Saturday, January 03, 2015

Using stooges to make money

American Electric Power and its subsidiary SWEPCO were itching to make money on the current boom in wind power generation capacity in Oklahoma and Texas by providing a transmission corridor through Northwest Arkansas. So they built the first leg and then planned and proposed the second leg of this network of power lines to go through my home town. In the past, all they had to do was stand "expert" witnesses up before the Arkansas Public Service Commission and they would be granted all that they wanted. They would be backed up by the Southwest Power Pool, which would present studies that would never be fully scrutinized or challenged because citizens and citizen's groups could not afford the expert witnesses to do so.

So we hired the best. Suddenly, the expert witnesses for Southwest Power Pool were put in the precarious position of lying on the witness stand to cover their fictional analysis. They were forced to admit that our expert was correct, then proposed a new equally false rationale and refused our expert witness the opportunity to review their false data.

As a result, the Public Service Commission was put in an awkward position and agreed with us, that SWEPCO had failed to prove that the 345 kV power line they wanted to build was necessary to meet growth and reliability concerns. The APSC asked SWEPCO to go back to the drawing board and gave them another chance to prove their case.

When Southwest Power Pool did the study demanded by the APSC, they came up with a more truthful account, knowing it would be thrashed about by other experts having greater credibility in the field. They acknowledged a 50% reduction in predicted demand growth and that 665 MW of energy demand had been removed from their system. To put 665 MW in perspective, that is an amount greater than the rated capacity of their Flint Creek coal fired generation plant here in Northwest Arkansas to which this power line would have connected.

NERC, the National Energy Regulatory Commission, recommends that grid planning be done on a 5 year window. Anything beyond 5 years is likely to be out of date due to the fact that the power grid is a dynamic thing with a number of operators each having effect on it. SWEPCO based their plans for this power line on a 10 year planning window. So perhaps this malfeasance will pass for an honest mistake resulting from failure to adhere to national planning guidelines. But we have every reason to suspect that what we have been put through was most likely evidence of corruption and greed.

In the meantime, SWEPCO just filed to close their application with no apology for the damage and distress they have caused in the small communities of Northwest Arkansas that they claim to serve.

Please forgive me for interjecting all this drama into the blog. Matti Bergström advised of an impairment he named "finger blindness." It is the result of failure to learn and work through the hands.  He said, "just as the blind cannot see the shape of an object, the finger blind cannot perceive its intrinsic value." Without the engagement of the hands, the real world is left distant and abstract and the substitution of money as the primary value becomes the driving force. Those who are not engaged in hands-on learning, and the cultural values of fixing, making, caring, protecting and creative work become "values damaged," with their field of view narrowed to the point that money and the making of it become the overriding distortion of more meaningful values.

There is a moral lesson in all this. Do not trust American corporations. Their bottom lines rarely consider long standing cultural and environmental values. Do know that a small committed group of individuals can on occasion, make a difference and act bravely and accordingly.

We are wondering at this point whether the Southwest Power Pool and SWEPCO will make some kind of apology to Northwest Arkansas, but to apologize might open questions regarding an admission of guilt and liability.  So that's not likely to come any time soon. For those who love only money, by stopping this power line, and besides retaining the character of our community, we have saved Arkansas ratepayers at least half a billion dollars in unnecessary construction costs, operations and maintenance and utility profits.

Today, we received a letter from SWEPCO informing us of their  withdrawal of their proposed power line. Just as we expected, there was no note of apology for what they have put our community and region through for the last 21 months. Corporate values are not the same as human values and one should never expect humanity to be expressed by the stooges who work only to make money.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:12 PM

    These people run like cockroaches when truth is directed their way. Good for you.