Environmental Opposition to Transmission

Filed under:Wisconsin — posted by admin on March 12, 2012 @ 9:45 am

So where are the Midwest “environmental” groups?  A good/horrific example is the performance of Clean Wisconsin and Citizens Utility Board last week at the PSC hearing for the CapX Hampton-Rochester-LaCrosse line.

$36,830 Intervenor Compensation to Clean Wisconsin

$56,030 Intervenor Compensation to Citizens Utility Board

Take a look at the Transcripts to see what these “Intervenors” did for that $92,860:

Transcript Vol 2 – Monday March 5, 2012

Transcript Vol 3 – Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Transcript Vol 3 – Thursday, March 8, 2012

I was there, and can testify that they sat there like bumps on a log — add up the numbers of words spoken, look for challenges to the Hampton-Rochester-LaCrosse project and puke.  Check out CUB’s promotion of a 161kV line despite demonstrating there is no need.  SAY WHAT???

And to think the PSC denied NoCapX 2020 ANY Intervenor Compensation because they said it would be duplicative of their “work” and Citizens Energy Task Force got not one dime for witnesses:

Order – CETF $14,905.50 Intervenor Compensation

Order – Denial of Intervenor Compensation for NoCapX 2020

It looks like that transmission-loving RE-AMP greenwash money was well spent — it pacified potential opposition.  Clean Wisconsin gets $115,000 annually to facilitate RE-AMP.  CUB is a participating member, and gets ???  They had a hissy fit when I challenged Clean Wisconsin’s position in this, questioning whether they would be opposing the project.  The Transcript shows that concern was well placed.

On the other hand, look what “environmental” groups in New Jersey are doing — they’re standing up to transmission!!!  What a concept!

Environmentalists Join Chorus Opposing Grid Expansion

Groups urge federal agency to overhaul incentives for upgrading transmission lines

By Tom Johnson, March 8, 2012 in Energy & Environment

It is not only consumer advocates who believe the federal government is being too generous in handing out incentives to utility companies to build new transmission lines.

In a filing made earlier this week, a number of leading environmental groups joined with state utility regulators, state attorneys general, and consumer advocates in urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to overhaul its system of awarding incentives to companies to upgrade the nation’s power grid.

“The current incentive structure places unwarranted burdens on consumers, and diverts ratepayer capital away from other important electric infrastructure improvements,” the groups said in a letter to the federal agency filed Monday.

The letter, signed by more than three dozen organizations, reflects the growing concern from consumer advocates and now environmentalists over the expansion of the nation’s power grid, a trend that is being propelled by overly generous incentives to utilities, according to critics of the system.

To promote the upgrading of the nation’s transmission system, the federal agency has developed special incentives to encourage high-risk projects to go forward. Since FERC initiated the policy, it has received more than 70 applications from transmission owners seeking special incentive rates for $50 billion worth of projects.

In response to the criticism, the federal agency has launched a notice of inquiry to look at the issue, a decision that prompted the letter from the organizations, which include the attorneys general of Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, and the National Audubon Society.

Stefanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, said the rising concern expressed by critics of the incentive system might help change minds at the federal agency.

“Enough people are stirring things up so that maybe people are beginning to realize that the status quo isn’t so perfect,” said Brand, who also signed the letter. “Maybe, FERC is beginning to see they need to take a look at some of these issues.”

Paul Patterson, an energy analyst at Glenrock Associates, agreed, noting the federal agency would not have launched the notice of inquiry unless it was serious about reviewing the incentives.

The incentives typically include higher rates of return on equity investments, as well as provisions that allow the owner of the transmission system to begin collecting payments from ratepayers while construction is in progress, in addition to a full recovery of costs if the project is canceled.

For instance, Public Service Electric & Gas has repeatedly won special incentive rates for various transmission project upgrades, which have been opposed by both the Division of Rate Counsel and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. In January, it was granted an 11.93 percent return on equity, far higher than the 10.30 percent it earns on investments in its local distribution system, which delivers power to homes and businesses.

PSE&G also has received special incentive rates for two other major transmission projects, including the controversial Susquehanna-Roseland project, which cuts through a number of national parks and recreation areas.

For environmentalists, the expansion of the power grid is designed in part to wheel so-called “dirty coal” into power markets where electricity prices are the highest, including the Northeast and New Jersey.

“We see this as a way to develop a market for coal plants in the Midwest into the metropolitan area,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It will undermine investments in clean energy programs and energy efficiency projects.”

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4 comments »

  1. Carol, you forgot to provide links to our written testimony and exhibits, where we had already made our cases very well so we didn’t have to ask endless cross examination questions.

    Comment by Katie Nekola — March 12, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

  2. I watched some of the hearings on line. Carol and CETF did an excellent job. They clearly should have been granted sufficient compensation to bring in their own witnesses.

    Comment by Alan Muller — March 13, 2012 @ 6:11 am

  3. NoCapX readers can review CUB’s direct and surrebuttal testimony by accessing the Wisconsin Public Service Commission web site http://psc.wi.gov/ in Docket 5-CE-136. CUB’s testimony critiques the utility claim that a 345 kV transmission line is needed to serve the La Crosse area and recommends alternatives to the utility proposal. NoCapX readers can judge for themselves CUB’s contribution to preparing a record showing that a 345 kV transmission line is not needed to serve the La Crosse area.

    CUB is also a signatory to the letter referenced above regarding overhauling transmission incentives. A link to a copy of the letter is available here: http://www.dora.state.co.us/puc/federal/FERC/FERCdocketRM11-26-000COPUC03-05-2012JointComments.pdf .

    Comment by Dennis Dums — March 13, 2012 @ 7:40 am

  4. The Intervenor Compensation docket and the 05-CE 136 docket and transcript reflects what you did, that you were paid to present a witness. The 05-CE-136 docket also reflects what you didn’t do. What did Clean Wisconsin do regarding testimony of Stevenson, Hillstrom, Lehman, Kline, King, Beuning, Noeldner, Burmester, Holtz, Webb, Carrola, Fasick, Vetsch, Koslowsky, Laatsch, Waldschmidt, Thompson, Neumeyer, Rineer, Sirohi, Stemrich, Urban, Weiss and even Hahn? What was done to raise any issues in their testimony? That’s all in the transcript.

    There’s a lot more to presenting a case than showing up to put on the witness about a very narrow scope of issues whom you were paid to present. This is a case about “need” and about “where” and Mosca addressed only a very narrow subset of issues presented. That’s why I was trying to get clarification of exactly what Clean Wisconsin and CUB’s position was, because as was demonstrated, you were not broadly opposing this project — now that much is clear from the record.
    NoCapX and CETF were denied intervenor compensation for witnesses because the PSC deemed our work would be duplicative of yours! Imagine that!

    But what’s really disturbing is a pattern that I see, that in this case, as with the Rothschild case, reading the transcript, you’d never know Clean Wisconsin was there. Clean Wisconsin and CUB get a lot of money in intervenor compensation every year, and also got a healthy dose of cash from the new pot of general intervenor compensation. Being an attorney is about being an advocate. My presumption is that Clean Wisconsin and CUB are too comfortable in their positions lined with Intervenor Compensation and other funding driving and controlling positions — and I was hoping you would prove me wrong.

    The central issue here is whether this line is needed, is so necessary, that Wisconsin landowners and ratepayers should take the hits. How can the PUC make a decision, how is the record complete, if need isn’t challenged in a meaningful and effective way? Representation of the ratepayers and environmental interests requires advocacy, it requires a lot more than warming a seat.

    Where was opposition to the outrageous limitations on speech in the hearing notice?

    Where was the support for Pat Conway as she was being pushed around?

    I remember Frank Jablonski and George Edgar on Arrowhead…

    Comment by Carol Overland — March 14, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace