Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Grain Belt Express has Finally Applied to the Illinois Commerse Commission



I always struggled understanding the division between responsibility, authority and accountability in the corporate world.  For speculation companies like Clean Line, arguing the separation of duties come easy.  To the farmboy in me with the “The Buck Stops Here” or maybe the “Just Do It” approach this division seems counter intuitive.  Perhaps this is why the division between responsibility, accountability, and authority has become so popular in corporate America.  People who avoid actually doing any real world work know very well how to divide being responsible from accountable and always point the finger in the other direction.  It appears the guys at Clean Line knows very well how to make the classic responsibility, authority, and accountability arguments in their recent application for Grain Belt Express to the Illinois Commerce Commission.     

Yes, the Grain Belt Express has arrived to Illinois…finally.    Page 66 of Clean Line David Berry’s testimony is Clean Line’s attempt to define the terms of GBE’s application to allow the construction of the transmission line. 

Regional Transmission Organizations Will Assure the Reliability of the Project, But
Will Not Determine Whether it is Needed or Fund the Project’s Cost

Under this section, Berry is asked
Q. Will SPP, MISO or PJM study the need for the Project?

A. No. None of the three RTOs perform studies to determine or assess whether a merchant transmission line is needed. The Commission, along with the state commissions of the other states where the Project is located, must determine whether the Project should be built.

Berry’s argument the Regional Transmission Organization’s (PJM and MISO) have the “responsibility” to maintain grid reliability.  The ICC has the “authority” to grant Grain Belt the ability to obtain easements and construct the powerline.  Who has the accountability to make sure this project is necessary and needed?  No one. 

I don’t get it.  How is this system expected to work when the ICC is expected to determine this project is needed without the input of the grid operators? 
Is there a constraint limiting generation?
Are there congestions limiting grid reliability?
Will the grid operate properly without the GBE?
Will this project create congestions and constraints by injecting more energy into the grid than there is demand for consumption?
Is this project needed because there is a lack of generation?
What other projects will likely be necessary in the future should GBE inject 3,500 Megawatts into the grid?

These are questions best determined by the Regional Transmission Organizations.   How can the ICC effectively determine necessity without input of the Regional Transmission Organizations?  PJM is responsible to maintain the grid, the ICC has the authority to Clean Line and no one will be held accountable once Clean Line is given eminent domain. 

Keep all the parties separate without direct communication and Clean Line gets the easement to sell to National Grid.  Clean Line is attempting to argue being a Merchant Transmission Line, they are exempt from proving need and necessity.  Clean Line claims they are accepting the risk and reward for this project and deserve more lenient requirements.  The key is keeping the state regulators and the grid operators separate and not communicating. 

Yes, like in much of corporate America, responsibility, accountability, and authority are all perverted by people to get what they want.  People instinctively do not want to make difficult decisions.  Clean Line attempts to give the ICC an “easy button” option without making hard decisions.  The Kansas Corporation Commission too willingly accepted the easy button option.  Unfortunately for Clean Line, Illinois residents expect the ICC to do their job and protect the interests of the state’s residents. 

Clean Line, you’re not in Kansas anymore. 

In Illinois, the buck stops here.  The Rock Island Clean Line does not have ICC approval under Section 8-503 and no eminent domain option.  While this project is virtually dead, the appeal to the Appellate Court will determine even approving RICL under Section 8-406 while recognizing the project is not needed was a msitake.  When state regulators attempt to define a division between responsibility, accountability, and authority, it is often a King Solomon attempt to “split the baby” in a compromise.   Unfortunately, the word of the law does not leave room for such regulatory compromises and there is no compromising in a crusade.  

We don't want Grain Belt Express, Rock Island Clean Line, or Clean Line Energy Partners llc in the state.  There is no room for speculation capital in the utility industry with eminent domain authority.  There is no room for compromises.  The law was never written to allow it.

This is not going to be any easier for Grain Belt. 

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