Sunday, December 29, 2013

You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

Fortunately for Hans Detweiler, he didn't wet himself while testifiying at the ICC.  Nevertheless, I suspect he made quite an impression while representing RICL.
With his cross examination at the ICC earlier this month, Hans Detweiler very likely went a long way in making a poor first impression at the ICC hearing.  His cross examination by the ComEd attorney was interesting.  After reading the transcript, it’s very apparent Detweiler’s goal with the ComEd attorney was not about making a good first impression; it was about refusing to give proper answers, being argumentative, or just plain being a smartass.  Maybe he didn’t know it, but this wasn’t a high school political science debate.

A perfect example of Detweiler’s lack of respect for the process was at the end of the ComEd attorney’s cross examination and Detweiler suggests to the judge this would be a good time for a 5 minute bathroom break.  The judge went off the record.  We don’t know what was said but no reference was made to a bathroom break when the transcript continues.  From reading transcripts and watching the second week of the hearing it is obvious etiquette that the witness does not suggest a break.  The attorneys might suggest it or preferably the judge makes the decision on his own accord but only Hans Detweiler is so bold to say;

Your Honor, just before we start, this is a little bit after lunch and maybe five minutes for a restroom break? I don't know how long your questions are.

And let's not forget as reported by by BlockRICL Facebook, Hans was chewing and swallowing a cookie while being sworn in to testify. 
One of the best cross examinations of Hans Detweiler came from the Farm Bureau attorney, Chuck Davis.  From what I can gather, The Farm Bureau attorneys played a smaller role in RICL’s hearing at the ICC, but Farm Bureau’s questioning of Detweiler about Right of Way’s, damages, and easements was very likely key.  Davis did a great job showing the company’s inexperience in dealing with a ROW easement and paying for damages. 

It’s also interesting to see Detweiler gave out much more information to the Farm Bureau attorney.  Maybe Detweiler didn’t respect Davis as the adversary he saw with the ComEd attorney.   He wasn’t as argumentative.  Maybe in his arrogance, Detweiler wanted to show how much he knew about the construction process.  Narcissists do like to show how smart they are and fail to realize their ignorance.   Whatever the reason was, Hans gave out too much information to Chuck Davis.

We’ll get a copy of the exchange between Davis and Detweiler here in a couple of days.  There was one other interesting observation about Detweiler in the second week of testimony.  No one from Team RICL would sit next to him.  Clean Line had maybe about 12 people at the hearing and used the left half of the seats.  The front row was full of Clean Line people.  The back row was full of Clean Line people (and myself in the back inside corner).  Clean Line people would take the seats on the outside of the rows. 

Hans would sit in the center of Team RICL but everyone appeared to avoid him like a leper.  There was always plenty of empty seats around him.  It’s more than just Mayberry that doesn’t care to be helping Hans.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Michael Skelly Explains "Rock Island Wind Line LLC"

Just remember what they keep telling us! "Rock Island Clean Line is not a wind energy company."  Okey-Dokey.  Just keep telling us that and maybe a newspaper somewhere will repeat it.  

So what is Rock Island Wind Line LLC?  Here's Michael Skelly explanation earlier this month at the ICC.   WHATEVER ROCK ISLAND WIND LINE IS, IT'S NOT A WIND ENERGY COMPANY!  Right...wink-wink.

ComEd Attorney Q. Okay. And Rock Island Wind Line LLC -- is that an -- does that entity have any operating role?
Michael Skelly A. No.

ComEd Attorney Q. What is the function of that entity, if you could describe it?
Michael Skelly A. Just give me -- if you don't mind directing me to the --

ComEd Attorney Q. Oh, sure. It's the attachment to your direct testimony or Rock Island Exhibit 1.1. It's that flow chart of the entities or organizational structure. Do you need me to repeat the question?
Michael Skelly  A. No. No. I understand the question. I am not a hundred percent sure; so I will defer to my colleague Dave Berry.

ComEd Attorney Q. Okay. As far as you know, it has no active role in management or operation of Rock Island?
Michael Skelly A. I'll defer to my colleague, if that's okay.

ComEd Attorney Q. That's fine. Is that because you don't -- you're not sure?
Michael Skelly A. I'm not sure.

ComEd Attorney Q. I believe you, in responding to another question, indicated that Clean Line was formed approximately four-and-a-half years ago; is that correct?
Michael Skelly A. Correct.

I wished someone would have asked Dave Barry about Rock Island Wind LLC.  It amazes me how many time "Ask Dave Barry" was the response.  It's better than the old standard "I don't recall" when the question is too uncomfortable to answer.  When the transcript from the second week of Clean Line comes out, maybe we can create a montage of the questions where the response was "Ask Dave Barry."

Actually, I think we can have some fun with this the when Team Clean Line gives testimonies in Iowa.  Every time someone answers a question with "Ask Dave Barry", we all shove a cookie in our mouths.  Whoever can make it to the end of the day without a stomachache or a headache from the sugar survives for the next round and day of testimony.  We'll start with Chocolate Chip,. Day two White Chocolate Macadamia Nuts.  Day three frosted sugar cookies. 

Then again, maybe Michael Skelly will do his homework for Iowa and know what the intended purpose of Rock Island Wind LLC. and some of the other companies with no employees at Clean Line Energy Partners.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Michael Skelly and Jimmy Glotfelty as "The Producers"

I do have an appreciation for the classics.  Christmas night I saw a classic movie that reminded me of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC.  No, not "It's a Wonderful Life" or Matt Damon's "Promisedland.  This movie one an Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1967.   This movie that draws several compairsons to  Clean Line Energy is Gene Wilder in the 1967 movie “The Producers”.

Am I the only one who sees a similarity between the Gene Wilder in "The Producers" (the old Mel Brooks comedy) and Michael Skelly (CEO of Clean Line Energy Partners)?  Besides the Willie-Wonka outfit, the blue suit, and the hair.

OK so one guy plays a Broadway producer that desires to produce a surefire flop and runoff with the investors' money and the other guy pretends be an energy company executive desiring to build a Merchant Transmission Line across Iowa and Illinois.  One steals the savings of old retired ladies and the other attempts to swindle landowners out of easements for a speculation project.

 If you get a chance, watching the movie, you’ll get a shiver when you see Gene Wilder and you’ll say "Holy crap that's Skelly!"  If it weren’t for the fact that Clean Line Energy Partners LLC was attempting to railroad this powerline across over 12,600, this company would be every bit the comedy by Mel Brooks.

So next time you see the old Mel Brooks satirical dark comedy about swindles, think “The Michael Skelly Story”.

It's not easy making a successful Broadway play or a successful startup in the energy business.  You have to be really really smart to be successful as a Broadway producer and the as a Houston energyCEO.

It's not much easier being really really stupid and making a flop or keeping a failed business model appear to be a legitimate business either.   In the end, both are exposed as a success or failure.

And Illinois consumers continue to question and dig deeper into this company.  It's competence and legitimacy becomes more and more questionable.

Now that I think of it, Jimmy Glotfelty also does bear a resemblance to Zero Mostel (Gene Wilder's partner in "The Producers).  Mel Brooks made a great satirical dark comedy about businessmen wanting to make failure.

The more I think about Clean Line Energy Parnters LLC after the ICC testimonies, I have to ask myself are the gang at Clean Line intentionally making a flop and trying to get state rejection.  To put it another way, for every state that has approved Clean Line as a public utility, just how low is their standards?  How much more inept does a company have to be to be rejected by a state?

Clean Line wants a right of way for less than market value of easements for utilities.  Clean Line wants to pay damages on one quarter of the right of way width.  Clean Line wants the wind energy companies ot pay for their services whether the wind blows or not.  Skelly can't even tell the court what some of the shell companies under the Clean Line Energy Partners LLC umbrella do.   Clean Line doesn't have the money to make it through 2014 without asking for more from the investors.  Clean Line claims to be an energy company but has options to sell all their projects preconstructional.  Skelly once said to enter this kind of business you have to be really smart or really stupid.  Judge for yourself, but I'm leaning to really stupid.  Maybe Skelly's goal is to be the next Enron, a Houston Energy company flop.  There's something weird here.  They just don't act like a real energy company.

Edit 12/26/13 8:52 pm
RICL'd the high school musical is going to need a bimbo.   Keep it clean, but all great Mel Brooks works have a bimbo.   So basically a creative liberty is going to have to be made and somebody is going to have to be made to fit the part for this dark satirical comedy.  Our choices are limited and the bimbo role has to imply a singularity in purpose.   Dave Berry is out.  He has too much information.  This part has to be someone who has one known sole purpose to metaphorically be the bimbo (some with only one special purpose to the organization).  It needs to be some one who works from the main office and is not tied to one project.    So Hans is out.  He's out in the field.  This role is a Houston person.  Houston let me know if you have any ideas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Odd Relationahip Between Clean Line & National Grid

I'm not exactly feeling the love between Clean Line Energy and National Grid.  Maybe National Grid just doesn't like Clean Line Energy as much as Michael Skelly would like everyone to think.  No, I don't think they're getting a divorce but I seriously doubt Clean Line and National Grid are sharing the same bed anymore.
After reading the cross examination testimonies from Michael Skelly and Wynters from National Grid, I get the sense of conflicting versions.  Skelly wants to give the impression Clean Line Energy and National Grid are best of buddies. 

Listen to Wynter from National Grid and you get the sense that National Grid doesn’t really want to be associated with Clean Line Energy and National Grid is more a silent investor who uses the subsidiary Grid America to distance themselves from Clean Line. 

So if National Grid is a close and trusted advisor to this speculation company or is National Grid embarrassed by Clean Line and is distancing its association?

Looks to me like Skelly is attempting to make more of the relationship between the two companies.  I suspect Skelly wants Illinois to think there is technical and engineering knowledge behind Clean Line brought to the table by National Grid. 

National Grid doesn’t want to liable for Clean Line na├»ve foolery and makes every attempt to distance themselves from Clean Line.  If National Grid shows to be more than just an investor they could be liable for Clean Line’s mistakes.  What do they call it…”Plausible deniability”, the act of withholding information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities became public knowledge?

So which is it?  Are these companies best of friends or is National Grid a distant silent investor…with an option to buy RICL once the easement is gained? 

Perhaps National Grid realizes the management of Clean Line Energy Partners are not the kind of business associated NG wants to be in a partnership together and wants a distance relationship.  Maybe Clean Line management just isn't as smart as they want to appear.  It is fair to ask the question "Just how much advisement is National Grid giving Clean Line Energy?"  I'm guessing it's not much beyond the signature on the check. 

Below are some exerts of Michael Skelly and Rudolph Wynter of National Grid.  The Farm Bureau attorney and COmEd’s Attorney did great job in their questioning.

Farm Bureau Cross Examination of Michael Skelly
Farm Bureau Attorney Q. You make reference in your surrebuttal testimony -- on line 160, you say, "Additionally, our investor, National Grid, is an experienced developer, construction manager, owner and operator of transmission lines, including HVDC facilities, and has extensive contacts in the utility construction industry."

There's other testimony about sort of the advice and management of things that you're going to be getting from National Grid. Why don't you -- could you provide a little more explanation on how that's going to work?

Michael Skelly A. Yeah. So National Grid, as you'll hear from Mr. Wynter tomorrow, is one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the world. They have extensive experience building projects in the northeastern United States, in the UK, and in other locales. And they deal with the issues -- many of the issues that we deal with from tower design to foundations to conductors, insulators.

They also have a lot expertise with HVDC technology, which they've deployed in Asia as well -- I'm sorry -- in New Zealand as well as in the UK and in the northeastern United States.

So they have a lot of experience in this particular realm, and they're building some of those larger HVDC projects in the world right now.

So we regularly interact with them and talk to them about different technical issues that we're working through, and we find it very helpful to have the experience of somebody who has -- who has a lot of experience in this area.

Farm Bureau Attorney Q. And so it's true that they're just providing general advice as the business goes along in a multitude of issues, it sounds like?

Michael Skelly A. Well, it's more than general advice. It's very, very specific advice in terms of how to deal with very specific technical issues and how to deal with the quality issues, et cetera. So it's not general. It's very specific.

Comed's cross examination of National Grid's Rudolph Wynter

ComEd Attorney Q. Mr. Wynter, your testimony goes into great detail about National Grid's business, doesn't it?
Mr. Wynter A. Yes, it does.

ComEd Attorney Q. And National Grid's extensive experience with high voltage transmission lines?
Mr. Wynter A. That is correct.

ComEd Attorney Q. And National Grid's experience in building, owning and operating high voltage transmission lines in the US, UK and Europe?
Mr. Wynter A. In the US and the UK. Not in Europe.

ComEd Attorney Q. National Grid does not provide assistance to Clean Line under any consulting or similar agreement, does it?
Mr. Wynter A. No, it does not.

ComEd Attorney Q. And it is a company called Grid America Holdings, LLC that actually wrote the check to Clean Line in this case, right?
Mr. Wynter A. Grid America Holdings is a subsidiary that we use as an investment vehicle.


ComEd Attorney Q. Your testimony does not discuss a single project constructed, managed or operated by Grid America Holdings, does it?
Mr. Wynter A. No, it does not.

ComEd Attorney Q. In fact, your testimony doesn't discuss that company at all except for the fact that it's the company that wrote the check?
Mr. Wynter A. That is correct.

ComEd Attorney Q. Now, Grid America has contributed $25 million to date to Clean Line, right?
Mr. Wynter A. That is correct.