Confused in West Virginia

Two years ago, when David Friend, CEO of US WindForce LLC testified before the WV Public Service Commission, he was asked to describe Edison’s relationship with the Pinnacle wind project currently under construction on the Allegheny Front above Keyser, West Virginia.  Mr. Friend told the Commissioner, “I get confused sometimes. There’s an Edison Mission Group and Edison Mission Energy, and there’s a little bit of synonymous use of the two names.”

Well, welcome to my world.  I’m still trying to figure out who is who … or is that who is whomwhom is who – oh, whatever!

And I’ve got to tell you, a recent filing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission didn’t do anything to clear up my confusion.  I found plenty of organizations on the Edison family tree, but not a mention of US WindForce LLC anywhere in the formal document submitted to the Federal Government.  Take a look … maybe I missed something:

If you found US WindForce LLC on the list, please let me know and read no further.  Thanks!

If you confirmed that US WindForce LLC isn’t among the many companies in the FERC application, maybe you can help me.  If you can confirm that Pinnacle Wind LLC is the same entity as Pinnacle Wind Force LLC, that would help too!  I hate to assume, although it seems the Lawyers and Regulators don’t seem to mind.

According to a published report at Interstate Acquisition Services, at least on 1/10/2011, Pinnacle Wind Force LLC was owned by Mr. Friend’s US WindForce LLC.  (Just to be clear, this is not the same name as the Pinnacle Wind LLC listed in the FERC submission – but I suppose, with all these LLCs floating around, it’s possible the Attorneys were confused as well.)  Anyway, take a look at this from the IAS article: The West Virginia Public Service Commission granted a Siting Certificate to Pinnacle Wind Force, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of US Wind Force, LLC, for the construction and operation of the proposed wind power project known as “Pinnacle Wind Farm at NewPage”.  IAS goes on to describe the project as, “located along a 3.5-mile section of Green Mountain, southwest of Keyser in Mineral County, West Virginia,” so that would confirm it’s the same Pinnacle project Mr. Friend was asked about in the WVPSC hearing.

I was a little surprised that the formal request to FERC by representatives of Pinnacle Wind LLC, did not include even a mention of US WindForce LLC, especially since the document goes to great length to list every possible company connected to the Pinnacle project.

So, where exactly does US WindForce LLC fit into the Pinnacle mix and, if it doesn’t, should US WindForce LLC still be speaking for the project?  One might assume that, since US WindForce LLC owns, or did own, Pinnacle Wind Force LLC (if that’s the same entity listed in the FERC submission as Pinnacle Wind LLC), the principles of US WindForce LLC might actually be on the organizational chart for both LLCs.  If it’s as simple as that, wouldn’t it be helpful if these folks would clarify that they actually are speaking as authorized representatives of what appears to be the real entity, Pinnacle Wind LLC.

Then again, scuttlebutt around here was that US WindForce LLC was going to sell the farm, so to speak.  We were led to believe the Edison Mission Group would purchase.  If that did happen, I suppose I missed it.  Wouldn’t be the first thing!

In any case, I think it would be nice to know the specific entity responsible to fulfill the promises and agreements made to our community by US WindForce.  You know … which of the many Edison entities listed on the FERC application will be cutting the checks to the community?  I think this is a fair question to clear up confusion since, while not noted in the FERC application, US WindForce LLC apparently continues to speak for the project.

For example, if you read articles such as the one on September 6, 2011, you might think US WindForce LLC is still in charge.  David Friend, identified as CEO of US WindForce LLC, is quoted as saying that, as a result of the Pinnacle wind farm being constructed in Mineral County West Virginia, “the county will collect an estimated $433,000 in annual average property taxes, as well as additional taxes to local, state and federal entities.”  Another article from September 18, 2011, Mr. Jim Cookman, president of U.S. WindForce was quoted in the local “Just let them burn and they will eventually burn out” article discussing specifics about the Pinnacle project.  (We covered the incredibly innovative firefighting technique discussed in the same article – here and here.)

Now it could be that the US WindForce LLC folks don’t want to confuse us by suddenly speaking as Pinnacle Wind LLC.  Or, maybe they are speaking out of turn.  I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know.  Experience has shown that many communities were blindsided when project owners successfully negotiated tax rate reductions.  The monies dangled in the approval stage didn’t materialize in reality.  Whether it is the simple threat of “have to take our business elsewhere” or the wind business classic, “if taxes weren’t so high we could build more wind projects, and that would allow us to consider a manufacturing facility in your community,” the ultimate result is … elected officials knees will buckle and tax rates will fall.  Oh no … not yours Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen, the tax reductions will be industry specific.

And let’s face it, the wind business is … well … a business, and there’s no reason to believe the owners of the Pinnacle wind project, whoever they may be, won’t go after tax relief unless, of course, our elected officials got a commitment otherwise.  But, lacking that agreement, why shouldn’t the owners go for reductions?  Heck, it’s their job to drive down costs and improve profits.  After all, in spite of what the wind lobby would like you to believe, they’re not a charity or a non-profit organization.  As one wind industry leader famously said, “This is all about making money!

And, speaking of getting handouts making money, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the Pinnacle folks aren’t lined up at the Federal feeding frenzy, aka – the Renewable Energy Grant program, where they could stand to pocket some $40,000,000.00 of your money simply by constructing the Pinnacle turbine project.  Oh … in case you missed that … the Federal Renewable Energy Grant program provides that qualified renewable projects which begin construction in 2011 will receive 30% of the project cost from taxpayers.  If my math is right, that would mean the owners of Pinnacle could walk away with around $40,000,000.00 of your hard earned tax dollars.  Oh … and that’s not where the subsidies end, by the way.

But I have no way to know if the Pinnacle owners are signed up for the 1603 Grant, but wouldn’t they be crazy not to latch onto that bundle?  Oh, there are clues, if you think maybe that’s the reason for the project completion deadline discussed in a recent news article.  You see, completing the project by December 31, 2011 eliminates a lot of messy paperwork the Federal Government requires of companies who don’t finish their project by the end of this year.  Of course there could be other reasons for the December 31 deadline.  There’s the … uh … hmm!  Oh wait, what about … nah!  Any ideas?

Besides, the WVPSC would surely know all about the grant application if it existed, don’t you think?  After all, as I recall, that was a requirement in the siting permit granted by the WVPSC.  How did they phrase that requirement?  Oh, yes:  “In the Application, Pinnacle indicated that the federal government is considering programs that could provide funding to foster the development of renewable energy projects, Pinnacle might seek funding under the program, and if it does so, Pinnacle will promptly make any disclosures required by the Commission’s Siting Rules. It is reasonable to require Pinnacle to advise the Commission if it receives any public funding for the project so that the Commission can reopen this proceeding and perform the Part Two analysis that W. Va. Code 5 24-2- 1 1 c requires.

That was pretty specific.  And boy, you know what sticklers the WVPSC is about complying to their orders … they won’t let this one slip by … guaranteed!  And, in any case, the Federal Government publishes everything you want to know about that hand-out scheme, so we’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, recognizing that we are dealing with a business structure which includes easily dissolved LLCs, I admit I’m more than a little concerned about relying on the $433,000 annual revenue touted by Mr. Friend.  In fact, I wrote an open letter to our elected officials who so ardently supported the Pinnacle project and asked this question, among others, “Regarding the issue of tax revenue … do you have assurance that the new and future owners will not appeal the current tax rate assessment seeking to reduce their obligation?”  I haven’t heard a thing since.

Then I got to thinking.  Maybe they just don’t know who to ask.

I sure don’t … I’m too confused.

Why, you ask?  You obviously didn’t you read the FERC application I provided, did you?  Let me help you with this summary:

Pinnacle Wind (Seller) is a limited liability company organized under the laws of Delaware.

  • Pinnacle Wind (Seller) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mission Wind Pinnacle, Inc.
  • “Mission Wind Pinnacle” is an indirect subsidiary of Edison Mission Energy (“EME”).
  • EME is an indirect subsidiary of Edison Mission Group Inc.
  • Edison Mission Group is wholly-owned by Edison International, which also is the ultimate parent company of Southern California Edison Company (“SCE”), a public utility with a franchised service territory in Southern California.

Pinnacle Wind (Seller)  is affiliated with the following entities:

  • American Bituminous Power Partners, L.P. (“American Bituminous”), the owner and operator of an 80 MW (nameplate) waste coal facility located in Grant Town, West Virginia.3
  • EME Homer City Generation, L.P. (“Homer City”), an EWG4 which leases and operates a generating facility consisting of three coal-fired generating units with a combined nameplate capacity of 1,884 MW, located in Indiana County, Pennsylvania
  • Forward WindPower, LLC (“Forward Wind”), an EWG6 that owns a 29.4 MW (nameplate) wind-powered generating facility located in Somerset County, Pennsylvania
  • Lookout WindPower, LLC (“Lookout Wind”), an EWG8 that owns a 37.8 MW (nameplate) wind-powered generating facility located in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
  • Midwest Generation, LLC (“Midwest Gen”), an EWG10 that owns approximately 5,777 MW (nameplate) of generation formerly owned by Commonwealth Edison Company.
  • Big Sky Wind, LLC (“Big Sky Wind”), an EWG12 that owns and operates a 240 MW windpowered generation facility located in Illinois in PJM.

In addition, Pinnacle Wind (Seller) is affiliated with the following power marketers:

  • Edison Mission Marketing & Trading, Inc. (“EMMT”) is a power marketer that holds contractual rights to uncommitted energy from the generation facilities of Homer City, Midwest Gen, Lookout Wind, Big Sky Wind, and Forward Wind. EMMT does not own or control any other generation capacity.
  • Edison Mission Solutions, LLC is a power marketer that does not own or control any generation capacity.
  • CL Power Sales Eight, LLC, CP Power Sales Seventeen, LLC, CP Power Sales Nineteen, LLC, and CP Power Sales Twenty, LLC (collectively, “CP Power Sales Entities”) are power marketers that do not own or control any generation capacity.
This entry was posted in Allegheny Mountains, Alternative Energy, Energy Subsidies, Industrial Wind and Local Governments, Industrial Wind Taxes, Mineral County WV, Pinnacle Wind Force LLC, US WindForce, WV PSC Hearing - Pinnacle Knob and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Confused in West Virginia

  1. jon Boone says:

    Outstanding reporting, Mike. This sleaze over slime business epitomizes the bottom feeding nature of the contemporary economic scene. And, hey, you didn’t even mention the certain “equity partnerships” that will appear connected to this cankerous ganglia, likely in the form of flotsam from AES or GE or NextEra, so can profit by not paying their fair share of taxes.

    All brought by the best government money can buy….

  2. Pingback: My boss would have fired the whole bunch! | Allegheny Treasures

  3. Pingback: Who was that masked man? | Allegheny Treasures

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