Landowner parties Missouri Landowners Alliance and Show Me Concerned Landowners presented a fact-based, detailed, well-rounded defense against Grain Belt express. They were bolstered by excellent rebuttal from Blake Hurst of the Missouri Farm Bureau and landowner Christina Reichert. On the other hand, intervenors supporting Grain Belt Express filed a whole bunch of "me, too" fluff that was short on fact and detail and is likely to blow away in any strong wind of scrutiny.
Here are some of my favorites:
Ralls County Commissioner Wiley Hibbard -- gosh, I love this guy! His testimony can only be described as forthright. He doesn't mince words, but gets directly to the point on all issues. For example:
In my opinion, this whole project is an attempt by a small group of investors to make a large amount of profit from the wind energy generation from Kansas. They have offered the proverbial 30 pieces of silver to local governments. Some have apparently taken it. I for one will not choose to do so. They promise Ralls County a whole million dollars (they must think this is 1960) to sell out our future. It is asking a lot of us to have our land taken by force to enable a few to get rich. I believe that other elected office holders should think beyond just today.
Don Lowenstein of the Missouri Landowners Alliance did a fantastic job with a really difficult subject -- taxes. Nobody wants to even think about taxes, instead they hire guys like Don to think about taxes for them. He carefully and factually explains why GBE's claims of tax riches for affected counties are an overly-hyped generalization that has no basis in reality.
I think Mr. Tregengo’s assessment of the benefit to school districts and other county taxing jurisdictions is misleading because the facts are materially understated.
I believe his overall discussion is short sighted because it does not address the tax revenues generated by the Project after it goes into service. Nor does it address the long term net tax benefits or losses. Therefore I regard most of his testimony as having little significance to an overall assessment of the longer term tax benefits to Missourians.
Basically, I believe that he spoke in generalizations which might leave the reader to see a much brighter prospect than actually exists for tax revenue benefits to Randolph and the other seven counties on the line. He omitted a discussion of which taxing jurisdictions receive little or no tax benefit.
Essentially, the value of a property is based on the perception of the buyer. Understanding that perception drives value is the foundation in analyzing the effect that electric transmission lines have on property value.
This perception does not have to be based on a scientific or engineering fact, it is based on what a buyer believes. An example of perception driving value based solely on belief is the haunted house. A home cannot be proven scientifically to be haunted. Yet, there are several homes throughout the nation thought to be “haunted” which stigmatizes the property resulting in a diminished selling price.
Electric power expert Joseph Jakulski completely shreds GBE's greatest hope for approval, the transmission contract between GBE and the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC).
Just as in the last case, Grain Belt still has no memorandums of understanding with wind generators, and no firm commitments from any load serving utilities to buy capacity on the proposed transmission line.
Grain Belt fails to mention that MJMEUC may without penalty or cost elect to take no capacity over the new line, and that decision will be made sixty to ninety days before the line is then expected to enter service.
The TSA is nothing more than an option agreement.
In short, there currently is no commitment from MJMEUC to buy any capacity on the proposed transmission line.
The only support provided for the $10 million estimate from the MJMEUC was an eight-row spreadsheet in response to MLA’s Data Request MJM.13.
It is a flawed calculation of the cost of transmitting 100 MW and 200 MW of wind power from SPP to MISO. There is no calculation of, or comparison to, buying wind power over Grain Belt. The spreadsheet also contains an error in calculating the loss component of the costs. The total costs end up including addition of megawatt-hours and dollars which is flawed mathematics.
- Mr. Lawlor asked how we felt about this move. We told him we would be thrilled not to have the line crossing our property, but that we did not want it moved to our neighbor’s property either. We couldn’t bring ourselves to benefit at the expense of our neighbors.
- He said that the proposal to move the line seemed like a viable option, but that they expected something in return from us. My husband asked what he meant. Mr. Lawlor never did tell us exactly what they were expecting in return for moving the line off our property, but said it would be nice to have something from us.
- We eventually told Mr. Lawlor that we could not agree to a move that would be detrimental to our neighbors, and that we would continue to oppose the Grain Belt Project. They thanked us for our time and left. That was the last we heard from Grain Belt about rerouting the line.
The testimony of agricultural expert Charles Kruse is a compelling account of the effects of GBE on agricultural operations.
I will rebut Grain Belt witnesses James Arndt’s and Lanz testimonies regarding how the Grain Belt Express project could impact farming operations as well as discuss other issues regarding the negative impacts to farming and land as a result of large transmission projects like the Grain Belt project. Specifically, I will address the following negative impacts: Compaction of Soil; Erosion; Irrigation Equipment Interference; Difficulty in Aerial Applications to Crops and Pastures; Possible GPS Interference; Problems Maneuvering Large Farm Equipment around Towers; Precision Farming Problems; Concerns about Storm Recovery; and Eminent Domain.
Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst explains his organization's opposition to eminent domain, and he gets right to the truth:
Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC’s supposed promises to sell power to Missouri municipalities should be recognized for what they are: a political stunt to create pressure for approval of this project by giving small benefits to local governments at the massive expense of landowners’ rights. Those municipalities in support will bear none of the burden from Grain Belt’s proposed project. It is instead Missouri’s rural landowners that will experience significant disruptions in their operations if Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC is given the power to force land sales through eminent domain takings. This development does not change the underlying nature of the Grain Belt Express proposal. The project remains an attempt to engage in the abuse of eminent domain for private gain.
In summary, based on Staff’s review: 1) Grain Belt does not have the consent of the Caldwell county commission for its proposed transmission line to cross the public roads and highways in that county, the validity of its consent from the Monroe County Commission is being challenged in court, and, presently, the prefiled evidence does not include any such consents by the county commissions of Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls Counties; 2) There is not a clear need for the Project; 3) Grain Belt is qualified to construct, own, operate, control and manage the Project, but additional expertise will be needed once engineering and safety issues have been resolved; 4) Grain Belt has the financial ability to undertake the Project; 5) It is not clear whether the Project is economically feasible due to the lack of various RTO studies and the uncertainties surrounding the ATXI Mark Twain transmission line and its effects on the Missouri converter station and corresponding congestion; 6) A determination cannot be made at this time as to whether the Project is in the public interest since there is still uncertainty related to the economic feasibility and the safety of the Project.
It is expected that the MoPEP cities will save approximately $10 million annually by utilizing the Grain Belt Express and Infinity wind contract in their power supply after the IPM contact ends in 2021.
Which brings us to the thing I found most ridiculous. GBE's legal shenanigans and dirty tricks designed to keep MJMEUC's magic math from being fairly analyzed. GBE wants MJMEUC to be able to barf all this who shot John into the evidentiary record at the latest possible date, and then prevent the other parties from getting background information to assist their analysis and rebuttal. GBE has presented a "Joint Defense Agreement" that basically states that GBE and MJMEUC have a common interest and a joint defense that allows them to share information between the parties and keep the information they share confidential. GBE supposes this keeps all its interactions with MJMEUC under wraps, a big mystery that can never be questioned. Just look at that $10M savings number and don't ask how we got there.
But yet, GBE and MJMEUC chose to not file MJMEUC's testimony as part of GBE's direct testimony last summer. Instead, they chose to keep it under wraps until January, when opposing parties would have only 30 days to analyze and respond to it. GBE and MJMEUC pretend this is perfectly innocent, and that MJMEUC filed its testimony at its first opportunity -- the deadline for rebuttal testimony. It simply wasn't legally allowed to file earlier. Umm... deadline? A deadline to file testimony means the last possible opportunity. A deadline does not prevent an earlier filing. In fact, MJMEUC could have filed its "rebuttal" testimony at any time prior to the deadline. But filing it on the deadline narrowed the window of time available to the other parties to respond to it. Your unsportsmanlike actions are plain for all to see, GBE. So, if GBE believes MJMEUC is its saving grace for this application, and MJMEUC's contract is such a wonderful, transparent attempt to save ratepayers money, why is it trying to shield it from scrutiny? And what does this say about whose interests MJMEUC is really representing at this point? A really good deal for the electric consumers MJMEUC is supposed to serve should be able to shine in the sun, not be hidden under layers of confidentiality and legal dirty tricks. If I was an electric customer in any of those cities, I'd be distinctly suspicious. It's clear that GBE will do anything and toss anyone under the bus in order to get its project approved. Must be a lot of money in it for someone.