behind it is one of the "mini-ALECs," known as The Council of State Governments (CSG).
CSG has announced that "a new transmission line siting compact developed by The Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts is ready to be introduced in state legislatures across the country."
The idea here is for states to voluntarily relinquish their authority to site and permit transmission to a larger regional body made up of "member" states who have passed the interstate compact "suggested" legislation written by utilities and slipped into your legislature as the work of a sponsoring legislative member of CSG. Your state legislative sponsor didn't write this bill, in fact, he or she probably didn't even read it before submitting it. That's the way these corporate bill mills work.
While the public's attention has been focused on FERC's Order No. 1000 attempts to regionalize planning and cost allocation for interstate transmission projects, the interstate compact bill has been quietly honed to a razor-edge and is now ready to pass unnoticed through your state legislature. The interstate compact bill will do much more damage to your due process rights than anything FERC can dream up and must be stopped.
This secret scheme of utilities, CSG and the federal government to neutralize state authority has been underway since 2010. Meetings, "hosted by the Office of FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller," were held in 2010 and 2011 that included CSG personnel, FERC personnel, and utility representatives. The interests of citizens and electric consumers were not represented, except as a discussion of "NIMBY Challenges." That's all you are to these people - "NIMBYs." According to the PATH transmission attorneys, "NIMBY refers to "Not In My Back Yard," a common position taken by certain opponents whereby the opponents do not necessarily protest the specific proposal but, rather, protest the location of the specific proposal as being too close to their own property." "NIMBY" is a propaganda tactic known as "name-calling" whereby a negative connotation of an idea or group is used instead of an argument. Name-calling is a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against a group, idea or belief, based upon its own merits, and becomes an argumentum ad hominem -- a way of removing participants from an argument.
According to a white paper written by the working group after the first meeting, the whole premise behind this is based on this lie:
"There are two key reasons why a more collaborative and efficient approval process is needed: First, the demand for electrical energy has grown and is projected to continue growing across the nation – even with investment in energy conservation/efficiency. Second, low cost electricity that is environmentally responsible will be particularly attractive to consumers and businesses."
Electrical demand is not growing.
But wait, the white paper also reveals the real reason for interstate compacts:
"The multiyear application review process and separate evaluations by multiple jurisdictions constitutes a growing burden for transmission companies..."
Regulation is a "burden" to transmission companies earning more than 10% yearly on their investment in new lines. But new transmission lines are an even bigger burden to electrical consumers who pay for them and sacrifice their properties through eminent domain takings to create new transmission line rights-of-way.
The group identified challenges to transmission line siting, including those pesky NIMBY Challenges:
"One of the greatest challenges to increased transmission line siting comes from NIMBYism (not-in-my-backyard), where local municipalities, environmental groups, and others oppose having lines run through their respective areas. Such opposition—while warranted in certain cases—can lead to costly delays that potentially impact grid reliability and loses sight of the over-all regional or national benefits of a more robust transmission grid."
The white paper goes on with this description of due process: "NIMBY groups often seize upon the competing interests of the stakeholders to frustrate the regulators with overlapping jurisdictions."
And finishes with this thought: "It is important to note that there are two forms of NIMBY, each of which involves a different response—the first is one comprised of local geographic issues, such as landowners. The second type of NIMBY is environmental and is often represented by outside groups. Each group’s concerns will need to be addressed during the pre-application phase in order to ensure a smooth process."
News flash: There's now a third form of "NIMBY." It's the consumer who will pay for all this transmission, have property taken through eminent domain, and would prefer to consume locally-produced renewable power. Smooth that, while you manage to be both arrogant and clueless at the same time.
Another "challenge" is the statutory responsibility of a state to determine whether a proposal is needed by its citizens.
"Another stumbling block to siting transmission is that states consider their local interests, not those of the regions they inhabit. In turn, regions often neglect to consider the needs of other regions, and the nation, as a whole, in maintaining reliability and bringing new energy to market."
When are the "regions" and the nation going to consider providing for their own needs instead of constantly taking from consumers, taxpayers and landowners under the guise of "the needs of the many trump the rights of the few?"
So, here's what the group decided an interstate compact needed to do:
1. "Need" findings would be regional so that pass-through states who do not benefit would be forced to find a project "needed."
2. Create an interstate siting board to overrule reluctant states and "facilitate a smoother process."
3. The interstate siting board would have sole authority to site the line in all affected states.
4. Form "partnerships" and sign Memorandums of Understanding with relevant federal agencies to "streamline the siting process."
5. Make it nearly impossible for a state that feels railroaded to "opt out" of the compact.
6. Approval by the interstate siting board would bestow individual state eminent domain authority to transmission owners.
What do the transmission owning corporations behind this scheme think about interstate compacts?
“Clearly, we haven’t made any progress on federal siting legislation” since EPAct05, he said, “so if the states can think more broadly in terms of a compact, I think that’s a good start,” Jimmy Glotfelty, executive vice president of external affairs for Clean Line Energy Partners, told
TransmissionHub. “There are a lot of things a compact could do.”
Yes, an interstate compact can strip a pass-through state like Illinois of its permitting authority so that Jimmy can build his unneeded Rock Island Clean Line project and make a bundle of money.
So, where's the "model" legislation? Despite hosting a page of information and links about interstate compacts, CSG fails to display the proposed legislation anywhere on its website. What is CSG trying to hide?
Here's the "model legislation" as it was introduced in the Washington state legislature on December 31.
Features of the proposed interstate compact:
1. Creation of an interstate "Commission" consisting of: "...from each member state, three (3) representatives: one appointed respectively by the governor, the legislature, and the state agency with siting authority or as otherwise prescribed by the adopting state." The expertise of your state public service commission will no longer be needed to review and approve transmission projects -- political appointees who know nothing about utility regulation will now make all the decisions.
2. "In member states, federal backstop permitting under section 215 of the Federal Power Act (FPA) may not be requested." This is the big selling point for interstate compacts, however, there is no more "federal backstop permitting," it was previously nullified by two different federal court decisions! While sec. 215 still contains the language, the "backstop" has been so diluted as to be worthless.
3. "Public notification of the application and the proposed line shall be provided to each involved state by the convening state." Notice is given to states, not to the affected public. You may never know a transmission line is coming through your front yard until the bulldozer shows up.
4. "Once a route is certified by the combined state application review board, eminent domain shall be based on each state's existing authority." The "Commission's" approval of a project will trigger eminent domain in member states. But wait... you haven't even been "notified" yet!
5. "Affected federal agencies and tribes shall be notified and the "Commission" shall include one advisory
representative for federal agencies (if federal land is involved) and one representative for all federally
recognized tribes (if tribal land is involved) who shall serve in an ex-officio capacity." Ex-officio in this instance means in a non-voting capacity.
6. "The first "Commission" hearing shall occur within 90 days of the initial filing and is intended to assess the
completeness of the application. A second "Commission" meeting will occur no more than 30 days after the initial
decision. The second meeting will assess the merits of the application, including, but not limited to the
proposed route, regional and national energy needs, and costs." That's 120 days - 4 months - between filing of an application and evidentiary hearing. No more technical reviews, no more quasi-legal process!
7. "The "Commission" at their initial meeting shall establish procedures by which interveners may participate in developing the formal record for the application review.
The "Commission" shall hold at least one public comment hearing in each of the involved member states. These public comment hearings must be completed within 120 days after the initial application filing." Here's where you fit in, little NIMBY. The "Commission" will decide what your rights are and limit your participation to as little as public comment at one hearing somewhere in your big, wide state, probably located as far away from the project area as possible.
8. "Commission" meetings are open to the public, unless the "Commission" votes to close them. Then it's too bad for the public.
9. "The "Commission" will issue conditional or final approval based on the record within 270 days of the filing of the application unless the applicant and the "Commission" agree to a different timeline. The "Commission" shall outline the required actions in instances where conditional approval is granted.
All decisions of the "Commission" will be based on majority vote, with each involved state having one vote as determined by a majority vote of each State Project Review Panel.
A state, based upon the rules of the involved states, may alter the route for the transmission line within its
boundaries by assuming incremental costs."
The only outcome for an application before the "Commission" is approval or conditional approval. Denial is not an option. In that case, why even bother with this kangaroo court at all? If a state doesn't like the route and wants to change it, they do so at their own expense (which will probably be prohibitive).
10. Your only right to appeal a decision of the "Commission" is to petition for rehearing within 90 days. If still not satisfied, you may appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court (as in Washington, D.C., folks, no matter where in this big, ol' country you may happen to live). Isn't that convenient for the ordinary landowner? If you appeal and lose, you will be responsible for all legal fees and court costs of the "Commission" and the transmission owner. This could be hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. Ordinary citizens don't have this kind of money, therefore, ordinary citizens will be disenfranchised from the appeals process.
11. The "Commission" can make up or change its own rules at any time during the process.
12. If a member state "defaults" on the compact as determined by the "Commission," the "Commission" can assess fines or penalties or take other action against the state (paid for by taxpayers, of course).
13. "The "Commission" may accept contributions and other forms of funding from federal agencies, compacting states and other sources." You mean like the transmission owners whose application is being reviewed? No, that wouldn't present a conflict of interest at all...
14. "Withdrawal from this compact shall be by the enactment of a statute repealing the same, but shall not
take effect until the later of either the final determination of a pending application involving that state or one (1) year after the effective date of such statute and until written notice of the withdrawal has
been given by the withdrawing state to the Governor of each other member jurisdiction." In the interest of full disclosure, this should probably be dubbed the Hotel California bill. States may check out, but they may never leave.
15. This has to be my personal favorite provision: "All member states' laws conflicting with this compact are superseded to the extent of the conflict." So, if any of your state laws conflict with anything the "Commission" wants to do, the "Commission" rules!
Why would any state agree to an interstate compact like this? CSG plans to persuade states through propaganda, half-truths and lies as indicated in this presentation. Some minor "disadvantages" states forming interstate compacts must overcome include:
"Loss of individual state sovereignty and delegation of state regulatory authority to interstate entities."
That about sums it up.
The model legislation is based on two lies that its proponents will spin:
1. States will be subject to federal backstop siting without a compact. Federal backstop siting has been nullified by more than one federal court decision. There is no federal backstop siting to be worried about.
2. The transmission siting/permitting process is "broken." There's nothing wrong with our current state-based approval processes. Projects are being approved and built within 5 years. Others take longer due to transmission owner incompetence. This is not the fault of the states. State authority is the only process that protects the due process rights of citizens and must be maintained.
How does CSG predict its "suggested state legislation" will fare in state legislatures this year?
“It’s always a little hard to predict [but] a ‘pretty good’ response rate during [the first] legislative session is somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 states,” Crady deGolian, director of the CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts, told TransmissionHub. “Given the fact that probably most of the focus will be in the West and in the Midwest ... I think we could probably hope to achieve somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to 10 states [during the first legislative session] if things go well.”
Only if YOU allow it to happen, and I would strongly urge you not to. Pay attention to what's going on in your state legislature this year, especially if you live in the west or midwest. Find it. Kill it. And spread the word to all your friends in other states. Together we can prevent the creation of this corporate-created, jackbooted "Commission" who proposes to strip you of your due process rights, your property, your money and your pursuit of happiness. Just say no to corporate governance.