Last Thursday night there was a rather interesting meeting in Grundy County . The county board held a workshop to look into the proposed 85% tax abatement for the Rock Island Clean Line converter station. This station will switch the direct current back to traditional alternating current. From the proposed Channahon conversion station, there would be a single 756kv single powerline across the Illinois River to the switch yard at the Olde Collins generation station.
Tactically, it was a most interesting meeting to watch. The county board members were aggressive in their questioning and it was probably one of the most uncomfortable meeting for RICL's Amy Kurt. By the end of the 3 hour workshop, it was becoming aparent Grundy County has grown a bit wherry of the "Give us everything we want or we will go to Kendall County" attitude.
During Kurt's presentation, she made a very specific point. No one objected to the proposed route presented before the Illinois Commerce Commission. While it was implied, this did not mean the proposed route was without objection, but the entire route was the objection. As Kurt explained, there is no alternate routes. The proposed route is set and final. Yes, this was perceived by me at least as a "rub it in your face" point.
This turned out to be a big pile of do-do for RICL and Amy Kurt. As the workshop continued, there was a constant latent reminder that Kendall County in only a half mile away from the proposed finalized route. If RICL doesn't get everything they want with an 85% abatement of property taxes, the company will be forced to consider placing the converter station in Kendall County.
By the end, some board members were becoming offended by the constant threat of going to Kendall County. Supposedly, Kendall County taxes mechanical equipment at a substantially lesser rate than Grundy County. It was even questioned if Clean Line Energy Partners LLC had even had discussion with Kendall County or the prospects whether Kendall residents would even want this project in their county.
Later in the evening, another speaker from the opposition of RICL explained to the Grundy County Board that if the route were changed for the converter station to be placed in Kendall County, docket 12-0560 (RICL's application to the ICC) would likely have to be withdrawn and Clean Line Energy Partners, LLC would have to start from square one with a third docket. (Clean Line has already withdrawn their application once with a do-over.)
When a board member asked RICL's Amy Kurt is that was true, would a new docket have to be applied, she speculated the company would probably be able to file a supplemental docket for just the small change in route. My guess the change would amount to 6 miles or so into Kendal County with a converter station just before the AC line heads south in Grundy to utilize the original proposed route as much as possible. This is where the do-do really started to get messy for Amy Kurt.
First, this is another example where RICL so often wants to change the rules to suit them. She was very explicit that the route will not be changed. The company offered no alternate routes and at this point it would be too late for the public to suggest an alternate. Amy Kurt and Clean Line continues to attempt to sell us on the idea that the company can change agreements , like the route to get a better tax deal in Kendall County. No they can't.
How does Clean Line think the ICC would view this theoretical new docket? Hypothetically if the ICC were to approve Docket 12-0560 and Grundy County declined the 85% tax abatement, RICL would then apply for a supplemental docket before the ICC for a change in the route so they can avoid paying their property taxes in Grundy County. All it would take would be for one affected Kendall County property owner to appeal 12-0560 by claiming they were disenfranchised of their right to oppose RICL and 12-0560 before the ICC. If 12-0560 were to be approved, it would be argued a supplemental docket for a change in the route through Kendall County to avoid the company's fair share of property taxes would be a formality.
It would be quite ironic if the ICC were to actually approved RICL only for the federal appellate court to throw it out because RICL wanted a last minute route change. Like Amy Kurt explained, the proposed route for ICC Docket 12-0560 is final. No new evidence can be submitted to the ICC, like a change in the route.
This is just another example of RICL wanting to change the rules to suit them. The mayor of the village of Channahon argues we must agree to stick to agreements. This is largely the problem with the Rock Island Clean Line. This company does not stick to agreements.
"This transmission line will follow the Rock Island railroad" Oops. Somebody else owns that easement.
"RICL will follow property lines." Oops. there is already a pipeline up to the property line. Now we find ourselves with RICL being proposed to go through fields
"Grundy County Board has voted to approve RICL" That was another whooper streched by Clean Line.
"RICL is a "Merchant Transmission Line" and ratepayers will not pay for this powerline through their power bills." While RICL was telling that whooper, they were asking grid operators for ratepayer to pay for this powerline.
"Monopoles will be used if the landowner perfers." Yeah, it took a lot for the Illinois Department of Agriculture to force RICL to follow through on that one.
If Grundy County Board votes not to approve the 85% tax abatement for RICl, then good. It will send a message. It will tell future projects desiring to come through the county to stick by the claims told to the public. Agree to follow agreements has been the downfall of RICL and Clean Line Energy. It's only fitting that a county were to change its opinion and reject support for this project.
This is not how a real public utility conducts business, not even in Illinois. This is how a speculation company tries to railroad a project through that the public does not want.
It will be interesting how the county board votes on this matter. Will they approve the abatement, reject the abatement, or vote to table the abatement until the ICC makes a decision. It would be daring for the county to vote down the 85% abatement. Dare RICL to go talk to Kendall County. This wouldn't mean a rejection of RICL, just a rejection of giving the company an 85% discount on paying their property taxes. It's not like the company will be supplying 50 new jobs within the county.
***More quotes from this meeting will follow. Kurt had some great quotes that would make Skelly cringe, but then again, Skelly has had some classic quotes.***