Here's two more: Clean Line.
Mary Mauch of BlockRICL was on the radio this afternoon talking about Clean Line's proposals to take 3,000 miles of new transmission line right of way through eminent domain in numerous states across the Midwest.
But, let's take a look at where we are now in order to understand that transmission line eminent domain has reached the tipping point, where revolution is imminent.
It's no longer about bringing electricity to Mr. Smith's remote farmstead so he can read seed catalogs after the sun sets. It's about trading electricity as a commodity, as new transmission lines get bigger and costlier. It's no longer about providing a necessary service, it's about supporting markets and investor profits.
Transmission lines "ordered" by regional grid planners for reliability, economic or environmental reasons are bad enough, but one could argue that they are still ostensibly serving a "public" purpose by stabilizing the grid, the market, or saving the planet. These projects are paid for by all users of the electric grid, therefore there is some justification for the use of eminent domain in order to keep ratepayer cost in check.
And then we have the merchant transmission projects, like Clean Line. This company is proposing transmission that has not been vetted or approved by regional grid planners. They simply want to build a transmission line because it would be profitable. Merchant projects are paid for entirely by their owners. The merchant recovers its costs by selling capacity on the line to generators or load serving utilities (who then pass it on to the users of the project). The merchant enterprise depends on the cost of building the line being less than the amount of profit to be derived from selling capacity. If the cost of the line is greater than the profits, then it isn't an economic endeavor and it won't be built.
A merchant transmission developer has an interest in keeping its costs low to increase profit and make the project economic. But a merchant transmission project isn't a public necessity. It's a profit center, plain and simple. That a successful merchant project would transmit electric power for purchase by utilities if the price is right does not a "public purpose" make.
Clean Line proposes that state regulators anoint it with public utility status and its attendant power of eminent domain so that it may take whatever property it needs for its project at a low price. This would keep the costs low for Clean Line, so that it could increase the amount of profit it may derive from operation of its line.
This is where the disconnect starts. A merchant project that depends purely on economics for its purpose should be required to operate completely on an economic basis. If Landowner A requires 150% market value for property, then that is the cost of the transmission line. An economic project absolutely cannot rely on the power of the state to make itself profitable.
Landowners across Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee have taken a stand. No eminent domain for privately financed economic projects. The landowners are becoming highly educated about electric transmission, property rights and civic engagement. And it's spreading like wildfire.
As a result, we are reaching the tipping point where absolutely NO transmission is going to be built, even that which may be needed.
The urban decision-makers with their quarter acre plots maintained by hired landscapers and gardeners simply cannot understand a farmer's or rancher's connection to his land. Or why they are prepared to fight for their livelihood.