An investigation by two West Virginia citizens has uncovered approximately $3 million that has been wrongly passed on to ratepayers footing the bill for the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline’s (PATH) high-voltage line project. The 275 mile transmission line would carry coal power from West Virginia up through Virginia and Maryland.

Keryn Newman of Shepherdstown and Alison Haverty of Chloe, filed a Preliminary Challenge to PATH’s Formula Rate showing that the company improperly charged lobbying expenses, work of its propaganda arm (PATH Education and Awareness Team), membership dues for groups like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), and over half a million on “reliable power coalitions” in each of the three states, to ratepayers under the guise of construction and development costs. Newman and Haverty are both customers of Allegheny Energy, who has partnered with AEP on PATH.

“The challenge to PATH’s formula rate reinforces what the Sierra Club has been saying for years,” said Jim Kotcon, Chair of the Energy Committee for the West Virginia Chapter. “Ratepayers should not have to pay for PATH’s lobbying and advertising campaigns because the project simply is not needed.” 

Jim Sconyers, chair of the West Virginia Sierra Club Executive Committee added, "This is the definition of outrageous! First we hold bake sales to raise money to fight PATH. Then PATH makes us pay for them to fight us!”

Under an agreement with the regional grid operator, an annual revenue requirement for yearly PATH project expenses has been collected from the organization’s 51 million ratepayers every year since 2008. This includes the addition of pre-construction costs that were accrued prior to March 2008 and are currently being amortized over the 5-year construction period.

The PATH project is currently being considered by the state regulatory commissions in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

Testimony filed by Sierra Club before the Virginia State Corporation Commission last year demonstrated that the line was not needed and
that cheaper, simpler alternatives are available.  PATH withdrew its application in Virginia at that time, but has since refiled. PATH is facing other hurdles as well. Frederick County, Maryland recently denied zoning approvals for the terminus substation for the PATH line as inconsistent with local land use plans. 
“Treating the wallets of West Virginia electric customers as ATMs is just not right. It is hard enough to pay the bills without the likes of PATH nickel and diming us – hoping we don't notice,” said Haverty, a mother of four.

Newman and Haverty have been examining PATH’s 2009 Formula Rate Annual Update since August. “The more questions we asked, the worse PATH’s accounting looked,” said Newman, who has a background in corporate accounting.

Allegheny and AEP have until January 3, 2011 to resolve the Preliminary Challenge.  If a resolution cannot be achieved, Newman and Haverty plan to file a Formal Challenge with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

A copy of the Preliminary Challenge can be viewed here
I've been enjoying myself this weekend digging up dirt in PATH's little propaganda garden and I warn you, this is probably the funniest thing I've found yet, so prepare yourself for a really good laugh at PATH's expense.

Check out the agenda of the EUCI's 5th Annual Public Participation in Transmission Siting Conference slated to take place in Vegas in early January.  Specifically, look at who's taking the mic at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, January 10th.  Yup, it's our lil' coal-fella and his happy, smiley compatriot from AEP.  They will be "educating" participants as follows:

Tom Holliday, Director of Communications Services, American Electric Power

Doug Colafella, Manager, External Communications, Allegheny Energy

American Electric Power and Allegheny Energy are applying best practices to help gain approvals for the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), a 765-kV project extending 275 miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Learn how the two companies are working together to apply successful strategies for grassroots outreach, community involvement, and public education while contending with project delays, entrenched opposition, and the economic downturn.

Ah.... hahahahahahahahahaaaaaaa!

PATH never seems to learn its lessons about communicating with the public.  They continue to pile on the lies and propaganda, even though the truth about their dirty deeds has been exposed long since. 

Is there a new definition for the word "successful" that the rest of us don't know about?  I've been doing this for 2 1/2 years now and I have yet to find someone, anyone, who supports the PATH project unless they are being paid by the ratepayers, courtesy of PATH's PR machine, for their "support".  Instead, rational, fact-based opposition continues to grow on a daily basis.  PATH isn't fooling anyone anymore -- politicians resoundingly used opposition to PATH as a platform in the last election; the media knows they're full of crap and tempers every story with opposition views; industry competitors have launched and are successfully pursuing alternatives to PATH; and the regulatory authorities reviewing their applications are easily poking holes in their flimsy case and beginning to issue denials.

What we're experiencing (and laughing at) are their "best" practices?  In that case, I'd love to see their "worst" ones, just so some kind of comparison could be attempted.

"Successful strategies for grassroots outreach"?  What?  When did that happen?  The REAL grassroots groups laugh at your propaganda and if you "reached out" to us we'd likely interpret it as another attempt to rob us and bite your hand right off.... bloody nub, and all that.

"Community involvement"?  You two are truly legends in your own minds!  Using our money to bribe and buy is not "community involvement" by any means.

"Public education"?  We're getting an education all right, but it's not from you two.  And I hope you're not referring to your propaganda campaign and astroturf front groups -- those just aren't things to be proud of.

While contending with.... the truth!  Your little project is well known as an unneeded, greed-driven, corporate initiative.  You are both major failures!  Hahahahahaha!

While it would be fun to crash this thing just to have a good laugh, you two idiots aren't worth it.  I think I'd rather send Cotton and Devine-Wright (see next post) to Vegas, just so they could raise their hands and tell you both how full of crap you are.

I just hope all the conference participants mind the appropriate Vegas adage, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and leave whatever made-up fantasy story you tell them behind before they head back to work.  Otherwise, you could set transmission siting PR strategies back hundreds of years!

Hahahahahahahahahaaaa!  Be sure to send me a copy of your power point afterward so I can make fun of it here on the blog.  There's nothing better than sharing a laugh with friends!  Meanwhile, we'll be here spreading the word about what a convoluted mess you two have made of the failing PATH project.
Instead of sucking up to their hired, sloppy-looking, I-phone addict with an affinity for ugly polo shirts in search of cumbs of observed "knowledge" about how to win over the public in support of their loser project, PATH should have hired these Brits from the University of Exeter way back in the beginning.

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright and Research Fellow Matthew Cotton from the University have recently published a study entitled, NIMBYism and community consultation in electricity transmission network planning.  While researching the study, they interviewed a bunch of UK transmission project executives and examined their theories about public involvement in the transmission siting process.  There's much to be learned here, and the parallels to the attitudes the citizens have encountered from PATH project drones tells me they've got it spot on.

You'll have to translate it out of "Brit-speak" (funny how the English can't speak "English" and have a phobia of the letter "z"), but here are a few quotes of interest:

"These localised factors highlight the asymmetrical distribution of electricity infrastructure impacts, whereby social benefits, risks and losses are unevenly distributed, particularly when losses and risks are "concentrated" to areas within specific proximities of line sites, and benefits are "dispersed" across broader society."

"The NIMBY label is problematic, as it is often used by proponents of development projects as a means to discredit all forms of project opposition, regardless of its motivation, and wrongly characterises local people as worried, irrational, ignorant of scientific and technical facts, and selfishly unwilling to support projects that benefit broader society.  Even if one were to accept this characterisation of citizens opposed to line siting, NIMBYism is neither irrational nor necessarily unethical."

If you have come to the conclusion that the PATH drones are just plain evil, this paper may help you to more properly classify them as ignorant and set in their ways.  It matters not to them that their ways don't work, especially when the project in question is completely and totally UNNECESSARY for the public good, they still persist in their same old, status quo, shady practices.  There's a lot of arrogance thrown in there as well (which you can see quite clearly in the industry quotes included in the study), but in all seriousness, I don't think they can help themselves.  They're never going to understand us or our issues, but that doesn't stop us from understanding them.  Knowledge is power.

Cotton and Devine Wright come to this brilliant conclusion:

"It would behove TNO organisations therefore to be mindful of the fact that public exhibitions themselves can become a focal point for proposal opposition to agencies' de facto decisions, suggesting that their use as a tool “enable constructive debate to take place, creating open and two-way communication processes" will likely serve the opposite purpose: reinforcing public opposition rather than ameliorating it, which could lead to project delay, or in extreme cases ultimately forcing the TNO to abandon its proposals, thus leading to planning failure and potentially causing damage to local community trust in the network operator organisations involved."

Little translation of my own:  PATH is completely screwed!  They cannot undo the damage at this point because they cannot turn back the clock.  What's the appropriate term for PATH's PR strategy's status?  FUBAR would be appropriate.  Nice work, knuckleheads!
I got a phone call today with a suggestion that we hold a little contest for our readers here on the blog.  Winner will receive something just as creative as their winning suggestion!

Those annoying PATH ads -- people find them in the strangest places!*  Since we're all paying for them (to the tune of $1.78M in 2010), we might as well get some use out of them.  What's the most creative use you've found for a PATH print ad?  How about ways to pass the time during a TV commercial?  Post your idea/suggestion in the comments section of this blog entry.  You don't have to use your real name, but you're going to have to identify yourself to me eventually if you're a winner and want to claim your prize.

*Disclaimer:  I actually don't see them.  Like much of PATH's target audience in rural WV, I must rely on satellite TV service -- blissfully PATH-free (hey, if you want to sign up for DirecTv too, say I referred you and I'll donate the bonus I'll receive for referring new customers to StopPATH WV).  I also read a PATH-free newspaper (email me if you want to know which one it is).
Still smarting from their capacious loss at the Frederick County BZA hearing Thursday night, PATH has decided that they want a "do over".  I thought we left those behind on elementary school playgrounds, but apparently PATH is salivating at the chance to make a fool of themselves all over again.  "But, Mom, all the other power companies are doing it...."  Seriously?  Grow up, PATH!

Rumor has it that PATH will be submitting a request for reconsideration of the Board's decision.  More fun in Frederick for the citizens!

I have this one cat who's just not right.  I think maybe he got dropped on his head when he was tossed out of a moving car on his incredible journey here.  He will repeat the same action over and over again, each time expecting a different result, no matter how many times he is foiled by the exact same result.  However,  Mr. Van Hoogan Doogan doesn't have access to my bank account in order to procure funds to bribe the refrigerator door to open and allow him access, such as the PATH companies have access to ratepayer funding for (wrongful) use in attempting to influence local government decisions.

Play nice now, PATH...  we're watching you!
After more than a year of legal wrangling with both Allegheny's "Trailco" and the WV PSC, a group of complainants have been granted a hearing on several situations that have developed due to Allegheny's failure to abide by promises made in their application and violations of the CPCN they were granted in 2008.  While it's too late to stop the damage to citizens and the environment that has already been done, this is a major victory for the citizens and we all owe the complainants in this case a big thank you for their persistence and our support as they move forward to the hearing in January.  Opposition to unneeded transmission projects designed to reap huge corporate profits has become quite a study in tools and techniques.  Those who bravely forge ahead breaking new ground, adopting new tools and techniques, and all the while never losing sight of history, are continually changing the paradigm of how to slay corporate greed.  These committed citizens are laying a course for those who come after them.

Link to PSC order for hearing

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  -- George Santayana

"If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss."  -- Sun Tzu
Just got this FERC order.  I'll admit I haven't read the entire thing or studied it much yet, but it looks significant when I jump around and cut to the chase.

The Commission orders:

(A)    The Settlement Agreement is hereby approved, as discussed in the body of this order.
(B)    Rehearing and/or clarification of the February 29 Order is hereby granted, in part, and denied, in part, as discussed in the body of this order.
(E)    Pursuant to the authority contained in and subject to the jurisdiction conferred upon the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by section 402(a) of the Department of Energy Organization Act and by the Federal Power Act, particularly sections 205 and 206 thereof, and pursuant to the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure and the regulations under the Federal Power Act (18 C.F.R. Chapter I), a public hearing shall be held concerning PATH’s proposed base ROE. However, the hearing shall be held in abeyance to provide time for settlement judge procedures, as discussed in Paragraphs (F) and (G) below.

If you find this stuff boring, cut to the chase yourself by reading the end of the document first.  Looks like PATH's sweet deal, predatory ROE is about to be sliced by FERC's axe.  Ouch, direct hit right to PATH's weak spot, it's wallet!

And speaking of public hearings... "the public" -- that's us!  Here's a new democratic process to get involved in, now that the BZA decision has been made.  When PATH gets on a losing streak, they do a great job!  Congratulations, PATH, good luck in that great "business plans that have failed" graveyard!

Link to FERC News Release
Last night, the Frederick County, Maryland, Board of Zoning Appeals denied PATH's application for a Special Exception to construct their mega substation, AKA "death site", in Mt. Airy. 

In the hot seat before a packed Winchester Hall filled with well over 200 citizens, PATH was thoroughly trounced!  The Board began by remarking on both the quantity and quality of testimony submitted in the case in the more than 25 hours of hearings continued over three separate occasions.  The citizens and opposition groups have much to be proud of in this instance, so congratulations to all of you!

Board member Carol Sepe lead the discussion by stating that she had seven pages of findings that the proposed substation was inconsistent with applicable ordinance, and began to throw the book at them.  Sepe said that the substation was not consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.  Although PATH claimed that the two transmission lines currently traversing the site were "consistent" with the proposed substation, Sepe disagreed.  The proposed substation would have been a "significant difference" from transmission lines.

Board member John Clapp weighed in with his finding that the substation was not harmonious, orderly or consistent with Frederick County's Comprehensive Plan, which states that proposed uses "shall have an appearance consistent with the surrounding neighborhood".  He remarked that the code says "surrounding neighborhood", and not consistent with the subject property itself, which houses the transmission lines.  "Surrounding" the proposed substation site are over 1300 homes, not transmission lines and substations.  Good point, Mr. Clapp!  He also detailed other negative impacts such as property values, noise and EMF on the significant number of people living in close proximity.

A discussion of PATH's claims that similar substations were sited in dense areas ensued.  Clapp noted that one of the comps submitted by PATH was on the U.S.-Canadian border in the state of Maine, a desolate area.  Lara Westdorp, playing the heavy last night, brought up the San Jose substation, which is surrounded by dense development, however she never considered which came first -- the substation or the development.

The Board discussed EMF, with Westdorp saying that if the scientists studying it can't come to a consensus, she's certainly not going to sit up there and do it and therefore the applicant has demonstrated that, "it will not endanger the health & safety", comparing that to the difference between "not guilty" and "innocent".  Clapp and Sepe disagreed.

The Board also discussed whether the notice provision was complied with.  Was notice sent to landowners just nine days before the September hearing reasonable?

Westdorp, at one point, claimed that we, "can't paint them as willing not to be good neighbors", which got a huge laugh from the crowd.  Seriously?  PATH doesn't give a damn about the neighborhoods, they only care about the money to be made!  It's all about running over the citizens, filling their "trophy case" of opposition souvenirs much like the the native Americans collected scalps (you sick b@stards! -- the "trophy case" is an actual claim made by PATH attorney Randy Palmer), and MONEY

The Schultz v. Pritts case was thoroughly discussed and the general gist of that is -- does the proposed use have a more adverse effect here than elsewhere in an agricultural zone?  Clapp thought so and mentioned the proposed substation's "intense operation", health and safety risks and industrial appearance.  It was also noted that the footprint of the substation was much smaller when initially proposed in 2008 and had recently been enlarged to the current 42-acre proposal.

Just about the time the crowd was on the verge of mutiny, Clapp made a motion to deny the application on the grounds that the substation did not appear consistent, with adverse effects in this particular location greater than at another location.  A vote was taken, with Clapp and Sepe voting for the motion to deny the application and Westdorp stating that she did not agree with the entire motion and therefore voted against it, resulting in a 2-1 decision to deny.  A written decision will be issued.

This decision now pits Frederick County against the Maryland Public Service Commission, who has claimed that they have jurisdiction over siting of the substation in their review of PATH's application to them.  Frederick County claims that they have jurisdiction by benefit of local zoning regulations, a power given to them by the Maryland legislature.  This will be an interesting court battle and could tie PATH up for a long, long time.

The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, while the relatively small contingent of PATH representatives in attendance (Randy Palmer, Mike Hosier, Todd Meyers and the two Saul Ewing attorneys) tried to disappear into the floor.  If there was an escape hatch or back door, I'm sure they would have used it.  Unfortunately for them, they had to make the walk of shame out the front door.

We spent a couple of hours celebrating at our favorite little brewery and were soon handed this brief bit of breaking news that made us laugh really hard.  "Allegheny Energy representatives said they would await the written decision by the board before issuing an official response."  Was that because PR schmuck Todd Meyers was sitting across the bar crying in his beer instead of making statements?


Here are collected newslinks:

Frederick News Post

As you find them, please send them along.
Yesterday, the Jefferson County Commission met with their new attorney in executive session to discuss strategy for the WV PSC's upcoming PATH case.  The media were on hand to report, but after brief introductions of attorney Brad Stephens by the County's prosecuting attorney, Stephanie Grove, the Commission went directly into Executive Session and we all got tossed out into the hallway.  The discussion was covered by attorney-client privilege and was understandably not open to the public.  This put us in the somewhat awkward position of attempting to comment on something we really weren't privy to, but who ever says "no" to more media exposure?  Commission President Lyn Widmyer made a statement afterward promising that the PATH case would be discussed at upcoming Commission meetings.

The Jefferson County Commission continues to stand firmly behind its citizens in opposition to PATH, which will devalue properties, decrease the tax base, endanger the health and well-being of residents living, working or going to school in close proximity and raise our electric rates, all without providing any local benefits.  The long-delayed WV PSC PATH case is moving along and Jefferson County needs to plan their case now in order to be prepared for testimony due in January 2011.

Press:  The Journal
A few of us attended Dominion Power's Open House on their Mt. Storm-Doubs rebuild last night in Winchester.  Overall, it was a pleasant experience, certainly nothing like one of PATH's charlie foxtrot "public meetings".  There were no "raised voices" or commotion, at least while I was there, although I hear that one arrogant, little weasel got knocked down a peg or two after I left.  He deserved it though  -- I walked away from him after about 30 seconds because his "issues" were readily apparent and I wasn't looking to get into an argument.

Here's some of the stuff we found out last night:

1.  The rebuild will reduce EMF approximately 10 - 12%, and that's only due to the towers being higher.  Let's do the math - 10% of 292 mG is 29.2, leaving the EMF level at 263 mG.  That's not much of an improvement, is it?  Dominion has the same, stupid, industry line about how EMF is not harmful.  Now you know why the arrogant "little man" got taken to task.

2.  Dominion says that their PATH alternatives are still being considered by PJM, and this rebuild is certainly featured in all the alternatives.  However, Dominion took an official hardline position last night that this rebuild is being ordered by PJM because of structural issues with the current towers and has nothing to do with PATH.  PJM is everyone's favorite scapegoat!

3.  Dominion's "Alternative Number 1" (see link in #2 above) also contains a proposal to rebuild the Mt. Storm-Pruntytown line,  however this line is owned by Allegheny Energy.  The last two miles or so of the Mt. Storm-Doubs line are also owned by Allegheny Energy.  Dominion has no idea what Allegheny is doing regarding rebuilding on their sections... which I read to mean they are doing nothing.  Hoping these cheap, easy alternatives to PATH will go away so they can concentrate on their PATH project and it's 14.3% profit instead?  Guess they'd better put their pointed, little PR brains together and come up with a good excuse for that!

4.  Dominion doesn't have much information about what PATH is proposing to do with sections of rebuild of the Mt. Storm-Doubs line in Jefferson County.  They are under the impression that the location of their current ROW won't change and therefore will proceed with the rebuild without enlarging or changing their current ROW.  However, PATH has other plans for moving the Mt. Storm-Doubs line, hence the necessity of the rebuild sections in PATH's plan.  Funny looks on the Dominion engineers faces when they finally "got it" that they may be forced into the position of acquiring new ROWs.  Then they decided that they will just proceed with the rebuild on their current ROW, even if that means that PATH will come along in a year or so and tear down their brand new towers and shift the line onto new ROW.  Is that your wallet I hear screaming?  Why on earth would we be forced to pay for the tear-down and rebuild of a brand new section of line so PATH can construct their monstrosity?  Also, why on earth should property owners be forced to endure TWO tear-downs, rebuilds on these two 2-mile sections of line in Jefferson County?  Hello?  Left Hand?  I'd like to introduce you to Right Hand.  Get your crap together here, guys!

5.  Who's paying for this?  We are, of course!  Because the rebuild involves a line of 500kV, this project is paid for by all the ratepayers in the PJM region, just like PATH, except without that nifty 14.3% profit added on top like the cherry on a sundae.

6.  Dominion does not need to go through the full-blown application process in WV as they do in VA.  Something was filed with the WV-PSC in September or October and our PSC is considering the proposal.  I haven't had time to look this up yet.  Any takers?  Let me know what you find.

I could go on and on here, but I won't.  If you have specific questions, contact us.  I urge you to come to the Open House tonight in Lovettsville if you're the least bit curious.  I found most of the Dominion guys to be friendly and pleasant to talk with.  Not a bad experience at all.