Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jayshree, RICL, and Eminent Domain

Recently communications were traded with Hans Detweiler of RICL through the Morris Daily Herald.  He was told the time for civility has ended as our patience has worn thin.  The time for the truth from RICL is long overdue.    It would be much better for Micheal Skelly, the President of RICL, to come to Illinois and address our concerns in person.  We could hold open forums or town hall meeting at the Mendota High School and other gymnasiums, but Mr. Skelly probably doesn't have an interest in coming back to Northern Illinois.  Here is some truth RICL would rather not be known. 
RICL has stated there is no desire in using eminent domain and no intention of using it to acquire land rights from 12,000 acres of landowners.  While RICL would much rather have the land rights be given to them for free, it is absolutely not true.   RICL has wants public utlity status in Illinois and the power eminent domain offers. 

Jayshree Desai is the Executive Vice President of Operations for Clean Line Energy Partners.  It is ironic she is the Vice President of Operations when the company has no operations, no wire, no poles, or no towers.   There are no operations, but yet RICL has a Vice President of Operations.  Before VP of Operations, she worked with Michael Skelly at Horizon Wind Energy and before that, she was the former ENRON director of Mergers and Acquisitions.  

At Clean Line Energy, Jayshree has been lobbying Washington and the Department of Energy for granting eminent domain powers.  Here's the link to the letter.  It’s worth reading. 

 She believes powerlines such as the RICL project are too big and authority should be taken away from Illinois and the ICC.  She has asked the Department of Energy to take the authority and the power to grant eminent domain away from states and give it to the Department of Energy or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  

 Clean Line Energy believes projects such RICL should not be burdened with proof that it will benefit the residents of a state, such as Illinois.  

  Desai wrote;

                “Without federal siting authority, Clean Line is proceeding with state-by-state permitting and sitting, often forced to utilize out-of-date, ill-fitting statues.  Existing state statutes and regulations are often not designed for multi-state, or inter-regional projects like those being developed by Clean Line, and may prove insufficient to the task”

She went on to write;

                “…requirements that local/state utility –customers be “served” by the project may inhibit siting of beneficial regional projects.”

The problem arises when those sacrificing for utility transmission projects (farmers and landowners) are the customers and the state residents.  Typically, state residents are not asked to sacrifice their property and land for a project that only benefits the residents of other states.  RICL and its sister projects are attempting to claim a project is worthy of siting and eminent domain in a specific state because another state or another region several states away benefits.  However, there is no federal agency setup to determine if a project is worthy of siting because the project might be “beneficial” to another region either.   

“Beneficial” is also an ambiguous term.  Yes, this project is likely “beneficial” to Clean Line Energy or whoever buys this venture capital project.  Yes, this project could be profitable for Clean Line, but venture capital companies don't create projects without the intention of selling it for a profit.  RICL, if successful, will be sold for a profit.  If this happens RICL's owners, Michael Zilkha and the Ziff Bros. will hailed as geniuses or gutsy entrepreneurs.  Unfortunately, the benefit and profit goes to Michael Zilkha.  Perhaps "personal beneficial" is confused with "personal gain" and just plain old "greed".

 Beneficial and profitable to the company does not necessarily mean beneficial to the states the powerline passes through, or even the states of the final consumers.  There are competing projects to RICL.  For instance, Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) is a company proposing a HVDC powerline twice the size of RICL’s to serve the New England states, the final consumer of the energy for the proposed RICL powerline.

AWC is proposing a 7,000 MWh HVDC powerline to be laid in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New England.  Having Washington and their politically climate chose which projects are “beneficial” to New England is not the answer to America’s energy planning.  Washington has a long history of failing to choose correctly.  Solyndra, the bankrupt solar panel company is a perfect example of Washington making project decisions based on political benefits. 

Yet, RICL’s perspective as a venture capital company is Washington politicians know better than state and local communities.  Fortunately, existing state statutes are designed specifically to protect the interest  of the consumers and residents of the state.   If this responsibility was taken by the federal government, the interests of the consumers, residents and landowners will not be considered.  The interest or lobbyists will prevail.
Is it really a good idea for Washington to decide what is best for the farmland of Illinois?  

Do we dare trust Washington bureaucrats and politicians with such power?  

It would be an absolute mistake.  No one would represent us.  No one would look for the best interests of Illinois landowners or residents.    Only a company like RICL who wants the easiest route to the power of eminent domain would think federal siting authority is a good idea.  

Yes, Michael Skelly and Jayshree Desai should have been honest with the Illinois stakeholders from the starts.  They should have conducted the informational meeting in Illinois instead of relying on HDR Engineering to conduct presentations.  If Jayshree was honest when asked if RICL had filed with the ICC during the Mendota informational meeting, maybe no one would have searched further for the truth about RICL and eminent domain. 

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