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Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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*** UPDATED x1 *** FERC move could cost Illinois ratepayers $864 million a year

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Green Tech Media

After more than a year of delay, the two-Republican majority at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has told mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM how it must revamp its $10 billion-per-year capacity market. And at first glance, it could be even more harmful to state-subsidized renewable energy than previously imagined.

Thursday’s order would force almost all future state-subsidized resources in PJM’s 11-state territory to use a “minimum offer price rule,” or MOPR, that would limit how low they can bid. Because almost all state subsidies and incentives are for zero marginal-cost clean energy, this would create an artificial floor that masks their true cost-effectiveness — and effectively forces them out of the market — against existing coal, nuclear and gas-fired generation, critics say. […]

[FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee], a former senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), defended Thursday’s order as an attempt to “level the playing field” for all resources amidst a rising tide of state incentives for clean energy that are “suppressing prices in capacity markets.”

Except there’s no evidence that this is happening, but they’re intent on propping up coal-fired generators.

So, how does this impact Illinois?

* The cost projections in this press release are based on a study which can be found here. From the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition…

A federal ruling today will increase Illinois power bills by $864 million – believed to be the largest electricity increase in state history – unless the General Assembly takes immediate action to offset the controversial ruling by two federal regulators appointed by President Trump.

In a 2-1 ruling earlier today, two of the Trump-appointed members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted a policy that will force people in Illinois and other states to pay extra for electricity generated from coal and other dirty sources not needed to serve local demand for power.

To avoid Illinois electricity consumers paying more for unnecessary generation, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition urged state lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams and Sen. Cristina Castro. The legislation would give the state more control of its energy future, avoid the $864 million in higher bills for customers and instead secure lower bills for them.

“The impact of this ruling on ComEd customers would be nothing short of devastating, but the General Assembly has the power to prevent it from happening,” said David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board and Coalition member. “Illinois lawmakers must take action before their constituents are hit with jarring increases in power bills.”

A new analysis, “Consumer Impacts of FERC Interference with State Policies,” by Michael Goggin and Rob Gramlich of the consulting firm Grid Strategies, estimates that FERC’s decision could raise costs for consumers across the power grid by up to $5.7 billion a year. Northern Illinois would be one of the hardest hit areas: Electric customers here could pay up to $864 million a year extra.

The FERC decision comes amid an ongoing campaign by the Trump administration to prop up coal-fired power plants struggling to compete in the electricity market. Fossil fuel generators have been pushing for such a change for more than a year, as it becomes more difficult for their outdated plants to compete in the face of more modern technology, like solar and wind farms, and state policies that promote cleaner forms of energy.

Specifically, FERC’s ruling applies to PJM, an organization that manages the power grid and plans for long-term electricity needs—especially when demand is highest. The nation’s largest grid operator, PJM covers a vast territory that includes northern Illinois and all or parts of a dozen other states. PJM assembles this long-term power supply – known as “capacity” – from electricity generators that participate in a competitive auction that it conducts. Illinois customers pay for these capacity costs through the supply charge on their electric bills.

The new rules approved by FERC will change auction rules in a way that rewards polluters that generate power from coal- and gas-fired plants, giving them the license to charge inflated prices and then foist the added costs on customers in northern Illinois and throughout PJM’s territory.

As a result of the FERC decision, electric customers across the Chicago region and most of northern Illinois are facing an imminent increase in the amount they pay to reserve enough power – known as the “capacity price” – to meet projected future demand for electricity. FERC’s action also undermines the state’s 2016 passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act that promotes clean energy goals and consumer savings through increased investments in energy efficiency and zero-carbon emissions sources, such as wind, solar, and nuclear power.

To shield electric customers from the higher bills, the Clean Energy Jobs Act would authorize the state to assume the responsibility for managing its capacity needs. Instead of Illinois relying on PJM’s capacity auction, a state agency, the Illinois Power Agency (IPA), would be put in charge of running Illinois’ own capacity auction.

The IPA already manages the power purchases of the state’s biggest electric utilities, and part of its mission is to protect consumers from unnecessary increases in their supply costs. The agency is better positioned to run Illinois’ capacity auction and ensure that northern Illinois consumers save money while the state’s clean energy goals are advanced.

Capacity market reform is one part of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the most comprehensive and consumer-friendly energy bill in Springfield. The legislation also:

    Aims for a carbon-free power sector by 2030, and provides financial and other assistance to communities and workers impacted by coal plant retirements;
    Moves Illinois towards 100% renewable energy by 2050, attracting $39 billion in clean energy development;
    Develops transportation electrification to give Illinoisans access to cleaner and more affordable forms of transportation;
    Expands energy efficiency programs that have already cut utility bills by billions of dollars;
    Sparks business development, workforce training and jobs so all Illinois residents can benefit from the clean energy economy.

* From the Environmental Defense Fund…

Because of this decision by federal regulators, Illinois consumers will be forced to pay more than $864 million in higher energy bills, and all of us will be forced to breathe dirtier air. It underscores the urgent need for members of the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Pritzker to take swift action on the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which will lower bills for consumers, create jobs and empower Illinois to take control of its energy future. Rather than be stuck with an obsolete system imposed by out-of-state decision-makers, it’s time for to Illinois set its own course by developing an energy mix that prioritizes carbon-free resources and puts money back in the pockets of consumers.

Other groups, however, aren’t so sure about CEJA, including a group made up mostly of clean energy generators. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is mostly activists. Exelon/ComEd was also supportive because it has all those nuke plants.

*** UPDATE *** Path to 100…

While FERC’s order may have an impact on renewable energy and for consumers, we need to make sure that Illinois’ doesn’t rush to enact policies that could make the situation worse.

The renewable energy industry in Illinois is focused on the immediate funding crisis facing the state’s renewable portfolio standard. Passing the Path to 100 Act will allow renewable energy to continue growing while we evaluate potential action on capacity markets.

The FERC order has not been published yet and it’s impossible to estimate its impact on consumers. In the coming months, PJM will respond to FERC’s order. At that time, the state can begin the process of carefully considering proposals that would fundamentally reshape Illinois’ energy market. Any proposals for Illinois must include a plan to maximize capacity from all of Illinois’ diverse renewable energy sources and provide financeable solutions for a deregulated market.


In Springfield, doing something legal in your own back yard is the police’s business

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* SJ-R

[Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow], addressing the Springfield City Council, said adult residents over the age of 21 will be able to consume marijuana products in their homes and on any structures attached to it, such as a porch, deck, patio, stoop or stairs. […]

According to WMAY radio, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder earlier this month said city attorneys told him that an adult could smoke on their front porch or in their own yard without legal consequence, a view that Winslow wanted further clarification on.

“We tried as law enforcement to get these addressed in the veto session and couldn’t get a direct answer,” Winslow said. “So, these are things that the legislators have created, they are aware of these issues and our concerns in law enforcement. Hopefully they will go back in the spring session and correct some of these or clarify. Until that time, we will do our best we can to get through this.”

Until that clarification comes, it was determined that the city would be slightly more restrictive, allowing it in places like a porch but not necessarily in a backyard.

Not necessarily? So if someone is sitting on their back deck all is well, but if they step off the deck into their back yard it could result in a police response?

C’mon, man. How about just letting people consume their own legal products on their own property.

And, yes, I may live to regret this post since I reside in Springfield. But this is nonsense.

…Adding… There seems to be a little confusion in comments. This is what the law actually says

“Public place” does not include a private residence unless the private residence is used to provide licensed child care, foster care, or other similar social service care on the premises.

The Springfield police chief is trying to define “residence” as only the structure, not the land. Your back yard is definitely part of your residence, so they’re just trying to nitpick this for whatever reason.


Bloomberg to go large in Illinois

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Lynn Sweet

Billionaire ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a late entry in the crowded Democratic presidential race, will make up for lost time by jumping in the March Illinois primary with a top team of five state political veterans eventually overseeing at least 50 political operatives working out of 10 offices statewide.

This is the biggest Illinois presidential paid start up in decades and will dwarf the paid operations of Bloomberg’s 2020 rivals when it comes to Illinois. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have robust volunteer organizations driven through social media. South Bend Mayor Peter Buttitieg has a satellite headquarters office in the South Loop, focused on his national campaign.

Bloomberg campaign field offices will open in Chicago, Waukegan and other suburbs, Springfield, Metro East, Rockford and Rock Island, according to Tom Bowen, the Chicago political consultant who is Bloomberg’s senior adviser in Illinois.

Bloomberg is not focusing on the February states with the first presidential votes — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — instead vaulting to the delegate-rich states with primary and caucus votes in March.

This sort of late entry thing has never been successful in modern times. So, we’ll see.

Another billionaire, JB Pritzker, won the Democratic primary here, but he put much (not all) of his focus on wooing African-American voters and organized labor. Can Bloomberg do that? Especially after the other candidates have been put through the ringer in early states?

I guess we’ll find out. Either way, congrats to his new Illinois staff (click here for the list). Considering his gigantic TV ad buys so far, I’m sure he pays pretty well.


Must-read political junkie stuff

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From pollster Dave Fako’s latest client newsletter…

Many of our recent messages have discussed the changes being make in the public opinion research profession, adapting to the new communication habits of potential respondents to surveys and how to assess the quality, reliability and accuracy of polls. In these messages we have shared information from Pew about changes in their methods and the status of polling.

Well, Pew has put out another great article, which details some topics we have written about too, particularly methodological disclosure, cell phones and the use of online / Internet methods. We strongly recommend it to anybody who is a consumer of public opinion research or has an interest in the profession.

* From that Pew story

Is polling broken?

Here’s a myth that we can set aside right at the start: Polling is not “broken.” Well-designed and carefully administered surveys still work, and there’s plenty of empirical evidence to back this up.

Even outside the U.S., there is substantial evidence that polling hasn’t witnessed a substantial decline in accuracy. A comprehensive review of polling accuracy published in 2018 found that “relying on vote intention polls from more than 200 elections in 32 countries over a period of more than 70 years, there is no evidence that poll errors have increased over time….”

But there are developing issues, so go read the rest.


Don’t just slam it, learn from it

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism

An increasingly popular tactic challenges conventional wisdom on the spread of electoral disinformation: the creation of partisan outlets masquerading as local news organizations. An investigation by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School has discovered at least 450 websites in a network of local and business news organizations, each distributing thousands of algorithmically generated articles and a smaller number of reported stories. Of the 450 sites we discovered, at least 189 were set up as local news networks across ten states within the last twelve months by an organization called Metric Media. […]

The networks can be traced back to conservative businessman Brian Timpone. In 2012, Timpone’s company Journatic, an outlet known for its low-cost automated story generation (which became known as ‘pink slime journalism’), attracted national attention and outrage for faking bylines and quotes, and for plagiarism. Journatic rebranded as Locality Labs in 2013; Locality Labs is behind many of the publications we discovered that mimic the appearance and output of traditional news organizations. These sites do not bear much information about their political use or funding, but some of them have been funded by political candidates and lobbying campaigns. Metric Media, Locality Labs (or LocalLabs), Franklin Archer, the Record Inc., and Local Government Information Services (LGIS) are the main organizations involved in operating these networks of publications, and Timpone is associated in one way or another with each of them. Michigan Daily has detailed the convoluted relationship between these organizations.

We’ve seen much of this before. But the reporter did some pretty fancy online detective work to piece it together, so it’s worth a read just for that.

* But the story misses a major point

It is not clear how effective the sites are, but their architecture and strategy is useful to understand the way they co-opt the language, design and structure of news organizations. Automation has been touted as a way to create stories where there are few reporting resources, and it can be used to build credibility. It can also make a news organization look far more prolific than it is. Potentially adding to the credibility of these sites is their Google search ranking: in the case of some of the websites set up in 2015-2016, we observed that once sites had gained ample authority, they appeared on the first page of Google Search results just below the official government and social media pages.

Timpone raises money to publish his papers, but he’s also obviously figured out how search engine optimization works. Man, has he ever. And that can lead to even more $$$ from advertising.

It’s not just about the message, it’s also about the buckaroos - which is something too many newspapers seem to be clueless about these days. Struggling media companies should be calling Timpone to see what they can learn from him. They don’t have to follow his ideological bent, of course, but a few more dollars never hurts.


Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2019 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Elected Statewide Officeholder was no contest at all

How could it go to anyone other than JB Pritzker after the historically productive first session he had? Reached across the aisle to build bridges with the GOP and has begun the hard work of binding up the massive wounds left by the previous administration. It’s the governor in a walk.

Only one other person was nominated. It was the closest thing to a sweep that I think we’ve ever had.

* The 2019 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best US Representative goes to Cheri Bustos

We have lots of good Reps, but I nominate Rep. Cheri Bustos for taking on a national leadership role and still spending lots of time in her district, acting bipartisanly when she can, and, most especially, encouraging, recruiting, and training the next generation of local political leaders.

Raja Krishnamoorthi receives honorable mention.

Congratulations to our winners.

* I accidentally skipped over two categories yesterday, but before we get to them I should post something related which I didn’t post earlier this month and still feel bad about it…

At the Annual Third House Holiday Luncheon at the Chicago Hilton and Towers on Thursday December 5th, [Illinois Realtors’] Senior Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Julie Sullivan was named the “Speaker” of the Third House and will lead the group for the coming year.


OK, on to our next categories…

* Best contract lobbyist

* Best in-house lobbyist

Again, you must explain your nominations or they won’t count. And please, please, please nominate in both categories. Thanks and have fun!


*** UPDATED x1 *** A totally unnecessary “debate”

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Block Club Chicago

Despite a push by the Black Caucus, recreational weed will be legally sold in Chicago come Jan. 1.

In a dramatic City Council meeting, the ordinance that would’ve delayed recreational weed sales until July 1 was narrowly defeated by a 29-19 vote. […]

When the votes were counted, six Black Caucus members voted against the proposed ordinance they had co-sponsored: Alds. Pat Dowell (3rd), Michelle Harris (8th), Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Chris Taliaferro (29th), Emma Mitts (37th) and Matt Martin (47th). They were joined by 23 other aldermen. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Maria Hadden (49th) were absent from Wednesday’s meeting.

This whole thing was completely unnecessary.

* This caught my eye yesterday

Ald. David Moore (17) set the tone for the intense debate by accusing Gov. JB Pritzker of threatening to block projects funded by the state’s $45 billion capital bill in ward represented by aldermen who voted for the ban.

Emily Bittner, the director of communications for Prtizker, immediately took to Twitter to say that assertion was false.

Moore said after the meeting that he had heard the threat “third-hand” and had not directly been warned to expect repercussions by the governor’s representatives. Ervin said after the meeting that his negotiations with the governor’s office were “cordial” and the vote on the ban was never linked to capital bill spending.

C’mon, man. Can anyone honestly imagine Mr. Laid-Back himself foaming at the mouth while screaming into his phone threatening to kill capital projects on the South and West sides if aldermen don’t obey his commands? I’d actually pay to see that.

* Irony from her honor

“I do not think it is wise to poke our governor in the eye,” Lightfoot said [of the Black Caucus]. “Gov. Pritzker is an important ally for the city of Chicago.”

Um, OK. Perhaps she could take her own advice now and then?

* Sun-Times

Some black aldermen said Wednesday they were persuaded by last-minute intervention by the governor’s office with specific assurances that some new medical marijuana licenses would go to social equity applicants. But in a twist late Wednesday night, the governor’s office publicly disavowed any such guarantees. […]

What changed overnight?

A lot of arm-twisting by the mayor’s office and — aldermen and the mayor say — an assurance from Gov. J.B. Pritzker to earmark two of five new medical marijuana dispensary licenses — to be located in Hyde Park and Chinatown — to so-called social equity applicants. […]

“Perhaps the aldermen came to understand that there was a law already on the books that encourages social equity applicants to apply for medical licenses,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh told the Sun-Times.


* The number of aldermen spouting off with uninformed opinions yesterday was quite something to behold…

* My “favorite” part of the debate

Tension only escalated from that point. There were multiple votes to establish whether to vote on the pot delay at all because there was not a consensus on the rules.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward), the sponsor of the ordinance, was speaking on the floor about his support for a delay. Right before he was set to use a procedure to delay the vote until Thursday morning, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), a mayoral ally, cut him off to use a motion to call for a vote.

“I have the floor sir,” Ervin said to Reilly.

“I thought you were concluding,” Lightfoot said to Ervin.

“We have rules of order,” Ervin said. “I would ask that we all respect the rules of this body …. I mean, to take the floor, it’s just … if you need it that bad, take it.” He then slammed his mic down to his desk.

Ervin could not believe what had just happened to him. He had the floor, he was speaking, there was no timer issue, but he was still shut down. You don’t see that sort of thing on the House or Senate floors. The Tribune would write thundering editorials for decades if Madigan did something like that.

Unclear on the concept

The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus threatened Thursday to try again to delay recreational marijuana sales in Chicago for six months after accusing Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office of backing off from a commitment made to African American aldermen demanding a piece of the pie.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said “seven or eight” black and Hispanic aldermen voted against a six-month delay based on the promise they were told the governor’s office made to earmark two medical marijuana dispensary licenses — in Hyde Park and Chinatown — for social equity applicants.

*** UPDATE *** Except, he never made that promise

In an email sent Tuesday to top mayoral aide Samantha Fields, Illinois weed czar Toi Hutchinson made what appears to be a vague promise about the social equity licenses.

“Please accept this letter as my confirmation that we will ensure that the 5 remaining medicinal licenses will not be let until there is proper equity language attached to the rules governing how the licenses can be awarded,” Hutchinson wrote in the email obtained by the Sun-Times.

And other aldermen, including Walter Burnett, are saying it’s no big deal.

…Adding… From the governor’s office…


The Governor and members of the General Assembly worked hard to ensure that the social equity provisions of the adult-use cannabis effort would also apply to the existing medical industry, including the five medical licenses that have yet to be awarded. The Governor was pleased to expand the social equity application benefits to the medical license process earlier this summer. The ultimate awardees of the medical licenses will be determined through a regulated process, but social equity applicants will receive the same additional points in the medical application scoring that they receive in the adult-use process.


Those who are awarded medical licenses cannot be determined in advance, and must be drawn from the pool of all applicants, according to laws governing licensing.

Two of the five outstanding medical licenses will be awarded to locations in Chicago, according to the state law that established the medical cannabis program in 2013.

The change to the medical application process – adding a social equity component – is currently going through the state’s rule-making process to be finalized.

* Related…

* Cigar shops, hookah lounges and other smoke shops could allow pot use under city proposal


“They call him Flipper, Flipper; faster than lightning”

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times last month

The operator of a Summit bar that’s come under scrutiny as part of a political corruption investigation in the southwest suburbs is an associate of a top political operative for Ald. Edward Burke and state Sen. Martin Sandoval, both facing their own problems with federal investigators.

Mariano “Mario” Martinez — who runs Mars Bar, 6030 S. Harlem Ave. — has personal and professional connections to Rudy Acosta Sr., a Burke precinct captain and Sandoval pal, according to records and interviews.

Martinez, 50, was charged earlier this year with possessing and distributing a kilo of heroin. […]

Martinez has pleaded “not guilty” to the drug charges, though there is a change-of-plea hearing set for next month. His lawyer did not return calls, and the U.S. attorney’s office would not comment.

Martinez told the Sun-Times he’s not cooperating with federal authorities, saying, “I’m going to do my time.”

Oh, a tough guy, eh?

* Sun-Times late yesterday

A man with ties to a top political operative for Ald. Edward M. Burke and state Sen. Martin Sandoval admitted Wednesday he gave more than $6,500 in bribes to public officials in Summit — and he agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors “in any matter” for which he’s called upon. […]

But if he cooperates as anticipated in his plea agreement, prosecutors have said they will recommend a lighter sentence for his drug crime. Kennelly put off scheduling a sentencing hearing.

In his plea agreement, Martinez acknowledged he gave bribes totaling more than $6,500 to public officials, including an elected official, since 2014. And on March 31, 2017, he had a discussion by phone with “Summit Official B” about getting “Summit Official A” to use his official position to assist Martinez with one of his businesses.

Martinez also provided benefits to the two unnamed officials to gain their support, according to the plea agreement. […]

When Rodriguez was interviewed by agents, they played him a recording of a conversation between two other people, a source said. And questions put to Rodriguez by federal agents focused on Mars Bar.

* Text from a buddy the other day before this story came out…

I still maintain that one of the huge underlying stories here is going to be just how many people flipped on friends and colleagues. As I said to somebody the other evening over drinks, you’re going to see more people flip than you would at a Jesse White Tumbler’s show.

[Headline explained here.]


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Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Thursday, Dec 19, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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