Today's announcement by PJM directing AEP/FirstEnergy to suspend efforts on the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline is a major victory and vindication for the thousands of landowners and ratepayers who have been fighting a David vs. Goliath battle with the corporations and government for nearly three years.  We are pleased at the subsequent requests by the companies to withdraw their permit applications in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

Our opposition has always been based on our determination that the PATH project is not needed.  Instead, the project was motivated by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) incentives, including recovery of all project costs and a 14.3% return on equity.

The claims of need for the project have shifted so far out into the future that it has put the project "on hold" for now.  We call on PJM to be forthcoming and promptly release results of new analyses and forecasts for the PJM region.  It is unacceptable that PJM's and PATH's unwillingness to accept the changing landscape for energy policy could continue to hold landowners in three states hostage while they continue to entertain an unneeded project endlessly.

While we celebrate this victory, we also realize that this battle is not over.  PJM Interconnection will be conducting what it calls "more rigorous analysis of the potential need for PATH."  AEP's CEO Michael Morris told the Energy Business Review, "We remain convinced that the project will be needed and plan to move forward with it when PJM completes its review."  We are surprised that Mr. Morris would say this when it has been proven there is no need and the project has no terminus.

We also note that the suspension of this project in lieu of abandonment ensures the PATH companies will continue to spend ratepayer money to maintain the project.  They will continue to hold real estate purchased and collect a 14.3% return on equity from electric ratepayers through their FERC Formula Rate for a project that has no projected in-service date and for which the companies are no longer seeking permits.  We ask that the project be properly abandoned now, and if a need for PATH or a similar project materializes in the distant future, the companies reapply for FERC incentives at that time.  Jeri Matheney, a spokeswoman for AEP  said the utilities also would suspend efforts to purchase land for the right of way, however she failed to acknowledge that funds recovered from ratepayers have financed this project to date and will continue to do so under their current scheme of holding of the project in abeyance indefinitely.

The Formal Challenge to PATH's 2010 Formula Rate Annual Update detailing PATH's over recovery of more than $3M from ratepayers in thirteen states and the District of Columbia in 2009 remains open before FERC.  Complainants Keryn Newman and Alison Haverty plan to continue pursuit of the refund due to ratepayers.

StopPATHWV, Inc. thanks our intervenors, volunteers, financial supporters and friends for their participation over the past 2 1/2 years.  We urge everyone to remain vigilant as we continue our fight against corporate greed.  We plan to continue, and expand, our efforts and welcome your involvement.

In addition, we will be continuing our efforts to ensure West Virginia's and the region's needs for reliable power are met through rebuilding of aging high voltage transmission infrastructure through our involvement with the Coalition for Reliable Power.

We've come too far and learned too much -- the fight is not over.

I got a call from an AP reporter in Charleston just a little while ago.  Just like last time, I get my good news from a reporter....

Read it here.  This morning PJM "direct[ed] transmission owners to suspend efforts on the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline project."

Looks like it's over for the time being, folks!  However they still want to linger in the shadows.

Although it's not even noon, Patience and I are sitting here drinking our remaining bottles of Raging Bitch beer, saved for just this occasion.

More (snark) later.......

AP story
FirstEnergy swallowed Allegheny Energy on Friday.  I hope they drank some Pepto-Bismol as a chaser. 

So, what does this mean for the PATH project?  Dunno, but let's have a little fun speculating.  FirstEnergy's spokesperson said, "the immediate task for FirstEnergy is the transition, rather than ongoing projects such as the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline."  Right away it becomes a lower priority, while they're busy with, "...layoff of Allegheny workers.  Typically, when corporations merge, the new company tries to eliminate duplicative departments and other back office employees."  I also read something somewhere that prattled on about retention being related to job performance... Ut-oh, fellas!  So, does this mean that Karma is going to pay a little visit to some of our favorite friends in Greensburg?  If so, it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of... *insert inappropriate word here*.  More importantly, does this mean we're going to get some fresh meat?  I hope so!  I do so love variety and challenge.  Our current crop is getting kind of boring, don't you think?  I hope FirstEnergy has a little more variety for us... the middle-aged, nerdy-looking, white guys have been a little thick on the ground over the past 2 1/2 years and, honestly they're all starting to sort of look alike.  Allegheny's website says the merger will provide, "...expanded opportunities for employees."  Could this include the "opportunity" to stand in the unemployment line?

The Greensburg building is going to be turned into a regional headquarters for "West Penn Power" (what's up with the shell company names, can't they help themselves?)  Maryland's regional headquarters will be in Hagerstown under the name "Potomac Edison".   I wonder if those Frederick County Chamber guys who brown-nosed so shamelessly at the merger hearing last fall are now properly chagrined?  In West Virginia, it's going to be called "Mon Power" and headquartered at the "new" transmission headquarters in Fairmont that Allegheny used as a bribe to get their TrAIL project approved in this state.  So, which state gets the PATH project group?  I guess it doesn't matter, as long as it's WV or MD so their employees can have new and expanded "opportunities" to end up with a transmission line in their own backyards.  Word:  Remember, none of the merger costs are going to be dumped on the ratepayers.  So none of those overblown "relocation" fees Allegheny is famous for will end up in the PATH project revenue requirement, right?  We'll be sure to keep you honest, just in case.

So, FirstEnergy, welcome to the party!  It's nice of you to come and lend your corporate name and reputation to the slaughter.  Allegheny Energy and AEP have already sacrificed theirs for the PATH cause.  I promise that you'll soon find yourselves going to places that you never thought possible, and the ride will be anything but boring!  What a heartwarming, little welcome you've prepared for us on your website!  I thought it a matter of proper etiquette that I respond in kind:

Who are the PATH opposition?

Your opposition is a diverse group of landowners chosen by the PATH project when they drew a line on a map, as well as other concerned citizens and electric ratepayers in 13 states and the District of Columbia.  We are dedicated to stopping PATH, exposing you for the liars you are and grassroots organizing excellence. Headquartered Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia (might as well be honest, we're everywhere!) your opposition comprises the nation’s largest transmission line opposition group and is based on serving thousands of landowners and concerned ratepayers in the tri-state region and beyond. Its diverse opposition fleet features REAL grassroots opposition, bad PR for you, having your "events" turned upside down, occasional embarrassment opportunities, and the joy of being proven wrong constantly and lots of corporate bad will, and has a total generating capacity of unlimited slippery banana peels strewn in your "path".

What Does B
eing a PATH Parent Mean to FirstEnergy?
We’re excited about your new parenthood of this bouncing, baby transmission line project and hope you are, too. We consider it a privilege to continue to kick the PATH project in the teeth under new management, and look forward to enhancing that service as part of a larger, stronger, louder opposition.

Initially, you won’t notice many changes to your daily lambasting or in how you spy on us. You’ll still rely on the internet, the press and public meetings to provide you with our project-killing service, wreck your carefully laid plans and make fools out of your public relations contractor. However, over time we hope you will notice positive changes, including a realization that your project is never going to happen.
As we begin to implement efficiencies and best practices as a result of your merger, we hope you’ll see other benefits, including faster laughter and finger-pointing following major screw-ups on your part, better use of your own processes to thwart you over the long term, and more support for our mission to make sure your greedy, little project never happens.
We are proud to be part of your nightmares and remain committed to providing you with the high-quality service you expect and deserve. As always, please contact us if you have questions, problems or issues about your lack of traction with project approvals that you would like to discuss. We look forward to being your PATH project opposition provider for many years to come.

It seems that Dominion's Alternative One is making PATH very nervous, as it rightly should.  Their lobbyists have been hard at work ever since we left Charleston 2 weeks ago, trying to kill House Concurrent Resolution 58.  This resolution has a tremendous amount of support from legislators, so PATH's only hope is to kill it in committee.

First they said Res. 58 was "misleading the public".

When that didn't work, they said PATH would provide jobs.

When that didn't work, it's rumored that they resorted to threatening to withhold their corporate "stewardship" (don't laugh... PATH is serious about this vapid phrase!) from the campaign coffers of legislators running for Governor, including the chairman of the committee where HCR 58 languishes.  See this post on TPL.

Guess what, PATH?  You can't vote!  Hahahahahah!

We attended the Maryland Public Service Commission's open motions hearing in Baltimore yesterday, along with a bunch of intervenors from Maryland and Virginia.  In fact, we filled the first conference room beyond capacity and needed to be moved to a larger room.  The hearing went on for over 3 hours and, unfortunately, we were unable to stay until the end due to another appointment in Baltimore, but here is the Hearing Examiner's Ruling.

Before I get into all that, I'd like to congratulate all the individual Maryland intervenors and groups for the honest, heartfelt and eloquent way they presented themselves at the hearing yesterday.  What they presented was a breath of fresh air into a stuffy room overflowing with a combination of noisome prevarication and profound stupidity on the part of PATH, their agents and certain staff members.  It's one of those "you had to be there" moments, but it took immense control not to fall asleep or laugh hysterically at certain moments.  After sitting through that, I'm starting to develop new appreciation for my own WV-PSC.  At least our staff attorney can carry on an intelligent conversation ;-)

Intervenor Terri Armand had a comment that certainly resonated with me, and probably with the rest of you as well.  This may not be exact (since the comment itself sent me scrambling for my notebook and I may have lost something), but here's the gist of it:  "The individuals sitting at the front of the room argue PATH for a living.  The rest of us in the audience are living for arguing PATH."  While PATH and its minions have unlimited time and money (our money) to drag out this battle, the citizens still in the game have had their lives overtaken by this greedy, inhumane endeavor.  Many of them are working 2 full-time jobs -- their regular job and their work on the PATH case.  All their spare time and money are poured into the fight. PATH may think they are exhausting us, however the citizens still involved at this point are no fair-weather friends.  The commitment by this group will not be broken -- PATH's stuck with us now like pet hair on a dark suit.  While they can come and go from the fight, we're there every minute of every day and we're not giving up until we receive justice.

I don't think I'll get into some of my other notes, since words and phrases like, "this guy just ain't right!", "moron", and "Maryland's version of Tweedledum and Tweedledumbest" jump off the page today, and that just wouldn't be nice, now would it?

Now, back to the ruling.

1.  The Motion of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to Intervene Out-Of-Time was granted.

This despite at least three citizen objections and evidence passed to the hearing examiner.  But, that's okay... it's going to be much more fun this way :-)  PATH's (and their smarmy lobbyist's) arrogance will always lead them to take a firm position on unstable ground, no matter how shaky their position really is, or how much worse it's going to hurt later, isn't that right?  PATH will never do the intelligent thing and realize that they're better off cutting their losses.

2.  All Motions to dismiss the case with prejudice and without prejudice were denied.

Oh yes, the PSC is always thinking about the convenience of the citizens!  Thanks!

3.  The Petition of Staff regarding the justification for the proposed Path transmission line was denied.

PATH needs to find themselves a smarter patsy.  Eeesh!

4.  The Motion to suspend the Procedural Schedule was granted, with the applicants proffer that the one year FERC backstop timeframe will not begin to run until Supplemental Testimony is filed by the Applicant.

Someone needs to buy the MD-PSC a clue... the NIETCs were vacated by a decision of the 9th circuit on Feb. 2, and out along with them went FERC backstop authority.  Oops!  But, on the bright side, that's one promise PATH won't have any trouble keeping.

And while we're on the subject of stupid, check out PATH's response to open motions dated Feb. 22 (2 days before the hearing).  Although there's lots of fun fodder in here, my favorite is footnote 23, bottom of page 8, where PATH states, "...this case involves a proposed substation integral to a transmission line and not intended to interconnect with any distribution level facilities in Frederick County".  So, PATH, are you finally admitting that Frederick County is getting none of the electricity from the PATH project, since it won't interconnect with any distribution level facilities in Frederick County?  It isn't going to light up the impacted homes surrounding the substation after all, is it, unless you were expecting stray voltage issues?  Doesn't a little honesty make everyone feel better?
If you cannot make it to Baltimore tomorrow, you can still check out the hearing via webcast.  Go here and look for the picture of the camera on the left hand side of the page that says "Watch PSC Proceedings".  Click on it and it will take you into a live view of the hearing in progress.  The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and last until 1:00 p.m.

The hearing will address open motions in the case.  PATH's motion to toll is one of these, along with Sugarloaf Conservancy's motion to dismiss, and the Armands' motion to separate the substation from the transmission line in the case.

Guaranteed to be pretty interesting!
The Virginia State Corporation Commission has scheduled local public hearings in the Dominion Power MSD rebuild case, PUE-2011-0003.

Hearings will be April 5 and 6 in Winchester and Purcellville. 

Since the MSD rebuild is a vital first step toward accomplishing Dominion's Alternative One, which will obviate the need for PATH, it's important that we show up.  You do not need to be a Virginia resident to testify at one of their hearings.

And, it might be fun to go to one of these hearings and support the proposal for a change ;-)

If you cannot attend, you may send your written comments to the Commission.  Instructions are available on the link.

Rebuild of existing transmission lines, which require no new right-of-way at less than 1/3 the cost of PATH, is a win-win!
With all the PATH contractors sneaking around and trespassing on private property in West Virginia, landowners have been faced with a dilemma (and no, I'm not talking about the dilemma of whether to take the shotgun or the dog who bites -- or both -- with you when you go to confront trespassers).  The West Virginia landowners who live along Dominion's Mt. Storm - Doubs transmission line, which PATH intends to parallel, are faced with the dilemma of identifying good (Dominion) contractors from bad (PATH) contractors on their property.

If you find yourself facing this dilemma, here are some guidelines from Dominion for making a proper identification:

Dominion employees carry ID and their contractors typically carry Mt. Storm-Doubs (MS-D) fact sheets and/or MS-D business cards with them or other means to show they are affiliated with Dominion. Dominion has provided these handouts to those they know are going into the field. These documents have Dominion's website, email, and contact 800 number printed on them so employees and contractors can let folks know where/how to get their questions answered. 

When Dominion or their contractors take soil samples, they mail the property owners in advance.  Before they begin construction, they will mail you again.  A few property owners in Jefferson County, WV have already been mailed and contacted about soil sampling

If you catch someone sneaking around your property who cannot produce identification that satisfies you (or you find something fishy about the story or identification you are shown), contact Dominion at 1-888-291-0190.

It looks like despite all their whining about how Dominion's Mt. Storm-Doubs line cannot be taken out of service for the rebuild without the PATH project being in service, PJM went ahead and scheduled the necessary outages.  It also looks like Dominon was right when they said it was possible to accomplish this rebuild WITHOUT THE PATH PROJECT.

Maryland intervenors and 300 pound elephants John and Terri Armand have raided PATH's little village again!

One of my favorite things about John and Terri is that they quickly and succinctly lay bare all of PATH's pretense in the Maryland case, and they do it with a dose of humor that I greatly admire.  John and Terri aren't afraid to point out that the PATH emperor is naked and hit the truth about PATH's motivation head-on every time.

The Armands correctly point out that PATH's filing of a motion on the Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend requesting to postpone this Thursday's hearing on open motions is just more of the same bad faith activity PATH has been practicing all along.  This subterfuge and game playing intended to disenfranchise the citizens of Maryland who are parties in the case is just another PATH tactic used to wear down their opponents.

It's not working, and the opposition (or, as we’re better known in PATH circles, “the 300 pound elephants”)*  is getting tired of it.  Doesn't PATH know what happens when elephants are threatened?  Looks like they're about to find out...

*Direct quote from the Armands' motion.  Love it!!