He should be, after a national news story about his transmission line project got the name of the project wrong.
Where everybody knows your naaaaaaaame
And they're always glad you caaaaaaaame...
Ain't that right, Waldo?
The story pits "Green Belt Express Clean Line" against "some farmers" that don't want the transmission line on their land. But, it's more than that... the farmers hold title to the land "Green Belt" desperately wants, and they're not giving in. This situation has resulted in an epic battle over a private company's use of eminent domain for its speculative, privately-owned, for profit project. This isn't just "some farmers," but thousands of landowners all over the Midwest who are opposing all of the Clean Line projects.
Many along the route worry that a private company could simply take over land that in some cases has been in families for generations.
"We have sacrificed everything for this land," said Jennifer Gatrel, 33, who, along with her husband, Jeff, farms a 430-acre cattle ranch in western Missouri. "We don't go on vacation. We don't go out to eat. Everything we have is tied up in this land. The idea that somebody can come in and take it from us is appalling and it goes against what it is to be an American."
Lawlor said the company prefers not to use eminent domain and wants to reach agreements with landowners. He also cited studies showing that power lines and towers have no effect on property values.
"When they sit down and talk to us and get the information about the reality of the project, I think we're succeeding in clearing the air," he said.
Not as far as Gatrel is concerned.
"There are already significant barriers to farming," Gatrel said. "This would be another major barrier."
"Negotiating" with landowners while threatening them with eminent domain condemnation is not negotiation. As the Illinois Farm Bureau stated in their ICC brief:
In addition, if granted § 8-503 relief, what Rock Island characterizes as “voluntary” easement negotiations with farmers will actually sound something like “Rock Island has been directed by the Commission to construct a transmission line on an approve[d] route, which crosses your land.” Characterizing the easement negotiations as voluntary under these facts is kind of like giving someone the option of jumping off of a cliff before you push them.
But, all press is good press, and this story moves the struggle for landowner rights to the national stage, where the truth is revealed:
The biggest hurdle for these projects is their intent to use eminent domain for pecuniary gain. Traditionally, utilities have been bestowed with eminent domain to build transmission for reliability reasons. But these "renewable" projects are not necessary for reliability or economic reasons -- they are solely an attempt to increase the percentage of "renewable" energy consumed in far-flung areas remote from the generator. And further, these particular "Clean" Line projects are an attempt to corner the market on "renewable" energy so that urban communities are precluded from developing local renewables. Instead of investing in our own communities, "Clean" Line proposes that we send all our energy dollars to midwestern states and into "Clean" Line's pockets. "Clean" Line has publicly stated that its transmission line will add considerable cost to the energy delivered and has provided no proof that the energy it proposes to transport will be economic or competitive with local renewables in the east. Stating that "Clean" Line will "drive down electricity costs" is disingenuous when "Clean" Line has no idea how much its delivered product will cost. It is just as likely that "Clean" Line will drive up electricity costs. "Clean" Line calls itself a merchant transmission company. A merchant transmission company depends on the free market to make itself competitive. "Clean" Line is depending on eminent domain to keep its cost of building the project down (cost of project shows up in the cost of delivered energy) and on renewable portfolio standards in other states to force utilities to purchase its product at any cost. In addition, this company has made noises about passing the cost of its project on to captive ratepayers, or using federal eminent domain authority to override state authority to site and permit its projects. Not the actions of a company depending on fair market competition for its success or failure! Right now, there is no market for "Clean" Line. There are no generators, and no purchase agreements. Opposition to "Clean" Line by affected communities and elected officials is increasing, and with each new opponent, the chance of success decreases just a little bit more.