Today, the staff of the West Virginia Public Service Commission has filed a Petition to Reopen to Implement and Expand Certain Commission Ordered Conditions Expeditiously.

To boil it down, the petition asks that the Commission order AEP and FirstEnergy to submit a plan for upgrading their transmission infrastructure in this state, particularly FE's Pruntytown-Mt. Storm 500kV line, within 30 days.

The Pruntytown-Mt. Storm line (we call it PMS, because we think the name fits!) has been identified as an impediment to power flows by PJM for years and was also singled out for re-build by Dominion in their plans for alternatives to the PATH project.  PMS is over 40 years old and the Petition relates that it recently went off line due to equipment failure, and the outage did not produce transmission problems.  Staff Attorney John Auville correctly points out that now is the time to rebuild and upgrade the aging fleet of high voltage transmission lines in West Virginia because we are currently in a time window of lowered demand.

The citizens of West Virginia worked together with our legislators to ensure passage of HCR 149 during the past legislative session.  HCR 149 urges that the West Virginia Public Service Commission act to review the condition of the Pruntytown to Mt. Storm 500kV transmission line owned by Monongahela Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, and order the rebuilding and reconductoring of that transmission line as soon as is practical.  Today's Petition is the fruit of our labor.

What I find incredibly compelling is that while Mt. Storm-Doubs is in the process of being rebuilt, PMS failed, and the transmission grid didn't miss a beat.  There were no massive blackouts or brownouts.  We didn't all start setting up housekeeping in caves or historically regress in any way.  The power companies and the PJM cartel has been pulling our leg about the dire need for additions to the transmission system.

As an added benefit, the rebuilding and modernizing of existing transmission lines can be accomplished faster and cheaper than building new transmission lines such as PATH, and rebuilds do not require the taking of private property by eminent domain.  This is an incredible step in the right direction by West Virginia!

We've all been praising the state of Virginia for putting conditions on a re-filing of the PATH application, but I think West Virginia is going to push them out of the top spot with the best post-PATH move, but only if the Commission approves the petition.

Take a moment to send your comments regarding this matter to the WV Public Service Commission.  You can send your comments via mail, fax or through the PSC's new online comment system.  Address, fax number and the online comment form can be found here.  Be sure to mark your comments with WV PSC case numbers 07-0508-E-CN and 09-0770-E-CN.

And come on over to the Coalition for Reliable Power, where we've been advocating for the rebuilding and modernizing of existing transmission infrastructure, and join us as a member and share your ideas about reliable power.
 
 
We all know how much effort PATH's land agents put into getting purchase options signed by landowners.  It was of such great importance that land agents used every tool of lying, harassment and coercion in their arsenal... to the tune of millions of dollars a year. 

Now, PATH is releasing those options and any and all claims to the properties and rights-of-way necessary to construct the project.  If PATH is re-incarnated, they will  have to begin all over again acquiring necessary properties along their proposed route.  You know what they say... fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

The lil' CoalFella got a nasty surprise yesterday when he received a phone call from a reporter inquiring about the release of options.  Investigative journalism is not dead after all!  In this article in The Journal, lil' CoalFella sputters and spins like a small plane that's run out of gas and is preparing for an emergency landing.

Refusing to admit the truth (for once!), and continuing to pretend that the project is still going to happen continues to burden landowners with the requirement to disclose the potential of the PATH project if they try to sell their properties.  This makes their properties worth a lot less and many have taken a huge financial hit when circumstances have required them to sell their property over the past three years.  Properties in or near PATH's proposed right-of-way are virtually unsalable.

The way the option contracts are structured, PATH would have made a series of three payments to landowners who signed them.  Initial payment (the amount of which is individually negotiated) is paid to the owner at signing.  Another payment is due at the mid-point of the contract period (again, negotiable).  The final payment, which when combined with the previous two payments will equal the negotiated "fair market value" of the property, is due when the option is exercised and PATH takes legal title to the property.  PATH has made the initial payment for options on record, and in some instances has made the mid-point payment to continue the option.  That's capital they have invested in the project and upon which ratepayers will be paying 14.3% return yearly for many, many years.  Now, for some of the options, PATH is failing to make the mid-point payment when it comes due and choosing to release the option instead.  If PATH is re-incarnated and given the green light by PJM later this year, they will have to re-negotiate and coerce property owners to sign a new option, and start back at square one with another initial payment due at signing.  In the long run, if PATH actually intends to construct the project in the future, it would have been cheaper to make the mid-point payment and continue to hold the option.  PATH did not do this.  Either they're intending to unnecessarily spend a lot more capital reacquiring options, or they're just done and will not pursue the project (or the options) in the future.  Which one do you think makes sense?

"Maintaining the project in its current state" would include continuing to hold the land necessary to construct it.  To release claim to the land makes it harder to construct the project in the future.  The PATH project is regressing, instead of maintaining itself or progressing.  Ooops!  Looks like PATH is not following PJM's directive after all.

In his uncertain ramblings, the CoalFella tells us that it's all about maintaining some pretense that the project is still alive at FERC.  Yes, PATH, we know you're in a serious world of hurt at FERC right now and are trying to pull the wool over FERC's eyes.  It's not working.

To quote our pal Randy Palmer, "When are you people just going to give up?"  The writing is on the wall and release of options isn't the only clue I've got that PATH is heading for abandonment.  Let's not continue to play this game.  Do something honest for once.  Abandon the project!
 
 
One of The Coalition for Reliable Power's issues is reform at the West Virginia Public Service Commission.  The Coalition has been working toward appointment of  a new commissioner when the term of current Commissioner Jon McKinney expires on June 30.  Last week, when three members of The Coalition's steering committee were in Charleston, they dropped off a statement supporting the appointment of Robert Rodecker as PSC Commissioner.  Please take a moment to read the Coalition's statement to Governor Tomblin.

Mr. Rodecker began his legal career as a public interest lawyer and is a former general counsel to the Public Service Commission.  Since then, he has become one of the leading utility lawyers in West Virginia.  The Coalition believes that he will be fair and responsive to the needs of citizens, organizations, businesses and utilities while serving on the Commission.  Mr. Rodecker has demonstrated his concern for the needs of citizens over the years.  For example, he pioneered special protections for seniors when he represented the Council of Senior West Virginians before the PSC in 1976-78. The citizens later won protections from sudden loss of utility service and heat in the winter following Mr. Rodecker’s advocacy for the special rule on winter shut offs by utilities.  We feel that he has the necessary knowledge and experience to provide new leadership at the PSC that will effect positive changes to West Virginia's energy future.

StopPATH WV, Inc., as a member of the Coalition, is asking you to join us in recommending that Governor Tomblin appoint Robert Rodecker as Public Service Commissioner on July 1.  It's quick and easy -- you can email the Governor using the form available on their home page.  Together we can bring a new, innovative focus to West Virginia's utility regulatory process, a change that has been needed for a long time!  Send your email today and ask your friends and associates to do so as well!

 
 
West Virginia's industry-lovin' officials were brought together with their out-of-state industry johns by West Virginia Pimp Daddy Jackson Kelly in Morgantown last week.  Marcellus Shale in WV: Emerging Issues brought together out-of-state exploiters and West Virginia's finest snake oil salesmen for the world's biggest fire sale of West Virginia's environment, privately owned land and citizens. 

Didn't get your invitation?  That's probably because you're a wingnut or a friend of the whatever.

"...the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia touted its 4-week-old "Just Beneath the Surface" campaign and website.

President Mike McCown said it's designed to provide factual information to anti-drilling groups he referred to as "wing nut organizations ... friends of the whatever" -- groups that he argues should be supporting one of the state's most promising economic engines."


Is there a typo in that guy's name?  Was it supposed to say Mike McClown?  Hey, Mike, where did you get your PR training?  Was it from the Clown College at Charles Ryan Associates?  That would explain it.

McClown is so bad, he makes former PATH huckster Corky DeMarco sound reasonable.  Well, if you close your eyes so you don't have to wonder when his shirt is going to finish creeping up and consume his entire head.

For generations, DeMarco said, the gas industry shunned publicity.

"Now, we have an instance where the public is aware of what we're doing," he said.

Opposition is driven by "the fear of the unknown," he said, "and we weren't doing a very daggone good job of letting them know what we were doing."

Road damage, heavy truck traffic and other facets of the drilling industry have disrupted the quality of life for many rural residents, DeMarco acknowledged, "and now everybody's looking at us."

"If you live on a rural West Virginia road and you've now got potholes as deep as this tabletop, life is not so good for you," he said. "This industry has a bright future ... but we've got to get the thing done right."


Wow!  Looks like the Clown College needs to use a little more elbow grease to polish that turdWhat this campaign needs is a little bit of research by our pal Pinky, who was recently promoted to Vice-President (in charge of failed ad campaigns?) for all his work on PATH's failed public relations campaign.

Other opportunists lining up at the exploitation trough included our friends from First Energy.  Apparently the whippin' they took from the citizens of West Virginia during their failed PATH project made them hungry for more.  I guess they like it rough...

While the Charlie Foxtrot was going on the City of Morgantown passed an ordinance prohibiting horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing within a mile outside city limits.  That's okay, Jackson Kelly is already contemplating suing the City on behalf of the industry.

Isn't it nice to know that all these PATH leeches didn't miss a beat and have quickly moved on to a new crop of citizen victims?  It's all about the money, boys!  However, Jackson Kelly and Pinky had best step lively and cash in before all the investors find out that Marcellus shale is just a gigantic Ponzi scheme based on hype.


 
 
PJM Interconnection is a cartel of energy companies who have control of transmission planning for a 13-state region roughly proximate to the mid-Atlantic states.  Because PJM is a cartel of corporations who individually stand to benefit from the group planning decisions made, it is preposterous to even toy with the idea that decisions will be independent, fair or unbiased.

PJM and its decisions are controlled by the financial interests of their largest and most powerful members to the detriment of smaller, weaker members.  PATH partner AEP was PJM's largest member for a long time, but AEP's reign of terror is lately challenged by the FirstEnergy empire that recently swallowed AEP's little buddy and PATH partner, Allegheny Energy.  We're not very far from the elementary school playground social pecking order at PJM, are we?

PATH opponents have identified many instances of blatant PJM bias in favor of the PATH project, and against any alternatives, during the past 3 years.  But, it's not just us.  Last year, eight Consumer Advocates from various states joined together to accuse PJM of bias in evaluating alternatives to the PATH project.

We got so curious once, we drove to Delaware to sit through a couple hours of one of PJM's meetings.  I couldn't help comparing PJM to a dysfunctional Jerry Springer Show family.

Now PJM has been accused of bias once again.  A group of smaller members calling themselves the Competitive Markets Coalition has accused PJM's Members Committee of unfair and biased actions that could cause PJM to "become an exclusive club which only traditional utilities and large companies can afford to join."   According to the Coalition, "This would greatly reduce
market competition and market liquidity, resulting in higher consumer electricity prices and a far more volatile market."

I'm not going to get into an analysis of the issues here.  The PJM behavioral aspects of this latest complaint are quite telling and much more interesting.  Although it was a different meeting, different committee, the Coalition describes some of the exact same behavior I observed last year.

  1. "The stakeholder process used here demonstrated a pattern of favoring powerful and well-established groups in PJM..."
  2. "...this meeting was a sham. The Chairman did everything possible to prevent a full and fair Stakeholder consideration and voting process at the meeting. Unfortunately PJM Staff sat silently, allowing Stakeholder rights to be ignored and violated. It is noteworthy that the PJM sponsored proposal was the beneficiary of this grossly unfair Stakeholder process."
  3. "My presentation of the Coalition proposal was repeatedly interrupted and frustrated by the Chairman."
  4. "Further, on several occasions he spoke over me and other Stakeholders in an effort to prevent our saying anything negative about the PJM proposal;"
  5. "Stakeholder comments and questions, either in support of the Coalition proposal or questioning the PJM proposal, were severely limited by the Chairman. No Stakeholder discussion of the PJM proposal was permitted beyond a few "clarifying" questions. In one case a questioner on the phone was simply cut off."
  6. "It is hard to view what occurred as anything other than an ambush."
  7. "Finally, when both AEP and a group of municipality members submitted their own Officer Certification proposals at the meeting, the Chairman raised no objections to these proposals being voted on, and did not interrupt their presentations."
  8. "Perhaps most troubling, at no time did anyone from PJM intervene..."
  9. "As this summary shows, the Members Committee meeting on June 14th was no Stakeholder process at all. It appeared to be a meeting "wired" in advance to make sure no actual debate or discussion on the competing proposals could occur, and that the PJM proposal would prevail."
  10. "Not only was the meeting inconsistent with the consideration process directed by FERC in Order 741 but, like the PJM proposal itself, had the effect of disenfranchising many smaller companies and new market entrants in PJM."

How many different individuals need to yell "FIRE!" in a crowded theater before someone notices that the curtains are ablaze?

It's nice to see that the small and weak are banding together to overthrow their oppressor.  Shall we all sing for them? 

The cartel dynamic isn't working.  It's time for a change in how we plan our electric grid before we're all sitting in the dark while PJM's "children" bicker and stab each other in the back.
 
 
FERC issued another settlement judge's report today on the on-going "settlement" between PATH and all the original intervenors in the matter of the granting of incentives.  At issue is PATH's 14.3% ROE.  It's going to be cut.  In fact, the PATH companies have accrued funds in their year end FERC filings set aside for "rate refunds."

Despite the last settlement judge's report that said things were wrapping up, it looks like the battle rages on... in "private."  Of course, it's YOUR money they're talking about, little consumer, but don't worry your silly little head about matters so "complicated."  It's none of your business!

Oh, come on.... get to the punchline here!
 
 
In the NOI, Promoting Transmission Investment Through Pricing Reform, FERC is seeking comments about the effect of its incentives on promoting transmission.  If you're going to comment, you need to understand what the incentives are, and what they are intended to do.

Let's back up a bit here and take a look at the beginning of the NOI.  Beginning on page 10, A. Section 219 (a) Statutory Threshold, explains the first step that makes a transmission project eligible for incentives.  FERC has established rebuttable presumptions in order to make this determination.

A project is eligible for the incentives if one of two requirements has been met:

  1. The project has been approved by a RTO through their planning process.
  2. The project has been approved by necessary state public service commission(s).

If either of these requirements has not been met, the applicant has the option of making an independent showing to FERC that the project either satisfies a need for reliability or reduces transmission congestion in order to lower costs to consumers.

If a project cannot jump this initial hurdle, they are not eligible for transmission incentives and it's all over.

But, what happens when a project initially meets the rebuttable presumption, however the basis for their rebuttable presumption subsequently evaporates?

That's exactly what has happened with the PATH project.  PATH was removed from the RTEP.  It has not been approved by any state commission.  PATH has not made an independent showing to FERC that their project ensures reliability or reduces congestion (they couldn't anyhow -- PJM's removal from the RTEP prevents this argument).  However, PATH (and FERC by sitting around doing nothing about it) are ignoring this fact.  PATH continues to collect all the benefits of incentives for which they no longer qualify.  Why is this being allowed to happen?  It's costing the consumers money!

FERC asks several questions about this requirement beginning on page 11.  Q14 sort of addresses this issue -- it's the closest FERC gets, so it will suffice as a starting point for your suggestions and ideas regarding how to prevent another PATH from happening and robbing the consumers blind.

If you found this helpful in crafting your comments, you are encouraged to browse the entire FERC Transmission NOI category at StopPATHwv.com for other useful material.  You don't have to comment on all aspects of the NOI if that's too burdensome.  In fact, if you want to concentrate in detail on just one aspect that interests you and about which you have strong feelings, that's a perfectly acceptable approach to producing effective comments.

Lots more stuff to come... keep checking back.



 
 
And now for something completely different... it's time to pick on Pepco Holdings for their amazing capacity to feed propaganda to the public about their MAPP project!

This editorial from Delmarva Now says that "PJM and Pepco suggest that the cost of the new line will not cause an increase in rates consumers pay for electricity, because production costs will go down and the $1.2 billion price tag will be shared by all consumers in its thirteen-state region."

What a bunch of crap!

Remember how AEP told us that their transmission project would "levelize" the price differential between eastern and western PJM?  PJM's recent RPM Auction resulted in a price decrease in eastern PJM with a corresponding price increase in western PJM.

"In PJM's MAAC area the price of capacity will be $136.50 MW-day, a decrease of about $100 from last year.  (The MAAC price applies to the transmission zones of Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, Metropolitan Edison Company, Pennsylvania Electric Company, and PPL Electric Utilities, Atlantic City Electric, Delmarva Power, Jersey Central Power and Light Company, PECO, Public Service Electric and Gas Company, and Rockland Electric Company.) The non-MAAC region, will pay the RTO price of $125.99, an increase of about $100. This region includes western Pennsylvania, western Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Virginia."

Thanks, Pepco, you're a pal!  Not only do the citizens of western PJM get to bear the burden of having their mountains blasted, their miners subjected to dangerous working conditions, their air, water and land poisoned by coal-fired power plants producing electricity to be shipped out of state, now they also get to pay more for the privilege!  Pepco, you're heinous!

Apparently the opponents of MAPP have the ability to smell the odor of power company propaganda as well and are calling Pepco out on their lies.  Bravo!
 
 
Ut-oh, AEP, looks like your latest spin campaign (let's call it Plan "Petulant Child," after a 5-year old who threatens to hold his breath until he dies unless he gets his way) has been exposed!  The New York Times published an editorial on Sunday comparing AEP's recent threats of whopping unemployment, sky-high electric bills and massive blackouts to Mikey's recent comments to investors about how the plant closings are "the way to go!"  And they haven't even found all Mikey's comments to analysts during AEP Earnings Calls... yet.

AEP continues to insult the intelligence of the general public with these stupid spin campaigns.  Guess what, AEP?  You've been caught in your silly deception and exposed once again, and this time it's on the world stage!  I bet your mommas are very proud of all of you!  Lying is a nasty habit that always catches up with you eventually.

Rolling Stone gets into the act... and they are allowed to use one of my favorite words in their editorial.  This one word is really all you need to describe Plan Petulant Child.  Hint:  It begins with a "b" and ends with a "t" and you've been saying it over and over again about the "need" for PATH over the past three years.

In other AEP news, the Supreme Court ruled today that states cannot attempt to limit emissions of greenhouse gases under federal common law.  The news stories on this are all over the place.  Here's the most balanced story I could find in a quick search -- and coincidentally it's also from the NY Times.

"We hold that the Clean Air Act and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion."

My, oh my, isn't this getting interesting?  How will AEP attempt to spin this to utilize it as part of Plan Petulant Child?
 
 
I'm starting to feel a bit like Sybil.  I've got a stack of different things I want to post, and now I have to weigh them and decide if they belong here or over on Coalition for Reliable Power.  I don't want to think hard enough to find the Coalition tie tonight, so I'm just going to unload a few things here and start again in the morning.

Here's a great expose on how FirstEnergy's Little Blue Run is poisoning the citizens of Greene Township.  Very thorough and concentrates on the human aspects, with plenty of facts thrown in... pictures too!

Kind of suspicious how FirstEnergy is quietly buying the citizens out, one by one, isn't it?  Gosh, I wonder if there's a waiver in FE's purchase contract that prevents the seller from pursuing damages for future health problems once they sell and accept the payoff?  That's the way AEP did it when they bought Cheshire, Ohio.

And guess what?  All those great merger economies of scale mean that you can now share in the cost of the buyout of Greene Township every month when you pay your electric bill!  Thanks, FirstEnergy, for the great deal you've arranged for former Allegheny Power customers!  Those coal ash rules can't come soon enough, huh?