Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sec Moniz, Plains & Eastern Clean Line Getting Weird

When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional.

Well things got a little weird on the frontlines of Plains & Eastern Clean Line late Friday afternoon.  It would appear Clean Line Energy Partners and their llc’s are attempting to make this proposed powerline into a circus of a border dispute between Arkansas and Oklahoma by attempting to counter balance the liability of one state versus the alleged financial benefit of others.  Naturally there is little to no financial benefit to residents in Arkansas, so Clean Line is recruiting in Oklahoma. 

Arkansas Senator John Boozman and Senator Tom Cotton, along with Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, plus the entire Arkansas Congressional delegationhave written a letter to the Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz requesting the comment period for the Draft Plains & Eastern Environmental Impact Statement be extended 60 days.  While this was the first project being “developed” by Clean Line Energy Partners llc with assistance from the Department of Energy, stakeholders in Oklahoma and Arkansas are still just learning about it.  As the Senators and Congressmen wrote;

 “We understand the importance of infrastructure projects, including properly-sited transmission lines, but we also believe that potentially-impacted landowners and citizens must be treated fairly and they must have every opportunity to eliminate or minimize impacts before projects are considered. In short, private property rights must be protected.  Accordingly, we request that you provide at least a 60-day extension of the comment period for the Draft EIS and Section 106 process on the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project,” the letter states.

 Sequoyah County Residents are just discovering the intentions of the Department of Energy.  

 “It’s just surprising to us that so many people who are going to be impacted by this project by them (P&E) and have not even been told their property values are going to go down. They’re going to bulldoze your fence lines. They’re going to take your trees. They’re going to be build 150-foot towers,” Steve MacDonald, meeting co-organizer, said. “We need to get the word out. We need everybody here to tell someone to get everybody involved in this because this is not just about us. It’s also about our kids.”

Funny how the Department of Energy can hold stakeholder meeting and not even notify those who are directly affected by this transmission project.  How does this happen?  Clearly, as many who are unaware of this project and just learning about it, more time is needed for comments.

Now, here is where the professionals get weird.  In an interesting twist and perhaps a moment of panic, late Friday Mario Hurtado sent out an email in Oklahoma encouraging Oklahoma residents to write the Department of Energy, Senators, and Congressmen.  The email was titled “Help Bring Jobs & Investment to Oklahoma!”  Here’s what Mario had to say.

Oklahoma has some of the strongest wind resources in the country, but can’t reach its full potential without your help. New electric transmission infrastructure is needed to connect these resources to markets that have a demand for low-cost clean energy. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is determining whether to approve the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project, which will provide a major boost to the Oklahoma economy, spur over $6 billion in new investments in wind energy, and support thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs in Oklahoma. We need your help to move this important project forward and provide economic benefits to Oklahoma now and for generations to come.

Tell DOE and your US Congressman and Senators that you support the Plains & Eastern Clean Line and want to bring jobs and investment to Oklahoma! Here’s three things you can do in less than fifteen minutes:

1.     Sign a support letter today. Your letter will be presented to DOE to encourage their approval of the project.
2.     Contact DOE directly here or via email addressed to
3.     Contact your US Congressman and Senators and tell them that you support the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project because you want to bring jobs and investment to Oklahoma. You can find their contact information here.

Take your support to the next level_ forward this email to your friends and invite them to help bring jobs and investment to Oklahoma! The deadline for submitting a support letter or written comments to DOE is March 19, 2015.

Thank you for your support. Once you have taken action, join our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter, and tell us about your efforts. We would love to hear from you. But, more importantly, we would love to thank you personally!

Key Facts
·   *   New transmission infrastructure is needed to unlock over $6 billion in new investments in wind farms in Oklahoma that could not otherwise be built due to limitations of the existing grid.
·   These investments will support thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs and create opportunities for local businesses in Oklahoma.
·         The project involves no federal dollars and there is no risk to taxpayers.
·   *  The project will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to counties and communities that host the project.
·   *  An extensive review process has been followed to route the transmission line so that it avoids and minimizes any major environmental impacts.
·         *Fair and market-based payments will be made to landowners for easements, including the opportunity for one-time or annual payments for any transmission structures.

There are some Key Facts neglected by Clean Line.
· *     This transmission is not needed.  The lights will not go out if this project is not built.  New generation is being built in the TVA region that does not require over 700 miles of transmission. 
· *     High paying energy generation jobs will be displaced by lower paying jobs outside the TVA region.
· *     For ratepayers, the cost of this energy will be greater than new generation built inside the TVA region to replace outdated generation.
· *       A passive review process has neglected to inform people Clean Line intends to build a privately owned powerline across their homes.
· *       Payments are being offered to landowners and after the easements are obtained with the assistance of federal eminent domain from the Department of Energy, Clean Line intends to sell the project once the easements are obtained.
· *      Any negative comments left at the Facebook pages Clean Line Energy Partners and its LLC’s will be deleted.  Only comments supporting Clean Line and its LLC’s will be permitted. 

So, it would appear Clean Line is attempting to wage a public relations popularity war for the attention, heart and mind of Energy Secretary Moniz with supporters from the “I support Clean Line because it will put money in my pocket” crowd.   

Game on.   

Mario, maybe you should try recruiting support from outside Oklahoma.  Put Hans Detweiler to work recruiting support at the Universities Oklahoma.  You know, kind of like how Hans got college students to send letters to the Illinois Commerce Commission.  Hans isn’t doing much these days.  Maybe send him to recruit a letter writing campaign from Chicago, New York City, or even Anchorage for support for Plains & Eastern.

Maybe it’s time for the Department of Energy to walk away and leave Clean Line before The Department of Energy gets in too deep and feels like they need to ride it out.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Clean Line Announces a Deal with Southwire to Source the Return Wire

First question.  Who is doing the marketing for Clean Line Energy?   We went around and around on this with the Rock Island Clean Line and the announcement that Southwire was the "supplier" for RICL.  So why did Clean Line make the same marketing faux pau?

So the Southwire Flora facility is the "source components" at the Flora facility?  Just what does that mean to "source components"?  Again, like with Southwire's agreement for the RICL project, this does not state Southwire  will MANUFACTURE the cable at the Flora facility, but only "source components".  If this is a mistake or we're reading more into it than intended, why did Clean Line use such cryptic wording again after the PR blunder with RICL? 

To the skeptical reader, this means The cable will come from China or Brazil and be sourced at the Flora facility. 

Read more carefully.  Southwire will be the designated supplier for the designated metallic return wire.  Isn't that the small ground wires that would run along the top to the towers?  As I understand it and in layman's non-engineer terms, a HVDC powerline needs a ground return from the destination back to the source.  In some applications, like an electric fence on the farm, a ground electrode can suffice.  This is the cheaper option but causes more of an electrical pollution and corrosion.  The other option is to run a designated metalic return wire from the destination back to the source. 

So, big deal.  Southwire could source the the ground wire from the Flora Illinois facility.  Are we supposed to be impressed that Southwire would source the ground wire for the Grain Belt Express?   

FYI, it was a press release a year ago stating General Cable will MANUFACTURE the steel core for the transmission line conductors.  So General Cable will manufacture the steel core and Southwire will source the designated metallic ground wire.  So where are they sourcing this cable from?

And what's up with that picture?  Is Southwire also making prefab igloos in Flora, Illinois? 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

FERC's No Regard for Common Sense Boundaries in Transmission Siting

My Father In Law used to laugh and tell my wife, "It's no wonder nobody likes you".  So is the case with the Federal Energy Commission.  It's been said they are a rubberstamp machine, willing to approve any pipeline projects.  (BTW, the Video is hilarious)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates boat dock fees in the Ozarks.  This is an interesting website called CURB-FERC.  Looks like a classic example of the federal government entering every aspect of our lives.   Does anyone else see  FERC regulating boat dock fees in the Ozarks as ridiculous governmental bureaucracy that is need of discipline and restraint?

Maybe we need to form a Federal Boat Dock Commission to regulate all boat docks.  Maybe the EPA will start regulating boats in Minnesota next under the Clean Water Act.    (sarcasm)

Maybe the Corp of Engineers should take over boat dock siting on the Mississippi River System. (sarcasm)

Maybe FERC should get back to it's core Mission Statement and control energy costs and supervise grid reliability. (reality check)

With so many pipeline projects being thrown at FERC competing for attention and a race to proceed through the regulatory process, it will be interesting if FERC approves all of them and continues to deny a review of need.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Mission
Reliable, Efficient, and Sustainable Energy for Consumers
Assist consumers in obtaining reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy services at a reasonable cost through appropriate regulatory and market means

Fulfilling this mission involves pursuing two primary goals:

1.  Ensure that rates, terms and conditions are just, reasonable, and not unduly discriminatory or preferential.
2. Promote the development of safe, reliable, and efficient energy infrastructure that serves the public’s interest.

With so many pipeline projects being thrown at FERC competing for attention and a race to proceed through the regulatory process, it will be interesting if FERC approves all of them and continues to deny a review of need.  It will be interesting to watch FERC going forward as Merchant Transmission Projects like those proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners llc are allowed to bypass the Regional Transmission Organization's planning process to ask for FERC's consent without the RTO showing there is a need. 

It's about common sense boundaries, rather than an engulf and devour federal government.  There is a place for the RTO's in the siting process.  There is a place for the state's utility commission in the siting process.  No company should be allowed to bypass the RTO's review or bypass the state's review in the siting process.  Look at the Department of Energy's Section 1222 where the Administration is allowed to approve transmission projects with federal eminent domain authority based on political agendas.  

Going forward, how can RTO's, like PJM,  properly plan if the plans must be adjusted when FERC approves projects without the RTO's consent.  Transmission companies with see the advantages of going to Mama FERC before asking Papa PJM for consent.  There is an order to the process.  Nothing good came from from FERC overstepping the RTO's in the planning process.  Transmission siting will become even more political than it is now.  

While there is no mechanism at the RTO's for community or ratepayer involvement, maybe it's not the RTO's that fear the people.  Maybe it's FERC that fears the people.  Transmission siting is a broken process but the solution is not letting Merchant Transmission Lines to bypass the Regional Transmission Organizations and force them to deal with the projects last.