As Clean Line Energy has progressed through individual state utility commissions, it has been something like a primary political campaign as one state at a time gets the scrutiny. Then we move on to the next state and the next utility commission. Missouri is waiting for a utility commission decision. Iowa is picking up momentum, then it will be back to Illinois for the Grain Belt Express. Arkansas and Oklahoma are not willing to give Clean Line unfettered eminent domain.
Plains & Eastern’s application for federal eminent domain looks doubtful with no Regional Transmission Organization expressing a need for this transmission project. Illinois has denied the Rock Island Clean Line a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience with the road to eminent domain. Clean Line ran out of money late last year and had to get roughly another 40 million from National Grid, and the Ziff Brothers to keep the party going. With all this trouble, it would appear the Clean Line Circus is moving the show to Washington D.C. Maybe this is just connecting dots that are unrelated but there seems to be too many unusual things going on in Washington that look to be related to Clean Line.
1. Quadrennial Energy Review is published by Sec Moniz at the Department of Energy. It reads like a lobbyist wish list claiming more transmission is needed everywhere. This report also seems to contradict a recently published Transmission Congestion and Constraint Study which made it sound as through there are no real issues not being dealt with at the state level with conjunction with the Regional Transmission Organizations.
2. Secretary Moniz shows up as keynote speaker for the Wind Energy Association’s tradeshow, WINDPOWER 2015.
3. A plethora of bills showed up at the Senate Energy Committee. Some of them are key to Clean Line and the wind energy. This spring there are a host of bills being pushed through the energy committees. Senator Lisa Murkowski has 17 energy bills to be introduced this spring. There is a bill to "develop" renewable energy on public lands. There is a proposed federal Renewable Electricity Standard. Then there is the GRID MODERNIZATION ACT.There is a Senate Bill to create a Renewable Energy Standard.
4. Senate bill 2012 calls for a streamlined process for siting transmission on public lands, including an omnibus man (omnibus person) to smooth over problems. Another bill calls for a federal Renewable Energy Standard.
5. The bill that affects Midwest landowners the most is Senate Bill 1017. This bill would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission eminent domain authority. After one year in the state utility commission process, a project could apply for Federal approval and federal eminent domain. If a project is determined to be needed by the administration (the Department of Energy is under the Executive Branch of government), federal eminent domain could trump a state commission’s denial or lack of expediting the approval process. This bill would also allow projects backed by the administration eminent domain authority. The bill would also allow federal eminent domain approval through Indian Lands.
Here are some key copies of the bills text with some commentary in red
POLICY.—It is the policy of the United States that the national interstate transmission system should be guided by the goal of maximizing the net benefits of the electricity system, taking into consideration— … transmission needs driven by public policy requirements established by State or Federal laws (including regulations);
To meet a renewable energy standard in New Jersey, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission vould approve a 500 mill HVDC extension cord in Illinois and Iowa. Or perhaps, to meet the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in Connecticut, a HVDC transmission line from Quebec and through New Hampshire could be approved.
‘‘(B) FEDERAL AUTHORITY.—The Commission may authorize, in accordance with subsection (d), construction of a high-priority regional transmission project that the Commission finds to be required by the present or future public convenience and necessity and in accordance with this section if—
The states or Regional Transmission Organizations do not need to find a proposed project is necessary, but FREC is authorized if it deems a project is “required”.
(i) a State— fails to approve construction and authorize routing of a high-priority regional transmission project not later than 1 year after the date the applicant submits a completed application for authorization to the State;
(II) rejects or denies the application for a high-priority regional transmission project;
(III) authorizes the high-priority regional transmission project subject to conditions that unreasonably interfere with the development of a high-priority regional transmission project contrary to the purposes of this section; or
(IV) does not have authority to approve the siting of the high-priority regional transmission project; or
(ii) the developer seeking a certificate for construction under subsection (d) does not qualify to apply for State authorization to construct a high-priority regional transmission project because the developer does not serve end-users in the State.
If a state denies a project, such as Arkansas denying Plains & Eastern Clean Line, or Illinois denying the Rock Island Clean Line under Section 8-503, the company can seek federal eminent domain.
RIGHT OF EMINENT DOMAIN.—If any holder of a certificate issued under paragraph (2) cannot acquire by contract, or is unable to agree with the owner of property on the compensation to be paid for, the necessary right-of-way to construct, operate, and maintain the high-priority regional transmission project to which the certificate relates, and the necessary land or other property necessary to the proper operation of the high-priority regional transmission project, the holder may acquire the right-of-way by the exercise of the right of eminent domain in—
(A) the United States district court for the district in which the property is located; or
(B) a State court.
Land owners could find themselves in a federal court arguing eminent domain rather than a court with in their county. In Northern Illinois so instance, a landowner would be traveling to Chicago or farther, rather than to the county seat.
FEDERAL, STATE AND TRIBAL RECOMMENDATIONS.—In granting a certificate under paragraph (2), the Commission shall—
(A) seek from Federal resource agencies, State regulatory agencies, and affected Indian tribes recommended mitigation measures, based on habitat protection, environmental considerations, or cultural site protection; and
(B) incorporate those identified mitigation measures as conditions to the certificate; or if the Commission determines that a recommended mitigation measure is inconsistent with the purposes of this section or with other applicable provisions of law, is infeasible or not cost-effective, or for any other reason— consult with the Federal resource agency, State regulatory agency, and af8fected Indian tribe to seek to resolve the issue; incorporate as conditions to the certificate such recommended mitigation measures as are determined to be appropriate by the Commission, based on those consultations and the record before the Commission; and if, after consultation, the Commission does not adopt in whole or in part a recommendation of an agency or affected Indian tribe, publish a statement of a finding that the adoption of the recommendation is infeasible, not cost-effective, or otherwise
RIGHTS-OF-WAY OVER INDIAN LAND.— Notwithstanding paragraph (3), in the case of siting, construction, operation, and maintenance of a transmission facility to be located on or over Indian land, a certificate holder under this section shall comply with the requirements of Federal law for obtaining rights-of-way on or over Indian land.
As I understand it, this land would give federal eminent domain authority across tribal lands to FERC.
EXCLUSIONS.—This section does not apply in the State of Alaska or Hawaii or to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.’’.
This is the “Gob Bless Texas” Clause. The continental United States is divided into three interconnects. East, West and Texas. While we have different grid operators within a region, there are only three regions that are not connected to one another and the alternating current is not synchronized. This bill does not apply to Texas.
How Does This Apply to Clean Line Energy and Their 14 LLC’s?
Hans Detweiler appears to now be in Wshington lobbying for Clean Line Energy. His is the Hans Detwieler who was the Rock Island Director of Development, and now Vice President of Clean Line, and sometimes posing as the Grain Belt Express project engineer to the public,. HE also acknowledges he is acting as an agent for a foreign company as Clean Line is 40% owned by a British company. See his application to lobby below.
Lisa Murkowski the Alaska Senator is pushing a big omnibus energy bill, like the 2005 Energy Policy Act that gave us Section 1221 unconstitutional and rejected by the courts federal eminent domain and Section 1222’s eminent domain for Plains & Eastern. My guess is Clean Line knows passage of these bills is their best hope to push their projects on the Midwest.
Unfortunately, Washington is politically driven. The Nixon Administration brought us Coal by Wire and pushed transmission for coal. This administration wants to give us Wind by Wire with Energy Secretary knobbing off the wind energy corporations at a trade conference. We cannot continue to allow eminent domain for flavor of the month energy policy. We need a system of checks and balances to prevent wrongful taking of private property.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has become a Rubber Stamp Machine, approving any proposed project to cross their path and landowners would have a greater burden to defend themselves in Washington or federal courts. Ultimately, landowners would be forced to let their lands and homes be ravened by companies claiming to be offering a “fair” price.
Here’s a copy Hans Detweiler’s lobbying application. What other reason is he lobbying Washington D.C. but to obtain property rights and circumvent state utility commissions?
Perhaps this is how Clean Line Energy intends to blow through investors last $40 million, with a Washington lobbying Hail Mary pass play out of desperation. I would expect more national articles about how America “needs” a new modern grid to enhance wind energy. I would expect a broader public relation’s campaign comparing the Rural Electrification Administration to the “need” for new transmission for the wind corporations emphasizing rural America needs to “give back” and help urban population centers (who do not want wind turbines off Lake Michigan or the East Coast).