UPDATE: The continuation of the hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, October 14 at 7:00 p.m. at Winchester Hall in Frederick. PATH still has two witnesses to present, so if you'd like an opportunity to question their paid witnesses, here's your chance! You will also have the opportunity for general public comment.
Last night we attended what has turned out to be the first session of the Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on PATH's application for a special exception to build their monstrosity, or "death site" as one of the many citizens dubbed it.
Despite beginning at 1:00 p.m. and being allotted two hours to present their case, PATH still wasn't done at 11:30 p.m. last night. At least one additional session for this hearing will be scheduled to allow PATH to finish presenting their case, to allow the opposition groups to present their case, and to allow for general public comment.
The Board of Zoning Appeals did an outstanding job managing the process, even when presented with a crowd who was at times rebellious. This hearing is a legal process and courtroom behavior should prevail. As illogical as it certainly is, the BZA can only rule on the substation itself, and not other components of the PATH project. It is correct (in the abstract) that the substation could be approved and built under BZA authority without any lines ever connected to it. If you think that would actually happen though, don't. Just play along, folks! This decision has to be able to withstand future legal scrutiny because it will surely be challenged, no matter how the case is decided.
What was really fun about last night was that the public was allowed to cross-examine PATH's witnesses. We sat through Linda Erdreich (EMF health effects "expert"), James Silva (EMF engineer) and some other guy who was supposed to be an "expert" in noise effects from the substation (I can't remember his name). It was amusing to watch the witnesses continually pass the buck onto the next witness in line when they couldn't or didn't want to answer a question. Other amusements: Watching the witnesses struggle along once they were off their script. Not the most personable bunch you'd want to invite to your next dinner party! Watching them squirm over some of the excellent questions they were asked by the public. And then there is the opponent who is just plain funny -- this guy cracks me up every time. Last night his "death site" comment had me wiping my eyes trying to maintain some composure. The best part by far though was watching one of their witnesses commit perjury. :-) Ouchies!
When we get word of the date & time of the continuation of this hearing, we'll let you know. Until then, the decision in Frederick County is still up in the air.
While enjoying an "out-of-the-office" experience yesterday, I received notification of important developments in the PATH case in both Virginia and Maryland. Gotta love technology for keeping you connected even when you're trying really hard to be disconnected, especially when there's good news to be had.
First, I got word that the staff of the Virginia SCC had filed a motion asking to have the application suspended due to being incomplete until at least February 2011, when the RTEP is complete. And that's not the only reason -- apparently PATH's fleet of "top-notch" lawyers didn't concentrate hard enough on the stipulations that were placed on filing of a new application when the original one was dismissed this past January. Detailed information and a link to the motion is on The Power Line. Despite the crowd and noise I was in the midst of, I distinctly heard this sound.
A bit later on, over a very fine lunch with good friends, I received word that the Maryland Office of People's Counsel could not agree to setting a procedural schedule in that state due to the fractured nature of application submission and PATH's failure to provide information necessary for evaluation. Instead of Nelson Muntz, I heard this disturbing sound playing in my head. Once again, see The Power Line for details.
How crooked and evil do you have to be before you actually begin to acknowledge and take pride in your own underhanded, immoral deeds? This would be a good question to ask PATH and their fleet of attorneys this week as the battle over discovery between PATH and West Virginia intervenor Ali Haverty heats up.
Ali filed a discovery request seeking detail of payments made by PATH in 2009 and categorized under the following accounts in FERC's Uniform System of Accounts:
426.1 Donations. This account shall include all payments or donations for charitable, social or community welfare purposes.
Most corporations are proud of their good deeds and are only too happy to share them as a source of pride!
426.4 Expenditures for certain civic, political and related activities. This account shall include expenditures for the purpose of influencing public opinion with respect to the election or appointment of public officials, referenda, legislation, or ordinances (either with respect to the possible adoption of new referenda, legislation or ordinances or repeal or modification of existing referenda, legislation or ordinances) or approval, modification, or revocation of franchises; or for the purpose of influencing the decisions of public officials, but shall not include such expenditures which are directly related to appearances before regulatory or other governmental bodies in connection with the reporting utility's existing or proposed operations.
Lots of words up there when just one would do -- BRIBE, aka, buy off, pay off, suborn, grease someone's palm, fix, square, inducement, incentive, payola, payoff, kickback, boodle or sweetener. Just because this account exists in FERC's USoA doesn't mean it is applicable to and an appropriate expenditure of ratepayer money on a project such as PATH. Indeed, if this account contains questionable payments it would mean that the ratepayers are paying PATH to distribute the right bribes to get their project approved. Do any of you ratepayers want to volunteer to have your pocket picked for this expense? It's all just one big gravy train for the utilities and they never thought they'd be questioned. FERC certainly doesn't ask questions unless someone complains.
PATH's attorney objected to this request. Ali was forced to file a motion to compel, which calls into question the character of PATH and whether or not they should be granted public utility status in West Virginia, a state already fraught with political corruption and bribery on the part of out-of-state corporations who are raping and pillaging our state and its residents in pursuit of outrageous profits. Jackson Kelly's Melick filed this response, claiming that PATH's character should not be a determining factor by the PSC, although the PSC shall determine whether the project will be in the best interests of West Virginia's customers and citizens. Is granting the power of eminent domain to a company who is busy using the ratepayers' money for bribes to get their project approved really a good idea? Certainly not in West Virginia, whose history is rich with corruption by businesses and politicians! What I found very amusing here is that Melick doesn't try to deny that PATH is a shady entity who may be bribing public officials! So, there you have it, from the fingertips of PATH's own counsel. They're not of good character when it comes to the question of using ratepayer money for "certain civic and political activities" and "donations" used to grease the wheels for approval of PATH.
Since Melick accused Ali of not providing any examples, today she filed this Addendum to Motion to Compel. Looks like she's giving Melick a run for his money! (Or, wait, that's probably OUR money, too!)
The horse has already escaped, fellas, quit banging the barn door shut! The public knows what you are doing with your "donations" and "contributions" and the more you protest to keep them hidden, the worse you look. Thanks for helping us convince the public of just how shady the PATH companies are!
Once again, it's all about the profit and not about any imagined "need"!
As if getting their clock cleaned in Frederick County, Maryland wasn't enough, Frederick County, Virginia pounces on PATH just as soon as they've cleared the starting gate. Frederick County Virginia's Conservation Easement Authority has passed a resolution opposing the construction of PATH anywhere inside its borders until the EIS is completed. That may be in 2012, if the EIS stays on schedule.
Remember last week when PATH swore up and down before the Frederick County Planning Commission that the Mt. Airy substation would not be lit or manned?
Not that anyone in the room (most likely including PATH) believed a word of it, but in this article, Meyers contradicts their lies.
"Meyers said he couldn't delve into specifics about the company's security plan for the site, but said the site will be secure from potential issues. "There will be adequate security measures," he said. "It'll be monitored 24-7."
Are we supposed to imagine that it will be monitored 24-7 by robots or cameras equipped with night vision capabilities? How is a dark, unmanned substation going to be monitored 24-7? Doesn't sound very secure to me. Someone's been watching too much TV!
Onsite personnel in a well-lighted station may be able to prevent infiltration, but a "monitor" miles away can only sit by helplessly and watch (if they can see in the dark that is -- will PATH use a room full of cats as security?) until a live body arrives onsite. How reassuring!
The only assurance here is that when their mouth is moving, PATH is lying.
I think we may have seen the last of PATH's "Open House" style public meetings. Last night's "public information meeting" was one gigantic, flaming, disorganized Charlie Foxtrot from beginning to end. Last night, PATH's "public" consisted exclusively of opposition group members and angry people. There wasn't an uninformed, malleable sheep in sight! Instead of the expected, rental, green-shirted goons, we were treated to what appeared to be the entire arrogant staff of PATH headquarters, with hand-written, adhesive name tags, no last names. "Hi, My Name is... Death & Ruination". This didn't play too well with "the public" because the usual disingenuous answers to pointed, intelligent questions only served to fan the flames of public repugnance for all things PATH.
In addition to the regular cast of characters, they added in Matt Sutton, Director of Strategy and Research at Charles Ryan Associates, PATH's overpaid PR firm. Since he didn't bear a name tag on his snazzy pink (again) shirt and didn't talk to "the public", I assume he was there to "observe" again. I really wouldn't care if he spent all his time chatting with the other power company guys and playing on his iPhone if I wasn't sharing in the cost of his "services". At a cost of over $3.1 million ratepayer bucks last year, CRA ought to be hustling just a little more. I want to see Pinky doing some jumping jacks while he runs his mouth next time!
Other characters included jolly, old Jim Fields and his side-kick, whose name I do not know, so we'll give him a nice, country nickname. I think I'll call him.... Puddin'. These two guys show up at most of PATH's public appearances and act as their bouncers (aka "Security"). However, Jim and Puddin' seemed to be redundant last night with the addition of two "undercover" deputy sherrifs hired for the occasion (with the publics' money, remember that). Were they expecting trouble, perhaps?
Also present was some kid from Truescape, the New Zealand company that prepared the video & photo simulations of the substation that the meeting was intended to showcase. Try though he did to explain all the inconsistencies in the display, he seemed to be in way over his head. Do you know what we call what you presented last night here in America? We call it bullsh*t, son.
During our first foray into the meeting, we had our attention called to a "situation" brewing between my new friend, Jerry, and PATH EHV Manager Mike Hosier. Jerry was giving Mike his opinion of the PATH project, and Mike was pretending he didn't have a last name or a job title. Now that was a real smart way to defuse a tense situation, wasn't it? I blame it on the PATH demon who possesses Hosier. No one ever expects a demonic entity to have studied Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". During this exchange, we took several photos of the action with our cell phones, all within plain sight of both Jim Fields and other PATH staff members. When Hosier finally ran out of things to say, he beckoned for the "undercover" deputies, who pulled Jerry aside to give him an authoritative talking to. I guess they were really getting into their "thug" bouncer roles because they refused to give Jerry their names and when he demanded to see a badge, it was flashed so quickly it could have been an acquisition from ToysRUs. Nevertheless, Jerry persevered and managed to be permitted to stay.
Not so for at least 5 other people, who were bodily ejected from the meeting or asked to leave for various "infractions" of "company policy". One gentleman was escorted by the two "undercover" fellas, one on each side, all the way down the hallway and out the building doors. His infraction was telling one of the company Vice-Presidents (or other self-important drone) his opinion of the PATH project. Others were ejected for "raising your voice". Yours truly was "asked to leave" for taking a picture. Somewhere in between the beginning of the meeting when we took pictures of Jerry and the last hour of the meeting, a "company policy" was developed that prohibited photography at this "public meeting". Said "policy" was given to Puddin' to relay to me. He informed me that, according to "company policy" if I took any more pictures, I would be asked to leave. So, I took his picture. And he asked me to leave. And I did. It was more fun outside with the "ejected" crowd anyhow :-)
StopPATH WV President Roger Eitelman spent some time in a discussion with the representative of PJM who was present. He actually had a last name and a business card! He also admitted to Eitelman that PJM has plans to add another 765kV transmission line plus two more 500kV lines exiting the Mt. Airy substation. Since the site is ringed by 1300 homes, there's no room for any new ROWs. Are they going to start dissecting surrounding neighborhoods to make way for all these new lines? Time will tell.
StopPATH WV "people person" Debbie Royalty introduced herself to PATH assistant general counsel, Randy Palmer, and soon had Palmer happily agreeing to host one of PATH's transmission towers in his backyard in Greensburg, PA. Gosh! That's awful nice of Randy, isn't it? Just in case it doesn't accidentally end up there during a future reroute, we've got lots of very fine half a million dollar homes here in Jefferson County that will end up with PATH in their backyards... and they're for sale! C'mon on down, Randy! You can get yourself a real bargain!
Finally, here's a freebie for Todd Meyers -- don't ever lie to reporters! He probably thinks reporters are just little chess pawns that he moves around the game board as he does his job. NEWS FLASH! Reporters are overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated human beings who don't have any particular affinity for arrogant suits who lie to them and treat them like they're stupid. Someone ratted him out today, and in the spirit of the press, my sources are confidential. Meyers was one of the ones who tried to hustle reporters away from the demonstrators outside Allegheny's office in Frederick last Thursday by personally escorting them to their cars and insisting that they immediately leave for the substation site or they would not be permitted to attend the other half of the event. Todd, you dimwit, reporters aren't stupid and are exceptionally capable of following up with later interviews!
In summation, PATH has struck out again in Frederick County. Isn't next week's Zoning Appeals hearing going to be fun? See you all there!
Last week, Doug Kaplan of Sugarloaf Conservancy debated Russell Frisby before the Frederick Rotary Club. Here's a link to the story in the Frederick News Post.
In this incarnation, Frisby claims to be a spokesman for the PATH Education Awareness Team. However, Frisby has also claimed to be the spokesman for Marylanders for Reliable Power (part of the ratepayer-financed astroturf front group network created by Charles Ryan Associates for PATH). Marylanders for Reliable Power claims not to be advocating for any particular transmission project, but yet their spokesman also moonlights for the PATH Education and Awareness Team. Could it be that his confusion about exactly who he works for stems from the fact that his pay from both groups arrives in the same check from Charles Ryan Associates, PATH's overpaid PR company ($3.1 million dollars in 2009)? And where does PATH get its money? From you, electric ratepayer, from you, every month when you pay your electric bill.
Frisby is confused about a whole lot more than who he works for though. First, Frisby gets the cost of the PATH project wrong -- Didn't Charles Ryan Associates brief him on the recent increase in project cost to $2.1 billion? (Which is a fairy tale unto itself, but not a subject for today.)
"It's not just for New Jersey", said Frisby, noting that "others" had made that statement. No, Russell, it's also for New York and other points far east and north of here, it's just not for us.
Next, "Frisby said the need for PATH is well-documented. Electricity use is up 16 percent in the region from last summer." Wow, who spun that for you, Russell? Here's the truth about that "16 percent increase". I guess Russell doesn't get out much in the summertime if he didn't notice that this summer was much hotter than last.
"Putting the lines underground, if feasible, would double or triple the cost of the project" What does PATH care about cost? The ratepayers are footing the bill! And if there really was some concern about cost, how did Russell answer this? "Wayne Six, a Rotary Club member, questioned why the utility company would pay $6 million for a farm, where the substation will be located, valued at only $1.5 million." I don't see that Frisby even answered that question.
How about, "eminent domain -- the taking of private property for the project -- would be a last resort." So, what Russell's really saying here is "give up your property voluntarily or we're going to take it from you". Where's any choice for affected landowners? How does Russell's statement make this any easier to swallow for property owners? How many times has Russell had his own property taken by eminent domain? I would hazard a guess that says NONE.
This one is pretty funny:
"Kaplan, using PowerPoint maps, showed where wind power equipment could be located off the Atlantic Coast.
"And how do you get that wind power to where it needs to go? Transmission lines," Frisby countered."
Russell, Russell, Russell, PATH is in the wrong location to transport off-shore wind power to where it's needed. Mt. Airy, Maryland, (PATH's terminus) is nowhere near the coast, and even if another transmission line were created to link Mt. Airy with the eastern shore, the other end of the PATH line is located near Charleston, WV, a state that already exports 70% of the power it produces. The east coast cities are the ones who need this wind power, and it's right there for them. A transmission line between western Maryland and West Virginia would be about as useful as a screen door on a submarine for transporting off-shore wind power.
Finally, "Frisby said berms and trees would be used to alleviate the visual impact of the substation. He said if homeowners felt they should be compensated, they could take legal action." Frisby forgot to add, "at their own expense". Gosh, what a comfort, Russell! Does this have anything to do with making money at your third job?
On the other side of the coin, Doug Kaplan's comments were factual and sensible. I call this one for Kaplan!
Imagine you're Allegheny PR schmucks Todd Myers or Mark Nitowski (c'mon, you can at least pretend that you'd sell your own soul for a buck, can't you?) You get up one morning expecting this, and instead you get this.
This is the first time I've ever planned a surprise party on two days notice, invited a thousand of my closest friends, and retained the element of complete surprise. Either I'm getting better at this, or the guests of honor are getting dumber and easier to fool.
This morning, PATH had planned a special "media event" at the downtown Frederick Allegheny Power office where they intended to provide propaganda to the media, show them a simulation movie (created by shyster production company Truescape) of the proposed substation at PATH's terminus, and rack up a bunch of puff piece stories.
Instead, a determined, protest sign-bearing group of about 30 PATH opponents from CAKES, Sugarloaf Conservancy and StopPATH WV swooped in 10 minutes before the event began and slowly walked up and down the public sidewalk in front of Allegheny's building. The press came running to us while the PATH guys stood inside the lobby doors with drool dripping off their chins (except for Mr. Angry who stood outside with his arms folded, clearly exasperated). They had no clue. Hah, hah!
Their event only lasted about an hour, after which the press came back to spend more time interviewing the protesters and tipped us off that PATH was sponsoring a real Martha Stewartesque tent soiree for the media on the substation site (paid for by you in your electric bill), so we all piled into vehicles and headed for CAKES property right across the street from the site to await the return of the press from the ratepayer-funded propaganda soiree.
When the StopPATH group finally headed for home, we were quite amused by the black sedan sitting on the side of the road near the intersection at the end of Bartholows Road with its flashers on and bearing Pennsylvania plates that banged a screeching u-turn and fell in behind our little caravan. I hope they soon hire a real driver, because it was too easy to thwart them. I took a picture of the car, because it had a really creative protest sign in the back window, and as we passed I recognized the passenger as Mr. Angry from the morning's protest. After leaving them in the dust, we came upon Mark Nitowski (who drives like my Granny, btw) impeding traffic in the fast lane of I-70. After making eye contact, he tried really hard to pretend he didn't notice us. Seriously? Get a grip, fellas! We're laughing at you!
Congratulations to the opposition for very effectively shutting down PATH's propaganda machine today! What a follow-up to last night's victory at the Planning Commission!
Now, I need your help... send me links to any of the resulting news stories you happen upon, dear readers. Due to sheer volume, I soon lost track of the media outlets who interviewed us. And remember to say "thank you" to PATH for getting all that press coverage for our cause!
And also send PATH these words of advice... "Stay out of Frederick County, Maryland -- you're not welcome here!"
That's it for now... looks like the rest of PATH's audience was a bunch of weeklies. Remind me to ask PATH this question, "What if you threw a party and no one came?" We might have to bring our own press the next time we crash one of their press conferences. Just one more disappointment from the PATH folks...
Tonight the Frederick County, Maryland, Planning Commission found in a 6-0 decision that the gigantic substation in "Kemptown" (really Mt. Airy) is inconsistent with the county's Comprehensive Plan. In front of a packed house of over 200 citizens (estimated by the Frederick News Post), PATH was put on the spot with some very hard questions (to which they responded with prevarication of the highest order), laughed at and publicly ridiculed for their premise that a 42-acre substation with towers 175-feet tall and surrounded by 1300 homes was consistent with the surrounding area.
The meeting began with PATH asking for 30 minutes in which to present their case, although they were only allowed 15 as per the rules. The commission denied their request.... and it was downhill from there. PATH's attorney tried to object and complain early in the public comment portion, but was immediately shut down by the Commission. They finally just slunk low in their seats and took their beating, all their pre-meeting arrogance whipped out of them.
One of the hard questions asked was regarding the intended use for PATH's payload. The site currently houses two 500kV lines, which, according to PJM and PATH, are severely overloaded. The new substation will have not only the two current "overloaded" 500kV lines feeding into it, but also the 765kV PATH line. The only thing feeding out of it in their plan are the two existing 500kV lines. Logic says this is a big dead end for a lot of juice. According to PATH, the electricity flowing in is going into "buckets" where it will be re-distributed onto the two existing lines. Is "bucket" some kind of PATH code word for "bulllsh*t"? PATH promised there would be no additional lines constructed out of the substation, despite designing the substation to accommodate another exiting 765kV, as well as two 500kV future lines. Also despite the appearance of this line in PJM's plans. You believe them, don't you?
The best question of the evening, which was also the last, came from Commissioner Kai Hagen, who asked PATH's attorney if he would want to live next to their substation. The attorney decided that he was very happy where he was currently living, and the room erupted with laughter and catcalls.
The Commission then made and seconded a motion and began to cite various sections of the comprehensive plan which PATH's plan violated. One of the PATH players seemed confused and asked if this was a recommendation for a future decision. The Chairman of the Commission smiled so sweetly when he told PATH that this WAS the decision.
The PATH representatives were then forced to make the walk of shame out of the building in front of celebrating citizens, who had some pretty creative praise for their efforts during the evening.
Want to know exactly what all this means? Check out this post on Calhoun Powerline. No sense in trying to repeat something that's already been written very succinctly.
If you want to spend 4 hours watching PATH squirm in their seats, you can watch a video of the meeting here.
Thanks to PATH "security" guy Jim Fields for keeping the PATH folks in line last night.
It was lovely to see PATH lose in a big, big way. It's a look of which I could grow very fond.
I think PATH's propaganda machine is also a remnant of the disco-era. Are the Charles Ryan Associates guys really sitting around in powder blue leisure suits as one of our readers recently posited?
As a precursor to their recently released "disco-era grid" campaign, someone had the bright idea to pave the way with Letters to the Editor from their astro-turf spokesmodel. (Don't even get me started on the "quality" of this video!) As usual, West Virginians for Reliable Power or Energy or whatever name we're "just using" this week harvests select facts from their source reference in order to make it look like "experts agree". Looks like they didn't bother to read the Journal's letters policy before submitting and were abruptly cut off at the end of Vineyard's diatribe, which really makes her look like an idiot (not that it appears she needed much help in the first place). Fear mongering, it's what's for dinner!
StopPATH WV member Steven Smith wrote and submitted this Letter to the Editor at the end of August, well before PATH's new ad campaign started. Because of the Journal's lag-time in publishing (approximately 10 days to 2 weeks) it finally showed up today. Looks like Smith had PATH's "disco-era grid" dis-information campaign slayed before it even drew breath.
StopPATH WV - quicker, smarter and now... with psychic powers too! Put that in your leisure suit and dance!