The consequences of siting for speculative projects hoping to use eminent domain can be excruciatingly stressful and even deadly. Do government organizations like the Surface Transportation Board realize just how stressful easement siting can be on the public? Last night I had an opportunity to talk 3 minutes before a packed auditorium, expressing concerns to the Surface Transportation Board court reporter. Some people get nervous before they speak. For others, like myself, there isn’t a rush of jitters before the moment, but a collapse after. The nerves and jitters hit during the 15 to 20 minutes after it’s over. Perhaps the smart people are those who sit in the audience with support but don’t speak. They have a better understanding of their limitations when fools like myself rush in.
The night before, an older gentleman had what appeared to be a heartattack a couple minutes after sharing at one of these Public Forums for the Surface Transportation Board. He spoke for about 10 minutes and captivated the audience like grandfathers telling a story. While he spoke, he owned the room and the only ones concerned about an alloted time limit was the people from Washington. He spoke eloquently from the heart. Unfortunately 3 minutes after he was done, he was unconscious. With so many engaged rural residents there were five people volunteer firemen preforming CPR and administering and AED, shocking him possibly 3 times.
This process isn't working and something needs to change in the easement siting process. It doesn’t matter if it is from the Surface Transportation Board, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or The Illinois Commerce Commission. This easement siting (eminent domain) process is high stress and is not working. The stress starts when the public is blindsided by a proposed project. Informing landowners and residents at the last minutes exacerbates the problem. Having these projects linger with no finality just keeps the unknown lingering.
The original Rock Island Clean Line docket was filed in 2010 and they still haven’t progressed to the point of buying easements. How long must we live under the oppression? When is there closure?
The Surface Transportation Board meetings were a sobering reminder just how much this process sucks. There is no just compensation for the stress this causes. The three members of the Surface Transportation Board can’t even find time to attend these meetings themselves. They send a court recorder, some outside contractors, and a very nice but powerless guy from the environmental department.
This process needs to change. After watching a man get shocked possibly three times with an AED in a packed auditorium and possibly die at one of these public forums, it is not surprising why many in America despises Washington and have contempt for the bureaucracy. It’s easy to understand why people see Washington as the enemy and Washington is beginning to view the public as domestic terrorists.
Does the Surface Transportation Board actually care about the public? Does the Surface Transportation Board only see themselves as arbiter between railroads like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sees themselves as arbiter and keeping a balance within the industry and the people are just a necessary inconvenience? This process isn’t working. To put this into perspective, the Surface Transportation Board doesn’t need to hire police for security. The Surface Transportation Board needs to hire onsite paramedics. These Public Forums are just that stressful. Next, the actual board members should start attending these meetings themselves and feel the pain.
Maybe these state and federal regulatory agencies need to start including landowners immediately in the process. There is no omnibusman or representing mechanism for affect people in this process. There is no support at FERC or the STB. This process needs to start including affected public and not alienating the people. No one else is going to properly question the true need for these projects but for the people.
Too bad Frank Patton didn’t attend these meeting. I guess a puppet CEO for shadow investors doesn’t need to see the pain he causes. Considering Frank Patton’s age, odds are he will die of “natural causes” before a decision is made to accept or reject this project. Do the shadow investors pulling Frank’s strings have another puppet CEO waiting when Frank is gone?
Here's another suggestion Frank. Walk away. Enjoy your retirement. This project is going to take minimum four years and probably closer to eight years before closure. If you were Frank Patton, do you really want to go down this road? It’s about to get very stressful for the CEO of Great Lakes Basin Transportation llc. A few years ago Ron Binz was nominated for chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC handles some siting and authorization issues for proposed powerlines and pipelines. Binz withdrew his nomination stating Congressional approval was a “bloodsport". That was an interesting description considering the real blood sport is siting of unnecessary eminent domain projects such as this from people who have no regard for other's homes, farms, and business.
This is going to be a long hard road. Eminent domain siting is not fun stuff. Frank should be asking himself if he really wants to go down this road against people who have the tenacity of defending their homelands. Think about the tenacity of the Patriots fighting professional British Troops. When you fight with your heart for your home, you fight with a lot more passion. Is this how you want to spend your retirement if you were Frank Patton?
Sure, Patton is probably in this because it could potentially put money in his back pocket, but the people are fighting for their homes. Does Patton, the puppet CEO, have any idea how hard we'll fight to protect our homes? Walk away, Frank and enjoy your retirement. This is going to be a long hard road for Frank. It’s time these “project developers” feel the stress and pain we do. Maybe Frank Patton should ask the folks at Clean Line Energy just how tolling easement siting is on their personal lives. Maybe Michael Skelly and Jimmy Glotfelty at Clean Line can recommend a good therapist.