Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Clean Line llc and the Wild Party

Is anyone else having a hard time wrapping their heads around  the amount of money Clean Line Energy Partners llc has squandered?

Let's start with National Grid's $40 million.   That bought to British corporation a 40% interest in the company.    One can surmise the Ziff Brothers investment,  Michael Zilkha and Clean Line upper management has supplied the remainder $60 million for a 60% interest in the company.   So there's $100 million dollars.  Some time in the last half of last year,  it was estimated Clean Line would need another infusion of money.   National Grid had to throw a few million more in the pot. It is unknown if the Ziff's also put more in the pot.  

Now we have Bluescape Resources willing to another $50 million and receive 2 board members.   

My guess we are looking at closer to $200 million dollars. What does Clean Line have to show for that?

Kansas gave a contingent approval for the Grain Belt Express llc (providing Missouri and Illinois approve it also).

Missouri has denied GBE llc.

Arkansas has denied the Plains & Eastern llc.

Illinois has denied eminent domain for the Rock Island Clean Line.

Illinois Commerce Commission is reviewing the GBE application.

There is no demand for any of the company's llc's.   In the economic sense,  there is no value added.

The Tennessee Valley Authority does not wind energy from the Plains & Eastern Clean Line llc.

With no demand for the P&ECL llc,  federal eminent domain from Section 1222 is in doubt.

What has Clean Line accomplished?  They have probably spent at least $125 million,  and perhaps above $150 million.

Zilkha's biomass pellet plant in Alabama probably doesn't even cost that much. At least Michael Zilkha has a physical plant,  property, and equipment to show for his investment.  

When this is all over and Clean Line Energy Partners llc is gone and history,  there will likely be some wild stories told.    Can anyone spend $150 million with  nothing to show for the accomplishment without parties,  booze,  and possibly a little cocain ?

Just speculating here and not accusing anyone,  but how does one piss away $150 million without  wild trade organization parties?

We're there Christmas parties at the Four Seasons to promote team building?

How about the utility commission hearing in Springfield, Illinois or Jefferson City,  Missouri  when a big chunk of team CLEP came together?

I almost hope y'all had a good time frittering away millions upon millions. I'd hate to hear the lawyers got it all.

Now I've never heard a demeaning or unethical word about Clean Line's Illinois attorney.   While not connected and not in the know, from all accounts I've heard, the company's Illinois attorney has done an honorable job representing a despicable client.   Those high priced Chicago attorneys have put out some voluminous work with mountains of paper.... And billable hours.

I bet Clean Line has gone beyond being referred to as the attorney's "RETIREMENT FUND".    It wouldn't surprise me if there is a yacht on Lake Michigan bought for by Clean Line Energy Partners llc.

If CLEP's attorney fees have actually bought a boat,  I wonder what the name is.   Here's a couple suggestions.

"BILLABLE OURS" as the boat was bought one hour at a time.

"CLEPTO" might be another good name for a yacht.    As billing Clean Line was as easy as shoplifting or picking their pockets like a cleptomaniac.  

Now this is just idle speculation.   No one really knows how Clean Line has spent the millions of investors money.   Regulated public utilities have to account for all costs to be allowed customer allocation and consumers pay for utility transmission improvements. 

Unfortunately Clean Line is not a regulated public utility.   Unfortunately Clean Line's Financials are proprietary and confidential at the ICC.   We can only speculate how one blows through somewhere between $150-$200 million dollars in a few years with nothing tangible to show for it. It wouldn't surprise me if they've spent more on attorneys than engineering.

And how much is Clean Line willing to pay for the Plains & Eastern llc easement?  Less the $60 million and probably closer to $50 million for 17,000 acres of easement.  They sure have gone through a lot of money with nothing to show for it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The ICC Public Forums for the Grain Belt Express Clean Line llc

Some CLEPtomaniacs (Jonathon Abede,
Deann Lanz, Jayshree Desai, & Sahara Bray)
The Clean Line Circus is coming back to Illinois, complete with the Clean Line CLEPtomaniacs.  As Clean Line has moved from state to state, seeking regulatory approval for their projects throughout the Midwest, a fair comparison can be made to Presidential primaries.  The company’s land acquisition team moves from one state to the other seeking a victory and this time it comes back to Illinois with the Grain Belt Express llc company.   

The Illinois Commerce Commission has now scheduled the public forums in the matter of the Grain Belt Express llc desire to build a transmission line across Central Illinois.  It’s surprising the ICC is holding three public forums.  Initially they only scheduled just one for the Rock Island Clean Line llc in Mendota, Illinois, GBE’s sister limited liability corporation, but scheduled another forum because of so many people desiring to share their concerns about the project.  3 forums is really surprising.

ICC Forum at Mendota for RICL

There were several things about the Mendota forum that was quite an education.  It was held at the Mendota High School and most of us probably expected it to be somewhat no partisan and neutral ground.  That was a wrong assumption.   Pulling into the high school parking lot, we all knew the Clean Line Circus had come to town. 

Clean Line Circus Sign
Clean Line had setup a big huge portable sign in the parking lot.  It was the stuff they might use at the Wind Energy Association’s trade show.  In hind sight, I wish we had a bigger green combine to park in front of it.  Grain Belt will brought out the entire team.  Not just RICL’s version of Mark Lawlor, but all the minions, including project manager and associates.  These lesser players work khakis and the white corporate shirt.  Some of these people were associated with the New Mexico llc.  Some associated with Grain Belt llc. 

There were some oddities about team Clean Line at the ICC Forum for RICL.  From an hour and half before the forum started, one woman marched out of the high school to behind their big sign.  We never figured out what she was doing, but we speculated she might have a bottle behind the sign.  Seriously, we never could figure out what she was protecting there. 

Another oddities was our BFF from Clean Line.  It was obvious they designate certain teammembers to play one on one and shadow some of us.  After the third time meeting the same Cleaniac in the hall wall, it becomes obvious it was not a coincidence.  It wasn’t surprising to see her sitting 3 seats down from me in an auditorium of over 700.  Team Clean Line will play one on one and shadow certain people.  It’s really quite comical if you don’t take it too seriously, including photo bombing and selfies.  It’s like having your own personal stalker who is mostly harmless.     

Over the years it's been purported at forums, Clean Line will have people play different roles as needed.  Need a engineer, and suddenly a project director with a major in political science and former Blago man becomes an engineering expert.  Need a health expert and suddenly an engineer for another project is now a resident health expert.  

The gentleman from the ICC to collect the public’s statements and the stenographer brought two of Illinois finest state troopers with them.  Rock Island Clean Line llc brought the Mendota Police Department.  The public brought Future Farmers of America from Mendota, Serena, Ohio and Somonauk.  Those young men in women from the high schools were a class act.  They did a fine job facilitating the forums and assisting elderly.    

By the second forum at Mendota, we got a lot smarter.  The nervousness was gone in all of us.   Any fear or respect of the Clean Line people was gone.  We already recognized three quarters of them and knew their names by sight.  Probably the worst mistake for Clean Line was when we didn’t fear them as Utility Executives.  We saw them for the clowns they were and treated them as such.  We weren’t rude.  We did something worse, we laughed and had a good time in the hour before the forum started.   They were not respected.
Hans Detwieler
(Misspelling intentional.  He was arrogant enough to demand Crane's Chicago print a correction for a misspelled name.)

If any energy company project planners are reading this, here’s a tip.  Never lose the fear.  Be the big leagues energy company executive.  Make the people fear you.  Make the people feel awkward.  Once the people lose the nervous awkwardness and don’t fear the energy company executives and their minions, the company’s project is screwed.  That’s when the people know Goliath is gonna fall, gain confidence, and they enjoy the moment.  Energy executives, always be the Goliath.  That’s the last free tip.

At the second forum we also learned to take pictures.  It’s fascinating to watch people It’s also good to take as many pictures as possible.  Especially at the first forum, watch how team Clean Line operates.  Watch the upper executives of Clean Line (the ones who don’t wear the white team shirts).  Watch whose ass they kiss.  Watch who they talk to.   It might surprise you who Clean Line executives associate with.  There are also hidden members of their team. 

At the second forum, we discovered Aaron Chambers.  He’s Clean Line’s public relations guru to Springfield.  He liked to stay in the background, watch and take notes.  He probably didn’t appreciate being outed as their government affairs, strategic communication and public relations guru for Illinois to make the Clean Line llc's look like a real public utility.  Again, take lots of pictures.  You want to get people like that in photos. 
Aaron Chambers (Springfield Government Affairs, Strategic Communications
and Public Relations Guru& Jimmy Glotfelty (Guy in the Carhart Jacket)
Next time, leave the $3,000 watches at home. 

Also, the ICC representatives had us line up and sign in as we entered to forum.  This was the speaking order.  Somehow Clean Line managed to get several union hall guys on the list to speak first who were never in the line.  Other people signed up for people who weren’t there but showed up later.  Know who is in front and behind you in line.  Again, take pictures!  If you think something funny is going on, don’t be afraid to call them on it.   This is your forum.  The ICC and Springfield have heard the ca-ca, manure, and sales pitch from Clean Line before.  Don’t feel intimidated and let them bully the format of the forum. 

Next, Jimmy Glotfelty is a boring speaker.  He will talk and talk and talk in an attempt to monopolize the time.   The clock is ticking and they will use as much as possible.  He also said somethings in the hall outside the forum that he probably won’t try again.  At the second Mendota forum, Jimmy did his attempt to dress like he was down on the farm.  By midway through the forum, commentary about Jimmy costume had been posted online and was being passed around the gym on smart phones and tablets.  It will be interesting if Skelly comes out to Illinois for the GBE llc forums.  It was a bit surprising they sent the #2 guy and left the big dog on the porch. 

By the end, the message from people supporting Grain Belt Express will have a common message.  It will be “I support Grain Belt Express because it will put money in my pocket”.  It will become   It will be good for a couple of the ICC board members to hear the greed.  It is obvious and paints a picture of greed.
"I support Clean Line because it will put money in my pocket" is the theme of CLEP' supporters.
Finally, speak from the heart.  Say what you believe.  Our position does not need a strategic communication specialist.  I had the fortune to hear two of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard.  One was from a seventy-five year old grandmother who I never met and the other was from a farmer and Vietnam veteran.   That speech was incredible.  That speech was probably the best patriotic speech I’ve heard since watching Ronald Reagan’s 40th Anniversary of D-Day speech at Normandy.   It was a privilege to hear such a patriotic speech.  

 Fortunately, some of these speeches were videotaped.  It was an incredible moment and impressive to see how well informed people were about the project.  These were not NIMBY speeches, far from it.  These were not “I support this project, just put it somewhere else” speeches.  The statement made by public’s unity and knowledge was voluminous.  It will be good for some of the ICC Board members to witness this directly. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Michael Skelly has a New BFF in Bluescape Resources

Michael Skelly at Clean Line Energy Partners llc has a new BFF! (and it’s not me or anyone in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, or Kansas)  Clean Line Energy Partners llc has a new “investor”.  John Wilder at the holding company Bluescape Resources is investing up to $50 million contingent upon regulatory approval.  Interesting. 

For a new investor to enter Clean Line, one can safely surmise National Grid and Ziff Brothers have cut off further funding.  Surely, the current majority investors would have the right of first refusal and could have written a $50 million dollar check and shutout Bluescape rather than lose a percentage of their ownership in CLEP llc.  That in itself is most interesting and Skelly deserves points for spinning lemons into lemon-aid.   Extra points should be given to have the quote from National Grid’s representative welcoming Bluescape’s money aboard the SS Clean Line (sinking ship).   If Clean Line wasn’t a a sinking ship, National Grid would not want additional partners.

Bluescape’s investments are largely in natural gas “plays” or “reserves”  While nothing on the internet says it directly but dances around it, I presume these “plays” are leases or options on natural gas leases requiring fracking.  Seriously, how else do you describe natural gas “plays” or “resource positions” but as potential leases and reserves requiring development (fracking).   Bluescape Resources Company llc also “helps lead Parallel Resource Partners llc”.

Not sure what “helps lead” means exactly, but Parallel is a speculation holding company that specifically invests in natural gas exploration and production companies.  Ironically, Parallel’s corporate office is about 2 blocks down the street from Clean Line.  Small world, ehh. 

Bluescape Resources Company llc also has purchased a $50 million share of a natural gas company called EXCO.  This company actually pumps natural gas. For this $50 million investment, Bluescape is a majority owner with the ability to leverage a new CEO President and COO with Bluescape’s John Wilder as Chairman of the Board. 

So what does Bluescape get with a $50 million investment in Clean Line Energy Partners llc?  2 seats on the board. 

What I don’t understand is why Bluescape has decided to invest in Clean Line.  Bluescape’s investments revolve around natural gas production with “plays”, investments in exploration and investments in natural gas production in EXCO.  What’s odd is none of Bluescape’s investments have anything to do with renewable energy, wind energy, or transmission.  I don’t get it.  There is no synergy here. 

Does Bluescape see Clean Line’s transmission projects as a potential to for natural gas generation? Proposed pipeline projects are struggling almost as much as Clean Line’s transmission projects.  Maybe Bluescape sees transmission as more viable than pipelines and with the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, electricity generation near the source wells might seem more viable.  Maybe.  It’s hard to say what Bluescapes attraction is.

Maybe Bluescape’s contingent investment is more of a bluff move by Clean Line.  Maybe it’s a move by Clean Line to show a new investor still sees Clean Line’s business model is still viable.  Hopefully Clean Line’s new investor will provide one of its board members to testify at the Illinois Commerce Commission for the Grain Belt Express.  It would be interesting to hear Bluescape justify the potential of this investment.  It would also be interesting to hear the board member from Bluescape explain the dynamics of the contingencies for Clean Line to receive the $50 million. 

According to press releases, Bluescape’s investment is contingent on regulatory approval.  Normally “regulatory approval” means a government body must approve the holding company’s investment, but there is no regulator who really gives a damn here.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn’t care who invests in Clean Line Energy Partners llc.  The Illinois Commerce Commission, Iowa Utility Board, or the Arkansas Public Utility Commission has no authorization to deny Bluescape’s investment. 

The only regulatory approval here is on Clean Line.  Illinois has denied the Rock Island Clean Line eminent domain.  Missouri and Arkansas has denied Clean Line projects public utility status.  The Tennessee Valley Authority is giving indications that it does not want to buy high priced wind energy wheeled through the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project.  Even New Mexico’s Governor has stated he is tired of frittering away state money on the Western Spirit Clean Line project.    So, what regulatory approval is Bluescape’s investment contingent upon?

When I first heard Clean Line has a new investor, the first reaction was along the lines “Oh crap. Some idiot believes Skelly’s song and dance.”  After researching, I do believe John Wilder is not stupid and does not make foolish investments too easily.    So what’s the motivation for Bluescape?  Maybe the intended message was close to my first reaction.   Maybe Clean Line wants state regulatory commissions to believe this company is legitimate.  More smoke, mirrors, song, dance, and kool-aid for state regulators is the desired reaction.

Could the Bluescape holding company’s investment into Clean Line be a hoax of sorts?  Possibly.  With the repeal of the Public Utilities Holding Company Act (PUHCA) in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, such shenanigans are possible.  Thank Jimmy Glotfelty (Clean Line’s VP with a political science degree for pushing that through when he was at the Department of Energy)  This investment is clearly outside Bluescape’s core. 
Oh, I do hope the matter of Bluescape will be discussed at the Illinois Commerce Commission.  Something is hinky here. 

This blog contains forward focused statements that may or may not be correct.  Much like the forward statements by corporations I cannot guarantee the accuracy but given the odd wording of press releases and subsequent articles based upon press releases attempts have been made to sift through the corporate speak and bull crap to put it in plain English.  If these plain English interpretations are not correct, then associates of Clean Line Energy Partners llc should do a better job explaining.