Dick Ishler, President of CAKES (Citizens Against Kemptown Electric Substation) and Nick Carrera, Treasurer of Sugarloaf Conservancy will be on WFMD AM 930 tomorrow, July 31, at 9:00 a.m. to talk about PATH. Tune in!
 
 
Story in today's Journal about Jefferson County Commission candidate Ed Dunleavy.  Dunleavy says about PATH, "I think with the whole idea of PATH, the people promoting it ought to be embarrassed..."  One of my most favorite quotes yet, but I don't think it quite beats out my absolute favorite to date, which came from Commissioner Dale Manuel last year.  "I think for those reasons, the best path to take with PATH is, it should be put in the garbage can."  And while we're on the subject of great PATH quotes from local electeds, here's another contender from last May where Commissioner Jim Surkamp refers to Keryn Newman and Patience Wait as "Allegheny's worst nightmare" during a Commission meeting.  What's your favorite?

We love our County Commission and our Journal reporters!
 
 
After attending all three tri-state area EIS Scoping Meetings on three consecutive evenings, I am both amused and appalled at PATH's actions at these meetings. What I am not, however, is intimidated in the least.

The Scoping Meetings are designed to hear comments and gather input from the public -- this means affected citizens are to be drawn into the process.  The applicants have already provided their input in the form of a voluminous application, as well as over the past year with monthly update conferences with the EIS contractor.  They will receive plenty of opportunity in the future, as this process continues, to make their concerns known.  Despite this, PATH felt it necessary to turn these citizen-directed meetings into some sort of corporate staff meeting, press conference and opportunity to use paid talent to gather information about their opposition to be used in future advertising campaigns.  Shame on you!

There were at least 8 - 10 PATH executives from Allegheny Energy and AEP present at each meeting, where they stood in their little clusters and took up space, milled around from station to station reading the comment pads, and eavesdropped on what the citizens were saying to the staff and each other.  Despite the memo to dress casual and blend in, they stuck out like sore thumbs.  Was it their obsessive staring?  Or was it that the citizens have actually seen them before at various meetings and events?

They received a surprise on the first night when it was announced an hour into the meeting that public comment would be given at 7:00.  And here they were without their little tape recorders or any shills to stack the speakers' pool!  I notice they did manage to record or broadcast the audio with a blackberry-gadget, but that was highly noticeable.  The second night, they came prepared with their hidden recording devices and their shill from Virginians for Reliable Energy (notice Corporate Partners under the "Coalition" tab).  Unfortunately for them, nobody bought it and they ended up embarrassing themselves.

Allegheny's Randy Palmer confirmed via email that Matt Sutton, Director of Strategy and Research at Charles Ryan Associates, was contracted by PATH to attend all the meetings and "observe".  Randy says that this expense will be recovered from ratepayers under the FERC formula rate (it's being charged to you in your electric bill).  But, Sutton never left the lobby at the Purcellville meeting, so what was he observing?  The conversations of the opponents in the lobby?  They should have sent Matt the memo about attire, those neon polos didn't help him at bit.

The idiocy of Allegheny's Jeff Trout (Senior Attorney, State Regulatory, Maryland and Virginia) at the Frederick meeting took the prize.  He was observed stopping while walking through the parking lot and taking multiple pictures of the rear of the vehicle of one of the PATH opponents -- where the license plate is located.  When confronted, he claimed to be taking a picture of the protest sign taped to the back window.  When questioned as to who he was and what he was doing, he demanded to know who we were, but ended up admitting that he already knew who we were (although we had never met him before).  How did he know?  Has Allegheny been doing some spying on their citizen opponents?  Duh.  Some attorney... he immediately became intimidated and spilled his guts.  Jeff was accompanied across the parking lot by Gary Alexander, Maryland Office of People's Counsel, who tried to take the blame, saying he encouraged Jeff to do it because the sign was so "creative".  What was Jeff going to do with his picture?  Put it in his trophy case?  Take it back to Allegheny Energy in Greensburg so they could all have a good laugh at the expense of the citizens who are going to lose everything they worked for their entire lives and develop cancer from an unneeded transmission line? If he wanted a souvenir, there were plenty for sale in the lobby by the Maryland opposition groups, or maybe he could have asked Randy to borrow his StopPATH t-shirt? Gary seems to have the same problem as his friend in West Virginia, Byron Harris.  Welcome to the club, Maryland citizens!  Both of them then proceeded to argue with us about the new line PJM's TEAC shows coming from the proposed Kemptown substation heading to Salem, NJ (page 14, right where we said it was).  If they are truly this clueless, God bless them, and in the case of Gary, the citizens of Maryland.

Seriously -- what ever happened to the patient Buddhist mountain-top guru act?  PATH seems to be spinning out of control in desperation because they have lost any integrity or chance to influence public opinion.  I'm sure they "observed" how coordinated and knowledgeable the large opposition in all three states is, as well as how far PATH has sunk in the court of public opinion.  This is one fight they are going to lose.  Good luck, Matt.  You're going to need it.









 
 
For your convenience, here's a list of newslinks from the EIS Scoping Meetings:

TV3 Winchester
Leesburg Today
Loudoun Times-Mirror
Frederick News Post
Spirit of Jefferson

We will add to this list as we get them, so keep checking back.  If you have an addition to the list that we've missed, leave it in comments or email to keryn@stoppathwv.com
 
 
The EIS Scoping Meeting in Harpers Ferry on Monday night was well attended, with the final tally at 106 attendees. The public did their job and provided the Park and Forest Services with their comments and opened their eyes to the reality of PATH and power company abuse of the citizens of West Virginia.  Thank you to all who came out to become a part of the process!

StopPATH WV presented a combined binder of comments on a number of specific topics from West Virginia citizens for inclusion in the EIS scope consideration.  We also made public comment during the "open mic" portion of the meeting.

Despite the dour faces and worried looks among the AEP & Allegheny Energy personnel present, we did manage to have a little fun with Allegheny's Randy Palmer.  He was a great sport and we hope he enjoys his little collection of anti-power company trinkets.

The Park and Forest Services and their EIS contractor, CH2MHill, have been great throughout the meeting process and their impartiality and willingness to listen have been very refreshing.  We look forward to working with them as this process continues.
 
 
As if their heavy presence at the EIS Scoping Meetings for no apparent reason (they don't give a statement to the court reporter, they don't make useful comment at any of the meeting stations and only Mark Nitowski manages to talk to the media) isn't enough, AEP & Allegheny Energy personnel went home with egg on their face from the Purcellville EIS Scoping Meeting this evening.

Their piece de resistance was the clueless kid who took the mic during the public comment portion of the hearing (which was developed impromptu and not on the schedule until halfway through the first meeting in Harper's Ferry, therefore tonight's meeting was PATH's first opportunity to get a planned speaker signed up) and delivered a glowing endorsement of PATH as the answer to all our problems.  Not only did he play to a thoroughly disgusted audience, he also finished up to stoney faces and silence.

I believe he may have identified himself as affiliated with PATH's Virginia astroturf front group at the beginning of his little speech, which is entirely plausible since a representative of Charles Ryan Associates (PATH's PR and astroturf front group magicians) was attending his second night of EIS Scoping Meetings and got uncomfortably left behind to clean up the mess when the bigwigs scurried away, lest any unfortunate crumbs attach themselves to their trouser legs.  The Charles Ryan Associates representative stated that his purpose at the meeting was "to observe".  Not sure how much he observed from his seat on a bench outside the meeting room door, but we noticed him spending a lot of his time "observing" a video game on his cell phone.  I sure hope he stayed around long enough to collect that kid's carcass and give him his paycheck, because the last time I saw him he was being grilled by two of Winchester's finest.

Nobody in the room was fooled by this feigned performance, and that probably includes the Park Service, Forest Service and CH2MHill personnel.  Good job, Charles Ryan Associates!  Thanks for making what had been a great series of meetings to receive comment from the public uncomfortable for everyone.  Another bang up job! You're doing so much good for PATH's opposition, we should be paying you for it.  Oh, that's right... we are... every month in our electric bill.
 
 
If you haven't seen the article in the Martinsburg Journal on Wednesday ("PATH Meetings Scheduled"), there is a VERY important opportunity for us to make our voices heard on Monday evening.The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service are holding a public meeting at the Quality Inn Hotel & Conference Center (the former Cliffside) on Route 340 by Harpers Ferry.This is a "scoping meeting" - these government agencies are requesting public input on what they should address in their Environmental Impact Study of the PATH transmission line.  PATH will cross the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, the Appalachian Trail, the C&O Canal, and part of the Monongahela National Forest in Tucker County. Because of this, the power companies have to file an application and get approval from the agencies to build the transmission line.  This is your opportunity to tell the government what environmental impacts should be considered and studied, for instance, impact on water, air, karst (limestone), caves, and soil, and impact on economic development and tourism. If you enjoy living in our beautiful county, and take pride in its historic significance, PATH will tear up these three national parks and change their character, inconvenience or limit visitors, and permanently mar their sights and sounds (the hum and crackle of these lines will be audible and unavoidable).  Right now, the government says it's only going to look at effects on the federal lands. They say they are not going to consider whether PATH is needed. We will be there to ask them to consider the effects along the entire 275 miles of PATH, and that they consider alternatives, including not building it at all. We need you there!  We need lots and lots of turnout, so they can see that our county, and the entire three-state region, are united in opposition. You don't have to speak, though there will be court reporters there to take any comments and suggestions you want to make.  StopPATH WV will be there the entire time. We will be handing out literature, answering questions, and testifying ourselves. We plan to submit our testimony some time between 7 and 8 p.m., to maximize the time available for all citizens to speak (and perhaps when the greatest number of folks will be on hand).  Please wear your StopPATH T-shirts, we will have stickers to hand out, but our supplies are limited.  The meeting is from 4-8 p.m. You can come any time in that period. There will be four "stations" set up, with NPS employees making a short presentation on different topics. Court reporters will be at each station, and you can make your comments at any or all of them.  If you can't make it on Monday, there are two more scoping meetings in our area -- the next night (Tuesday, July 20) at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Va., and Wednesday, July 21, at Tuscarora High School in Frederick County, Md. They also run from 4-8 p.m. If you can attend more than one of these meetings, GREAT! We want to make sure the government understands the entire region is opposed to PATH.  Please come out and support your county, your friends, families and neighbors, to help stop PATH.

--Patience Wait, Outreach Chair
 
 
Overconfident PATH land agents are getting sloppy -- we now have one of PATH's Option for Real Estate Sale and Purchase contracts.  This is the form they want landowners to sign and then, "The Parties agree to not record this agreement.  A separate Memorandum of Option may be recorded."  In other words, the form they file with the county clerk gives very little detail, but still preserves their option rights to the property.  And you know what they say, the devil is in the details, and the details in this unfiled Option look like they were penned by Satan himself (or one of his attorneys).

Please, property owners, do not sign one of these without your own legal counsel!  It appears to be written to give every legal advantage to PATH and strip every legal advantage from the property owner and leave them responsible for a bunch of potential future headaches and financial obligations.

Think of it this way -- if you were selling your property to any other individual or entity in the open market, would you allow the buyer to create all contracts, and then sign them at your kitchen table without an attorney present and then hope everything works out okay?  No, in the real world, both parties have an attorney representing their own interests present at settlement as a safeguard against underhanded or illegal practices.  Try not to get distracted by that wad of cash the land agent is waving around, because surely he's a snake and that cash is the apple that tempted Eve.

We will be adding more details about this contract (along with explanations of some of its provisions which may not be in the best interests of the property owner) to our Landowner Resources section very soon.  Please, protect your rights!
 
 
Around a dozen citizens from West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland attended PATH's 2010 Annual Update Rate meeting in DC on July 14.  Despite PATH's dire warnings about "limited space", we were the ONLY ones who showed up, aside from the Allegheny, AEP and Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman (another one of PATH's many attorneys) representatives on the other side of the table. It sure would have been lonely without us!  We also had a bunch of citizens from the different states attend the meeting via conference call, along with some Allegheny employees, AEP employees, one guy from a PSC and someone from Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.

This meeting's purpose was "an explanation and clarification of the 2010 Annual Update of the PATH formula filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Docket No. ER10-1363-000 and will provide meeting participants with information and clarification concerning the 2010 Annual Update, the Actual Transmission Revenue Requirement, the True-up Adjustment, input data and cost detail associated with the Annual Update."

In plain English, this is where they presented their actual PATH expenses vs. the estimate they collected for 2009, with either an under recovery being added to rates, or an over recovery being refunded to rates (both with interest).

I'm not going to get into the complicated accounting going on here.  I'm sure you don't want to read it.  But overall I got the impression that maybe it's not all that carefully done since one of the first things we were told was that a revision had just been filed the previous day to correct a $460,000 error where they moved costs to a different account (credit) without a corresponding subtraction (debit) from the original account, essentially doubling the expense which continued to reside in both accounts.  C'mon, I know mistakes happen in accounting (I worked in the field for a number of years), but that kind of mistake is ridiculous!  It was especially precious to have the accounts explained to us ignorant citizens as "buckets" where expenses are placed (because "account" is just such a hard word to comprehend?)  Oh yes, they were prepared for us.

The second half of the meeting was devoted to an explanation of the PJM Interconnection, LLC, FERC Electric Tariff's Attachment H-19B, which provides for Informal and Formal Challenges of recovered expenses by interested parties.  This seemed to be necessary because the "cost detail associated with the Annual Update" wasn't really available.  They either didn't know or didn't have the information when they were asked about specific expenses such as PATH sponsorship of sporting events and financing of astroturf front groups.

The only attendees who asked questions were the citizens, and the gentleman from Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. Seems like it would have been quite the dud without the presence of the citizen "interested parties".  There is no real oversight of how much they spend (and no definition of "prudent" cost) -- PATH spends and then has these meetings that no one attends or comments on, and if no one files a challenge, they add their costs to your electric bill.

We had a truly great group of attendees who asked pertinent questions and pretty much refrained from straying into the forbidden territory of asking questions that didn't have to do with the subject matter.  AEP's attorney, however, had to be reminded of the rules by the attendees when she began to hold forth about how much PATH is "needed".

So, who wants to go again in September for PATH's 2011 projected revenue requirement?  Someone other than the fox needs to watch the hen house.
 
 
Article in July 14th Journal regarding Allegheny's 2010 Annual Update Meeting and the upcoming EIS Scoping Meetings.  Please plan to attend at least one of the Scoping meetings.  These are your parks, folks!

For those looking for a summary of yesterday's 2010 Annual Update meeting, check back later today.  Briefly, I can say it was very enlightening!  I've got a series of meetings scheduled today, but hope to have something up by the end of the day.