Effective tomorrow, all West Virginia electric customers of Potomac Edison and Mon Power will pay more for electricity.

A press release from the PSC says: 

"The ENEC process does not involve the recovery of profit, rate of return on investment, or salaries and wages."

This is a lie.  The ENEC process involves power company recovery of transmission costs billed to them by PJM Interconnection, the operator of the regional electric grid.  In those transmission charges from PJM are West Virginians share of all transmission projects 500kV and above anywhere in the 13-state region, as well as 100% of the the cost of any transmission lines below 500kV owned by FirstEnergy.  Within the costs of these transmission lines are profit (12.4% for PATH, 12.7% for TrAIL, 12.8% for MAPP and 12.9% for Susquehanna-Roseland) which is the calculated return on investment for their power company owners.  These charges also include salaries and wages of power company employees working on these projects... and if you've read the recently filed Formal Challenge, you know there's much, much more wrapped into these charges.

These charges also include costs for the TrAIL project that were allocated to the PATH project's FERC revenue requirement and recovered from West Virginia electric consumers in violation of TrAILCo settlement stipulations.  Also mixed in your increased bill are the costs of the Allegheny Energy and FirstEnergy merger, despite the fact that the companies promised the WV and MD PSCs and FERC that they would not recover any of these costs from electric consumers.

Is the WV PSC that dumb that they don't know what's included in the cost of transmission?  Perhaps that's because the only ones watchdogging transmission owners at FERC are two private citizens...

When are we going to see some true reform at our PSC whereby the agency realizes that their first responsibility is to the public, and not to their out-of-state corporate masters and their pet West Virginia politicians whose pockets are lined with some of that ill-gotten gain that comes from your pocket in the form of more electric rate increases.
In a decision worthy of Solomon, FERC cut the baby in half in an order issued today.

If you will recall, PATH made a Sec. 205 filing with FERC to change the definition of "interested party" in their Formula Rate Protocols.

This filing was made for the express purpose of excluding Keryn & Ali (and by extension, all of the 54 million ratepayers in the PJM region) from participation in the examination of PATH's semi-annual Formula Rate filings for the purposes of cost recovery of their project expenses from electric ratepayers in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Keryn and Ali petitioned to intervene in this proceeding at FERC and filed protests.  PATH objected to our participation as parties in the case, insisting we did not have standing because our interests as consumers were "indirect."

FERC accepted Keryn & Ali as parties in the Order because, "Protesters are retail consumers in an area whose rates may be affected by the rates charged under the PJM OATT. As such they have a sufficient direct interest in the proceeding under Rule 214 and their interventions are granted."

FERC's Order accepts PATH's tariff revision, however it does them no good for their intended purpose:  to prohibit the participation of consumers in the procedures set out in the Protocols for examination of PATH's Formula Rate filings that set transmission rates charged through PJM's tariff.

So, PATH loses by winning.  Congrats to the room full of expensive lawyers who dreamed this up and thanks for making that Sec. 205 filing and forcing the issue with FERC. ;-)

By finding that:

"...our regulations recognize that consumers that are not direct wholesale customers may have a sufficient direct interest in proceedings that affects their retail rates, but a determination of the standing of those seeking to challenge such formula rate filings will need to be made on a case-by-case basis."

FERC recognizes that consumers (that's you!) do have a direct interest in proceedings at FERC that affect the amount they pay for transmission in their electric bills.
If you pay an electric bill, there is a recent series of excellent articles in The Columbus Dispatch that you simply must read.

Power Play:  Politics in Ohio Utility Oversight is the work of an investigative journalist who dug deeply into the Ohio Public Utility Commission to find out why electric rates are increasing so rapidly.  What he uncovered through FOIA requests and interviews with current and former state officials didn't smell so good.

Corruption, collusion and regulatory capture aren't unique only to Ohio, however.  The exact same thing happens in every state in the nation, including West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia (but it only works for you there if your parent company name is Dominion Resources, right, PATH?).  It also happens at the federal level, where power company lobbyists constantly whisper in FERC's ear.

This is why PATH was spending YOUR money on a program of increasingly unsavory deeds intended to influence the state utility commissions considering their applications for the project.  These costs PATH recovered from you have produced two Formal Challenges to FERC by consumers, one for their 2009 expenses and one for their 2010 expenses.

Because this is how the regulatory game is played, you will never succeed at playing it by their rules.  And the corporate buyout of regulatory agencies happens because you've been conditioned to think of it as only a nickel or a dime, or a handful of pennies. 

"Tut, tut, tut, little ratepayer, don't worry your pretty little head about such complicated concepts as ratemaking -- we make that confusing on purpose so you will just shrug your shoulders, pony up your monthly nickel, and leave us in peace with the public officials who are supposed to be looking out for your interests but are really in our pockets instead."

And the energy corporations will continue to book record profits until you consumers start to care enough to make some changes.  Look me up when you're on board and we'll set sail...

A second Formal Challenge to PATH's 2010 Annual Transmission Revenue Requirement was filed at FERC this morning by Keryn Newman and Ali Haverty.  As you will remember, they also filed a Formal Challenge to PATH's 2009 Revenue Requirement back in January of this year.

The new Challenge disputes revenue collected from all PJM electric ratepayers in the amount of $2,437,540.94.  If you're one of the PATH victims, not only does this represent money out of your pocket, but it is a documented history of PATH's activities that directly affected you in 2010.  The Challenge details PATH's activities running "reliable power coalition" front groups, their PEAT "team" who told the media that they had "the real facts" about the project (insinuating that you didn't), PATH's memberships in various Chambers of Commerce and lobbying groups, including their antics with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce that culminated in the Chamber petitioning to intervene out of time in the Maryland PSC case to support PATH's application.  There's also more about what Access Point Public Affairs was up to in Loudoun County, Virginia, attempting to influence the Board of Supervisors to release the conservation easement by playing neighbor against neighbor.  And more NWTF -- the National Wild Turkey Federation -- a favorite of people last year due to its rather unfortunate acronym.  New this year are the expenses of PATH lobbyist Larry Puccio, former Chief of Staff of our "friend" Joe Manchin.  Puccio is the one who signed up as a lobbyist a week after leaving his job at the Governor's office, which triggered a new state law about waiting periods for lobbyists coming out of state government jobs.  Puccio also got a mention in the federal investigation going on last year about road contracts and shady deals in WV.  Finally, our friend Larry is also the Chairman of the WV Democratic Party.  That's convenient, isn't it?  Another new section deals with R.L. Repass & Partners -- the ones responsible for those phone surveys and focus groups in Jefferson County last year.  I know lots of you got the phone calls (and some actually attended the focus group) so if you're remotely curious about how much that cost you, it's all in the Challenge.

The Challenge also includes a section about PATH's advertising in 2010 and details how Charles Ryan Associates utilized recognized propaganda techniques, and NOT "education," in PATH's advertising.  If you saw or heard those commercials and print or internet ads and felt your skin crawling but weren't exactly sure why, you'll probably find this pretty interesting.

We'll have much more about this after the holidays, but for now, happy holidays and happy reading!

PATH 2010 ATRR Formal Challenge

PATH 2010 ATRR Formal Challenge Exhibits (big file of Exhibits used in the Challenge)

Some people think I'm a scrooge because the only Christmas music I'll listen to on any other day besides December 25 is from that pile of Bob Rivers Twisted Christmas CDs I unearth every year.

This is one of my favorites.

Or maybe this one.

At any rate, to survive the Christmas stress, you've got to maintain your sense of humor (if you're a guy, you have no idea what I'm talking about here, so just move along and go sit in your recliner until 5:00 p.m. on December 24th, at which time you'll rush to the mall and impulsively buy a bunch of crap that nobody wants or needs and color yourself "stressed").

In order to keep it fun...

I like to find just the right Christmas card to send to certain groups of friends.  

This card went to some of the wonderful friends I've made over the past 3 1/2 years.
And I like to make Christmas crafts to give as gifts to my friends.
Save your beer caps and I'll make you an elegant and classy, mix-n-match set of Raging Bitch and Arrogant Bastard earrings too!
I've been busy crafting lots of creative holiday gifts for everyone on my list... stay tuned to see more...
Here's PATH's response to the Preliminary Challenge that was served on them on November 23, 2011.  No surprises here, PATH corrected around $10K of charges that were "erroneously" charged to ratepayers and which they had already admitted were wrong during discovery.... eventually, over the course of several months, until the light bulb finally came on.

FirstEnergy's TrAILCo transmission company (whose books are kept by same crack team of accountants as PATH's) filed a revision with FERC the other day to correct its 2010 & 2011 revenue requirements for merger costs that were "inadvertently" included in the revenue requirements and collected from ratepayers like you.

"On December 19, 2011, Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company submitted to the Commission, for informational purposes, a revised reconciliation of the annual transmission revenue requirement for the 2010 Rate Year and a revised annual transmission revenue requirement for the 2011 Rate Year to reflect the removal of merger-related costs inadvertently included in the original version filed in May 2011."

Ooops!  What's a couple million between friends, anyhow?  Is anyone keeping track of all FirstEnergy's accounting mistakes that cost you money?

According to TrAILCo's letter, "As part of an internal review, TrAILCo personnel discovered that merger-related costs were inadvertently included in the original 2010 Reconciliation ATTR and 2011 Forecasted ATTR."

Was that "internal review" FirstEnergy's version of their "oh sh*t" moment when they got busted for including merger costs in PATH's revenue requirement during PATH's Open Meeting conference call back in July.  Yeah, FE, we were there. ;-)

This sentence in the letter creates such a scary visual that I want to simultaneously throw up and laugh hysterically.

"The merger was consummated on February 25, 2011, and, at that time, FirstEnergy Corp. became the ultimate parent of TrAILCo."

Keep the comedy coming, FirstEnergy, we're paying dearly for it, apparently.

I feel for our friends at Stop the Lines in New Jersey, who have been riding a roller coaster lately regarding approvals for one of PJM's other Project Mountaineer transmission projects.

Down:  Susquehanna-Roseland is approved by the PA PUC and the NJ BPU.

Up:  Appeals are filed in New Jersey.

Up:  New Jersey's BPU gets into a battle of wills with PJM and FERC over it's desire to build new gas-fired generation in New Jersey in order to lower electricity prices in the state.  NJ BPU's position is that in-state generation is better than importing electricity via new transmission lines like S-R.  NJ-BPU is likely to deny S-R and use it as a bargaining chip to get what it wants from PJM & FERC, if it is remanded back to the BPU on appeal.

Down:  S-R is named one of Obama's "Rapid Response" Transmission Projects so it can be rammed through approvals.  Rumor has it that the fix is in at the highest levels for the NPS to approve PSE&G's application to cross the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

Up:  The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) release a statement exposing the collusion and corruption going on between the NPS, the White House, and PSE&G.

Up:  The NPS recently came out with a "no build" recommendation.

Down:  In this article (one of the most poorly-written articles I've ever seen!) Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Superintendent John Donahue implies that if power company project owner PSE&G proffers a big enough "mitigation package" (aka BRIBE) that he will bend over and grease up the park for annihilation by the Susquehanna-Roseland project.  I'm not sure who Donahue thinks will be paying the cost of the "mitigation package," but it won't be PSE&G.  The cost of project approvals will be borne by all electric ratepayers in the 13-state PJM Region.  That means YOU!  The bigger the bribe, the higher your future electric bill, and the bigger the profit for PSE&G.  Donahue is willing to sacrifice publicly owned assets to a private, for-profit corporation in exchange for that same public gaining a financial/land grab that is ultimately paid for by them.  We pay ourselves to end up with a ruined national park, and PSE&G makes a big profit.

So, what can you do to prevent paying for PSE&G's bribe?  Submit your comments on the NPS EIS for the S-R Project online.