Utilities Strive to Stifle Citizen Intervenors
Iowa Cardinal Hickory Creek Hearings
PUBLIC ATTENDANCE VITAL
December 10, 11 and 12, 9am-5pm
Hotel Julien, 200 Main Street
Your presence is needed to support the efforts of public intervenors at the upcoming hearings in Dubuque. If successful, legal obstacles laid down by transmission builders ITC-Midwest and Dairyland Power Cooperative would remove Ms. Chris Klopp and three other public intervenors from impacting the technical proceedings and:
• Eliminate the only arguments challenging need for the proposed Cardinal Hickory Creek expansion transmission line. 1
• Eliminate the precedent of an electric customer studying materials and substantively questioning utility assumptions and omissions in a utility case in Iowa;
• Eliminate the precedent of an electric customer directly defending public interests upon which utility decisions are supposed to rest.
• Eliminate the precedent of an electric customer in one state protesting the approval of a “cost shared” transmission project in another state. (Klopp resides in Cross Plains, WI, but such protest could arise from most Midwest states.)
• Eliminate the example of an electric customer insisting on the determination of electric bill impacts and CO2 emission reduction accountability as requested by an affected county government, Dubuque County, IA.
• Eliminate the example of an electric customer criticizing regional transmission planning for providing only regional generalizations of impact, and not clear quantification of impacts on state levels.
Why Ratepayer Resistance?
When a state like Iowa considers the proposal of a transmission line as large and as expensive as Cardinal Hickory Creek (CHC), profiting utilities and citizen parties known as “intervenors” make their arguments in a legal setting or “case.” Unlike regular citizens, utilities can afford to hire several law firms and industry experts to plead for them. Unless they have extra thousands, regular citizens must use the judicial right to represent themselves (without counsel) and, unless they hire technical experts, rely on records in the case or elsewhere to make their observations. Because of her great familiarity intervening in CHC in Wisconsin, this is the path Ms. Klopp has taken in Iowa. Here are some of samples of her observations: Iowa rates increasing fast (p15); transmission builder's profits (p17); CO2 emissions on order of 2%-4% (p29) Dubuque County Iowa Requests for ratepayers (p7)
and lack of cost benefit analysis for Iowa electric customers (p18)
What Obstacles Have Utilities Laid?
The four citizen intervenors are alone against large sums being spent to silence them. In the months leading up to the crucial public hearings December 10-12 in Dubuque, Ms. Klopp has faced round after round of legal filings seeking to strike her testimony and block her participation. She has endured repeated attempts to invade her personal life. Even though Ms. Klopp has studied the CHC case for nearly two years, holds a degree in Chemistry and has decades of experience at the Wisconsin DNR, Ms. Klopp has been routinely called down by law firms and lobbyists for clean energy groups as “lack[ing] training, education, or experience;” and making “misleading statements.” CHC agents are encouraging state regulators to strike her words from the record and “reject her position as unreasonable.”.2 3
So far, while caring for family members with special needs at the same time, Ms. Klopp has managed to defend her rights from this barrage. The grind will continues through the holiday season without respite.
What Motivates Citizen Intervenors?
Like the majority of families living in rural settings, Ms. Klopp and fellow citizen intervenors Mike Deutmeyer, Linda Grice and Dena Kurt are protecting everything: their homes, farms and the natural assets they steward. Before and after assessments show that property affected by 345 kV transmission lines can lose from 15-75% value.4 But even greater than devastating financial loss, they know from the experiences of others that once the towering, ever-present reminder is built, it forces people to abandon their homes, their purpose and their pride.
But that is not her strongest motivation. Ms. Klopp, who is also on the SOUL Board, recounted this summer that, personally, she could not allow the Cardinal Hickory Creek proposal that should have been defeated in Wisconsin earlier this year to breeze through Iowa regulatory review without constructive public discussion about the right energy path going forward. She observed that if engineering staff of Public Service Commission of Wisconsin was strong enough to stand up for truth and state that CHC was unlikely to meet transmission builders’ promises and to recommend much less expensive transmission system upgrades, she could too. Ms. Klopp filed to join the three citizen intervenors, bringing in her awareness, experience and skills.
An Injury to One is an Injury to All
Increasingly, citizens, land keepers, environmentalists, neighborhoods and communities across the county are being encroached upon by outside developers seeking to extract local resources for their personal gain. In some respects, the fight for the right of access to lunch counters, busses and elite clubs has climbed to higher order places where state law, agencies and courts are consistently swayed by those who yield more money and legal fire power. Monied interests are increasingly bold in their affronts because they are entirely unafraid to see matters, small and large, end up in court.
Despite the historical, popular opposition to CHC in Wisconsin that included hundreds of thousands of dollars of (mostly pro bono) legal commitment and the best experts in the US, PSC Com-missioners simply stood behind their association with monied interests and thumbed their noses at what was in the best interests of all. When challenged for having conflicted interests, Com-missioner Huebsch, who cannot propose transmission lines on his own, threatened the public in attendance, “And if you believe that this transmission line that we put up is the last you are going to have to deal with, you are wrong.”
Through history, it has been self-betterment, education and the will to solve problems as communities that has forged what is dearest to all. The ability to solve problems, through the bonds of friendships, families, neighbors and nations gives us grace and peace.
Developers with less generous interests are far less inclined to proceed when encountering persons like Chris Klopp and every community possesses such individuals. Consciously recognizing this ability in ourselves and those we depend on may be one of the most important things we can do.
Consider carpooling to Dubuque during the hearings December 10-12 and showing your support. Directions to Hotel Julien: https://goo.gl/maps/gwk1jJazb6n9G6XK9
David Armiak, journalist with the Center for Media and Democracy has written an article about the recently signed Wisconsin law, Assembly Bill 426, including statements by groups who encouraged Governor Evers to veto the law. The bill makes it a felony (6 years or $10,000 fine) for trespassing or damaging property on land “owned, operated, or leased” by energy companies, including pipelines. Descriptions about potential bill impacts are below
New Wisconsin Law Criminalizes Protest of Utility Development
Text from Assembly Bill 426 specifies that arrests can only take place when a person intentionally, “enters an energy provider property without lawful authority and without the consent of the energy provider that owns, leases, or operates the property.” Considerable confusion arises as the greatest majority of impacted land/property with transmission lines and pipelines seems to fall outside of utility lease and ownership. Traditionally, easement agreements are used to enable utility access and use of a specified land area for purposes of installing, upgrading and maintaining utility facilities. Easements are acquired from the property owners through one time payments. The utility does not own or lease the land in the easement and the owner continues to pay property taxes on the affected land.
Wisconsin residents are encouraged to contact their state lawmakers and ask for clarifications about Assembly Bill 426. Does the new bill allow arrests on land utilities acquire through easements? If so, why is this unclear in the bill text? What parties decide when constitutionally protected protest becomes an illegal act?
Comments in letters sent to Governor Evers asking him to veto the bill:
- “Landowners who have easements with pipelines and other infrastructure covered in this bill have reason to be concerned. Some of these landowners have the pipelines as a result of eminent domain and now worry about the impacts of this bill on them or their guests. The bill could result in further loss of control of their own land. . . Thousands of Wisconsin homeowners are subject to land easements held by oil and gas pipeline companies. Under this bill, it is not inconceivable that Wisconsinites could be charged with felony trespass on their own land, just for opposing pipeline company activities on the easements.” - Mark Borchardt, Founder of 80 Feet is Enough! and landowner along the Enbridge Line 61 pipeline.
- “[T[his bill attempts to create solutions for problems that do not exist, but creates a number of new ones. The bill opens up scenarios where peaceful protesters, landowners or tribal members could be arrested for trespassing and charged with a felony, even if it’s their own land. Why pass a bill that opens up this possibility when it solves no other problem? Instead, the focus needs to be on real solutions for climate change, not expanding the power and resources fossil fuel companies have.” -Elizabeth Ward, of Sierra Club Wisconsin
- “[T]he trespass law requires no showing of intent to harm property or people for a felony conviction; instead, it operates to transform a simple trespass into a felony offense at the behest of a private company. These types of “status” offenses, like drug crimes that only require law enforcement to show that a person was in possess of a controlled substance, have had devastating impacts on Native American, black and brown communities. With these kinds of laws on the books, the implicit bias of law enforcement agencies, and now corporations, are unleashed to target Native Americans and others, for severe and life-changing legal consequences.” - Philomena Kebec, Bad River Tribal member and Attorney.
- “Across the country and here in Wisconsin, people concerned about the climate crisis have been exercising their constitutional right to protest. This proposal would put these demonstrators—who are often members of Native American tribes—at risk of being criminally prosecuted for engaging in peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience. Governor Evers ha[d] the chance to do the right thing by vetoing this bill,” - Chris Ott, Executive Director of ACLU of Wisconsin.
- “This bill could result in a landowner who was forced to accept a dangerous tar sands oil pipeline through their land, being charged with felony trespass for confronting pipeline subcontractors doing unauthorized damage to their land! The bill clearly states that it would be a Class H felony to trespass on ‘property owned, leased, or operated by energy companies engaged in the distribution of oil and petroleum.’ We call on Governor Evers to protect the property rights of WI residents and veto this bill that is being pushed by the American Petroleum Institute.” - Phyllis Hasbrouck, Wisconsin Safe Energy Alliance.
- “The felony trespass bill on Governor Evers’ desk is a dangerous threat to the balance of power between our government and our people. As a former police officer, and Green County District Attorney, I know the tremendous power our government has to arrest and imprison people; and I have seen the abuse of that power. We depend on our government to keep us safe, but we must maintain the delicate balance between personal freedom of action and expression and the need for coercive government action. As a society, we have been moving in the direction of granting government to much power over its citizens. AB426/SB386 is another dangerous move in this direction. We have more than enough laws to protect property. We do not need this new law that will enhance punishment for activities that are already illegal.” - David Leeper, former District Attorney and Police Officer.
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