The power companies behind the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line made some skimpy details of their "mitigation package" public today in their comments on the NPS Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  Today was the deadline for comments (hope you got your comments in!).

Their comment letter goes on for pages and pages and refers to Exhibits that are nowhere to be found.  If anyone knows where Exhibit 9 is, let me know, that's the one that supposedly contains the "methodology" for their madness.

The letter contains some of the most outrageous lies I've ever heard, and just in case the NPS doesn't believe them, the power companies unleash a couple of veiled threats.  Nice.  And I haven't even read the whole thing yet.

Anyhow, here's what's available on the power company's proffered bribe:

  1. The price is now somewhere between $30 - 40M, but the NPS can just fill in the amount with whatever they think is reasonable.  You know, name their price for the $ale of the parks.  Price doesn't matter to PSE&G and PPL, they're using YOUR money for this bribe and collecting interest on the amount they spend.  The more they spend, the more they make!
  2. The power companies will set up an "endowment" with your money, the Middle Delaware Mitigation Fund.  The "endowment" is supposed to be administered by "a not-for-profit organization with demonstrated expertise in land and resource conservation and successful collaboration with the Department of the Interior."  The "endowment" would be used by the Administrator for the purposes of preserving, restoring and enhancing Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the Middle Delaware Wild & Scenic River segment, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail within the Delaware River basin, including reasonable costs associated with administration of the Fund.  In other words, this "administrator" is going to be able to take a big chunk of this endowment for salaries and expenses.  Now, who in the heck is going to monitor that for fraud?  "The Administrator would commit Endowment funds solely to projects or activities reviewed and recommended by the Secretary of the Interior, acting directly or through a designee, following appropriate consultation with representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and State of New Jersey, and Delaware River basin-oriented conservation organizations and recreational interests."  Oh, I see, Ken Salazar, the person with the loose morals that engineered this bribe, is going to oversee the morals of the "not-for-profit organization" who manages the "endowment."  Ever heard that phrase, "the blind leading the blind"?
  3. 50% of the bribe would be paid when all permits are issued and land clearing begins, and the other 50% would be paid when construction is complete and the line goes into service.
  4. So, whose land are they planning to steal?  "We have focused on parcels previously identified by land management agencies and conservation groups as important potential additions to the DEWA-area parks and refuges-- lands with natural values that would be of great value to the public.  We have identified lands potentially for sale (because everything's FOR $ALE), most* already on the market in some fashion, that offer great potential to benefit the public."  *most = qualifying weasel word -- this means that only a very small portion of this land is actually "on the market in some fashion" (another qualifying mush phrase).
  5. So, who is this "administrator"?  "The Applicants have engaged and provided funds to a nationally respected* land conservation organization to begin acquiring interests in private properties of high value to the Department of the Interior’s conservation mission in the area around DEWA, MDSR, APPA and Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge."  *Not anymore, as soon as this crooked bribe is made public, this will be the LEAST RESPECTED land conservation organization in the nation... and that's why the power companies aren't giving out the name of this organization that's already taken your money to start acquiring land for a project and bribe that is completely undecided... or is it?
  6. The details of the land grab?  Well, that's "proprietary," don't ya know... "The Applicants and their consultants have collected a great deal of very specific information about lands that are for sale (in fee or pursuant to conservation easement) in the DEWA area. Most of the information is confidential and proprietary; all of it is sensitive. The potential to acquire the land for conservation purposes likely would be frustrated if the information were to be publicized.  (here's your cue, project opponents -- go fetch and publicize, publicize, publicize -- hope your neighbor grapevine in PA & NJ works as well as ours in WV, VA & MD does)  To meet the requirements of current owners, a substantial portion of the information has been obtained with the understanding that the Applicants would keep the information confidential. Based on our outreach to conservation partners and other investigations and analyses, we have identified, at this time, an overall universe of 650 parcels or interests in land that merit further consideration for use as compensatory mitigation including 425 tracts (39,500 acres) in Pennsylvania and 225 tracts (20,500 acres) in New Jersey. Of these, there is dialogue with landowners for the following parcels/acreage: 150 tracts (13,500 acres) in Pennsylvania, and 10 tracts (500 acres) in New Jersey. Of the parcels under dialogue at this time the following parcels/acreage are either under option, option pending or active negotiation: 12 tracts (10,700 acres) in Pennsylvania ($34,000,000 fmv est.), and 5 tracts (410 acres) ($2,600,000 fmv est.) in New Jersey.  (that's $36.6M already, with only 17 of 650 tracts of land acquired.)
  7. I saved the best laugh for last:  "The Applicants are prepared to commit funds in an amount that will fully recognize and show respect for the public value of the resources potentially affected by the Project."  These guys have absolutely no respect for themselves, much less any respect for the public.  What a joke!  And they "will ensure that there can be no basis for any reasonable party to conclude that the benefit to the resources at issue is anything other than substantially greater than the impacts of the Project."  What part of THE PARK IS NOT FOR SALE AT ANY PRICE don't they get?

 
 
PATH has been so busy painting a pretty picture of their bookkeeping prowess for FERC that they neglected to look over their shoulder and see where they were headed -- right into a corner.

See Keryn & Ali's Response to PATH's latest Answer (answer to an answer to an answer to an answer).  The exhibit to the Response can be found here.

Unfortunately, it gets pretty far afield into the technical, accounting weeds, but if you've been following along, it might just click.  In summation, if PATH's previous X = Y equation is true, they've got a lot of explaining to do, and continuing to file Answers before the Commission is the wrong procedure to reveal and correct PATH's continual errors.  Challengers end with another request for FERC to audit PATH's "books and records."

Now let's see what happens when PATH tries to tippy-toe out of that corner they have painted themselves into...
 
 
The Susquehanna Roseland opposition groups did a great job at the National Park Service public hearings held last week.  This link even has a recording of the public comments.

And a representative of PPL has now joined his counterpart at PSE&G in admitting that the $30M "mitigation package" will become the responsibility of the 60 million ratepayers in the PJM region.  However, the only beneficiary of the "mitigation" and the power line itself will be PPL and PSE&G, who will earn a 12.93% profit on the cost of the project every year for the 50 - 70 life of the line.  Both individuals quoted in the article aren't quite accurate though.  The PPL guy claims that the return on equity is part of the state ratemaking process, but this line is under FERC jurisdiction.  The Sierra Club representative only calculates one year's interest in his $4M profit estimate.  Profit is calculated on the remaining balance EVERY year, and the companies also receive a percentage of their investment back every year as well through depreciation.

PPL claims that they haven't "identified precise locations" of the land they propose to purchase for their "mitigation package" yet.  So, PPL, what happens when the owners don't want to sell?  Do you offer them more money, or do you use your state-granted eminent domain powers to take the land from a private individual and give it to the NPS or other conservation group?  I don't see anyone addressing this question yet.

But, this editorial in the Pocono Record is by far the most revealing.  The editor (who drives me NUTS with his poor writing skills -- please, let one of your copy editors edit your editorials!) has had at least one sit-down with Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Superintendent John Donahue.  Donahue told the editor, "We've been working with the power company for some time for a mitigation package and are reaching the point where they might come to the public and offer something huge for what they want."

The "mitigation package" is all about Donahue's personal vision for the park.  His vision includes linking the park with state parks and turning Rt. 209 into a "parkway." Maybe someone should tell Donahue the story of the Lenape Indians of Manhattan who entered into what they thought of as a land-sharing pact with the European settlers.  It didn't work out so well for the Indians.


 
 
PATH filed an Answer to Ali & Keryn's Response to PATH's Answer to the Formal Challenge on Friday (if you're keeping score this is an answer to an answer to an answer).

In this Answer, PATH explains that they (purportedly) cheated themselves out of $12K in 2010.

Subtlety is lost on these ninnies.  I guess someone is going to have to clobber them over the head with it.  How embarrassing for PATH!  Color me exasperated.

But, I'm sure you'll all be thrilled to know that Ali has been elevated to one-name celebrity status with this filing!  That's right, she's now to be known simply as "Alison."

More to come...
 
 
Back in October, the Congressional Research Service wrote a report summarizing FERC's Transmission Incentives NOI and analyzing the law and policy behind the transmission incentives themselves.

They make some interesting observations:

When FERC codified the EPAct language, they made a minor wording change that makes a huge difference, costs consumers billions, and perverts the original intent of the Act.  The EPAct language states "...the Commission shall establish, by rule, incentive-based (including performance-based) rate treatments for the transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce by public utilities for the purpose of benefitting consumers by ensuring reliability and reducing the cost of delivered power by reducing transmission congestion."  FERC's Order No. 679 changed this language to read, "... either ensure reliability or reduce the cost...".  Right away, consumer rates take a jump because reliability projects that only increase costs are allowed under Order No. 679.

The history of the EPAct supposedly trickled down from this 2003 blackout task force report recommendation:

Clarify that prudent expenditures and investments for bulk system reliability (including investments in new technologies) will be recoverable through transmission rates.

Do you see anything in there that recommends incentives for the construction of a whole bunch of new transmission lines running parallel to existing, outdated, inefficient transmission lines?  Me neither.  It recommends that we improve transmission without specifying how.

But, Congress specified exactly how this would be accomplished in the EPAct, Sec. 219 (b) (1) & (3):

(b) CONTENTS.—The rule shall--
(1) promote reliable and economically efficient transmission and generation of electricity by promoting capital investment in the enlargement, improvement, maintenance, and operation of all facilities for the transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce, regardless of the ownership of the facilities;
(3) encourage deployment of transmission technologies and other measures to increase the capacity and efficiency of existing transmission facilities and improve the operation of the facilities; and

This is a point that StopPATH made in their NOI comments last year.  FERC has interpreted and codified Sec. 219(b) as (1) applying to new facilities only; and (3) applying to existing facilities.  This is also a perversion of interpretation on FERC's part.  In the NOI, FERC expressed their puzzlement that no one had applied for incentives on existing facilities.  Really?  It's quite simple, Sherlock, improving existing facilities doesn't require as large a capital investment on the part of the transmission owner as building new facilities does.  That capital investment is what earns outrageous ROE rates as high as 14.3%.  The more they invest, the more equity profit they make.  As well, FERC policy says that "routine" project and upgrades are not eligible for incentives.  That wasn't the intent of Congress in the EPAct.  In addition, FERC uses the price tag of a project as one of the factors in the nexus test.  FERC's policy is geared toward enriching transmission owners to the detriment of consumers.

Building new transmission while allowing interconnected, existing infrastructure to continue to deteriorate, fail and cause blackouts is not what Congress had in mind.  FERC's approach is like putting a piece of cardboard over a broken window and then cutting a hole and installing a new window right next to the broken one.

The CRS report opines that transmission investment over the next 20 years will be in the neighborhood of $298B.  It also states that FERC may opt to do nothing about its incentives policy.  Perhaps it's time for Congress to step back in and assert its authority to ensure its orders are being properly carried out before electricity costs completely bankrupt struggling consumers.

 
 
Oh, FirstEnergy, you're such a little fibber!

Yesterday, FE announced the closure of six of their oldest, dirtiest coal-fired generating plants, including the local R. Paul Smith plant in Williamsport, MarylandResidents of the town say it's a "devastating blow."

FirstEnergy blames the EPA for the shut down and says that 529 employees will lose their jobs at the six plants.  Aside from early retirement and severance, FirstEnergy has nothing much to offer these loyal employees.  They also have nothing to offer the towns who are losing tax revenue and business generated by the plants.  FirstEnergy says "too bad, so sad, look at what the EPA did to you" to all the "little people" affected by their business decision.

And make no mistake about it, the decision was all about what's best for FirstEnergy's bottom line and stock dividends.  FirstEnergy closed these plants because they are no longer profitable.  That's the real bottom line.

These plants rarely operate because they are obsolete and expensive to run.  The only reason they have remained open this long is that they have been receiving capacity payments through PJM Interconnection's electricity market to remain available to supplement base load plants on a couple days a year when loads are heavy.

"The plant, which has a coal-fired boiler and a fuel-oil fired boiler, hasn’t generated power recently but has been run within the past year, he said.

But Durbin couldn’t say when the plant last generated power, noting that such information would be considered proprietary."

Proprietary?  That's power company double-speak for, "I can't tell you because the answer would make me a liar."

Electrical demand has been down for several years and continues to fall.  This is due to energy efficiency, demand side management and the building of new generation near load centers on the east coast.  The "peaks" in electrical demand are flattening due to demand side management, whereby electricity use is voluntarily curtailed during times of peak demand.  Smaller peaks means that peaking plants like the one in Williamsport are no longer needed.  If they're no longer needed, they're not going to continue to receive capacity payments to sit around idle for 363 days a year.  No money coming in, and FirstEnergy gives them the axe.  This has NOTHING to do with the EPA.

Now, let's take a look at what FirstEnergy says out of the other side of their mouth... the one that speaks to their shareholders, who continually demand an increase in their earnings every quarter.

In this press release on Marketwatch, FE claims that the generating plant shut downs resulted in a .38 per share "charge" to their Non-GAAP earnings, but it didn't do a thing to their overall $2.44 per share GAAP earnings. 

It's all about FirstEnergy's greedy bottom line.  It's not about the EPA, or the well-being of their loyal employees, or the communities they serve.


 
 
While looking at the Susquehanna Roseland EIS today, I came across the slide show that the NPS is presenting at their public hearings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey this week.

The slide show obviously uses power company-submitted "photo simulations" to show citizens what the proposed power line will supposedly look like.  These photo sims are created by environmental permitting firms like Burns & McDonnell, who are being paid to produce Photoshopped propaganda.  I saw many just like them in PATH's LRE and EIS application.

These Photoshop phonies take great liberty with perspective, hoping you're dumb enough to fall for their trickery.

Here's a great example.  Notice how the "before" picture only captures the bottom 50 feet or so of the lattice tower structure?  When this 100 foot high structure is replaced with a tubular steel structure twice it's size in the "after" picture, the perspective of the tower suddenly changes, although the background remains the same.  All of a sudden most of the structure is visible in the "photo."  Sometimes they place the new structure further away along the right-of-way in order to make it appear smaller by comparison, but it looks like they didn't even bother in this one.  They placed the out of perspective structure in the same basic location as the existing one.  Fail!

And what's that hiding behind the tower?  Is it a new right-of-way three times the width of the old one (yes, I measured it)?  You're not supposed to notice that!

If you're interested in seeing the entire slide show that demonstrates the damage the new line will do to the parks, you can download it here and view with a great deal of skepticism.

Note to Power Companies and Paid Contractors:  Seriously guys, use some of your ill-gotten booty to invest in a new bag of tricks.  This one has gone stale.


 
 
Big brother is watching you.  There's a fun (or rude, depending on results) little self-discovery tool making the rounds in social media circles that was promoted in a Business Insider article yesterday.

Google has been keeping track of your browsing habits and compiling demographics based on the websites you frequent and has determined your age and sex for the purposes of providing ad content targeted to your interests.

I'm a 55-64 year old male.  Holy Grecian Formula and Sansabelt slacks, Batman, I've turned into one of THEM!  *Note to self:  Must develop new online hobbies.

This is because my Google-determined target ad categories are:

Business & Industrial - Energy & Utilities
Business & Industrial - Energy & Utilities - Electricity
Internet & Telecom - Web Services - Search Engine Optimization & Marketing
Internet & Telecom - Web Services - Web Hosting & Domain Registration
News - Technology News
Reference - Geographic Reference - Maps - Traffic & Public Transit
World Localities - North America - USA - Mid-Atlantic (USA) - Pennsylvania
World Localities - North America - USA - South (USA) - West Virginia

I'm going to tell myself that's because my idea of a good time involves rolling this chair back and getting away from my inhuman task master.  Although... I wonder if there's an online Rorschach test I can use to try to counterbalance Google's unwelcome opinion of me?

Go ahead, try it.  I want to find out which one of you is living the internet life that is supposed to belong to me...
 
 
The National Park Service has announced that the public will be able to further comment on PSE&G and PPL's $30M land-bribe once the plan is revealed.  However, it sounds more like you'll just be flapping your gums after the decision has been made, so don't wait -- go ahead and comment NOW before January 31.

The National Park Service and the public need more time to evaluate two utilities' proposed trade to add park land in exchange for allowing a massive power line to cross Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, federal officials said Monday.

"Acquiring conservation lands to enhance national park resources and to create or connect regional wildlife corridors could be a means of mitigating and compensating for impacts from construction, operation, and maintenance of a transmission line upgrade," the park service said in its first public comment on the proposal. "However, the NPS will not be able to determine whether the lost use and resource impacts are offset until the agency has fully evaluated the mitigation proposal and the public has had a chance to review it."

Following this week's hearings, the park service will take written comments until Jan. 31. But the utilities aren't expected to make details of their proposed land purchases public until officials file their own written comments.

This leaves unanswered how public comment will be considered if the public doesn't get land purchase details until after the comment period closes. National Park Service spokeswoman Deb Nordeen said she is unsure how the process will work, but the public will be able to comment on the agency's final impact statement late this year.


The NPS seems to be a little worried that they will be correctly painted as accepting a bribe from a for-profit corporation in exchange for looking the other way while a national park is destroyed.  And, of course, they will be!

The Susquehanna Roseland project is not needed any more than PATH ever was.  This $1.2B project has now increased its cost by another $30M to pay for the NPS land-bribe, and you are the one who's going to be stuck paying for it all, along with a sweet 12.9% yearly profit for PSE&G and PPL, including that purchase of the land-bribe.

The NPS-hosted public hearings began last night.  The power companies bussed in union members to speak in favor of their project, purporting that the transmission line would provide jobs. 

Hey, remember when PATH bussed in a gaggle of union stooges to speak in favor of their project during PSC hearings in Shepherdstown back in 2009?

My favorite part of that episode was the stragglers who drove themselves and ended up asking us where the "union rally" was being held.  Uh-huh... these guys showed up at their own volition to support PATH ;-)  Or, maybe it was what happened at the next public hearing in the series when the PSC refused to let more union guys testify because the union was an intervenor and thereby prevented from testifying at the public hearings.  That was fun :-)

The power companies seriously need to come up with some new plays -- the game is up!
 
 
A Response to PATH's Answer to the Formal Challenge was filed at FERC today.

PATH's got lots of problems, but probably the simplest to explain here is that their accountants don't know whether to add or subtract.  It does make a difference!

Instead of learning when to add and when to subtract, PATH wastes the Commission's time whining that:  "Clearly, Challengers Newman and Haverty are individuals who are opposed to the PATH Project. (Footnoted:  Challenge p. 14 ("the PATH Project can no longer be justified."); see also http://www.stoppathwv.com/stoppathwv-blog.html. (Stop PATH WV, Inc. is an organization comprised of citizens who object to the PATH Project)." PATH should be ashamed of themselves for incorrectly quoting small portions of larger sentences without proper indication, and for calling the "wahhhhmbulance" again.  The complete quote that they cherry picked from reads "Stop PATH WV, Inc. is a registered 501(c)4 social justice grassroots organization comprised of ordinary citizens who object to the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline because it is not needed, it is not wanted, it is destructive to West Virginia, and it is an obstacle to meaningful reform of U.S. energy policy." And the page they got it from (which was not the Blog) contains the title "www.stoppathwv.com - Jefferson County, WV" (not Calhoun Co., WV).

Perhaps PATH should spend more time learning proper format for quotes in legal documents and the difference between debits and credits, and less time reading StopPATHWV Blog.  Does anyone's opposition to the PATH Project cause Allegheny/FirstEnergy to make incredibly stupid accounting mistakes?  No, they make those all on their own.  The only assistance they get from StopPATH is a little publicity. 

Newman and Haverty have filed both Formal Challenges pro se, as individuals.  Neither are representing StopPATH WV, Inc. in the matter, because then they'd have to be lawyers.  StopPATH WV, Inc. has NOTHING to do with any of PATH's problems at FERC.  While Newman is a member of StopPATH WV, Inc., Haverty is not.  But, both Challengers are also members of lots of other organizations that PATH failed to mention, and for which they did not provide the FERC Commissioners with web linksPATH's lawyers need to do a little more research, in order to find other member organizations to which Challengers belong and whine about those organizations too in their legal filings.

PATH seems to think that we go out of our way to make them look bad when the reality is that PATH manages to look bad all by itself, no assistance needed.  Finding errors in PATH's financial filings is like shooting fish in a barrel.