Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Energy Industry's Least Interesting Man

If you missed it,  you didn't miss much.     The New York Times just ran a story praising the United Nations Paris Climate Control deal.    It quoted businessmen who could potentially make millions and billions praising the virtues of higher cost energy.   Others,  such as BP praised the deal because their Wall Street pr want a positive spin so as not to adversely affect the stock price.  Naturally,  Michael Skelly at Clean Line Energy Partners llc was quoted with other speculation companies.   
The Energy Industry's Least Interesting Man

Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners, a Houston-based company that develops long-haul transmission lines for renewable energy, saw the accord as a pivot point for a changing industry.He pointed to the investments that the United States made during the last century in its power grid and hydroelectric power. “Both have provided low-cost electricity in the ensuing decades,” he said. “In 2050, we will look back at the investments prompted by the Paris accords and see exactly the same phenomena.”

Or,  perhaps in 2050 we will look at creating a new energy grid for the sake of wind energy as a real dumb idea.   Seriously,  it is a bit of a stretch to call Clean Line Energy Partners llc a company that "develops long-haul transmission lines".   At best  CLEP is a company that desires to develop transmission easements for other utility companies to buy.

While discussing this with others, one comment was;

"Oh good God. Just when I was trying to swallow my morning coffee. Note that he says power grid in the LAST century. That's where his project belongs. In 2050 we're going to be looking at obsolete, wasteful, destructive, useless white elephant long distance extension cords saying how stupid, stupid, stupid they were."

Well, of course the corporations that stand to make money on a 100% of the Administration's agenda will give Secretary of State Kerry a full blessing as a glowing agenda.      They don't care about "climate change" or "climate control" near as much as making money off it.    
Maybe I just have a hard time accepting the altruistic virtues of "Climate Socialization" from the people who will not be sacrificing but will be profiting.   

Maybe we should start calling it what it is.     We've had Global Cooling, then Global Warming, Climate Change and now Climate Control.    It's government bureaucrats attempting to tell the weather how it should act.    It's climate socialization,   there has to be winners and losers in any public-private programs.    

Yeah,  this is a bit of a rant but the New York Times interviews companies who are lobbying the government for restrictive energy policies and the paper has the audacity  to report they support the Administration.     Well duh!   Clean Line didn't send Hans Detweiler to Washington to make environmental converts.    He's lobbying for the company to make money.     That makes me wonder just how much of his lobbying efforts is at the Executive Branch and not the Legislative Branch.  How much time is spent lobbying the EPA or the Department of Energy rather than Senators and Congressmen?  
Cheesy or Industry Leaders?  Titans of the Do-Over 

If the EPA,  State Department, or Department of Energy is creating energy legislation without consulting Congress,then who do lobbyist really work over.

Bottom line is high priced energy from government's restrictive policies profit a few but many many more suffer from the poverty it creates.

Federal Eminent Domain Jimmy

How many times does a company deserve a "do-over"?
Here's an interesting claim.    It looks like a friendly press release printed as "news".
Grain Belt Express looks to refile in Missouri seeking to become a "public utility".    

Nothing specific is really stated in that article,  just Grain Belt Express llc intends to refile in Missouri and is moving forward in a positive way.    Give me a break.   What the heck are the folks at Clean like thinking?    Here are a couple of theories. 

1. This could be like Iowa where they have been denied splitting the process into two parts (bifurcation)  twice and have indicated they intend to ask the Iowa Utility Board a third time to split the process into two parts.        This is under the "If the answer is no,  then keep asking again and again because it might be yes sooner or later.    It's the Dumb & Dumber Strategy.    One in a million chance might be a "yes",  so there is still a chance.    Maybe sooner of later those landowners will get bored,  walk away,  and their project can slide through.

2. Another option is Clean Line is dang near broke.    By doing the math from the information given the at the Illinois Commerce Commission Grain Belt Express testimony,  this company would have been broke but for the investment in a special stock by Bluescape Investments.    At the previous spending habits,  Clean Line Energy Partners llc,  the parent if Grain Belt Express,  will have enough cash to make it through 2016.    Really,  I expect Clean Line has already begun cutting back and not spend money like it's 2008.    Their gonna make this money last as long as possible.    With a little luck,  my guess is Clean Line can make it through 2016 & 2017 but it will mean the company goes into a hibernation mode.   

If this is the case, it would be logical to put out press releases claiming they will refile,  much later refile,  but make no request of urgency and expedite the process.    This strategy helps them out two ways. First,  they keep their name in the public. If economic conditions change and a project becomes viable,  they can push forward.      A semi comatose hibernation mode can also discourage competition.    If an RTO determines something of a need,  they will claim front of the line dibs.     It's a bit of a "we were here first" strategy.  

3.   There is still the potential of federal eminent domain for Missouri.   Grain Belt Express llc did once file at the Department of Energy under Section 1222 and for some undocumented reason they the application was dropped.    For the past couple of years,  Plains Eastern Clean Line has been attempting to intimidate the Arkansas Public Utility Commission to approve that project or else the company will get a federal eminent domain Trump card.    Clean Line could be attempting g a similar strategy with Missouri.   Do they think intimidation is really going to work,  especially when Sec 1222 is so poorly written and will likely be defeated when there is a federal court challenge?
If the Obama Administration's Department of Energy actually approves the Plains & Eastern project as a public-private partnership,  it's safe bet Mark Lawlor at Grain Belt Express will start dropping hints of potential federal eminent domain under Section 1222.

4.  The fourth theory is Clean Line is hoping and praying the Administration's economic policies will create an artificial demand for their product.     The Environmental Protection Agency has the Clean Power Plan.   The State Department has their Paris climate agreement.   All of which are attempts at a restrictive energy policy with the intent on bypassing Congress.
Personally,  I think this company is broke and desperate.   My bet is they are cutting back on spending and dragging their feet as much as possible.    Sure,  they put out a press release stating they intend to refile.    Maybe sometime in 2016 there is a refile,  but no urgency.     My guess this company just won't die quietly.    They will linger in a near comatose state,  hoping, and praying an opportunity arises.  In the mean time Clean Line Energy Partners llc will continue to promote the image they are the Supermen of Federal Eminent Domain.   Propaganda is cheap.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Jimmy Glotfelty, Habitual Bifurcator

Let’s talk about Jimmy Glotfelty, the habitual bifurcator. 

Bifurcation is splitting a process into two parts.  The Iowa Utility Board has denied the Rock Island Clean Line request to split the process into two parts, not once but twice.  Now Clean Line has made the request for a third time to split the process into two parts. 

Come on, Jimmy.  The law is the law.  No other real utility has had a problem with the transmission siting process in Iowa. Should Iowa legislatures write public utility laws to conform RICL’s desired business model? 

Seriously, this is ridiculous.  Clean Line suspends its work in Iowa and has its public relation machine put out stories that it is circling its wagons.  A week later Clean Line makes a third request to split up the process of approval into two parts again. 

When does “NO MEAN NO?” How many times will Clean Line request this be split in two parts?  How many ways will RICL rephrase "bifurcation"?

Iowa has made it fairly clear the process of transmission siting cannot be split into two parts. The law is the law.  If Clean Line wants to remake the law, then work within the legislation process and circumvent Iowa residents to make the process suitable for Clean Line Energy Partners llc. 

Kinda wonder what else “Jimmy the Bifurcator” likes to split into two parts.   Maybe he is a chronic bifurcator and has to split everything into two parts.    He’s probably the kind of guy who eats all his vegetables before eating his meat.

Jimmy Glotfelty, Gallant Gallstone … and Registered Bifurcator

It’s getting a bit tiresome and sickening reading how Clean Line Energy claims to be so “gallant” in attempts to provide “clean” energy and wants to build privately owned for-profit transmission lines.  It’s a for profit powerline with a desire to obtain right of ways at the lowest price to maximize profits.  There’s nothing gallant about it.   This entire process of opposing Clean Line is probably more comparable to a gallstone, being uncomfortable at best, painful and causing worry in many.   At best, Clean Line is a gallant gallstone.  It’s a gallstone that thinks it is the center of the body.  It’s a gallstone that believe the body is there to serve its needs. 

Two interesting things happened last week.  The appeal of the Illinois Commerce Commission ruling that the Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) is granted public utility status under 8-406 of the Public Utility Act held oral arguments at the Third District Court of Appeals in Ottawa, Illinois.  RICL was granted approval by the ICC under 8-406 but denied under 8-503.  The latter is the road to eminent domain.  Ironically, the qualifications in the written law are to same and mystifying how the ICC can approve one and deny the other. 

While briefs and such have been filed, the oral arguments before the three judges was an interesting sparring match.   The Illinois Land Owners Association, Illinois Farm Bureau and Exelon were opposing RICL’s attorney.  The ICC attorney was in a tough position in the middle.  The ICC attorney clearly didn’t want to make any forward focused statements supporting RICL’s intentions.  Unfortunately for the ICC attorney, all Clean Line has is intentions.  They own nothing that can be considered a public utility.   

This placed the ICC attorney in a very awkward position.  Even more awkward, The Illinois Landowners Alliance, Farm Buruea, and Exelon are opposing the ICC decision, and not directly Clean Line’s llc. 

While the oral arguments are only a small part of the case and process of the appeal, my personal opinion is things went well for the residents of Illinois.  RICL’s request for approval under 8-503 died at the ICC and Clean Line did not choose to appeal that decision.  In my personal opinion there is a very good chance the Appellate Court will deny RICL’s request for Public Utility Status under 8-406. 

Arguments lasted about an hour fifteen minutes or so.  Here are some quotes from the oral arguments.  Each side had about 15 minutes to present their arguments with a final fifteen minutes for a rebuttal from the attorney representing the ILA, IFB, and Exelon. 

Attorney representing those groups opposing RICL
Rock Island got the certificate a year ago.  They haven’t even filed the purported financing documents that are supposed to be filed in the future.  They weren’t a utility then.  They aren’t one now, and they didn’t commit to ever be one.

They would not commit to ever building the project.  In fact they would only build the project in the words of their CFO “if it could find adequate market financing and that market financing would depend on whether or not that project would make profitable sense at some point in the future.

Judge:  Rock Island is not operating as a utility…
Attorney: No where.  No where.  No where in the world.

But the point is, that in Mississippi River (Fuel Corporation), there was assets, there were customers, that there was utility service, but because there was no pledge to serve the public, even that caused the Illinois Supreme Court to rule that it wasn’t a utility.   Here there are none of the six characteristics apply and again there is no commitment, no promise, no pledge to ever have them apply. 

You don’t grant a license to someone who doesn’t qualify in the hope or belief that years down the road they may be retroactively be qualified. 

ICC Attorney
This is a good example why we are all here.  This case is certainly unusual and bordering on unprecedented.

RICL Attorney
Iowa is a little strange.  ….In Iowa they seem to require you to go out and acquire the land and ask for eminent domain first and then present to the commission whether your project is needed and an appropriate transmission project.
Judge:  And your think that is strange?
Well it is just unusual in my experience.  When you look at it, why should it be an important issue, argue about getting eminent domain on someone’s property when the utility board hasn’t even ruled that you have a project that meets the criteria under our statute for being a public utility project.   

So ah, I don’t represent Rock Island in the Iowa proceedings, but it is my understanding that they are spending considerable amount of time with the commission trying to come up with a procedure that will result in the commission first deciding that the project is what we would call a Certificate…I don’t know what they call it there…and then addresses eminent domain so that it would be more consistent with Illinois …and both states together…so that there is a procedure in file that its…I would say it is moving forward but slowly attempting to resolve this sort of threshold.

Attorney representing those opposing RICL
To quote their president from the record,  “If the project wasn’t worth investing any further, then we would abandon it.”
From there CFO Mr. Berry “Rock Island will not be able to proceed with the construction of the project in the absence of sufficient transmission contracts to support the financing necessary to construct the project.”   That’s the financing they don’t have.  Neither of those things has happened and unlike every other utility including Ameren Transmission Company, they make no pledge to ever serve anyone. 

Even the 25% is an auction.  Highest bidder wins.  Everyone else is left without service.  That is not serving the public.  Now with respect to Ameren in particular, I also want to point out that Ameren started by building one line.  That line was built jointly according to the Commission’s order …. Makes clear that is was going funded, constructed, and operated in conjunction with Ameren IP, the existing utility, and it committed to build the project to serve Illinois customers, which Rock Island does not.  

So we briefly talked about the financing.  However useful that condition is, it is a future condition and it can’t ever replace a statutory requirement.  In 8-406B requires a showing of present capability and there isn’t.  It is not, I submit, the kind of case that warrants expanding, twisting , and disregarding the plain language of the statute.

Seriously, this entire RICL thing is getting old.   Time for this gallstone to be removed.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jimmy Glotfelty, Snowball, and Pete Domenici

Every now and then something is written and sometime later the author author looks like an oracle.  The author probably asks themselves the question “Did I write that?” as the relevance at the time of writing was small and weak, but after aging a bit, the relevance increases dramatically.   This is the beauty of writing commentary on the internet.  Comments, statements, opinions are saved on the internet and allowed to age and mature.  

Some guy named “SNOWBALL” wrote this blog over 8 years ago.  It probably went unnoticed at the time with few readers who yawned and said “WHATEVER”.  Today this little blog speaks volumes.  Snowball deserves an honorable mention somewhere for this blog.   Maybe no one else sees the relevance of the blog, but WOW!  He called it correctly.

Who was Snowball? Not a clue.  The name is an obvious Orwellian reference to Animal Farm.  It’s probably a popular internet name.  That’s probably the beauty of the name.  It’s more untraceable.

Why did he choose to make commentary out of Jimmy Glotfelty’s testimony before Congress?  With hours of testimony before the Senate Energy Committee, Snowball chose to comment on one little softball question asked by Senator Pete Domenici to Jimmy Glotfelty. 

It was a question the Senator asked out of left field.  It had nothing to do with the subject of the 2003 Blackout, but was evident the Senator or s someone Senator’s campaign wanted the statement made at a Senate Committee hearing.

If any professional reporters in the media wrote about Jimmy’s testimony before the Senate committee, they surely wrote about the 2003 blackout.  This small question and comment went unnoticed by the pros, but not old Snowball.  He wrote his commentary on the internet.  8 years later in 2012, Snowball’s commentary looks like he had incredible insight into the world around him.
Who is Snowball?  Was he an expert on national energy policy?  Snowball is probably just a guy.  Maybe he is just the equivalent to a farmboy from Arkansas.  He’s probably not a genius or expert on the energy industry, but for a brief moment in February of 2004 he was a bit of a visionary and saw the road this nation was headed impulsive reactions to the energy situation of the first days of the 21 century.
Thank you Snowball.
Thank you.  Here’s SNOWBALL’S blog from over 10 years ago.


After the blackout of the summer of '03, Mr. Bush used the crisis as an opportunity to end public control over electricity and utility companies - "by repealing the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA) and providing increased rates of return on new transmission investments."

In the next several weeks, the Bush-Cheney energy bill will come to the floor of the Senate for a vote, which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) says will pass easily.

The Bush-Cheney energy bill includes a provision that would repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act.

In 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote "A Recommendation for the Regulation of Public Utility Holding Companies" to members of Congress, in which he warned, "Through the device of these pyramided holding companies, small groups of men with a disproportionately small investment were able to dominate and to manage solely in their own interest tremendous capital investments of other people's money."

The major networks and cable news shows have been largely silent on the energy bill; perhaps they've been too busy informing the American public of the latest in the Martha Stewart trial or the trouble in Haiti. If they do report on it, they say that the energy bill's been delayed "over a partisan debate on MTBE", a gasoline additive widely believed to be toxic and environmentally hazardous.

Earlier this week on Feb. 24, power groups were in Washington, DC attacking PUHCA in hearings on the reliability of the electric grid.

Jimmy Glotfelty, director of the Office of Electric Transmission and Distribution in the Department of Energy said, "I just spent two days meeting with investment bankers ... and time and time again we heard that repeal of PUHCA was necessary for more investment."
Phillip G. Harris, president and chief executive of PJM Interconnection, and James P. Torgerson, president and chief executive of Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc., told Energy Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M.that eliminating PUHCA "would boost industry investment".

In 1938, Roosevelt was writing to Congress again about the corporate abuses of power and said, "The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism... ownership of government by an individual, for a group, or any controlling private power."