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Revolt News 123

05/08/2002

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Revolt News 123

1. From the DEFRA magazine Energy & Environmental Management (now lengthening its name to take in resource and sustainable management!) July/Aug 2002, there is on the one hand confirmation of the long-trailed government target of 10 GW of electricity from good quality CHP by 2010, yet on the other hand concern from the CHP Association that the amount of CHP has reduced over the last two years. The chief culprit is suggested as NETA, the government's New Electricity Trading Arrangements which replaced the old "pool"; both are operated by National Grid. NETA favours large power stations and makes it difficult for small-scale CHP and renewables to trade. But small distributed CHP matched to demand is the essence of its energy-saving value. NETA led to an immediate fall of 61% of output from CHP plants. Part of the problem, in my view, is letting the large interested parties have too much influence on policy, as they do with NETA and similarly with the grid standards, so it ends up slanted to favour the big players to the detriment of the environment and the public. In other words, weak and misguided regulation.

2. Iris and David Wilkinson of Pilmoor report from a short holiday in Corfu that, despite having left specific arrangements with NG before they went and leaving their son in charge, already they find NG has not honoured its agreement on construction to a certain standard of a bridge over the gutter and also of the cutting and baling of a green wheat crop. They say "It is obvious we cannot trust the NG contractors at all".

3. An interesting article on Lord Wakeham's roles appeared in the Guardian 11.7.02 and is copied below at Appendix 1. NG's pylons have Wakeham's sleasy WD40 all over them!

4. My letter of 14.7.02 offered to DST for publication is copied at Appendix 2 below. While the misinformation is not exactly the same, we are reminded that National Grid has a track record of it as does Enron. Letter appeared 19.7.02.

5. Following our press release, Deborah Wood from Quebec writes "we are living a similar deception. The Quebec PQ gouvernment recently passed a decree to push through the construction of the last section of the Hertel des Cantons 735 kv power line. As in your case enviromental hearingss declared that there is no need for such a big line."

6. The "yachting-mad" chairman (designate) of National Grid Transco (subject to the merger being approved) was profiled in the Sunday Times 14.7.02. Sir John Parker comes from the gas side of the business, and is a 62 year old engineer brought up on a farm in County Down. He is fiercely critical of those responsible for recent corporate failures, and of short-termism, and believes in setting the tone from the top. The question is, will he continue the tone of greed and spin, or will he take a longer-term view and reconsider the Yorkshire line, not least in relation to capacity on the cheaper and greener gas grid?

7. The Times 5.7.02 reports that network planning and power markets for England & Wales could be fused with those for Scotland. It was reported as NG losing control, but that's not the point.

8. The NRPB advisory group on non-ionising radiation (AGNIR) is to hold an open consultative meeting on ELF EMFs (powerline fields) on 5 December at the NEC Birmingham, chaired by Professor Lord Robert Winston. Details will be issued in September.

9. Redcar & Cleveland BC gave planning approval 15.7.02 for the AMEC- Corus windfarm "Tees Wind North" at Redcar on the former British Steel site. There will be 18 windmills (turbines) some 100 metres high (higher than pylons) on this brownfield site. Although mislocated in the north, where there is already excess generation, it is in an industrial area so should not create a landscape problem. Large windmills interfere with radar and this might be a problem for air traffic. The windfarm will not have a significant effect on transmission lines, as it will only have a capacity about a hundredth that of the gas-fired Teesside Power Station and the power produced will only be a third of that (due to variable weather).

10. NG held its AGM 23 July. Revolt did not have any representatives there, but we hear from Rebecca English of the Daily Mail that an interesting question was raised just before the end. Addressed to chief executive Roger Irwin, a shareholder stood up and said something like "You are having an affair with my wife and have been taking weekends away; can you tell us if this is on company expenses?".

11. Huby landowner Rosalind Craven's defiant stand against NG was reported in Yorkshire Evening Press and Northern Echo (25.7.02). Rosalind has written to contractor Balfour Beatty to ask them for "unequivocal evidence demonstrating that you are legally and statutorily authorised to enter the above farm on the day and at the time stated", with respect to proposed entry at approximately 1.00 p.m. on 29 July. She reserved the right to sue if there is illegal entry. In fact, although Rosalind wasn't able to be present on 29 July, Balfour Beatty backed off and did not enter over the locked gate. Letters have been exchanged since and are under consideration by NG's lawyers. Rosalind is confident that she has identified fundamental flaws in NG's legal position, and is working with Revolt to get them tested with a legal opinion.

12. Rosalind Craven also points out that the consent Condition which permits review of the consent after 5 years, i.e. from March 2003, is subject to the Conservation Regulations 1994. On checking the relevant Regulations it appears that the Condition would apply to cases where a site becomes recognised as a European site for conservation. This Condition does not give Secretary of State more general powers to review consent, and it is not clear whether she has them, so we may be frustrated in seeking review after next March.

13. Over 20 people attended the landowners' meeting at the Golden Lion, Northallerton, on 24.7.02. Peter Edmonds (NFU) was in the chair. The position on access rights was discussed in the light of the barrister's Opinion obtained (news119.7) and of NG's demands for unreasonable written undertakings (news119.8) from landowners resisting access. Rosalind Craven (see item 11 above) outlined her analysis of why NG, and particularly their contractors, were not entitled to access unilaterally. Revolt's barrister's Opinion on Human Rights, which left the door open to action, was also discussed. Further legal advice was needed on Rosalind Craven's conclusions on constitutional rights. Farmers reported NG failing to observe biosecurity requirements as advised by DEFRA, but DEFRA saying they hadn't resources to police it, which was up to the landowner. Peter Edmonds agreed to seek through the NFU a written generic statement from DEFRA of relevant biosecurity arrangements they advise and places and times they would apply. Different approaches by NG to payment for term and permanent easements were reported. It was said that grantors were entitled to compensation for loss of property value whether or not they agreed an easement (see item 14 below).

14. In a letter of 22.7.02 to Anne McIntosh MP, David Mercer of NG says landowners subject to a necessary (i.e. compulsory) wayleave "are fully entitled to be compensated for the effect of the overhead line on their land, including any potential devaluation to property on the farm". David Mercer goes on to say "The compensation is intended to place the landowner in the position they would have been in before the line was constructed and as such is based on the principles of loss of value, loss of productive use of the land on which the tower stands, injurious affection and disturbance."

15. Prof Denis Henshaw of Bristol University has over the last month supplied a string of letters and research papers on health issues. They are so much more advanced than the sorry state of NRPB.

(a) Watch out for a paper by Fews et al to appear in Atmospheric Research this year, giving a clear explanation of the production and dispersal of charged particles from powerlines, with hard measurements to back it up. The phenomenon is not new. In 1962 it was noted that "an invisible plume from a discharging cable follows a similar pattern to a visible plume from a chimney-stack". The measurements of Fews et al show electric fields downwind of powerlines some 5 or 10 times those upwind and sometimes of opposite polarity, due to drifting charge clouds persisting for several minutes and hundreds of metres.

(b) Regional legislation in Italy (Rome, Tuscany, Venice) with magnetic field limits down to 0.2 microTesla, though the national legislation is more permissive.

(c) Lower incidence of cancer in blind persons, with links to light-at- night and the melatonin hypothesis.

(d) New fundamental quantum chemistry on the interaction of very weak magnetic fields with biological systems, and an important new book [V L Binhi, Magnetobiology: Underlying Physical Problems, Academic Press, 2002, translated from the Russian]. Dr Binhi is at the General Physics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, bringing hard physics to quantum chemistry. His paper "Molecular gyroscopes and biological effects of weak ELF magnetic fields" appears in the American Physical Society's journal Physical Review E, vol. 65, 2002.

(e) Further correspondence in which he corrects Dr Jane Collins, Chief Executive of Great Ormond St Hospital, over her advice in The Times.

(f) "A role of sunshine in the triggering of suicide", Petridou et al, Epidemiology 13(1), 106-109, Jan 2002, in which the authors discuss the possible implication of melatonin. They cite 8 papers in support of the view "Melatonin is affected by sunshine and plays a role in mood regulation".

16. The Independent 9.7.02 carries an obituary for Dr Alice Stewart who died 23.6.02 aged 95. She championed the concern about low doses of radiation, including X rays, supported by her original epidemiological statistics of Japanese radiation victims from the atomic bomb. The obituary says "the leukaemia-pregnancy link was briefly resisted by the medical establishment but soon led to a ban on X rays on pregnant women. It was however fiercely opposed by ... the NRPB, the ICRP and by the powerful nuclear lobbies ... that ICRP seemed to serve". Alice Stewart survived opposition to become Director of the Nuffield Institute of Social Medicine, although she was made something of an outcast from the establishment, in contrast to her contemporary Sir Richard Doll. When she gave a talk at Sunderland University three or four years ago, I at least had the pleasure of telling her she was a great hero.

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APPENDIX 1 from Guardian G2 11.7.02 article by Catherine Bennett "How will we survive without Lord Fixit?"

What will we do without Wakeham? This prodigiously rich Tory peer has been making himself so useful, for so long, and to such a wonderful variety of important people, institutions and businesses, that it is hard to see how the country will stagger on its way without him.

Who, in his absence, can we rely on to preserve the House of Lords from the threat of democratic elections? Who will cultivate such productive relationships between government and international energy companies, now unfortunately collapsed? Who will fight to ensure that minor celebrities can be photographed, freely and without let or hindrance, when on holiday in their swimsuits?

Anyone who still rejoices at the Sun's repatriation of Ronald Biggs, the ancient thief, will agree with the paper's verdict: "John Wakeham has performed a great service to the country - often behind the scenes - and in a very real way has improved the quality of national life." It is this sense of debt, no doubt, that persuaded the press complaints commission, from which Wakeham decided to "stand aside" back in February, more than two months after Enron's collapse, that it should continue to pay its departed leader his full salary of 156,000 until this September.

His lordship's all-round indispensability arises, as I understand it, from his ability to act as the human equivalent of that all- purpose household essential, WD40. Just as we housewives know that we can "trust a brand that cleans, penetrates, protects and lubricates just about anything", politicians, from Thatcher to Major to Blair have known, for years, that they could depend on Wakeham to grease the engines of government. This sovereign emollience, rather than a striking interest in policy, has always been Wakeham's unique selling point. As long ago as 1986, he rejoiced in his reputation as a "fixer". Yes, absolutely, he told an interviewer. "And proud of it."

At the time, as chief whip, he was fixing the backbenchers. Later, as energy minister, he fixed the utilities. Two years after leaving that job, he became a non-executive director of Enron, which, when energy secretary, he had granted the right to build a gas-fired power station in Teesside. In 1995, shortly after sorting out a job at the PCC, he got fixed up with a directorship at the merchant bank, NM Rothschild, which, it emerged, he had personally appointed, as energy secretary, to advise on the privatisation of British Coal. It had also advised the electricity companies.

Not everyone, in those sleaze-ridden days, was impressed by the Rothschild fix: the Labour opposition called on Lord Nolan's committee into standards into public life to investigate. Gordon Brown, then shadow chancellor, said there should be regulations to prevent ex- ministers joining companies if there was a conflict of interest. "It is wrong to be involved in the privatised industries one year and benefit from the privatisation the next." Sir Evelyn de Rothschild argued that the appointment would "broaden and deepen the experience of the bank's board". Not to mention the lubrication.

As we know, Blair must have inclined more to Rothschild's point of view, for in 1999 he asked Wakeham to head a royal commission on the future of the House of Lords. Incredibly, the appointment of this tireless but hardly revolutionary business executive was widely acclaimed as a "masterstroke" of prime- ministerial statesmanship. And it's true that for anyone like Blair, who didn't actually want House of Lords reform to lead to House of Lords reform, it was just that.

As for Wakeham his known reservations about dramatic change virtually guaranteed the harmlessness of his recommendations, whatever they might be.

In a diary excerpt, published in the London Review of Books in 1998, Lord Runciman recalled being sent, by John Major, whom he had asked about possible House of Lords reform, to petition Wakeham, then leader of the Lords. "John Wakeham is as cynical as he is agreeable," Runciman wrote, "saying that I am one of the many who have said the same to him, but it is not on for three reasons: first, a lame-duck government could not get a constitutional bill through the Commons; second, they need the backwoodsmen to get their current legislation passed without hassle; third, the punters don't give a toss. Suggests I write to the Times..."

Mr Fixit's royal bodge duly came out against a fully elected house, and was sufficiently incoherent to guarantee - as had no doubt been intended - that the House of Lords would remain, for the foreseeable future, harmless, servile and supremely undemocratic.

And did the punters give a toss? Not as much as they should have done. Certainly, with the shining exception of the Observer's Nick Cohen, hardly anyone in the press was keen to highlight the more unprepossessing career highlights of this royal commissioner, with his 19 directorships, or report on the ghastly conduct of one of his employers, Enron, the first corporation ever to be the subject of an Amnesty International report.

Even after Enron foundered, respect for Wakeham was such that when he finally decided to quit the PCC, temporarily, "as a matter of honour", his departure was attended by as many Sun- style accolades as questions about the kind of "honour" that can only operate on a full, but partly unearned salary, or demands for a new royal commission, to replace the one produced by this loyal servant of Enron, Rothschild, and the company Enron acquired on the advice of Rothschild, Essex Water. But then the press had much to be grateful for. By the time Wakeham did the honourable thing, his ability to deflect complaints and willingness to excuse tabloid invasions of privacy - unless royal princes were concerned - had become legendary.

When - if ever - the press decide to shine a bright light on the life and times of this unusually interesting accountant, they will at least do so with the blessing of the man himself. In a speech given as chairman of the PCC, Wakeham once spoke of the "inevitable conflict between those who exercise power in all its different forms and those who scrutinise them". That, he said, was the role of the press. "To expose cant and hypocrisy. To open up institutions and the establishment to the critical gaze." And - let's not forget - to photograph the famous in their birthday suits.

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APPENDIX 2 My letter submitted to DST 14.7.02

Sir,

You reported last week that National Grid rebutted Revolt's claims that the public inquiries over the new power lines had been misled. National Grid went on to describe this as "one of the most closely examined decisions".

One thing not examined was critical financial detail which National Grid withheld as "commercially confidential". In particular, crucial details were withheld on "constraint costs", which may be incurred when the grid cannot accommodate all the selected power sources and has to call on second choices.

During the 1995 inquiries National Grid claimed that objectors were causing constraint costs of almost a million pounds per week due to delay in the project. It was implied that the majority of north-of- England constraint costs were due to lack of this new line. History has proved the contrary. The constraint costs were unusually inflated in 1995 and radically dropped over the next two years, so that the whole country's constraint costs were below half a million pounds per week and not at all due to the lack of the new line.

Indeed, in the regulator (then OFFER)'s Transmission Price Control Review of 1996, it was revealed that National grid had sought an allowance for INCREASED constraint costs that would result from the new line. You see, National Grid is a regulated monopoly which has its costs agreed and passed on to the customers; in essence it doesn't even pay for the new line. Those increased constraint costs, we later learned from OFFER, would be due to the knock-on effects of increased imports from Scotland, and would result in more pylons at new bottlenecks throughout England after the line is built.

National Grid was also severely criticised in the 1996 Price Control Review for exaggerating its costs in order to be allowed to pass on more in prices, with the result that very excessive profits had been made. This came shortly after the scandal of Northern Electric's hidden profit levels under weak regulation. The spirit of Enron (like its corporate body) was alive and well in the UK electricity industry in the 1990s and the regulator was only partly catching up.

Space prevents me from going into other ways the inquiries were misled. The DTI decision letter of 26 March 1998 said, in section 8.3, "Secretary of State accepts that developments since the close of Inquiry 2, including the representations on constraint costs, may reduce the economic benefit of the Development but observes the overriding technical need for a solution remains." That seems to acknowledge the misinformation while turning a blind eye to it, for the wrong details on costs (among other things) made nonsense of the evaluation of options.

Yours,

Mike O'Carroll, Chairman of Revolt

 

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