Junk Science, US Chamber of Commerce & PATH

The failed PATH project showed up in a junk science propaganda campaign by the US Chamber of Commerce last week.  Here’s the scoop from The Daily Record, apparently some kind of Maryland business publication:

Red tape and not-in-my-backyard activism were called out Thursday as major impediments to six stalled and troubled energy projects in Maryland that could have had a $19.5 billion economic impact on the state if they had moved forward.

The findings were part of a report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called “Project Denied” that looked at the economic impact of stalled energy projects nationwide.

“This study should serve as a wake-up call for legislative action to improve the permitting process,” said William Kovacs, the group’s senior vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs.

The study was conducted by TeleNomic Research and was authored by Steve Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute, and Joseph Fuhr, professor of economics at Widener University and senior fellow at the American Consumer Institute. The study looked at stalled or dropped power projects across the country that have been affected by problems ranging from financing and permitting hold-ups to citizen activism.

Peter Morici, a professor at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission who peer-reviewed the study, said the results were “startling.” He agreed that the permitting process needed to be streamlined so these projects could get off the ground and start generating jobs and pumping money into local economies.

Note all the talk about red tape and bureaucracy and NIMBYs.  Note the big scary number $19.5 billion in “denied” projects — including PATH which was just pulled voluntarily by the three private businesses that were pushing the project: AEP, FirstEnergy and PJM Interconnection.

So let’s turn to the actual “report” which was bought and paid for (sorry, “commissioned”) by the US Chamber of Commerce.  When I read through the report this morning, I immediately wondered why the authors had even bothered to write it.  Here is what Pociask and Fuhr say in their executive summary:

This study estimates the potential loss in economic value of 351 proposed solar, wind, wave, bio-fuel, coal, gas, nuclear and energy transmission projects that have been delayed or cancelled [sic]due to significant impediments, such as regulatory barriers, including inefficient review processes and the attendant lawsuits and threats of legal action.
These energy projects were reviewed and catalogued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its Project No Project initiative and are available at http://www.projectnoproject.com. To be clear, we do not believe that all of the subject projects ever would or necessarily should be approved, constructed, and operated. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted sentence appears again in the conclusion section of the report.  The authors clearly wanted to demonstrate that they knew the Chamber was paying them to misrepresent what was really going on with these projects.  At least they had that much integrity.

So these “experts” “do not believe that all of the subject projects ever would or necessarily should be approved, constructed and operated” but they went ahead and calculated all the “costs” from their being denied anyway?  Huh?

You can claim to be an economist just because you can plug any junk numbers based on junk assumptions into a computer program and spit out 98 pages of pretty graphs and tables?

Then you tack on an appendix that describes a number of projects including PATH.  The information on PATH does not reveal any “red tape” as the cause for the “delay” or “denial” of the project.  Not even any NIMBYs.  Under the West Virginia section, the authors use PATH as an example of delayed or denied projects.  Here is how they describe us:

A host of environmental and citizens groups oppose the project, arguing that PATH is not needed, adequate alternatives exist, comprehensive energy planning is more necessary, and that its environmental impacts outweigh its benefits.

Looks like someone did a good job of reading The Power Line’s posts.  Nothing about NIMBYs.  Everything about the fundamentals of why PJM and AEP/FE finally pulled the plug on PATH.  It was the power companies who cost citizens, tax payers and electrical customers tens of millions of dollars fighting a project that should never have been proposed.

I don’t know the other projects the way I know PATH, but if the truth behind these projects is anything like the truth behind PATH, there isn’t much there there for those projects either.

Scroll down to pages 78 and 80 of the report.  The TrAIL line is listed as a “delayed” project under both WV and East Virginia.  Hey, Chamber guys, the TrAIL project will be completed in about 3 months.  There were never delays in WV or East Virginia for TrAIL.  Certainly the paid academics need to be a little more careful with their “facts”.  How many other undelayed undenied projects like TrAIL are included in this report?

The US Chamber even scared up some professor at the University of Maryland to give their Maryland press release a little local spin.  What was this dude’s “commission” for his role in the Chamber’s report roll out?

We certainly discover, once again, the pitiful state of US journalism when we see The Daily Record’s Ben Mook repeat the false claims he got from the Chamber press release without ever reading the report itself.  In WV, we have a word for this kind of reporting — PATHetic.

The US Chamber will be showering reporters all over the US with their BS in this “report.”  The words “red tape,” “NIMBY” and “streamlining the regulatory process” will reverberate around the media.  It will be “mission accomplished” for the Chamber.  And none of it is true.

One more note for the Chamber guys:  The WV Legislature has already improved the regulatory process in WV.  Last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 614 which provides for individual notice to all land owners affected by a planned high voltage transmission line.  So we are way ahead of the US Chamber when it comes to “improvements.”