Holy corporate reputation issues, Batman!

FirstEnergy wannabe-spinner Charlene Gilliam (All right?) crashed and burned at a Hampshire County Commission meeting yesterday.  Bless her heart, it probably wasn't all her fault.  It's because she works for a company that has ruined its reputation in this state (and beyond) through a series of greedy, self-interested attacks on its customers and employees.

The people have had it with FirstEnergy's corporate disinterest in the hand that feeds them.  And FirstEnergy is too STOOPID to have seen this one coming.  Sometimes, I wonder how my lights stay on at all, and then I remember that any smart people who still work for FirstEnergy are the ones driving the bucket trucks that come to our rescue.  It's upper management that has been snorting the STOOPID sauce.

Commissioner Hott seems to agree:

“What I think would help is to get some of these guys with ties on to come down and see what’s actually going on. They need guidance at a higher level,” Hott said.
Like maybe Charlene should have brought this character along yesterday? 
EUCI and its stable of vacationing utility executives are going to be partying it up at the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan next month. 

So, what pretense are they using this time?  "Strategic Communication for Transmission Projects."  Well, at least they have abandoned the charade that their public relations fabrications are about "participating with the public" this time.

Instead, it's all about manipulating public opinion, or so they think.  Topics include:
How Utilities Effectively Manage the Media

Industry experts will discuss how to frame and "sell" transmission projects as the beneficial investments that they are on behalf of the customers. Attendees will learn how these energy executives keep messaging succinct, consistent and well-positioned. Panelists will discuss successful strategies and tactics for interacting with the media.
Does this include a lesson in gagging and tying opposition leaders up in the corner?  Otherwise, they're only fooling themselves.  The opposition also knows how to "effectively manage the local media," and they know how to do it better, without resorting to threats and lies.

Is this really about educating the public about the truth and reality of transmission, or is it about "selling" a fantasy version of transmission that doesn't include any detriments or drawbacks?  Sorry, that ship has sailed.  The public simply doesn't believe you anymore.  And reporters hate you and all the smoke you blow up their ass.

And speaking of "selling," I'm starting to wonder if EUCI is more about selling the products and services of its "instructors" to conference attendees:
EMF: What the Public Wants to Know and Why It Matters to Your Project

Public concern about electric and magnetic fields (EMF) and related potential health effects began in the late 1970s in association with higher voltage transmission lines and desk top computers. While concern about the latter has largely diminished, concern about EMF from transmission lines and substations continues and is sometimes a major issue in the siting and permitting of these facilities. Our experience demonstrates that presenting technically accurate comparisons of exposures from existing and proposed facilities provides a good context for communicating with the public. Sharing the results of experimental and epidemiology research studies and the perspectives of national and international health and scientific agencies is an effective method to assuage public concern. This session will teach you how to get the science right in your public outreach messages about EMF.

William H. Bailey, Ph.D., Principal Scientist, Center for Exposure Assessment & Dose Reconstruction, Exponent
I think Dr. Bailey has no idea what the public really wants to know about EMF, but he probably does know why it matter$ to "you."

Here's what the public really wants to know about EMF:

The professional opinion of a local physician, not the opinion of a company-paid, industry-funded "scientist."  Sorry, transmission developers, you just can't buy local credibility.

But, the real fun is at the "post-conference workshop" where the blind will lead the blind in this exercise:
Utilizing Mediation and Negotiation Skills to Diffuse Project Opposition


Inevitably, utility infrastructure projects draw some opposition, in person or through social media. This workshop is designed to identify the real issues behind project opposition, and to utilize mediation and negotiation strategies to gain support. Participants will explore the dynamics of conflict, perceived power imbalances, communication skills, and neutral positioning. Utilizing skill building exercises and strategies for reaching agreements, attendees will learn how to be an effective medium between the project owner and project communities. You will also learn effective strategies and tactics, and share in resolving real opposition issues from current and past projects. You are encouraged to bring your current project issues to develop a resolution strategy.

Learning Outcomes

Identify the concerns behind opposition
Evaluate when and when not to utilize social media to counter opposition attacks
Demonstrate how to properly communicate your message through application and critique.

Anticipating Opposition

Knowing your demographics and what is important to your project community
Understanding how to communicate project needs
Utilizing data to create visuals showing system constraints, demand, growth
Educating the opposition through clearly understood messaging

Opposition Working Groups

Seeing your project from the view of the opposition
Working group structure

Resolution Strategies

Using project benefits to the communities advantage
Formulating the strategy of "give and take"
Evaluating how to answer questions such as:
Why not go underground?
Will this harm my property value?
Should we be concerned about EMF?
Developing resolution strategies for your current project opposition

"Seeing your project from the view of the opposition?"  And how many transmission projects has EUCI's instructor opposed?  My guess would be none.  There they go again, attempting to teach a subject they know nothing about.

I do like the new theme I see running through all EUCI's more recent transmission opposition workshops, though.  The acknowledgement that opposition has changed, the public is more knowledgeable than before, and that transmission developers are embarking on a strange, new world where their opposition is increasingly organized, strategic and successful is a nice change of pace.  Because the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right, EUCI?
The Pollyanna Planners of PJM Interconnection are at it again.  Today, PJM announced it had made a decision about the building of a new 18-mile 500kV transmission line in Salem County, New Jersey.  As the first project awarded under FERC's new "competitive" transmission building system, PJM proved that old habits die hard by awarding the $250M project to incumbent transmission builder PSEG. 

PJM kicked a plan by independent transmission builder LS Power to the curb.  LS Power's plan was to build a 5.5-mile 230-kV line and a new transformer and switchyard by mid-2017 for $116 million to $148 million.  But, PJM's delusions of grandeur made it decide in favor of a longer, bigger and more expensive plan proposed by one of its incumbents.

PJM says that siting and permitting prospects were one of several factors it considered when making the recommendation, although the selected project may have issues securing a permit for a river crossing and will cross the Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the Alloway Creek Watershed Wetland Restoration Site and the Abbotts Meadow and Mad Horse Creek Wildlife Management Areas. 
PJM officials said that while this solution was comparable to other projects based on such factors as cost, schedule and the ability to address the reliability concerns, the Hope Creek-Red Lion 500-kV line was superior in terms of constructability.
Seriously, PJM?  Who's giving you advice about "constructability?"  The same geniuses who thought PATH and MAPP were good ideas?  Those two projects turned out not to be so "constructable" after all, and have left PJM ratepayers footing a bill for more than $350M for projects that never even put a shovel in the ground!

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities said PJM’s analysis of the 500-kV option underestimated likely public opposition.

Ya think?  Just because the new transmission line parallels an existing one does NOT mean that affected landowners will welcome it with open arms.  In fact, these landowners already know what it's like to live with a transmission line across their land, and feel they have already made the ultimate sacrifice for "the public good."  They will NOT want another one, and will fight tooth and nail to kill this project.

And, guess what?  They'll have plenty of help from other transmission opposition groups that have perfected the art of public opposition.  After all, we've had some of the best teachers in the world to show us all the ins and outs of transmission project strategy, and we like to "pay it forward."

So, if you're a landowner in Salem County, New Jersey, who already has a 500kV transmission line in your backyard, check out the map at RTO Insider to see if you're one of "the chosen."  I am looking forward to meeting you!
Our friends at Clean Line have been as busy as a nasty nest of yellow jackets this past week, while I was tied up with other things.  So, on this beautiful Sunday, let's hunker down around the campfire and catch up on some scary stories...

My multilingual, Arkansan friend, Doc, alerted me to an interesting discovery this week.  Clean Line's project manager for its Plains & Eastern "Clean" Line, slated to plow through Arkansas like Godzilla on his way to Tokyo, is a Mr. Mario Hurtado.  In the Spanish language, the word "hurtado" means "to steal."  So, Clean Line is sending out some guy named "to steal" to... ummm... steal land from Arkansans.  Brilliant!  Perhaps Clean Line watches too many old movies and expected its opponents in Arkansas to behave like movie characters...
...and not like multilingual PhD's.

So... Arkansas... Beware the Hurtado!

My friend Doc says he looks like this:
Meanwhile, in other "Clean" news from Arkansas...
"Clean" Line has submitted a second application for negotiated rate authority from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

I guess their first one wasn't good enough, since they didn't even bother to mention it in their new filing.  So, inquiring minds want to know... is "Clean" Line just stupid, or are they trying to pull something on FERC?

Negotiated rate authority is no big thing, though.  It simply bangs out a plan for the company to negotiate rates with potential customers in a fair and non-discriminatory fashion.  It doesn't get them any customers.  It is not an "approval" of the project.  FERC's only authority over this project is ensuring its rate structure is fair.  FERC has no authority over the siting and permitting of this project.  Big deal, Mr. To Steal.

And, news from Missouri...

"Clean" Line has been quoting industry-influenced WHO studies as "proof" that their transmission projects will have no health effects on nearby residents.  However, a well-respected, local physician has been compiling and reviewing medical research on the health risks of the proposed "Clean" Line.  The Moberly Monitor did an indepth report about what Dr. Smith has found.  Shocking and dangerous!  Dr. Smith's findings are a MUST READ for every person in proximity to one of these "Clean" Lines.

Other news outlets have also picked up on Dr. Smith's EMF research, and the truth is spreading like wildfire!  SeeABC News, the News Democrat, and about 18 other major news outlets.

"Clean" Line needs to finish watching the movie that they've been using as the basis for their arrogant expectations of the intelligence and cunning of their local opposition.  They must not have watched far enough to see this scene yet:
Barclays downgraded the entire electric sector this week.  The bank's reasoning?  Traditional electric utilities are on their way out.

As I've been pointing out for the last two years, and joined by electric sycophant Edison Electric Institute last year, consumers are remaking the electric industry by becoming producers.

Investment houses are getting nervous, and making reference to other industries that went the way of the dinosaur in the face of a technical revolution that they chose to ignore.
Electric utilities… are seen by many investors as a sturdy and defensive subset of the investment grade universe. Over the next few years, however, we believe that a confluence of declining cost trends in distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation and residential-scale power storage is likely to disrupt the status quo. Based on our analysis, the cost of solar + storage for residential consumers of electricity is already competitive with the price of utility grid power in Hawaii. Of the other major markets, California could follow in 2017, New York and Arizona in 2018, and many other states soon after.

We believe that solar + storage could reconfigure the organization and regulation of the electric power business over the coming decade.

We believe that sector spreads should be wider to compensate for the potential risk of regulator missteps and/or a permanent change in the utility business model.

Whether because of biases or analytical complexity, the market (and its constituent prognosticators) has tended to be late in pricing technology-driven shifts, particularly in industries that have had stable operating models (such as telcos and airlines).
It's high time for traditional electric utilities to get over their fear of the future and embrace the brave new world by making themselves relevant in this new paradigm.  Regulatory campaigns to secure a revenue stream for stranded investment will only be successful if they are based on reason and fairness, and if the utility makes an honest transition.  Building more centralized infrastructure in the face of today's reality shouldn't be supported.

Likewise, distributed energy producers also need to base their regulatory arguments on reason and fairness.  If your generator is going to be connected to the grid, you need to pay for it.  Pretending that your net metering arrangement that may add up over time to net zero means that you shouldn't pay any of a utility's costs to maintain its infrastructure is unreasonable.

The real challenge here is putting the brakes on continued investment in centralized generation and transmission, and successful negotiation of a fair transition plan.  Entrenchment and pitched battles over cost responsibility is just a waste of time.  Let's get with it people... the future is here!
Would you trust this guy ?
Me neither. 

Where's Waldo?  He seems to have dropped out of the public eye, lately replaced by this other guy who smirks when he tells the people of Missouri that there are no health effects, no property devaluation, no impediments to farming.

Clean Line has a public relations problem.  They're running out of project managers and executives.

Waldo (aka Mark Lawlor
) has been thoroughly trounced in the Missouri media by the forthright and personable Block GBE spokeswoman, Jennifer Gatrel.  People like Jenny.  They trust her.  Can't say the same for the Clean Line representatives.

Because Grain Belt Express is in so much trouble in Missouri, Waldo has been replaced by Clean Line president Michael Skelly.  Oh, brother!  That's like putting out a fire with a bucket of gasoline!  Where Waldo was awkward, uncaring and shifty, Skelly is arrogant, arrogant and arrogant
.  This man simply doesn't care what you think.  He gets an attitude when questioned, and provides flippant answers.  Was "the President of Clean Line answering questions in Missouri" supposed to help or hurt the project?

Send this guy back to Skellyville, and bring on the next personality.  Or maybe Clean Line could try some more costumes to cheer everyone up?

Whither goest thou, Waldo?
As part of last year's PSC settlement allowing FirstEnergy to "sell" the Harrison Power Station from its competitive generation subsidiary to its regulated West Virginia utilities, the company was required to file a new base rate case with the PSC this month.

A company's base rate covers the utility's fixed costs and earns a return.  FirstEnergy's current West Virginia return (profit) is 10.5%.  Base rate cases are filed infrequently, usually at the initiative of the utility if it thinks it can increase earnings by doing so, or it may be ordered by a regulator as part of another deal.

FirstEnergy has asked for a $96M rate increase.  I haven't read the filing at the PSC yet, but I received several copies of this company-generated rubbish in my email today.  The company doesn't mention its requested return percentage, so I will assume it's the same, or even higher.

In addition to the more than a billion dollar cost of "buying" Harrison, the rate increase also includes:
...recovery of costs associated with storm repairs from the 2012 Derecho and Hurricane Sandy, along with operating costs at power stations, including new environmental control equipment. In addition, the rate request includes hiring 50 new company employees to help enhance service reliability.
So, how much is this going to cost you?
Currently, the monthly bill for a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours is about $92.62. If the proposed rate increase, including the cost of the new tree trimming program, is granted, the monthly bill would be about $106.79.
But, wait!  FirstEnergy wants you to know about all the value you're going to be getting!
Mon Power and Potomac Edison have not filed for an increase in base rates for nearly five years. The companies’ last major rate changes were a decrease in fuel-related rates of 5 percent on Jan. 1, 2013, and a rate reduction of 1.5 percent in October 2013 due to the Harrison acquisition.
Even with the full proposed increase and tree trimming surcharge, Mon Power and Potomac Edison residential rates would be 10 percent lower than the national average residential rates.
But, that's of little actual value when the company doesn't bother to read your electric meter for months on end and then sends you a gigantic bill for your accumulated usage once a year.  Don't worry though...
To help customers manage their bills, Mon Power and Potomac Edison offer an average payment plan, special payment plans, and access to energy assistance programs.
Just hop on the ol' FirstEnergy debt treadmill and run for your life!

Oh, and let's not forget... that extra $96M out of your pockets will now guarantee you better service!
“The filing will help ensure continued safe and reliable electric generation for our customers,” said Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy’s West Virginia Operations. “On the utility side of our operations, the new employees will include linemen, engineers, supervisors and other personnel to help make the service we provide our customers even better and meet anticipated business growth in our state.”
Here we go again with the Clean Line news articles full of misinformation.  This time, the lies are about the company's Plains & Eastern Clean Line project in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Hiding amid the lies and half-truths is one nugget of news, however.  Clean Line is now purporting that it will build a $100M HVDC converter station in Arkansas in an attempt to provide some "benefit" for the state.  In 2011, the Arkansas PSC denied Clean Line's application to become a public utility in the state so that it could use eminent domain to take land for its project against the owners' will.  The APSC based its denial on the lack of benefits to the state from the transmission line, that Clean Line proposed would begin and end in other states like a highway with no on or off ramps for local use.

Claims that the company will build a converter station for local use seem to be sprouting like weeds.  But, what guarantee does any state have that Clean Line would actually build one?  If it receives a permit, Clean Line could once again change its plans, taking the local converter station off the table, laughing all the way to the bank.

The midpoint converter stations are very expensive and only plan to make available a miniscule portion of the project's capacity.  For the 3500 MW Grain Belt Express, the converter station is being touted as making "up to" 500 MW available.  For the Plains & Eastern project, this article says the converter station will make available "up to" 250 MW of the project's 3500 MW capacity.  The rest of the capacity is slated to be made available to eastern states where electricity commands a higher price.  And that's how Clean Line intends to make its money -- selling electricity in richer markets that have certain minimal renewable energy purchase requirements.  These "public policy" renewable portfolio standards require load serving entities in eastern states to generate or purchase a certain percentage of renewable energy, no matter the cost.  This is the market Clean Line is desperately trying to reach. 

So, let's think about that.  Clean Line is pretending it will "make available" miniscule amounts of its capacity in pass-through states in exchange for the ability to take private property from the state's citizens.  "Make available" means exactly that -- make available for purchase by load serving entities in states like Arkansas or Missouri.  However, if local LSEs can purchase lower cost power, they must do so.  Clean Line is priced for the east coast, not Missouri or Arkansas.  While the wind power generated in the Midwest may be "cheap" by east coast standards, building a "Clean" Line to transport it more than doubles the delivered price of the electricity.  Chances are no local load serving entities will contract to purchase ANY of this power, obviating the need for any mid-point converter stations after permits are granted.  Don't be fooled!

Don't be fooled by the article's misinformation either.  Here's where the reporter (or the president of Clean Line) got the information wrong:
The project, called the Plains & Eastern Clean Line, won’t break ground until 2016, but the company behind it — Clean Line Energy Partners — announced this month that it would build a $100 million convertor station along the line’s route, somewhere in central Arkansas.

But as initially planned, the project would have had little effect on Arkansans beyond creating some jobs through the construction period. The line traveled from Oklahoma east through Arkansas, but Clean Line’s electricity wouldn’t have stopped in Arkansas along the way.

This was the basis of the Arkansas Public Service Commission’s 2011 denial of Clean Line’s attempt to be recognized as a utility in the state. Becoming a utility would have meant the company could have used eminent domain in creating the route for its new lines.

However, that changed when Skelly announced the convertor station at this month’s Little Rock Sustainability Summit at the Clinton Presidential Library.
This project won't "break ground" until it is fully permitted, and obtaining permits is still highly speculative.  Just because Clean Line has tried to create a smokescreen of "benefit" for Arkansas does not automatically buy them a permit.
A spokesman for the company said the station “was a significant change in the scope of the project” that was “not initially intended” for it, noting that it was expressly requested by the PSC and by landowners.
WTF, Clean Line?  No landowner ever requested a converter station in Arkansas.  The few landowners who knew about your project rejected it in totality.
Clean Line is a private transmission company in Houston. It develops projects that connect renewable generation points between states.

The Plains & Eastern project is one of five Clean Line transmission projects underway in the country, and the only one that passes through Arkansas.

The new line would mean many new customers for the company.
Clean Line only exists on paper.  This start-up has never built anything and probably never will.  It has no customers... at all.  The company has signed an agreement to allow its biggest investor, European transmission giant National Grid, to purchase the entire collection of projects in the pre-construction phase.  If Clean Line can spin enough lies to get a handful of permits, it absconds with a bundle of cash and a new company takes over ownership of any projects.  Research on Clean Line's principals reveals a history of exactly this kind of behavior.  Many of Clean Line's management, who have personally invested in the company, have a history of building wind energy companies and then flipping them for huge profit.  They probably should have stayed in their own area of expertise because they're in way over their heads playing transmission company.
It has been in the works for the past half-decade and will build two lines intended to connect the Midwest’s wind resources to surrounding areas with less potential to generate wind, such as Missouri and southern Indiana. About 7,000 megawatts of power in Oklahoma would become available to surrounding states.
Actually, that 7,000 MW plan for two lines got scrapped several years ago as overly ambitious.  Or, did it?
“Because this is an interstate project, it has to go through the federal permitting process,” Skelly said. “We’re in the middle of that [process]. What it basically does is look at a series of routes, and we take all that information which our different stakeholders use to come up with a route.”
There is no requirement for federal permitting just because a project is "interstate."  Transmission permitting is state jurisdictional.  A project must receive a permit from every state through which it passes.  Except when a state denies a permit... then a transmission owner can attempt to preempt local authority to take advantage of a couple of arcane loopholes in the 2005 Energy Policy Act.  It is only then that federal permitting becomes necessary.  And still, the federal authority Clean Line is attempting to acquire only gives it the power of eminent domain.  It does not anoint Clean Line with state utility status to build a project.  We'll just assume that the U.S. Department of Energy is going to take on the role of transmission builder for this project and then re-sell it back to Clean Line after it's constructed, right?
A lot of the job, he said, is getting the word out about the job to county officials, state agencies and environmental groups to determine the route of the line.

“Because this is an interstate project, it has to go through the federal permitting process,” Skelly said. “We’re in the middle of that [process]. What it basically does is look at a series of routes, and we take all that information which our different stakeholders use to come up with a route.”

Currently, the U.S. Department of Energy is working with states and local agencies to gather input on the line’s proposed route.

The permitting process overall, Skelly said, is expected to conclude in spring 2015.

“We hope to break ground in a year after that — at some point in 2016,” he said. “This is like any large infrastructure project. It takes a long time to work through the issues and come up with a proper design and take into account the stakeholders’ interests. These things take a long time. As things go, we’re moving at a reasonable pace.”
So, when is Clean Line planning to consult the landowners about the route of its line?  Because landowners, in Clean Line's world, aren't stakeholders.  They're just the folks who have to sacrifice their properties for Clean Line's profit.

No matter.  The landowners aren't waiting to be invited.  As my friend Joel says in the article's comments:
"Clean" Line is intent upon getting eminent domain authority. That's why their plan has changed to include the central Arkansas converter station. The company wants to force Arkansas landowners and homeowners to allow huge transmission towers on their property. This is a private venture, backed by a few out-of-state billionaires. They refuse to acknowledge that these towers will lower the property value of the landowners and homeowners. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would know that property values will plummet where a 200' steel lattice tower is constructed. So the out-of-state billionaires make huge profits while Arkansas landowners and homeowners lose real estate equity. It can't happen without state or federal eminent domain authority. I think of it like armed robbery, but in this case the robbers don't have to hold the guns. They will have state or federal law enforcement holding the gun to the heads of Arkansas landowners and homeowners.
After two years of Dominion refusing to do any publicity on its Mt. Storm - Doubs transmission line rebuild, rival FirstEnergy has swooped in to take all the credit for the project.

Cue the irony.
While Dominion has been doing a great job with directly affected landowners, the company has completely failed to disseminate any information about its project to the greater community.  As if folks don't notice the access roads, the helicopters, the construction traffic, the road closures, the implosive splicing...  I've gotten mighty tired of having to reassure people that this is not the PATH project, that this is a permitted activity, and that the world is not exploding.  But I do it, not for Dominion, but for the people who are the victims of Dominion's "secret" rebuild project.

Mt. Storm - Doubs (MSD) is a smarter, better solution than building the PATH project ever was.  So, let's get 'er done, fellas,  so that I can stop having this distraction sitting on the edge of a rather full plate

The MSD transmission line begins in Mt. Storm, West Virginia
and ends at the Doubs substation in Frederick County, Maryland.  The 96 miles of the line located in West Virginia and Virginia are owned by Dominion.  The last 3 miles of the line in Maryland are owned by FirstEnergy.  Each company is responsible for permitting and constructing its own segment of this project.  Dominion has been working on its portion of the project for more than 4 years.  FirstEnergy only recently got off it's corporate ass to do its part on the last three miles.

Well, yay, FirstEnergy!  You da man!  Fourteen transmission towers and 3 miles of line? 
Awesome!  Put Toad Meyers in a hardhat and push the "on" button.  That should ameliorate your billing and meter reading fiasco, right?


Back in 2010, while the PATH was still madly attempting to get it's 300 mile, 765kV transmission line sited and permitted
on new right of way, Dominion dropped a bombshell on transmission planner PJM Interconnection.  Dominion proposed several alternatives to the PATH project (which was never actually "needed").  One of the alternatives involved rebuilding MSD because of deteriorating towers.  A rebuilt and modernized MSD would increase the thermal capacity of the existing line 66% and make the addition of PATH's capacity unnecessary.  Both PJM and PATH partners FirstEnergy and AEP tried to deny the proposal and insist that PATH was still necessary.   That was the beginning of the end for PATH.  The Virginia SCC got mighty suspicious and ordered PJM to re-run some data on the necessity for PATH if MSD was rebuilt.  Low and behold, the data showed that there really wasn't a need for PATH after all and PJM suspended (and later cancelled) the PATH project.  PATH withdrew all its project applications and went into hiding, after wasting a quarter billion dollars of consumer funding on the project.

Ahhh... good times!  :-)

Now FirstEnergy says "look at me!" and give me credit for modernizing the electric grid.

Kind of makes you wish that someone would drop a load of insulators on Toad's hard hat, doesn't it?

Oh, what would I do if I didn't have this little outlet...

FirstEnergy's frequent financial fiascos aren't Tony's fault! 

Poor management pointed the finger at everyone else yesterday during some silly Chamber of Gladhanders event.

The quotes in the news article were bad enough, but check out the full text of the fairy tale here.

If Tony actually believes any of this stuff, he needs to exit stage left:

"All of us have been challenged by the economy over the last few years."

Well, except for you and your 1% pals, right?  After all, how much of a struggle is it to survive on $23M a year?  Almost as hard as it is to survive locked out of your job for months because your employer is a union buster, I'm sure.

"For example, in FirstEnergy’s six-state service area, our 2013 utility sales were below 2007 levels – and, during that period, wholesale energy prices dropped by more than 40 percent.  While this isn’t the first time we’ve faced tough economic conditions, this is the longest period of economic stagnation I’ve seen in my 40 years in the industry.  We will ultimately work through this… and as the economy grows, so will the use of electricity."

It's called energy efficiency, Tony.  It's permanent.

"But quite frankly, the challenges we now face from government interference in the electric business are far more intrusive and disruptive, and I believe far more significant to our industry’s future, and to your future.  That’s because whether it impacts our traditional regulated business or our competitive operations, government policy is now aimed at stifling the growth and use of electricity – and picking winners and losers in the competitive marketplace."

Oh, puh-leeze.  FirstEnergy was singing a different tune when the West Virginia government puppets at the PSC "interfered" in FirstEnergy's scheme to sell a dirty, old coal plant to itself and charge West Virginia ratepayers over a billion dollars for it.  Not only was having FirstEnergy's dirty trash dumped on ratepayers intrusive and disruptive to the amount we pay for electricity, it's effect is going to last well into the future.  The mistakes of FirstEnergy's competitive operations got dumped into its regulated business, and that stifles economic growth and use of electricity in West Virginia.  Worst of all, the PSC allowed FirstEnergy to pick winners and losers in the competitive marketplace.  Yeah.  FirstEnergy wins, we lose.

"Or, would you think it is fair to face competition from a supplier who can be indifferent to price… since all of its costs, including a return on investment, are guaranteed?"

What?  Every stinking penny of FirstEnergy's $121M dollar investment in its unneeded PATH project was earning a 14.3% return on investment, and recovery of its sunk costs are guaranteed in the event of abandonment.  FirstEnergy spent generously because it was indifferent to the ultimate quarter billion dollar abandoned price to ratepayers.

In addition, FirstEnergy is well on its way to plunking its "transmission spend" into a whole bunch of dubious projects, just to earn a big return on the investment.  That's not "fair."  Right.

"The industry has invested more than $840 billion… employs more than 500,000 workers… and pays billions of dollars in taxes."

But FirstEnergy earns a return on its investment, treats its workers like garbage, and doesn't pay any taxes!

"Thomas Sowell, a noted economist and commentator at Stanford, summarized a broader trend, now playing out in our nation’s energy policy, when he said, quote: “Much of the social history of the western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

In the electric utility industry, energy efficiency, renewable power, distributed generation, micro grids, roof-top solar and demand reduction are examples of what “sounds good” – and while they may all play some role in meeting the energy needs of customers, they are not substitutes for what has worked to sustain a reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electric system.  And, the mandates and subsidies needed to force their use have far-reaching consequences for our customers and our economy."

Energy efficiency, renewable power, distributed generation, micro grids, roof-top solar and demand reduction sounds like a workable, and inevitable, future to me.  Tony can either get in the backseat or get left behind.  His choice. 

Thomas Sowell quote?  Really?

"Consider the fact that you can no longer buy a 100-watt incandescent light bulb in the United States, but you can purchase a 500-horsepower vehicle."

Oh, the horrors!  Wanna bet that Tony is an incandescent bulb hoarder?  He probably sits in his underground bunker with huge stack of them, crying quietly.

"Or that electric customers are being forced to pay additional costs for subsidized, unneeded generation."

Is he talking about Harrison?

"Or that these policies and others – designed to achieve a social agenda that has little, if anything, to do with maintaining electric service – are shifting the fixed costs of the system to customers who can least afford it… and are undermining our nation’s competitive position."

"So why are we engaged in this effort to experiment with the electric system by taking away customer choice… increasing prices… and jeopardizing reliability?"

Why are you doing that to West Virginia, Tony, WHY?

"Quite frankly, I believe state and federal policymakers are manipulating the supply and demand, and distorting markets for electricity, to further advance the “war on coal.”

Well, quite frankly, I believe FirstEnergy is manipulating the supply and demand and distorting the markets for electricity, to further advance corporate profits.

"Some generating units were off-line as natural gas was used to meet higher priorities – and the entire market was affected by a substantial increase in the price of natural gas.  To put this price increase in perspective, it was the equivalent of paying about $85 per gallon of gasoline!"

And one of FirstEnergy's nuke plants was also off-line, right?  And then prices went up, and FirstEnergy charged more than 2 million customers a "polar vortex fee" that's now under investigation by more than one state regulatory commission.

"As President Ronald Reagan stated in a letter to Congress on July 17, 1981, “Our national energy plan should not be a rigid set of production and conservation goals dictated by government… When the free market is permitted to work the way it should, millions of individual choices and judgments will produce the proper balance of supply and demand our economy needs."

Because the only thing more trite than a Ronald Reagan quote is comparing your issue to the Holocaust, right?