Our friends at Sierra Club have weighed in on the "suspension" scam PATH is trying to pull at FERC. See letter
to FERC from Elena Saxonhouse of Sierra Club and Abigail Dillen of Earth Justice, which was filed today.Sierra Club and Earth Justice are responsible for bringing out the truth in the PATH case before the Virginia State Corporation Commission way back in 2009, and that was the beginning of the end for PATH.We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these organizations and their incredibly sharp, hard-working attorneys for providing legal expertise, and for providing expert witnesses to fight the PATH proposal. They have also worked incredibly well with the ordinary citizens and grassroots groups involved in a coordinated opposition. And, on a personal level, they're some of the nicest folks I've ever met!The cavalry has arrived :-)Have you sent your letter to FERC yet? It's not too late!
"Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow." - William G. Pollard (1911 - 1989), American PhysicistLet's examine the "Best Practice" that was singly responsible for the slow, but certain, death of the PATH project over the past three years... shameless, blind arrogance.It started with their "Open House" public information meetings. Instead of opening a respectful dialogue with the public, the meetings were designed to frighten, intimidate, divide and conquer affected landowners and concerned citizens. The meetings also initiated their sometimes amusing and sometimes infuriating practice of what I call "peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining." Basically, their message to the public was, "We're smarter than you are and can easily deceive you." The glaring flaw in their plan is the reality that they are NOT smarter than the vast majority of the public, who saw right through their sham.They continued by bullying and lying to landowners. Instead of treating them fairly and honestly, it was all about getting them to sign legal agreements that were not in their best interests as quickly as possible and without proper legal advice.
They also utilized intimidation, lies and outright trespassing to complete their "surveys" on private property. Why was it all about swindling the landowner at every turn? It's not like they were trying to save themselves money by acquiring land as cheaply as possible -- all costs were being picked up by the ratepayers. In fact, the more they spent, the bigger their profit. I can only conclude that the disrespectful way they treated the landowners was derived from sheer arrogance, the "thrill" of getting over on someone they considered less intelligent, and pure spite. I've heard a lot of stories from frustrated landowners over the past three years, none of them good.Although there will be more detail about this in an upcoming Best Practices chapter
, let's briefly examine their public relations/marketing strategy. These idiots go around to industry conferences making bragging presentations about past "success". Instead of "success", the rest of the world only sees the misery of people mistreated and robbed
by other projects that the power companies managed to ram through approvals. Their presentations are accompanied by really stupid, arrogant power points that get uploaded to the internet for anyone to find: Allegheny Energy's presentation
and AEP's presentation
. A quick read of these presentations confirms that these corporations don't give a damn about the people they run over with their projects; it's all about corporate profit and success... and arrogance.The companies also utilize front groups, shills, very well-paid "spokesmen" who are supposed to lend authority to their project, "donation" bribes, propaganda advertising, and inappropriate lobbying in an attempt to influence public opinion and approvals. All of the above are financed by the very same ratepayers who they are attempting to deceive with these practices. PATH would never consider actually earning respect through
honest communication, trust and responsible actions. Why would they when their basic instinct is that of dishonest predator who thinks they can bully and buy their way to corporate riches?PATH's arrogance was also shared generously with the news media, many of whom developed a secret hatred for the companies because of PATH's heavy-handed, deceptive treatment. PATH's PR flacks need a refresher course in basic human respect. Overworked and underpaid reporters don't really give a damn about your corporate schemes, especially when the schemes cause them daily grief.
Almost all reporters are highly intelligent, well read, and see right through your smarmy crap. And they resent you. A lot.PATH's arrogance was also readily apparent in their quarterly earnings calls, where they put on another face for their investors and lied to them. Not only has the opposition seen this, but now PATH's investors see it as well.PATH failed to realize that all their lies were easily debunked by public information that was just sitting around waiting to be discovered. Their arrogance told them that the "stupid" opposition would never question them, let alone become educated and conquer complex concepts. PATH also hid behind PJM's skirts, using PJM as an "authority". However, PJM has also been outed as a biased, industry cartel and is now
being scrutinized by FERC.Here are three specific examples of PATH's arrogant actions coming back to bite them:1. The federal EIS meetings -- PATH's arrogant treatment of the whole EIS process and the citizen stakeholders these meetings were designed
to solicit input from really opened the eyes of the NPS & NFS officials. These federal employees do their jobs with honesty and integrity and do not subscribe to PATH's corporate agenda of deceiving, denigrating and intimidating the public. PATH screwed up here.2. Frederick County, Maryland -- PATH's arrogant trivializing of Frederick County's government and democratic processes paved the road to complete and utter failure to site their substation, and a hefty helping of public embarrassment.
But yet they still arrogantly persist in trying to neutralize local government authority. PATH really screwed up here.3. FERC -- PATH's (and more specifically Randy Palmer's) arrogance gave them the deluded notion that FERC processes were
too complicated for the opposition and resulted in the Formal Challenge to PATH's 2010 Formula Rate Annual Update
. This has had and will continue to have a significant negative effect on their silly, little project because it effectively exposed their dirty secrets and dishonesty. It also opened the door to all things FERC. It's really not that complicated. If PATH had been following the rules honestly instead of treating recovery from ratepayers like a gravy train, none of this would have happened. PATH really, really screwed up here.And one last glaring example... hiring arrogant lawyers like Phil Melick. His gleeful haranguing of PATH's citizen intervenors in WV has reflected very poorly on the PATH project. This guy seems to have some serious mental issues and is not a good "public face" for a company attempting to be granted the power of eminent domain.PATH's arrogance has also been telling them way too many West Virginia jokes. PATH needs to admit to themselves that those jokes just aren't true. The citizens of West Virginia came out strong and easily showed PATH to be the true ignorant fool
. They may think we talk funny and some of us may lack a college degree, but West Virginians have proven over and over again that they possess some things that PATH is sorely lacking: common sense, honesty, an innate intelligence, basic human decency and the will to fight for what's right. I guess the joke is on PATH after all.
It really didn't have to end with the general public's utter disgust for American Electric Power and FirstEnergy. The world is not your oyster. Arrogance is never "best" when trying to win trust and approval from others.
Bill Howley sat through two days of PSC hearings in Charleston and will be reporting on what a nightmare it turned into for TrAILCo yesterday. Read the first installment here
, and check back frequently for updates.TrAILCo, and it's ridiculous attorneys, had a head-on collision with the truth yesterday. Now it's time for them to mount their Sit 'n Spin and ride, ride like the wind! Yee haw, fellas!
If you didn't make it to Charleston to attend the TrAIL hearing taking place today and tomorrow, you can watch a webcast here
.The complainants will be presenting evidence that Allegheny/FirstEnergy shell company TrAILCo did not comply with clearing and right-of-way stipulations in the PSC's final order.In other words... tune in to hear about how these corporations have run over the landowners and ruined the environment during the construction of their unnecessary project.
That's what those pesky citizen opponents of PATH did Saturday night at Sugarloaf Conservancy's PATH funeral celebration... literally, disco ball and all. We also belted out our favorite song
... and added a new ale
to our collection. The dessert table was appropriate -- lots of anti-PATH creativity -- and that creativity is exactly what got us to this point in the game, much to PATH's shock and horror!Several of us from StopPATH WV attended Sugarloaf's celebration, along with lots of others from all three PATH-tormented states. Although everyone in attendance realizes that there is still work for us to do, celebrating the huge victory we have already accomplished is important. And it's fun too!Great party, great food, great company and great conversation! Thank you, Doug & Peggy and Sugarloaf Conservancy.Because we're expecting a really large crowd, StopPATH WV's celebration will be held outdoors, which requires nice weather. Save the date of May 7th to come party with us in WV -- more details will be posted as planning moves along.Oh, and if you're one of those PATH guys still lurking around, this is for you, with our compliments!
When you're attempting to foist a 275-mile, high voltage transmission line onto the populations of three states, you'd want to hire the best public relations firm the ratepayers' money can buy. However, PATH hired Charles Ryan Associates
instead.Peeing on an informed public's leg and telling them it's raining is an insurmountable task
for any public relations firm. But with Charles Ryan Assoc. at the wheel, the past three years have been a series of blunders and dumb ideas that has ended with a failed project. Not only has PATH failed to gain acceptance, it's actually ruined the reputations of its parent companies. Due to CRA's continual screw-ups and vapid ad campaigns that couldn't convince a 5-year old that PATH is beneficial, the PATH opposition's basic PR strategy worked like a charm. We simply told people the truth. The only thing CRA is good at selling is themselves to their clients. Unfortunately, their foolish client in this case was funded by millions of ratepayers in 13 states who will be paying higher electric bills for years to finance the PATH PR fiasco.CRA was dubbed "The Clown College" by the PATH opposition because making a mockery of their continual gaffes has been funnier than 52 clowns pouring out of a garishly decorated VW Beetle.Let's take a look at some of their stellar moments in the life of PATH:1. The "Green-shirted Goons" Open Houses - These CRA-engineered capital expenditures (on which we'll be paying 14.3% ROE for years until they depreciate) set the PATH project off on the wrong foot with the public. CRA staffed these PR disasters with a bunch of young kids from a temp agency who were still wet behind the ears and couldn't answer any questions that weren't on the script they were handed for preparation. Their subsequent directing of any hard questions to arrogant PATH employees with no social skills, or even more arrogant hired "doctors" from Exponent, spelled F-A-I-L-U-R-E from the word "go". Guess what? It was a green-shirted goon at one of these open houses who privately first suggested to me that citizen opposition could vanquish the project and gave me the generalized strategy I've been following for nearly three years. He thought PATH was a bunch of crap and obviously wasn't comfortable lying to people. These open houses provided the opposition with the perfect venue to meet and gather like-minded individuals for their campaign. It's just too bad that PATH's attempt to have me hauled off by the cops at one of them back in 2008 failed miserably. How many hard-working police officers' back yards had PATH routed its line through? Answer: one too many!
CRA's strategy to overwhelm, divide and conquer frightened landowners was successfully countered by a small handful of sympathetic, knowledgeable, confident opponents hanging around the exit (even when PATH made the hotel take our table away in Frederick). The open houses also provided us with our first meetings of other local opposition group leaders, and our coalition began to grow. The open house technique reached a pinnacle at the Mt. Airy Charlie Foxtrot
in 2010. Good job, CRA!2. The astroturf front groups - Giving management control of PATH's "reliable power coalition" front groups in all three states, including management of their websites, to CRA's inept Clown College was a costly mistake. CRA's lack of internet knowledge and web design skill blew up in PATH's face last year when a quick investigation of domain ownership revealed CRA had publicly registered all the domain names and/or left enough information public to connect them all to CRA
. Real "grassroots" coalitions are not owned/managed by expensive PR firms! CRA also didn't bother to create the actual legal entities to back up these "coalitions", enabling the opposition to legally claim and control them at will. One of my favorite "mistakes" was the claim that "Marylanders for Reliable Power is 501(c)3 corporation."
Not only weren't they an IRS-registered 501(c)3 non-profit, they weren't even a corporation! That was a purposeful, illegal falsification that opened PATH up to a host of legal liabilities. When the front group farce was exposed, CRA took a hit with a huge layoff
. But, PATH still continued pouring ratepayer money down the CRA rathole.3. PEAT - The "PATH Education Awareness Team" got off on the wrong foot when their debut media campaign got panned by a bunch of reporters who didn't buy the bullsh*t. Not only were their "spokesmen" asked if they were paid and by whom, one of them actually gave it all away and made himself look like a greedy fool by admitting that CRA was paying him to "get out the real facts about PATH."
CRA's "media event helicopter tours"
that immediately preceded PEAT's debut and the public's reaction to them soured the media on being dupes for anymore of CRA's stupid PR games. One poor, scared reporter was afraid to leave the office after work and the newspaper took a huge credibility hit for falling for that one. It was a disaster for them, but fortunately the reporter recovered and is still among my friends. I only wish that CRA had come up with this concept during TrAIL so we could have been treated to a TEAT that actually sucked on us (or more precisely, on our wallets)!4. "Pinky" Sutton - I don't know how much they were paying this clown-kid to "observe" the opposition at public events and come up with an appropriate "strategy" to defuse them but, in retrospect, it wasn't money well-spent. We're still here and Pinky has "strategized" himself out of a job. Not only did Pinky tell an opponent who he worked for, but Randy Palmer compounded the problem by arrogantly informing the same opponent that the ratepayers were picking up Pinky's tab through PATH's Formula Rate. That's just one of many intimidation attempts by Randy that backfired right in his face!
The last time I saw Pinky (purposefully NOT wearing pink for a change, but a suit that looked like it came out of Goodwill's dumpster) he was bloviating about "the opposition" to an eager crowd of power company sycophants at the Purcellville Public Hearing. I thought I was going to lose it in guffaws of rude laughter as I walked by! :-) I wonder if CRA and Pinky also sold PATH a weekend get-away Snipe Hunt
package?5. Charles Ryan has a secret! Not really, because it's no secret that CRA sucks at web design. CRA proved that it's not PATH's best interests they have in mind, but covering up their own ineptitude. The "secret" campaign caused opposition website traffic to skyrocket; and fans, both old and new, were glued to their computers waiting to find out Charles Ryan's secret. That was one of our best tools ever to raise public awareness.
CRA's incompetence coupled with our creativity was pure gold! It also provided Bill, Shelly and I with days of fun & laughter watching it unfold. CRA still has another "secret" related to their poor web design skills that we're just not ready to hand over quite yet. However, if I was PATH, I wouldn't pay for that last internet advertising campaign with the website videos that CRA did in 2011. It was completely worthless and not one representative of the targeted audience watched any of the videos. PATH got ripped off, big time!Thank you, CRA Clown College, for all you did to assist the opposition's PR counter-campaign! We're going to miss you, especially if PATH hires a competent PR company when they rise from the dead next year.
FERC has decided that PJM needs a babysitter. Apparently there's no parental control and the children are running wild!Quote from FERC's notice dated yesterday:"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) hereby gives notice that members of the Commission and Commission staff may attend upcoming PJM Interconnection, L.L.C., (PJM) meetings, as well as other subcommittee or task force meetings that are not currently scheduled, but that are typically scheduled on short notice or meetings that are scheduled on short notice based on items arising from the agenda as posted on the PJM Web site."Looks like the shenanigans have to be relegated to top secret, closed door meetings from now on. I hope the FERC representatives have watched plenty of Dr. Phil so they're not too freaked out by PJM's screwed-up family dynamics.Maybe now is a good time for little Stevie Herling to polish up the ol' resume. Perhaps there's a new official job for him at AEP or FirstEnergy to be had.C'mon, PJM, if a bunch of ordinary citizens can clearly see your bias and phoney "need" projections for PATH, FERC isn't going to be fooled either.
...and rubs off on new daddy FirstEnergy! I bet FirstEnergy didn't know about all the "extras" they would be getting in the meger deal.We've been watching FirstEnergy's FERC Section 205 filing to recover stranded costs due to abandonment of the Prexy portion of TrAIL for the past week
. Yesterday, both Exelon and the Maryland PSC petitioned to intervene on behalf of their ratepayers.FirstEnergy/Allegheny must prove that the abandonment was outside their control
and all recovered expenses must be prudently incurred. Ut-oh, looks like Exelon and the MD-PSC have other ideas! Here's a link to the filing.
It's a huge, mega-file and takes a while to load, so don't get impatient. It's worth the wait. Apparently Allegheny didn't treat the landowners and opposition any better during the TrAIL case than they have treated us during the PATH case. The Pennsylvania PUC turned down their application for this portion of the line.Anyhow, TrAILCo is asking for around $13M in project management & permitting costs, ROW property purchase costs, ROW options & damage release costs, construction engineering, pre-construction and legal costs for the Prexy facilities. If approved, this regulatory asset will be amortized over 49 years, to be paid by all PJM region electric customers. Fortunately, it appears that they had to try to mitigate the costs by using some of the capitalized assets in other parts of TrAIL, and selling the property purchased for ROW purposes. The Pennsylvania authorities forced them to give back all the ROW they had wrestled from landowners along the length of the line. However, us ratepayers get to pick up TrAILCo's cost for what appears to have been a big-time swindle of Pennsylvania landowners. TrAILCo attempted to utilize unused ROW purchased for a project years and years ago that was never built. PATH landowners should take notice... if you have signed a ROW agreement with PATH, don't be surprised if 50 years down the road some power company shows up on your property and tells you they have a ROW for a huge, new project.Just in case you're interested in having a little fun poking TrAILCo with a stick, here's the info. about intervening in the FERC case. You have until April 1. Why not file just before the deadline and give FirstEnergy a little April fool's thrill?
Docket Numbers: ER11-3064-000
PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.
Description: PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. submits tariff filing per 35.13(a)(2)(iii: Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Co’s revisions to Attach H-18A of the PJM Tariff to be effective 6/1/2011.
Accession Number: 20110311-5131
5:00 pm Eastern Time on Friday, April 01, 2011
Our friends at Sugarloaf Conservancy met with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett on Friday to request a town hall meeting in Urbana with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission representatives to answer our questions about the PATH project.While PATH went on record at the Virginia SCC hearing last week presenting evidence that PJM has determined that the need for the PATH project has slipped out past their 15 year planning horizon, they have also informed FERC that they intend to continue to utilize their Formula Rate to collect "costs necessary to maintain the project in its current state" for an indefinite period of time. I would like to think that this is not the outcome FERC intended when they granted PATH's incentives in 2008 and that FERC will be responsive to both PATH's arrogant "Status Update" of March 7, and the concerns of ratepayers forced to fund this unending gravy train
for a project that PJM no longer supports.See Sugarloaf's press release. More information to come...
Robin, Patience and I had a lovely drive to Richmond yesterday to attend the VA-SCC oral argument on PATH's motion to withdraw their application. Spring has sprung! We also also enjoyed a fabulous lunch at an Irish pub, although we couldn't bring ourselves to drink any of the green beer they were serving -- it looked positively toxic! Being there in person was about more than just a fun day out, however. The non-verbal clues that were harvested from the hearing are more valuable than what was actually said.PATH had a couple of PJM guys attend the hearing via phone to back up the red herring they presented. PATH's Virginia Counsel, Richard Gary from Hunton & Williams, began by asking to have the VA-SCC's January order to produce analyses
of alternatives to PATH suspended in light of their motion to withdraw. Randy Palmer's trained seal then threw a stinking fish into the middle of the room by admitting that updated studies have shown need for PATH slipping "several years in to the future" and finishing with page 16 from the March 10 TEAC presentation
being put up on a screen in the courtroom. According to this table, the first violation doesn't show up until 2021 on the Mt. Storm-Doubs line, which was rated in its current state, instead of its increased thermal capacity upon rebuild. With the MSD rebuild completed, violations necessitating PATH slip "well into the 2020s" and a combination of Mt. Storm - Doubs and the Warren generation "makes them disappear," therefore further studies are "unnecessary". PATH would like to submit this base case instead and there is no reason for PJM to perform any more studies, therefore withdrawal is required. Oh, and that whole NIETC thing? It's "in question," nevermind that order to vacate
. Besides, the WV-PSC, that bastion of reasoned utility adjudication, has dismissed the case! In Maryland, PATH only need give notice of their intent to withdraw and it happens just like magic! And that, folks, is your red herring that's supposed to keep you busy for the next decade while the power companies and PJM work undisturbed and undetected to change the equation upon which they base their funny math and come back in a year or two with a newly-concocted "need" for PATH.Hearing Examiner Skirpan asked them if they didn't have to do the Mt. Storm-Doubs rebuild analysis anyhow for that pending case before the SCC. The trained seal barked right on cue that that wasn't necessary because they can already tell what's beyond the planning horizon from what was provided. Uh-huh.The attorneys from The Sierra Club asked for the base case and the analyses that created them in electronic form. PATH said that was unnecessary and "a lot of paper" which just shows need for PATH further out, mumble, mumble. Exactly!!Abby Dillen, representing Sierra Club also talked about the need to see what's driving this being "absolutely crucial" and keyed to the length of PATH's "suspension," as they are probably contemplating another attempt in the future.Rob Marmet of Piedmont Environmental Council pointed out that PATH had failed to meet a directive of the Commission when they did not produce ordered analyses by March 15. He suggested that there be conditions placed on a possible re-filing by PATH, such as a one or two year moratorium. PATH has been interrupting peoples' lives and placing them in jeopardy for nearly three years! PJM's "bright line" test has not been met and in response PJM only "suspended" the project instead instead of what they should have done -- canceling it. None of this was unforeseeable and is the same as PATH's last withdrawal.Skirpan pondered whether a condition to be placed on re-file could be that it must include a completed 2012 RTEP or later, since PJM had withdrawn PATH from the 2011 RTEP. This made Dr. Evil Palmer and his "Mini-me" jump in their seats and whisper furiously before Mini-me stood up and complained that it wouldn't "comport with PATH's legal obligations". You know that story... PJM jerks their strings and "orders" them to build transmission and they have no idea in the world whether it could be needed in 6 months or 6 years. The forecast could take a u-turn at any moment!Jon Flannery, representing River's Edge, was up next. In his own inimitable
style, he gave PATH a well-deserved dressing down. Summed up: Ratepayers and respondents are paying a high price while PJM kisses the butts of transmission owners; no details of this "suspension" have been provided; we can't trust PATH whose word has been worthless since day one; PATH fails every time they submit an application but expects infinite "do-overs" in order to grind us down until they succeed; fool me once, shame on me, but this is quickly becoming fool me 3, 4, 5 times; PJM is not impartial; PATH is submitting frivolous applications and it's about time the SCC shows them some teeth and sends a signal to the industry to quit doing this over and over -- it's a shame and a disgrace! He was followed by the three Ghiorizi respondents, Al, Irene and Theresa. Al questioned why it wasn't being abandoned and what the "suspension" means and how long it will last. He pointed out that the project doesn't have a terminus because "Kemptown" has been denied and asked that the application be dismissed with prejudice because PATH now admits that violations are outside the 15 year planning horizon
. Irene spoke some hard truth regarding the documented record of PATH's actions, swindling ratepayers with their Formula Rate, buying land at inflated prices in order to earn interest on a larger amount, and the collusion of PJM and PATH to create every transmission company's dream -- to pad their bottom line at ratepayer expense. My notes indicate that PATH counsel was starting to look rather uncomfortable at this point, and Theresa flamed that right up to "angry" status when she spoke about how the PATH project causes new problems.Several respondents weighed in over the phone, and by the time they got to Carolyn Davis's assertion that PATH lies, Mini-me looked like he was ready to blow! When Wil Burns of Sierra Club came on the line to request the thermal & voltage results included in the base case analysis, Dr. Evil and Mini-me made like they were going to object to Burns getting an opportunity to speak. Scared much, fellas?The SCC staff agreed that PATH should file these more complete results.And then it was show time for Wahhhhhndy Palmer and his trained seal to rebut. Unfortunately I missed the first part because I had stepped out for a moment, but by the time I got back, they had worked themselves up into a righteous umbrage that was pretty funny to watch! Wahhhhhhhh, PATH, wahhhhhhhhhhhh! PATH hasn't lied about anything and everyone is picking on them! There is no need to solve anything any further because the base case has pushed PATH into the next decade. To do more analysis would be "over the top". The substation is being appealed, so the termnius is merely "not determined". PATH is a "significant line", therefore PJM rightly put it in abeyance because they can't cancel a project based on 4 weeks of tests! The only thing truly "over the top" was that nauseating performance...After their recital, Hearing Examiner Skirpan asked PATH what the difference would be between dismissal and denial. Mini-me dried his tears and told Skirpan that there was no record and therefore no basis for denial (despite PATH's presentation of evidence that PATH has disappeared from the 15 year planning horizon?) :-)One last thought... if we hadn't gone to Richmond and sat a row in front of him yesterday, I ponder what AEP Project Manager Archie Creepyfreak would have looked at for the nearly two hours
the hearing lasted, since he spent the whole time trying to bore holes in the back of our heads with his obsessive staring. Since Patience gets a bit frustrated when she can't get up at one of these things and speak her mind, she took her frustration out by having some sort of bizarre stage whisper/sign language argument with Archie Creepyfreak during the hearing. Since it escalated rather quickly to being a disturbance, I encouraged Patience to ignore him. Yeah, imagine me
being the reasonable one (must have been that Jameson's at lunch), but we trade roles once in a while just to keep things interesting. Next time, Archie Creepyfreak needs to bring some comic books, matchbox cars and crayons along to keep himself busy without bothering other people during hearings.