I'm sure the initial estimate of development costs for the company's first three transmission line projects (Plains & Eastern, Rock Island and Grain Belt Express) has long since fallen to the wayside. So far though, Clean Line has been able to sweet talk its investors into injecting more cash when the company runs into trouble and out of money. But, at some point, these investors are going to have to slap the checkbook shut, cut their losses and move on. It's not like they're stupid or something, is it?
Clean Line's projects just keep running into more and more trouble. Instead of moving forward, they're moving in reverse.
For example, take yesterday's indication from the Missouri Public Service Commission that it will deny GBE's application. How much money was spent on that application process in Missouri? Millions were wasted. GBE's angry response was to threaten to revive their parked application for federal eminent domain under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act.
How much is that going to cost? Many millions more! Another 1222 application is going to very costly, in both time and money. It's going to add several years to the permitting process and Clean Line is going to pay every penny of the federal government's cost to process the application, including a multi-million dollar NEPA environmental impact statement process. And still, there's no guarantee. In fact Clean Line could get several million into this process with Grain Belt Express, only to receive a denial of its other Section 1222 application currently in process on its Plains & Eastern project. Such a denial would make continuing with Grain Belt's 1222 application a moot point, but the money will have already been spent.
And then what's Clean Line going to do? Spend millions lobbying Congress to try to pass legislation giving the federal government the authority to usurp state authority to site and permit transmission? It's not that easy. It's been tried again and again over the years and has been nothing but an expensive failure. Another dead end.
Meanwhile, Clean Line has begun the application process for its Grain Belt project at the Illinois Commerce Commission. Silly Grain Belt has applied under the "expedited" review rule. This means that the multi-million dollar Illinois permitting process is all going to come due and payable in the next several months (unless GBE gets lucky and the ICC dismisses their application because they're not a public utility). And what good is an Illinois certificate without a Missouri certificate? Illinois certificates expire two years from the date of issue. There's just no way Grain Belt will have completed the Section 1222 process to overrule Missouri's denial before the Illinois certificate expires.
None of the other Clean Line projects are in any better shape. Rock Island does not have eminent domain authority in Illinois, and the Iowa portion is slogging along the slow track. New legislation in Iowa could completely derail the project before the IUB even acts.
Plains & Eastern is getting its clock cleaned in the Section 1222 process. The U.S. DOE has completely mucked up the entire process by failing to perform its review in a legal and transparent manner.
Clean Line no longer makes financial sense.