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Rock Island Clean Line still has lots of explaining to do

Published: Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 5:00 a.m. CST

(Continued from Page 3)

To borrow a Hunter Thompson quote, “Politics is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.”

So is the world of the “clean” energy industry. My goodness, I had no idea the “clean” energy industry was so dirty! The more that is learn about this industry, the more I ask when is the government going to step in and regulate it like the rest of the energy industry?

1) The Production Tax Credit is an obscene subsidy on its own. We’re paying near as much through our tax dollars to subsidize this energy as we are paying for the energy on the open market.

Through the Obama Administration’s misguided Investment Tax Credit, the true cost of wind energy rose even higher as we increased the subsidy for wind energy to the point where we paid in subsidies over $56 for every Megawatt hour of wind energy produced in 2010. There are also reports energy companies in New England are paying upwards of $90/MWh for wind energy to meet mandated Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.

2) To make this situation even more absurd, Clean Line Energy has petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to force consumers and ratepayers to pay the costs of building its powerlines, such as the Rock island Clean Line (RICL) from the far side of Iowa to Chicagoland.

What ever happened to economically priced energy? When are wind energy companies going to be held to the same standards and regulatory compliance as Exelon, Ameren, or Midwest Generation? Why is the federal government (FERC) looking to force private landowners through federal siting authority (eminent domain) to give land for powerlines specifically for wind energy when the energy is not needed and overpriced? It has not been demonstrated a need for more energy. It has only been argued to be a “need” for more wind energy.

There are some who say the RICL powerline is a state issue and not a national issue. Yes, it is a state issue. There needs to be  greater supervision from state regulators for wind energy. Renewable Portfolio Standards or “Public Policy Statement” should not expose ratepayers to pay an exorbitant price for wind energy.

Companies like Horizon Wind should be regulated and forced to sell electricity at the same market price Ameren and Exelon sell energy into the market.  Yes, it is good to have some renewable energy in a state’s portfolio of different types of energy, but all energy companies need to be competitive. As consumers, we should not be forced to pay for the cost of powerlines on the scale of RICL when the energy is not needed.

The RICL powerline is also a federal issue. If FERC approves Clean Line’s petition, consumers will be paying to build this companies “merchant” transmission line. RICL was approved by FERC to be a “merchant” powerline. The company accepted the potential risk and rewards as a “merchant” transmission line.

Clean Line Energy’s application has not made its way through the process at the Illinois Commerce Commission. The powerline has not been built, not one mile of line, but the company is now working towards a federal trump card should the ICC not approve its application to become a public utility and give Clean Line eminent domain powers.

Fortunately, the ICC has filed a motion to intervene at FERC, arguing the states have a right to decide their own fate and a right to represent their own residents. FERC should not be deciding which states’ Public Policy Statements are relevant and how they should be implemented. FERC should not be requiring all states in a region to pay for projects like RICL. This is a matter for the states to work out among themselves.

Some suspect FERC is using state’s Public Policy Statements like Renewable Portfolio Standards as an excuse to take authority and representation away from the states. FERC is not representing the interest of the consumers, and Clean Line Energy, with its RICL project, is a means to take authority away from the states and consumers to advance big business and FERC’s objectives of more powerlines everywhere.

The lack of state and federal oversight for the wind energy and it’s transmission is foolishness. Now that the wind energy industry has reached a state of maturity where it has the ability to take advantage of the ratepayer, it is time the industry be regulated like other energy producers.

The federal government should also not be playing favorites with one type of energy over another with no consideration towards cost to ratepayers in Illinois.

What ever happened to the concept of economically priced energy?

Our government’s priorities have become so misguided that cost does not matter when considering the virtues of “clean” energy.

Michael Skelly and Jimmy Glotfelty of Clean Line have had one do-over with the Illinois Commerce Commission for state approval. Clean Line is in the process of another do-over with FERC attending public informational meeting for a sister project. If Clean Line and RICL wants to follow the Cost Allocation Model, they need to have a do-over for FERC’s approval of the RICL project. It’s absolutely ridiculous RICL wants to change in mid-course from the Merchant model to some modified cost allocation model. Sneaky. Deceitful. Dishonest.

RICL had its opportunity to come clean with the residents of Illinois.  It still has failed to say to us what are the company’s true intentions, or how much this energy going to cost us.

Is the company secretly working towards “federal siting authority” (eminent domain)  with FERC through FERC’s Order No. 1000? Are we to really to believe FERC will fairly represent the concerns of the residents and landowners? Are we just a pawn in this circus of the energy industry? No. We own this country. We are not a pawn to anyone.

If RICL wants to follow the cost allocation model, then reapply to FERC.  Clean Line is having another do-over with public informational meetings with FERC in attendance for one of the company’s sister projects. While Clean Line is preforming do-overs, Michael Skelly, Jimmy Glotfelty, and Jayshree Dasei need to come back to Mendota, Ill., and have another do-over with an informational meeting before the Illinois stakeholders of this project.

Let’s put the tent down on this circus. Leave the PR clowns at home. Let the HDR Engineering monkeys who actually hosted RICL’s last public meetings stay home also. Someone needs to stay home to pedal the bicycles tied to little generators and create some actual “clean” energy.

Seriously, RICL needs to come back to Illinois and do some explaining. We are waiting.

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