Saturday, August 20, 2016

Michael Skelly and the Rock Island is Denied in Illinois

Hey Mike,
Bummer about losing that appeal for RICL at the Illinois Appellate Court with 3 judges upholding the law.  After all that lobbying, it came down Appellate judges saying RICL fails to meet the Public Utilities Act.  It's interesting Clean Line hasn't updated their website.  It still lists RICL as "APPROVED" in November 2014.    It must really be a downer on McKinney street in Houston,  knowing it's back to square one and all. 
Rock Island Clean Line is Denied !

It's also interesting to see no quotes from Michael Skelly about this huge setback. Clean Line has been a master of press releases and spinning little inconsequential tidbits in their favor. 

The recent "waiver"  Clean Line "won" in Missouri is a good example.    This "win"  is only because GBE either screwed up or intentionally tried to cut the landowners out of the required 60 day notification.  Perhaps the Hillary rule applies here.   It's not an ethics violation when the company can claim incompetence.  Then it can be spun as winning a "waiver"..... Whatever.  Call it what it is.... It reminds me of a couple other "wins" that were overblown.
A good example was "Clean Line Energy has come to an agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture for an Ag Mitigation Agreement".... So?    Looking back an AMA was largely irrelevant to the big picture,  but Skelly did good spinning it into a big hurdle.

Having press releases and news stories proclaiming Plains & Eastern Clean Line has achieved FERC "approval"  was another.   Calling it FERC's "consent" to negotiate rates would has been more accurate. What made that laughable was when the press release and stories ran again a couple years later after CLEP asked FERC for more liberal restrictions.     It wasn't a new deal.  It wasn't approval. It was a plead to FERC because CLEP couldn't sign up energy generation companies at the original agreement.
Now that CLEP was DENIED in Illinois of the Rock Island Clean Line,  it is just as interesting to see Michael Skelly's silence.   It's also painfully silent that there is a federal lawsuit in Arkansas and Oklahoma for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line.    Insurrection like that must be depressing for venture capital companies. 

It is telling about Skelly's management philosophy.   When it's good news,  he wants his name in the papers next to the quote.    He wants his name found with positive Google searches.   

The Skelly Rules for Working with the Media

1.  Don't send out press releases for bad news.
2.  Delegate bad news quotes  to the grunts two or three rungs down on the corporate ladder.   Don't have your name found on the internet with bad news.
3.  Be the frontline leader when it is good news to announce to the press.
Way to go Mike!  That is classic corporate leadership from the rear.    Delegate the bad and take credit for the good.  You always have to look out for your own future first.

Going forward,  it looks like Skelly has three options with RICL.

Option 1. 
You could give up and move on.   Of course,  you're getting paid by Ziff,  National Grid,  and whoever money behind this Bluescape to "develop" these projects and secure the easements. Surrender isn't much of an option of you still want a paycheck.
Yeah,  that bonus money to sell the project to National Grid after the easements are secured goes to zero if you quit now. Sucks for you and the vested partners at Clean Line.

Option 2.
CLEP could appeal this  ruling to deny RICL public utility status to the Illinois Supreme Court.   The big dollar Chicago attorney would probably think BILLABLE HOURS with little chance the court touches the issue.

The boys and girls at Team Clean Line are probably stewing over the Appellate's logic. It's only natural to be down.   You lost and most likely Team CLEP is so emotionally tied (really financial tied is more accurate ) to the issue they can't see the truth is obvious.
The problem with RICL's argument is there's no written commitment now or  forever into perpetuity from Clean Line to serve Illinois ratepayers. Sure there would be a converter station in Grundy County to convert direct current back to Alternating Current to constitute as a facility of sorts,  but dumping 3,500 megawatts of energy into the Chicagoland market doesn't mean there is a commitment to serve Illinois ratepayers.

Just having an "expert" witness stating this should reduce Illinois energy rates doesn't help much.    Deregulation is largely a failure as states are moving back towards regulated rates. Even wind corporations live and die by 20 year Power Purchasing Agreements. There is no guarantee that the proposed RICL project will benefit Illinois ratepayers.

Sure, the boys and girls in Houston can say Illinois laws are old fashioned and can work with modern energy companies. Illinois ratepayers would disagree.   Illinois Public Utility Act is written very clear to prevent Fly-by-Night Hustlers who want to take advantage of Illinois Landowners,  ratepayers, and residents.

Option 3.   
Clean Line Energy Partners llc could reapply to the ICC and go back to square one again.  This option will cost a bundle. 

MacBride has served them well as their lawyer in Illinois before the Illinois Commerce Commission, but they surly haven't been cheap.   CLEP's attorney's paper work has been volumous, and that means billable hours, and that means expensive lawyer expenses for Clean Line.

Is Houston interested in playing Double-or-Nothing?

I'm sure MacBride would be willing to continue  representing Clean Line if someone continues writing the checks.  Clean Line's big dollar Chicago attorney has done an honorable job representing this client.   It's probably not easy  attempting to make this turd of a company look good,  but there is only so much he can do.

How many times has the hired attorneys been overruled by Clean Line's in house lawyers and pushed to hard?  I get the sense Clean Line is a client that has trouble listening to their attorney's advice.  When this is done and finally finished,  I'd love to hear MacBride's stories about the arrogance of Clean Line,  but client hubris is probably covered under attorney client privileges.

This has gone on for over four years.   What was this docket started at the ICC?  2012?  Counting the original docket at the ICC,  this has been in the works for since 2010.  Do you think the folks at the Illinois Commerce Commission are tired of the boys and girls from Clean Line yet?  



In the mean time, change your website.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Jimmy Glotfelty, Habitual Bifurcator

Let’s talk about Jimmy Glotfelty, the habitual bifurcator. 

Bifurcation is splitting a process into two parts.  The Iowa Utility Board has denied the Rock Island Clean Line request to split the process into two parts, not once but twice.  Now Clean Line has made the request for a third time to split the process into two parts. 

Come on, Jimmy.  The law is the law.  No other real utility has had a problem with the transmission siting process in Iowa. Should Iowa legislatures write public utility laws to conform RICL’s desired business model? 

Seriously, this is ridiculous.  Clean Line suspends its work in Iowa and has its public relation machine put out stories that it is circling its wagons.  A week later Clean Line makes a third request to split up the process of approval into two parts again. 

When does “NO MEAN NO?” How many times will Clean Line request this be split in two parts?  How many ways will RICL rephrase "bifurcation"?

Iowa has made it fairly clear the process of transmission siting cannot be split into two parts. The law is the law.  If Clean Line wants to remake the law, then work within the legislation process and circumvent Iowa residents to make the process suitable for Clean Line Energy Partners llc. 

Kinda wonder what else “Jimmy the Bifurcator” likes to split into two parts.   Maybe he is a chronic bifurcator and has to split everything into two parts.    He’s probably the kind of guy who eats all his vegetables before eating his meat.

Jimmy Glotfelty, Gallant Gallstone … and Registered Bifurcator

It’s getting a bit tiresome and sickening reading how Clean Line Energy claims to be so “gallant” in attempts to provide “clean” energy and wants to build privately owned for-profit transmission lines.  It’s a for profit powerline with a desire to obtain right of ways at the lowest price to maximize profits.  There’s nothing gallant about it.   This entire process of opposing Clean Line is probably more comparable to a gallstone, being uncomfortable at best, painful and causing worry in many.   At best, Clean Line is a gallant gallstone.  It’s a gallstone that thinks it is the center of the body.  It’s a gallstone that believe the body is there to serve its needs. 

Two interesting things happened last week.  The appeal of the Illinois Commerce Commission ruling that the Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) is granted public utility status under 8-406 of the Public Utility Act held oral arguments at the Third District Court of Appeals in Ottawa, Illinois.  RICL was granted approval by the ICC under 8-406 but denied under 8-503.  The latter is the road to eminent domain.  Ironically, the qualifications in the written law are to same and mystifying how the ICC can approve one and deny the other. 

While briefs and such have been filed, the oral arguments before the three judges was an interesting sparring match.   The Illinois Land Owners Association, Illinois Farm Bureau and Exelon were opposing RICL’s attorney.  The ICC attorney was in a tough position in the middle.  The ICC attorney clearly didn’t want to make any forward focused statements supporting RICL’s intentions.  Unfortunately for the ICC attorney, all Clean Line has is intentions.  They own nothing that can be considered a public utility.   

This placed the ICC attorney in a very awkward position.  Even more awkward, The Illinois Landowners Alliance, Farm Buruea, and Exelon are opposing the ICC decision, and not directly Clean Line’s llc. 

While the oral arguments are only a small part of the case and process of the appeal, my personal opinion is things went well for the residents of Illinois.  RICL’s request for approval under 8-503 died at the ICC and Clean Line did not choose to appeal that decision.  In my personal opinion there is a very good chance the Appellate Court will deny RICL’s request for Public Utility Status under 8-406. 

Arguments lasted about an hour fifteen minutes or so.  Here are some quotes from the oral arguments.  Each side had about 15 minutes to present their arguments with a final fifteen minutes for a rebuttal from the attorney representing the ILA, IFB, and Exelon. 

Attorney representing those groups opposing RICL
Rock Island got the certificate a year ago.  They haven’t even filed the purported financing documents that are supposed to be filed in the future.  They weren’t a utility then.  They aren’t one now, and they didn’t commit to ever be one.

They would not commit to ever building the project.  In fact they would only build the project in the words of their CFO “if it could find adequate market financing and that market financing would depend on whether or not that project would make profitable sense at some point in the future.

Judge:  Rock Island is not operating as a utility…
Attorney: No where.  No where.  No where in the world.

But the point is, that in Mississippi River (Fuel Corporation), there was assets, there were customers, that there was utility service, but because there was no pledge to serve the public, even that caused the Illinois Supreme Court to rule that it wasn’t a utility.   Here there are none of the six characteristics apply and again there is no commitment, no promise, no pledge to ever have them apply. 

You don’t grant a license to someone who doesn’t qualify in the hope or belief that years down the road they may be retroactively be qualified. 

ICC Attorney
This is a good example why we are all here.  This case is certainly unusual and bordering on unprecedented.

RICL Attorney
Iowa is a little strange.  ….In Iowa they seem to require you to go out and acquire the land and ask for eminent domain first and then present to the commission whether your project is needed and an appropriate transmission project.
Judge:  And your think that is strange?
Well it is just unusual in my experience.  When you look at it, why should it be an important issue, argue about getting eminent domain on someone’s property when the utility board hasn’t even ruled that you have a project that meets the criteria under our statute for being a public utility project.   

So ah, I don’t represent Rock Island in the Iowa proceedings, but it is my understanding that they are spending considerable amount of time with the commission trying to come up with a procedure that will result in the commission first deciding that the project is what we would call a Certificate…I don’t know what they call it there…and then addresses eminent domain so that it would be more consistent with Illinois …and both states together…so that there is a procedure in file that its…I would say it is moving forward but slowly attempting to resolve this sort of threshold.

Attorney representing those opposing RICL
To quote their president from the record,  “If the project wasn’t worth investing any further, then we would abandon it.”
From there CFO Mr. Berry “Rock Island will not be able to proceed with the construction of the project in the absence of sufficient transmission contracts to support the financing necessary to construct the project.”   That’s the financing they don’t have.  Neither of those things has happened and unlike every other utility including Ameren Transmission Company, they make no pledge to ever serve anyone. 

Even the 25% is an auction.  Highest bidder wins.  Everyone else is left without service.  That is not serving the public.  Now with respect to Ameren in particular, I also want to point out that Ameren started by building one line.  That line was built jointly according to the Commission’s order …. Makes clear that is was going funded, constructed, and operated in conjunction with Ameren IP, the existing utility, and it committed to build the project to serve Illinois customers, which Rock Island does not.  

So we briefly talked about the financing.  However useful that condition is, it is a future condition and it can’t ever replace a statutory requirement.  In 8-406B requires a showing of present capability and there isn’t.  It is not, I submit, the kind of case that warrants expanding, twisting , and disregarding the plain language of the statute.

Seriously, this entire RICL thing is getting old.   Time for this gallstone to be removed.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jimmy Glotfelty, Snowball, and Pete Domenici

Every now and then something is written and sometime later the author author looks like an oracle.  The author probably asks themselves the question “Did I write that?” as the relevance at the time of writing was small and weak, but after aging a bit, the relevance increases dramatically.   This is the beauty of writing commentary on the internet.  Comments, statements, opinions are saved on the internet and allowed to age and mature.  

Some guy named “SNOWBALL” wrote this blog over 8 years ago.  It probably went unnoticed at the time with few readers who yawned and said “WHATEVER”.  Today this little blog speaks volumes.  Snowball deserves an honorable mention somewhere for this blog.   Maybe no one else sees the relevance of the blog, but WOW!  He called it correctly.

Who was Snowball? Not a clue.  The name is an obvious Orwellian reference to Animal Farm.  It’s probably a popular internet name.  That’s probably the beauty of the name.  It’s more untraceable.

Why did he choose to make commentary out of Jimmy Glotfelty’s testimony before Congress?  With hours of testimony before the Senate Energy Committee, Snowball chose to comment on one little softball question asked by Senator Pete Domenici to Jimmy Glotfelty. 

It was a question the Senator asked out of left field.  It had nothing to do with the subject of the 2003 Blackout, but was evident the Senator or s someone Senator’s campaign wanted the statement made at a Senate Committee hearing.

If any professional reporters in the media wrote about Jimmy’s testimony before the Senate committee, they surely wrote about the 2003 blackout.  This small question and comment went unnoticed by the pros, but not old Snowball.  He wrote his commentary on the internet.  8 years later in 2012, Snowball’s commentary looks like he had incredible insight into the world around him.
Who is Snowball?  Was he an expert on national energy policy?  Snowball is probably just a guy.  Maybe he is just the equivalent to a farmboy from Arkansas.  He’s probably not a genius or expert on the energy industry, but for a brief moment in February of 2004 he was a bit of a visionary and saw the road this nation was headed impulsive reactions to the energy situation of the first days of the 21 century.
Thank you Snowball.
Thank you.  Here’s SNOWBALL’S blog from over 10 years ago.


After the blackout of the summer of '03, Mr. Bush used the crisis as an opportunity to end public control over electricity and utility companies - "by repealing the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA) and providing increased rates of return on new transmission investments."

In the next several weeks, the Bush-Cheney energy bill will come to the floor of the Senate for a vote, which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) says will pass easily.

The Bush-Cheney energy bill includes a provision that would repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act.

In 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote "A Recommendation for the Regulation of Public Utility Holding Companies" to members of Congress, in which he warned, "Through the device of these pyramided holding companies, small groups of men with a disproportionately small investment were able to dominate and to manage solely in their own interest tremendous capital investments of other people's money."

The major networks and cable news shows have been largely silent on the energy bill; perhaps they've been too busy informing the American public of the latest in the Martha Stewart trial or the trouble in Haiti. If they do report on it, they say that the energy bill's been delayed "over a partisan debate on MTBE", a gasoline additive widely believed to be toxic and environmentally hazardous.

Earlier this week on Feb. 24, power groups were in Washington, DC attacking PUHCA in hearings on the reliability of the electric grid.

Jimmy Glotfelty, director of the Office of Electric Transmission and Distribution in the Department of Energy said, "I just spent two days meeting with investment bankers ... and time and time again we heard that repeal of PUHCA was necessary for more investment."
Phillip G. Harris, president and chief executive of PJM Interconnection, and James P. Torgerson, president and chief executive of Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc., told Energy Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M.that eliminating PUHCA "would boost industry investment".

In 1938, Roosevelt was writing to Congress again about the corporate abuses of power and said, "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism... ownership of government by an individual, for a group, or any controlling private power."