Thursday, May 11, 2017

Suggestions in Writing Letters to Regulatory Commissions

Great Lakes Basin Transportation has finally filed its official application to the Surface Transportation Board.  Now is the time to write letters opposing this proposed project.  Yes, we’ve all opposed the project on environmental grounds but this is the time to oppose the project with economic reasoning. 
It is a bit unusual and intimidating to write a letter to the Surface Transportation Board or a state’s public utility commission in reference to a project.  In many ways it’s like a resume or a job application where a person is at a loss for words.  The best advice is to put it in your own words.  Read others and know a couple of the basic talking points but be honest and let it reflect a bit of your emotions while still being polite and respectful of the Board or Commission. 

After reviewing previous STB and Illinois Commerce Commission dockets, I believe there are three key points that need to be proved for an applicant to successfully receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Need. 

1. The Applicant must prove financial ability to build and operate the proposed project.
2. The Applicant must prove there is a public demand or need.
3. The Applicant must prove the proposed project helps, reduce congestion, and does no harm to the existing services.

If the applicant fails to meet any of those three points, there is a much better chance the Certificate for Public Convenience and Need will be denied by the Board or Commission.  Letters to a Commission opposing a project should focus on any one or all three of these points and explain why you as a private citizen believes the CPCN should be denied.  The key to being an engaged public is explaining the situation from your perspective as an affect person.

Being a privately funded speculation project should raise red flags.  Having unknown investors seeking federal approval while attempting to have their identity hidden behind an Order of Protection should raise concerns at a regulatory commission.  Unfortunately, regulatory commissions, like the STB can sometimes be political with a desire to achieve Administration's objectives or corporate objectives.   It's been seen at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state utility commissions.   Letters from the public is critical to keep a regularly commission balanced to remind them to balance speculation capital with the public's priorities.

Lastly, while being polite is important, being aggressive towards the opponent is key.  Politely fillet your opponent.  Tear them up.  Do not be intimidated by the size of the project, the opponent’s education and degree.  You are fighting for your farm and home.  The venture capital companies seek the easement is not your friend. They are doing it for one reason, to put money in their pocket by devaluing your property.

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