Looks like FERC has its Grinch hat on this Christmas.  On Wednesday, the Commission issued an Order to Show Cause and Notice of Proposed Penalty to Kevin Gates, his companies, and trader Alan Chen and his companies.

FERC proposes that Gates and his companies cough up $22,358,208.00, while Chen is supposed to come up with $12,160,576 in penalties and disgorgement.  That's nearly $35M.  I'm wondering if Gates and Chen even HAVE $35m?

I've read some of the OE FERC staff report, and I gotta say I'm not feeling the outrage in the same way everyone was outraged at the Enron schemes.  It reads like a witch hunt, and I kinda feel sorry for Gates and Chen.  So, FERC staff is all up on its high horse about protecting consumers, but I'm left wondering where that $4.7M in marginal loss surplus allocations would have ended up if Chen had not made these trades.  It would have ended up in the pockets of other traders.  It would not have ended up in the pockets of electric ratepayers. 

What is FERC going to do with the money, if it manages to prevail in this matter?  $4.7M will be re-distributed to other traders, Robin Hood style.  That leaves $30M in penalties.  What is FERC going to spend that on?  Maybe they could spend it hiring some smarter guys to design and monitor their markets... like Gates and Chen?
The National Park Service and grant-money-grubber The Conservation Fund are misleading the public about land being "donated" to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

In recently-generated press, the entities claim that additional park land was purchased by The Conservation Fund and "donated" to the park.
The purchase of these lands by The Conservation Fund from willing and interested sellers without the use of any taxpayer dollars, and their subsequent transfer to the NPS, ensures that they remain in the public trust for future generations to learn from and enjoy and that they will continue to provide both ecological and economic benefits to the region.
The Conservation Fund used YOUR money to purchase these lands, and skimmed a nice "administrative fee" for themselves off the top.  How nice of them to "donate" the land to you. 

The land was purchased with a $66M mitigation fund that the Department of the Interior extorted from utilities PSE&G and PPL, who were allowed to build a gigantic electric transmission project through the heart of the park in exchange for the payoff.  In turn, PSE&G is recovering the $66M from all electric ratepayers in the 13-state PJM Interconnection region.  Under federal rate schemes, PSE&G is even allowed to earn a 12.9% return on the bribe as it slowly depreciates over the life of the transmission line.  In exchange for acting as the middleman and giving your crooked government cover for its outrageous abuse of the public trust, The Conservation Fund is allowed to skim generous "administrative fees" off the fund every year.  The Conservation Fund didn't "donate" anything, they just served as the nonprofit "purchaser" to so that these shady transactions may not shoulder their fair tax burden.

It's a lie and a scam of the highest order.  Addition of border properties to the park does not make the transmission line disappear out of the middle of the park.  Mitigation means your park assets are for sale to the highest bidder.  In this case, the highest bidder was YOU.  Why are the citizens paying to buy additional park property at the Delaware Water Gap NRA, and why is The Conservation Fund being allowed to claim it as a "donation" on its taxes?

The National Park Service ought to be ashamed of itself for lying to the public this way.
He shall now be forevermore known as Tony the Dotard. Yeah, I know, it just doesn't have that same ring to it, but I'm sure he can still get up to lots of corporate hijinks and mock floggings down at the senior center soon.

FirstEnergy announced today that effective January 1st, they're kicking Tony upstairs to some newly-created figurehead position known as the "executive chairman."  Apparently the quotes are included in the official name of Tony's new position.  I like how he stopped to pose with a big grin next to a portrait of one of his belching power plants on the way out.  Classy!

So, who's next?  FirstEnergy's soon to be president and CEO is Chatty Chuck Jones, the famous deal-maker who is completely out of touch with the real world the rest of us inhabit.  Someday, someone's going to spit in his mashed potatoes.

FirstEnergy says that Chatty Chuck worked his way up from substation engineer, but they don't share how many co-workers he had to step on to get there.  Chatty Chuck has managed FirstEnergy's distribution companies since 2010.  That means he was directly responsible for that meter reading disaster over the past several years at the former Allegheny distribution companies -- Mon Power, Potomac Edison and West Penn Power.  But wait... Chatty Chuck brings even more to the table!
  He's also former president of FirstEnergy Solutions, the company's failed competitive generation subsidiary.

Chatty Chuck is also the insufferable jerk who made that stupid $102M deal to plaster FirstEnergy's name all over Cleveland Browns Stadium a couple years ago.  In the wake of all the bad publicity that generated, Chatty Chuck tried to clear it up with an amusing little story about how he intimidated the staff of the restaurant where the deal went down.  Aren't FirstEnergy's communications shysters going to have fun?

As amusing as all this is, Chatty Chuck shares that nothing will change.  He's going to run the company exactly like Tony the Dotard did.  And, just in case he starts acting like a wise guy:

Alexander, serving in the newly created position as executive chairman of the company, said he will be in an advisory role. "But Chuck is running the company," he said.
...with a wink.

Demonstrating that FirstEnergy's death spiral will continue, perhaps even speed up, Jones revealed that he doesn't understand finance.
"Having a stronger technical understanding of the finances would be a plus, but I don't see it as a necessity," he added.
...he has henchmen for that.
Get out your hip-waders, folks, it's going to get pretty deep!

According to this article, in 2011 former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu appointed Lauren Azar to a position at the DOE in order to carry out the administration's political agenda. 
Chu's selection of Azar was largely seen as a sign of the Obama administration's intense interest in expanding the grid to support renewables and tackle climate change, sources said.
Azar got the finger pointed at her as the impetus for a controversial memo that urged federal power marketing agencies (PMAs) to use their authority to help get privately funded transmission projects built.
As laid out in the memo, she also championed Texas-based Clean Line Energy's application to partner with DOE through its never-before-used authority under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act, which would allow a PMA with federal authority to site the line and overcome state opposition.
It's not about reliability or economics of the grid, it's about federal support for certain companies with personal ties to the DOE:
Jimmy Glotfelty, founder of Clean Line Energy Partners and a former senior electricity adviser for President George W. Bush, said Azar should be remembered for trying to build infrastructure and integrate renewables in a thoughtful and cooperative manner.

"The customers of PMAs are pretty protective, and if you ask a lot of people who have been in her shoes -- including myself -- it's not uncommon to get into debates with customers of PMAs," he said. "They're tough negotiators."
Clean Line, with its DOE-connected "vice president," became the only transmission company to take advantage of Sec. 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 during a very convenient RFP process run by the DOE in 2010.  But the pre-Azar DOE just wasn't aggressive enough:
Azar brought that same spirit to DOE. She helped bring together the "federal family" in 2011 -- nine agencies key to streamlining federal permitting of major new power lines that could have taken up to 15 years to garner approval (Greenwire, Oct. 5, 2011). DOE already had existing authority to do so under 216(h) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, language that allows the agency to coordinate federal and environmental reviews.

"DOE, until I got there, implemented [the rule] in somewhat of a tepid manner," she said. "I came in like gangbusters as I always do and not only helped to lead the rapid respond team for transmission but helped DOE draft some rules for 216(h), negotiate with the nine agencies."
Shortly after Azar was appointed, Clean Line submitted an "updated" application under Sec. 1222 in order to use the federal power marketing agencies to take land for its private gain and override state denials.
The Honorable Lauren Azar
Senior Advisor to the Secretary
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20585

August 17, 2011

Dear Lauren,

With development efforts well under way, the Plains & Eastern Clean Line is positioned to
help meet President Obama's call for 80% clean energy by 2035. The Plains & Eastern Clean Line will provide affordable, renewable power to millions of customers in the  southeastern United States. Regulatory and permitting approvals at the state and federal levels are the critical path items. Since submitting a proposal in July 2010, the Plains & Eastern Clean Line has made substantial development progress, strengthening the case for a partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) and Southwestern under  Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The attached document provides an update on our efforts, including the widespread support the project has received from a diverse group of stakeholders. It also supplements the original application with respect to how the project is necessary to accommodate the increase in demand for transmission capacity and how the project is consistent with needs identified in transmission plans or otherwise by the appropriate transmission organization.
Projects like the Plains & Eastern Clean Line have the potential to return the United States to a global leadership position in clean energy. The private sector has the resources and the desire to invest in our aging infrastructure and we respectfully ask that the DOE exercise its authority to make it possible. We  appreciate the attention you are giving the Plains & Eastern Clean Line. We will be in Washington, DC regularly in the coming months and would like the opportunity to sit down with you and your team to review the project materials and respond to any  questions.
Magically, the DOE entered into an Advance Funding and Development Agreement with Clean Line in early 2012, despite the fact that Clean Line did NOT meet all the statutory criteria in Sec. 1222.  Sec. 1222 requires that a project:
2) is consistent with--
(A) transmission needs identified, in a transmission expansion plan or otherwise, by the appropriate Transmission Organization (as defined in the Federal Power Act [16 U.S.C. 791a et seq.]) if any, or approved regional reliability organization
Clean Line's projects are not a part of any transmission expansion plan, therefore they cannot be "consistent with" a plan that does not include them. 

Instead, the DOE relied on:
DOE has emphasized the need for additional high voltage transmission capacity to deliver renewable resources from transmission-constrained areas, stating in its "20% Wind Energy by 2030" Report that "If the considerable wind resources of the United States are to be utilized, a significant amount of new transmission will be required."
GRID2030 is probably the highlight of Clean Line "vice president" Glotfelty's career at the DOE.  And then Glotfelty leaves the DOE after setting the stage, and personally invests in Clean Line Energy Partners? 

Clean Line brags:

Jimmy worked for George W. Bush, for almost eight years, at both the gubernatorial and presidential levels. He led the Bush Administration’s efforts on electricity issues with Congress and the electric utility industry.  In this capacity, he founded Office of Electric Delivery and Energy Reliability at the Department of Energy (DOE) and served as its first Director.
Let's see... which office is undertaking DOE's consideration of Clean Line's application under Sec. 1222? 
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Section 1222 Program is administered by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE).
Wow!  What a coincidence!  A DOE appointee uses his office to set up a scheme whereby private investors can override state authority and regional transmission planning processes, and then leaves his position to personally invest in just such a scheme?  And the office he "founded" is now in a position to approve his financial scheme?

Something stinks here...

Maybe this guy should investigate and clear up the appearances of federal actions undertaken for private profit?

Whether the department will take the same approach under Chu's successor, MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, remains unclear.
I don't think that Moniz has a clue what his underlings are up to, but that's no excuse to let this federal land-taking scheme continue.

Clean Line's plans are a for-profit initiative masquerading as a political agenda.  And DOE's political agenda is favoring corporate interests over the interests of the citizens and consumers it is supposed to serve.  Let's clean the stink out of our federal Department of Energy!
The Akron Beacon Journal reports that FirstEnergy is "considering" a move from its current headquarters building when its lease is up.
City spokeswoman Stephanie York said Akron officials are aware that the electric utility might be interested in moving from 76 S. Main St.
“What we know is that FirstEnergy is coming to the end of their lease, and that their desire is to stay downtown,” York said Thursday in an email. “We are excited that they are looking to stay downtown (whether in the same building or not), just as we are energized about the increased vitality and development of downtown over the past dozen years.”
Well, I hope all you ratepayers are just as "excited" about your electric bill going up to pay for FirstEnergy's contemplated move.  Let's see... 19 floors, 900 employees, what do you think that's going to cost?  Millions, that's how much!

When I get bored with my surroundings, I simply re-arrange the furniture.  How about you?
Like a persistent nightmare...
Richard and Kevin Gates say that they received this Notice of Release of Materials Obtained in Investigation late last week, and that it may suggest that Powhatan may receive an Order to Show Cause from the FERC later this week.

Tit for tat...

FERCLitigation.com is now back online after a month-long truce, and the Gates brothers are ready to talk to the media.  Looks like it's game on again.  Merry flippin' Christmas!
Clean Line's Texas hucksters showed up in Illinois last night, and the citizens were there to meet them.
Outside the Church of the Nazarene Fellowship Hall, members of a grassroots protest group gathered to tell landowners of their opposition to the project. Inside the hall, company officials told of its benefits.
Which group do you think was telling the truth?  Hint:  One group was paid to be there by Clean Line, the other was there voluntarily.

Apparently there was lots of "misinformation" afoot, but only one group whined about "misinformation."  Guess which one?  It might be the one laboring under the misapprehension of the information deficit model.

The accompanying picture is a classic:  crowds of disenchanted landowners, some with arms folded, staring down the "clean" employee performing a song and dance in front of a company poster at an "information station."

The divide and conquer routine isn't working, Clean Line.  These folks got the jump on you.

Silly Clean Line routed their project through land owned by a local attorney.

"They are filing for expedited review with the (Illinois Commerce Commission) which provides for limited time for landowners to object and even shorter filing periods, which constrains ability to have fair and full hearings insuring that due process rights of each landowner are protected," Probst said.
"Our firm is looking into calling a meeting of landowners and invite other interested parties to discuss what options are available to the landowners of Shelby County," the lawyer added.
Ooopsy, Clean Line!  Why the hurry?  Hoping that you can ram this project through approvals at the ICC before the landowners organize enough to seek legal counsel?  Too late!

Bravo to the citizens of Illinois who have worked so hard to prepare for Clean Line, as well as to all the experienced Clean Line opponents who traveled to the meeting to help out.  What an auspicious beginning!
Luther and Ursula Gerlach doing research in early 1970s on a protest of long haul truckers against high cost of their diesel fuel.  They made a 16mm film of the truckers' strike.
Dr. Gerlach explains how and why Grassroots Energy was made:
In the late 1990s, I made 12 videos for a distance learning version of my course Ecological Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I made these with the assistance of my wife, Ursula, my colleague Paul Eide in University Media Resources, and research assistant Tis Stringer.  To make these videos, we used 16 mm movie film, 35 mm slide/still film, and audio tape that Ursula and I had taken over years of anthropological field research in the USA, Kenya, Germany, and other places.  Our practice has been to complement written note taking with film and audio recording during this field research.  We draw upon our film and tape library to present lectures in class and also to make films and videos for use in class and in distance learning.  In recent years, we have digitized film and analog tape to make programs that can be presented via computer. 

It is thus that we made the Ecological Anthropology program Grassroots Energy.  I introduce and then conclude the movie with still photos and voice over narration. The movie itself is 27 minutes long, originally a 16 mm film.  We filmed during our field research.  We began research and recording in August 1974, shortly after farmers and townsfolk in West Central Minnesota learned that Cooperative and United Power had applied to state authorities for permits to build a +/-400kVDC line from a mine mouth plant in North Dakota across their land to a AC converter facility in a Minneapolis suburb.  We continued research and recording through the construction and energizing of the line and early response in 1980.  The film focuses on the period 1976-1978, when resistance to the line was most intense and widespread. 

Filming in the field and making slide shows and movies in the era before digital imaging presented problems not experienced by the users of digital cameras.  Instead of being able to take countless pictures and see the results immediately, one had to ration film and wait until processing to determine if one “got it or not.”  One had to keep film – and batteries - cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  And it was obvious to all that one was taking pictures or recording audio.  In any event, we observed the cardinal and ethical rule of anthropology: to get informed consent of those photographed.  

Before we released the film about the CU transmission line issue and resistance to it, we showed it to those involved in the resistance. 

A citizen’s organization in Wisconsin concerned with electricity production, distribution and use asked me if it could show the Grassroots Energy movie for a fundraiser.  After some deliberation, I agreed.  I then also agreed that a blog concerned with electricity transmission issues could provide access to this movie.  Further, I have included clips from the movie as well as other information about the CU case in a presentation to a workshop on transmission held in part by Edison Electric Institute.

I am now working to make available more of my published and unpublished material, print and audiovisual, on transmission and other energy issues.

Luther P. Gerlach, PhD
Professor emeritus of Anthropology, University of Minnesota


My studies of public response to electricity transmission lines is part of my broader study of the interplay of social movements and established orders in the management of technological and ecological risk and resource use locally, regionally and globally.  Thus, I examine how the interplay between advocates and opponents of transmission grid expansion produces debate about the energy future and shapes this future.

I have studied social movements, ecological adaptation, and related cultural change in the USA, Germany, and along the Kenya coast.  Following undergraduate and graduate study at the University of Minnesota, I served as a US Army officer in the Far East and a US government researcher in Germany. I then attended the University of London, particularly its School of Oriental and African Studies and also its London School of Economics, receiving certificates in African Law(Islamic Law Option) and Swahili, and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology (1960), following field research in Kenya.  In addition to my professorship in Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, I have been visiting professor at the Environmental Quality Lab of the California Institute of Technology, the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Science Center, Berlin, Germany.
If you haven't watched the film yet, you can download it here.

Luther's research, writings and film come closest that I have ever seen to capturing the feelings and purpose of people and groups who oppose transmission lines.  He has an understanding and appreciation for both sides of the energy debate, and studying his work should propel us along toward solutions. 

Instead, it appears that we are poised to make the same mistakes about centralized renewables that we made with centralized fossil fuel generation decades ago.  Why must the few sacrifice for the many when there are better solutions available?  Only when we understand social movements and energy equality can we learn from history and stop making the same mistakes over and over.

Dr. Gerlach has a huge body of work, some of which I've had the pleasure to read and ponder, and I hope he continues to make more of his published and unpublished works available.  There's so much to be learned!

Some of Dr. Gerlach's publications pertinent to social movements and energy for further reading:

Gerlach, Luther P, 2014. Public Reaction to Electricity Transmission Lines, Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, Elsevier, 2014. 21-Mar-14 doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.09111-9.

Gerlach, L. P. (1999). The structure of social movements: Environmental activism and its opponents.  In Waves of Protest: Social Movements since the Sixties.  (J. Freeman and V. Johnson, Eds.), pp. 85–97. Rowan & Littlefield, NY

Gerlach, Luther P., and David Bengston. 1994. “If Ecosystem Management Is the Solution, What Is the Problem?” Journal of Forestry 92, no. 8 (August): 18–21.

Gerlach, L. & Palmer, G. (1981). Adaptation through evolving interdependence, pp 323-381 in Nystrom P.C, & Starbuck W.  Handbook of organizational design, vol 1. Adapting 0rganizations to their environments. New York, Oxford Press

 Gerlach, Luther P. (1979). Energy Wars and Social Change, in Predicting Sociocultural Change, Susan Abbot and John van Willigen, eds. Southern Anthropological Society Proceedings #13. Athens: University of Georgia Press 

Gerlach, L.P. 1978  Gerlach, Luther P. (1978). “The Great Energy Standoff.” Natural History 87 (January).

Gerlach, Luther P., and Virginia H. Hine. 1973. Lifeway Leap: The Dynamics of Change in America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Gerlach, Luther P., and Virginia H. Hine. 1970. People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

 Gerlach LP and Eide P (1978) Grassroots Energy, 16-mm 27- minute, sound, color film. University of Minnesota Media Resources. Distributed by Penn State University Film.

We all owe Dr. Gerlach and his wife many thanks for their capable documentation and thoughtful commentary on our energy wars.  Now, let's do it better this time around as we move toward a cleaner, more democratic energy future!
It really is all about that number on a piece of paper, apparently.

FERC issues an annual report of its enforcement activities each November, to let the public know how FERC is protecting them.  A big number on the report justifies FERC's activities.

Is it about doing the job, or is it about the number?

In 2014, FERC says its investigations produced $25M in civil penalties against energy market violators, and $4M in disgorgement of unjust profits.  Just $4M?  What percentage of annual energy market profits is that?  How much money was actually made by manipulating markets? 

FERC says it saved ratepayers nearly $11.7M by directing refunds and recoveries as a result of its audit activities.  What percentage of the total amount of rates is $11.7M?

Audit activities included formula rate audits.  FERC found much the same kinds of violations it found last year.
Formula Rate Matters. DAA continues to examine accounting that populates formula rate recovery mechanisms used in determining billings to wholesale customers. In recent formula rate audits, DAA observed certain patterns of noncompliance in the following areas:
• Merger Goodwill – including goodwill in the equity component of the capital structure absent Commission approval;
• Depreciation Rates – using state-approved or a blended depreciation rate consisting of Commission and state-approved depreciation rates without Commission approval;
• Merger Costs – including any merger-related costs in rates (e.g., third-party advisory fees, internal labor, severance, and other general and administrative costs) without Commission approval;
• Tax Prepayments – incorrectly recording tax overpayments not applied to a future tax year’s obligation as a prepayment leading to excess recovery through working capital;
• Unused Inventory and Equipment – including the cost of materials, supplies, and equipment purchased for a construction project without removing the cost of items unused in whole or in part from the cost of a project;
• Allocated Labor – using labor cost allocators not based on a representative time study to determine the amount of indirect labor costs to distribute to construction projects;
• Asset Retirement Obligation (ARO) – including ARO amounts in formula rates, without explicit Commission approval;
• Below-the-Line Costs – including below-the-line costs in formula rates (e.g., lobbying, charitable contributions, fines and penalties, and compromise settlements arising from discriminatory employment practices) without Commission approval; and
• Improper Capitalization – seeking to include in rate base (and earn a return on) costs that should be expensed.
So, when are utilities going to stop making the same "mistakes" over and over?  Maybe when they are sure to be caught, or when "mistakes" come with penalties?  Otherwise, it's like playing roulette for utilities.  Over time, they can rake in more than they'll ever have to refund if they are caught.  Why are there no penalties for continued violations? 

During the year, FERC performed 19 audits.  What percentage of the total number of formula rates overseen by FERC is this?

Do FERC's investigations promote transparency and encourage entities subject to Commission requirements to develop strong internal compliance programs?  If they did, would FERC soon find itself out of a job?  Or would utilities continue to play FERC-roulette because it's just so gosh-darn profitable?
Finally got around to reviewing the Illinois Commerce Commission's 200+ page final Order on Clean Line's RICL project.  Imagine my shock and horror to find that the actual Order bore no resemblance to the posturing Clean Line did for the media immediately following the Commission's vote.

Clean Line is nothing if not optimistic about its business plan to construct nearly 2000 miles of new "merchant" transmission lines across eight Midwestern states.  However, Clean Line's claims rarely comport with reality.  Isn't it odd that Clean Line had a press release ready to go the second the Commission voted?  It's all about pretending the Commission's decision "marks a critical milestone needed to deliver low-cost wind energy to Illinois and [those mysterious, unnamed] states farther east," no matter what the actual Order said.

And the press ate it up.  Shame on them!  The rest of us have been snickering at how much egg ended up on Clean Line's face for running with a media fantasy, and now the REAL story shall be told.

The ICC's Order issued a CPCN for the proposed business plan, finding it would be "needful and useful to promote competitive electricity markets in Illinois" if it ever gets built.  However, the Commission also found that RICL is not necessary to provide adequate service to customers, and that is is not necessary.  In addition, the Order requires Clean Line to jump some pretty high hurdles to make its business plan actually happen before it can build anything.
  A couple of conditions the ICC attached to the CPCN require that the company make a compliance filing demonstrating that it has funds available to construct the entire project before beginning any construction.  The ICC also attached a stipulation making the CPCN null and void if Clean Line attempts to allocate costs of its project to Illinois ratepayers through regional cost allocation administered by regional transmission organizations and FERC.  And, all this must happen within 2 years from the date of issue.  Tick-tock, Clean Line!

Oh... where to begin?  Let's talk about that financing stipulation.  In order to convince lenders to pony up the money to build the project, Clean Line must demonstrate an income stream.  It needs to have signed contracts with shippers or end users.  It has no end users.  The proposed shippers have not even been constructed yet.  In order to construct these mythical shippers (wind farms), the wind farms also have to borrow money to construct their projects.  In order to receive financing to build, these shippers must also demonstrate an income stream via signed contracts with purchasers.  It's a headache-inducing string of dominoes fraught with risk.  Utilities hate risk.  If utilities need to purchase renewables, there's plenty of EXISTING renewables available at concrete prices.  Since none of Clean Line's shippers exist, none of their proposed prices can be negotiated into signed contracts.  Remember... only two years to get this done!  And if you think it's going to happen, I'm a fairy princess.

Because the ICC did not find the project necessary under Sec. 8-503 of the PUA, Clean Line's CPCN only authorizes the company to build on voluntarily-negotiated easements.  The easements Clean Line has managed to sign with landowners are few and far between.  The rest of the landowners have rejected Clean Line's efforts and may continue to do so.  Clean Line was so certain that it would be granted eminent domain authority to take property that it has disrespected landowners with fantastical claims that bear no resemblance to reality
, along with underhanded tactics and empty promises.  You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool a farmer.  Nobody's buying it.  And since Clean Line has already ruined any possible cordial relationship with landowners, it is unlikely to regain what has already been tossed away.

And that brings us to the match tossed into the powder keg...  the CPCN issued by the ICC:

The Commission also observes that the approval of a line route as part of this Certificate Order should facilitate negotiations with landowners, and that the issuance of the Certificate will enable Rock Island to gain access to the property to conduct surveys and related activities, which are steps characterized by Rock Island as important ones in which to engage in the near future.
That's funny.  The Commission was so uncertain about this company's financial resources that it required it to have financing in place before beginning construction, but yet this same company can now enter upon and damage private property to conduct its surveys, without the demonstrated financial resources to guarantee that landowners will be compensated for damages.  What happens when Clean Line's surveys damage private property and the company refuses to make landowners whole?  Where's the remedy for landowners?  Will the ICC be policing Clean Line's survey activities?  Will landowners be left swinging in the wind with only a civil remedy?  And, I don't think Clean Line barging onto private property and leaving a mess behind will "facilitate negotiations with landowners."  Call me jaded...

So, Illinois landowner groups now have been handed the task of figuring out how to protect their interests all on their own.  And they will.

Two years, remember that.

And, in addition, RICL has just barely begun the permitting process in Iowa, where thousands of landowners have joined forces as the Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance, and hired counsel and witnesses to participate in the Iowa Utility Board's review of RICL.

Two years.

I'm thinking that this thing is NEVER going to happen.  The ICC Order requires Clean Line to perform in accordance with its fantastical business plan to get all this accomplished in two years.

So, despite sweeping bluster like
“The ICC approval is a great step forward for the Rock Island Clean Line project and brings Illinois one step closer to creating a cleaner energy future,” said Michael Skelly, President of Clean Line Energy. “We are grateful to the Commission for their careful consideration of our application and proposed route. By approving game-changing projects like the Rock Island Clean Line, Illinois will benefit from access to low-cost clean energy and job creation in the construction and manufacturing sectors.”
the Order doesn't actually move RICL closer to reality.  It simply starts the clock.  Tick-tock.

Todd Maisch, President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce should be eating the words Clean Line put in his mouth:

Companies like Clean Line that propose electric transmission projects are forced to meet a high threshold to prove that their energy project serves the public need and benefits consumers.
...because Clean Line didn't actually meet the ICC's high threshold to be found necessary, and therefore has to make its plan a reality before it could be granted the authority to build the project and take land from unwilling owners.

Michael Cornicelli, Executive Vice President of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago, or BOMA/Chicago also had some inapt words:
This project should demonstrate that independent, investor-driven transmission infrastructure can become a viable business solution in a traditionally utility-driven arena.
...but only if it can make its fantastical business plan into reality.   I think the ICC's Order demonstrates that merchant transmission projects undertaken outside the traditional regional planning process cannot succeed, but time will tell.  Two years.

Clean Line also makes fantasy claims about its ability to reduce carbon emissions:
The wind energy delivered by the Rock Island Clean Line will allow other generators to run less and burn less fuel by eliminating the need for the equivalent amount of energy to come from fossil fuels, thereby reducing pollution. More than 1.4 million homes will be powered by the renewable energy generated as a result of this project.
Because it is an intermittent resource, baseload fossil fuel generators will be required to run constantly to back up Clean Line.  The ramping up and down of baseload plants actually produces MORE emissions than running at a constant rate.  Clean Line's insistence that its transmission line will reduce fossil fuel generation on a basis equal to its production is unrealistic fantasy. 

And, we'll end with this:

Developing a project of this scale is a long-term undertaking...
Yes, indeed.  Two years.  Tick-tock!