Sunday, March 2, 2014

Rising electric prices are finally getting attention; PUC action pending?; MACT rule; 200 generating plants shut down

ABC27 (in Harrisburg) has reported on rising utility rates, refunds and PUC investigations:
Many of you have complained about bills that doubled, tripled and even quadrupled, and many of you are now getting refunds because of those complaints.
This story reflects the broader trend of rising electric prices and declining electric production:
The electricity price index soared to a new high in January 2014 with the largest month-to-month increase in almost four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, data from the Energy Information Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, indicates that electricity production in the United States has declined since 2007, when it hit its all-time peak. The U.S. is producing less electricity than it did seven years ago for a population that has added more than 14 million people.
This development was predictable as long ago as May 2012, when the wholesale capacity auction for 2015 was held among utility suppliers.

These price increases result from the loss of over 200 generating plants across 25 states (between 2012 and 2017).

The primary cause of the massive plant shutdowns is the EPA's Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule.

With the loss of 200 generating plants, this problem is not going away. Price increases will become more widespread and worse very soon. The Pennsylvania PUC has no power to repeal the MACT or to rebuild the 200 lost plants. If the PUC tries to solve the problem by restricting retail utility prices, the result will be shortages.

The effect upon real estate values is very hard to predict, as owners may be forced to sell their homes or face foreclosure. Buildings that use little electricity may rise in value. Buildings that use gas may not be immune, as wholesale gas prices have been affected as well. Regardless of the existence of alternative fuels, a sudden forced conversion of a large portion of the real estate of an entire region of the country will not be smooth and will create many disruptions in the real estate industry and beyond.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mortgage account "glitches" at PNC Bank

Homeowners with PNC Bank mortgage accounts learned today that their mortgage (and other) accounts were hit with double charges and unauthorized miscellaneous withdrawals (as reported by CBS 3 in Philadelphia).

Bank officials have promised a quick solution to the problem.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Urban farming progress in Detroit

I have written before on this blog about the trend toward urban farming in cities around the country, where blighted neighborhoods would be converted to agricultural uses. Click here for stories related to such activity in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh , Detroit and elsewhere.

Surprisingly, progress has been made in Detroit, as a private company is spending $450,000 to purchase 1,500 parcels on 150 acres:
A private company is snapping up 150 acres on the Motor City's East End -- property where more than 1,000 homes once formed a gritty neighborhood -- and turning it into what is being billed as the world's largest urban farm. Hantz Woodlands plans to start by planting trees, but hopes to raise crops and even livestock in the future, right in the midst of the once-proud city.
Immediate plans are to demolish and clear 15 of those acres and plant 15,000 trees, with additional plans for orchards, crops and livestock in the future.

Hantz' plans on a larger scale have been stopped or delayed by municipal (and community) resistance. It is too early to tell whether environmental and title issues will delay plans for utilizing the 150 acres in this transaction.

Is this agricultural activity worth watching as a predictor of the future of Harrisburg?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Obamacare tax on real estate sales

From My9 TV in New Jersey comes a discussion of the Obamacare real estate tax:

Very few home sales will see a capital gain sufficient to generate tax revenue under the current scenario.  Which means that (1) the rate will go up and (2) the minimum gain necessary to invoke the tax will go down - way down. Obamacare is not so  much about medicine or "care" as it is about taxes, revenue and paperwork.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Separate entranceways for subsidized tenants in New York.

The New York Post provides the story of a luxury development in Manhattan that receives federal subsidies because the development includes low income housing.

But there is a catch. The developer has installed separate entrances for the low income residents, even though all units are in the same building.

No matter how often the government tries to repeal the laws of economics, the fact remains that one cannot receive something for nothing. If you reside in subsidized housing, you will endure either the indignity of separate entranceways or fingerprinting or both or something even worse.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sheep as landscapers for solar panels.

From the Carlisle Sentinel comes a story that reflects what may become a common problem as more companies install large solar panels on their property.

The Snyder's-Lance snack food company wanted to use sheep for the purpose of keeping their grass low because their 15,000 solar panels make it more expensive and difficult to mow the surrounding fields. But the Penn Township (Cumberland County) Zoning Hearing Board denied a variance for the company to keep sheep in its non-agricultural zone.

While there is nothing particularly earth-shattering about this story, it might give some companies a few ideas about landscaping shortcuts, especially if they place large items (such as solar panels) on their grounds. Certain zones permit farm animals, while a number of businesses will look to solar panels as electricity prices skyrocket over the next few years.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Covered bridges in Cumberland County

The Carlisle Sentinel recently included a piece on covered bridges in Cumberland County, including the two remaining bridges and a brief history regarding those bridges that were built in the 1800's and have since been lost.