That's pretty much the basis for Clean Line Energy's application for rehearing of the Missouri Public Service Commission's denial of the company's application for a permit for its Grain Belt Express project.
The Kansas City Star continues its excellent coverage of the Grain Belt Express debacle with its story about the request for rehearing.
“The project is too important to Missouri’s energy future not to pursue,” Clean Line Energy officials said, adding that the state’s ruling also deprived the rest of country of low-cost, clean energy."
The Missouri PSC does have a role in determining "Missouri's energy future," however, and the "rest of the country" has not been actively participating in the case.
Clean Line's request for rehearing is a long-winded whine about the Commission not accepting its "evidence" at face value. Clean Line also whines that, because it is not required to participate in regional transmission planning, the Commission's consideration of federally-sanctioned transmission planning is somehow discriminatory. Clean Line wants the PSC to ignore regional transmission planning when considering the "need" for a transmission project dreamed up for the sole purpose of enriching private investors. This collateral attack on regional transmission planning organizations simply cannot be supported.
But Clean Line's main argument seems to be to hide behind the Commerce Clause to claim that Missouri's denial "...interferes with the flow of interstate commerce, be it through actions that overtly discriminate against interstate commerce through differential treatment of in-state and out-of-state economic interests, or through actions that impose a burden upon interstate commerce that is excessive in relation to the putative local benefits."
Commerce Clause? Really? I hope Clean Line wasn't expecting anyone to actually be afraid of this, and is merely wasting time in Missouri while posturing for its lobbyists in Washington, D.C., who could claim that allowing state authority to site and permit transmission is preventing needed transmission from being built.
Clean Line is not THE ONLY way to ship electricity. In fact, it might not even be the most efficient or economic because it has not been vetted as part of any regional planning process. It's not like Missouri has said wind cannot be shipped across the state on existing roads, or new roads that are proven needed by regional planners. It's that Clean Line may not build a new, private, toll road to ship electricity across the state.
Clean Line seems to believe the Commerce Clause protects any private enterprise that wants to damage a state for its own interstate commerce profits. It's really not that simple.
So, here are a couple of things Clean Line says in its brief that demonstrate just how little Clean Line cares about the rights of people impacted by its projects:
1. "...because the narrow local interests that the Report and Order serves do not justify the burden that it imposes upon interstate commerce." In other words, protecting the rights of Missouri property owners and electric ratepayers are less than the "interstate commerce" goals of Clean Line.
2. "The Commission never considered the substantial uncontested evidence on the record of renewable energy demand and RES requirements of other states, and the substantial public benefits the Project delivers to other states. It also cited to the concerns of individual Missouri landowners -- but in the application of the Tartan factors impermissibly weighed those concerns only against the potential benefit to local interest, as opposed to the broader regional and national interest -- in concluding that the evidence shows that any actual benefits to the general public” did not justify approval." Perhaps the Commission gave little weight to Clean Line's conclusory "evidence" of what other states and the broader regional and national interests require. The concerns of individual Missouri landowners are real and came from the landowners themselves. The "needs" of other states or the nation at large were not presented by any of these interests, only Clean Line pretending to speak for them as the voice of the national interest. Clean Line, get over yourself! When the PSC gave Clean Line the opportunity to present evidence that these national interests needed its project, the only thing Clean Line could produce was crickets. Clean Line has no "other state" or "national interest" customers who need its "interstate commerce."
3. "The Commission’s finding that the Project would probably make Missouri-based wind projects less likely to be constructed is exactly the sort of economic protectionism that the dormant Commerce Clause prohibits. So too is the Commission’s criticism of the Company’s witness on economic benefits, who the Commission found did not address the displacement of jobs and energy production in Missouri due to the Project. Courts are highly alert to “the evils of ‘economic isolation’ and protectionism.... " So, Clean Line believes that lost economic opportunities in Missouri are "evil" or should not be considered? Or that they must necessarily be less than the "national interest?" If all local interests take a back seat to "national" ones, that's a pretty slippery slope! I mean, we might as well just surrender ourselves to some world dominating corporation and let them do whatever they want. Speaking of Evil, is the good Dr. in the house?
4. "The Commission’s denial of the Company’s CCN Application runs afoul of this element of Commerce Clause analysis because it unduly burdens the delivery of electricity generated by wind farms in Western Kansas not just to Missouri consumers, but to key markets in Illinois and Indiana. The Commerce Clause violation is as apparent in this instance as it would be if Missouri sought to restrict passage of cattle raised on Western ranches for shipment to stockyards in the East." Again, it's not as though the MO PSC said no electricity (cattle) could pass through the state... it simply denied a permit for Clean Line to burden Missouri residents by building a new toll road to ship only certain electricity (cattle) across the state. Cattle is perfectly free to use existing roads in Missouri to get to other states or anywhere it likes
5. "With the interests only of Missouri utilities and consumers in mind, the Commission made findings whose burden on interstate commerce clearly exceeds the local benefits. For example, the Commission found that Missouri had no need for the Project, and that the Project is not economically feasible, because utilities in the State could build natural gas fired plants and buy renewable energy credits. Neither is a valid reason to deny Kansas wind producers efficient access to the market or to deny utilities and their customers the ability to benefit from the Project. And the putative local interests do not outweigh this burden." So, the ONLY market for Kansas wind power is through Missouri? Clean Line provides a "benefit" to utilities and customers? Did Clean Line prove this? I don't think so! Clean Line doesn't have any customers!
6. "Indeed, any burden to local landowners would be small compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars of savings to Missouri and other states. The evidence shows that Grain Belt Express has agreed to compensate landowners for the fee value of their land, plus an annual payment, plus any economic damages to crops. Even if, as a last resort, Grain Belt Express acquired an easement through a condemnation proceeding, Missouri courts would require that Grain Belt Express pay fair value." Landowner burdens are "small"? That sort of depends on if it's your land, doesn't it? Who is Clean Line to determine the burden on landowners? If the burden was ameliorated by Clean Line's compensation, why are the overwhelming majority of landowners opposing the project? One could conclude it's because Clean Line's compensation doesn't even come close to making landowners whole. Clean Line also failed to prove the "hundreds of millions of dollars of savings to Missouri and other states." The PSC did not find those claims credible. How would Clean Line ever attempt to prove this claim, when it cannot set a price for electricity generated by others? It can't even set a capacity price for its transmission line at this point! There's simply nothing that shows evidence of "savings."
7. “The menace of inconsistent state regulation invites analysis under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, because that clause represented the framers’ reaction to overreaching by the individual states that might jeopardize the growth of the nation— and in particular, the national infrastructure of communications and trade—as a whole.” So, because all states don't have the exact same regulations governing siting and permitting of interstate transmission that somehow violates the Commerce Clause? Or is this just a peek into the rationalizations of Clean Line's Washington DC lobbyists? If every state was required to have identical laws, you might as well make transmission siting and permitting a federal process, right? I don't think that's the intent of the Commerce Clause.
8. "The Commission’s actions here are equally likely to paralyze the development of interstate electric transmission to deliver low-cost renewable wind power from high capacity states to states lack renewable energy resources. The Commission’s stated local interests, confined to protecting Missouri utilities and consumers, do not outweigh (and in no way justify) its demonstrated effort to isolate itself from a growing national concern over the lack of such transmission infrastructure by erecting a barrier against the movement of interstate commerce. Indeed, given the shipper-pays nature of the Project and the evidence regarding the cost impacts of the Project, there can be no detriment to Missouri consumers because they will bear no costs unless a utility determines that the benefits of purchasing energy delivered by the Project outweigh those costs. Similarly, no Missouri utility is compelled to buy power delivered by the Project if it isn’t lower than the cost of other resources." Paralyze the development of interstate electric transmission? Hardly! Plenty of interstate electric transmission is proposed, approved and built through the regional planning process Clean Line chose not to participate in. Clean Line's proposals simply aren't viable, and the fault for that is entirely Clean Line's. What states lack renewable energy resources? I don't think there are any states that have no renewable energy resources. It is not up to Clean Line to determine what kind of renewable energy resources states build and use. That must violate some clause or another somewhere... And where's the "growing national concern over the lack of such transmission infrastructure?" I don't think Clean Line has provided any evidence of that. It's all just a bunch of vocabulary diarrhea. Blah, blah, blah, we're speaking for everyone else here and we are what they want. I don't think the MO PSC was fooled by that, just like the people weren't!
9. "There can be no harm to Missouri from having another option to supply power. Any perceived detriment to landowners is mitigated by the law that provides them fair and reasonable consideration. If there is a detriment to landowners, it is drastically outweighed by the hundreds of millions of dollars of benefits provided by the Project, the thousands of jobs that it creates, and the immeasurable ways in which it would advance the national interest in clean, inexpensive, renewable wind energy." Wow, there they go again, throwing Missourians under the bus for benefit of the "national interest" that Clean Line pretends to speak for. Who says the "national interest" outweighs the interests of Missouri landowners? Clean Line? Not.their.job. Where's the proof of the thousands of jobs and the "immeasurable ways"? Perhaps we could actually measure the ways in which Missouri would be harmed by this project? Actually, I think that's what the PSC did here! Nobody believes Clean Line is their altruistic economic electricity savior. Nobody. Save the drama for your mama (when you ask her to sign your petition supporting your project).
10. "It is clear that the Commission’s decision in this case was not even-handed, and that its exclusive and inaccurate focus on Missouri utilities, consumers, and landowners arbitrarily resulted in an application of the Tartan factors to the Company’s CCN Application that discriminates against the Project merely because of its interstate nature." Actually, it was very even-handed. The Commission listened to both sides of the argument and was not swayed by Clean Line's propaganda and attempts to purchase support for its project. Nobody discriminated against Clean Line merely because of its interstate nature... it's simply a bad idea pushed by a bunch of disrespectful rich people for dubious economic reasons.
Block GBE-MO's Jennifer Gatrel hit the nail on the head when she characterized the company's request for rehearing as disrespectful:
“We continue to be disappointed by the lack of respect shown by Clean Line to landowners and citizens of Missouri,” opposition leader and farmer Jennifer Gatrel said Thursday. “They have been told no in every way possible and yet they persist in attempting to override the will of the people and the decision by our commissioners.”