Despite being soundly (and loudly!) rejected by groups representing the interests of thousands of landowners impacted by proposed transmission projects across the Midwest last year, the Center for Rural Affairs is back with another report that it claims will "creat[e] procedural and cost efficiencies, as well as promot[e] due process rights."
CFRA does not represent landowners, and has made absolutely no attempt to involve landowners in any of its reports. There are plenty of active transmission opposition landowner groups, however CFRA created another report recommending what it sees as "good" for landowners in complete isolation. It's silly, it's uninformed, it's not good for landowners. It's simply the environmental 1% telling the rest of America what to do and how to sacrifice their property to the Gods of Big Green.
The newest report was written by a young law student on a fellowship who has probably never owned property and recommends that landowners be subject to a new form of forced pooling, the "Transmission Corridor District." Under the concept of forced pooling, landowners can be forced to give up certain rights to their land if their neighbors want to sell. That's right... under the TCD, you can be forced into a group of landowners whose only purpose is to sell transmission rights of way across their land (and yours). You may not "opt out" of this forced pool -- either cooperate or you're getting their version of "fair market value" for your property. It's a fait accompli that you will sell your land for a proposed transmission project.
It also suggests that state PSCs take on the responsibility of assembling and administrating these districts. Tell me, who is going to pay for that? And what changes need to be made to the laws of each state to make it happen? And then there's this:
Landowners, a developer, or a governmental entity could initiate a TCD proceeding. The initiating party approaches the planning agency to determine if the transmission line promotes reliability, economic development, or public policy (e.g., a renewable energy portfolio standard). In this initial discussion with the planning agency, the initiating entity proposes a study area for the transmission corridor to the planning agency. Alternatively, the planning agency could determine that there is a need for a transmission project and initiate the TCD proceeding on its own.
For TCD proceedings, the planning agency would likely be a public utility commission (PUC). This is necessary because the placement and construction of power lines is almost always under the purview of the states, which then designate siting and approval responsibilities to the PUC or state equivalent. Alternatively, the planning agency could be a federal or regional entity to promote interstate development.
Upon approval from the planning agency, the initiating party and planning agency work together to educate the potentially affected
members of the public about the benefits and negative effects of the proposed project.
Each transmission project is geographically unique. Who does CFRA think is going to bid on these constructed land corridors when only one transmission developer is interested in the area for a specific project? One bidder does not create a fair market.
Further demonstration of the author's complete misunderstanding of transmission planning:
Additionally, FERC Orders 890 and 1000 encourage robust public participation. The orders accomplish this by requiring transmission planners to seek comment from customers and stakeholders in regional planning. Though the orders are silent in the context of assembling land for specific transmission lines, the wisdom of the orders should be applied to individual projects.
He also makes the accusation that "the current eminent domain framework seems to violate Order 1000." Hahahahaaa!
CFRA's report also recommends that interstate cooperation create uniform state siting and condemnation laws... and herd cats. It also contends that forced pooling of landowners ameliorates opposition, and saves time and money. If CFRA thinks there's a problem with transmission opposition from landowners now, it ain't seen nothing yet! The surest way to delay something is to add additional layers of administrative process and a new legal framework that hasn't been tested in the courts. The report also recommends a robust public participation process just like the one transmission developers have been using for years, like it's some novel idea. Maybe the author needs to step inside a real transmission project, instead of an artificial, self-aggrandizing, media version of "public participation." Landowners are not satisfied with this model and it does not ameliorate opposition. It actually creates opposition by helping landowners to meet and organize.
In conclusion, CFRA's latest "report" is a worthless piece of busy work that does nothing to help get transmission built. You can't quell opposition unless you talk to them, sweet cheeks! (I can call you sweet cheeks, right Brandon? I mean I've probably got condiments in the back of the fridge that are older than you.)