That's how Delegate Stephen Skinner characterized last night's Citizens' Public Hearing in Charles Town. Customer after customer came forward to share their own personal horror stories about recent experiences with Potomac Edison. And at least two of those who spoke went home to face another night without electric service because they were unable to pay inaccurate and outrageous bills amounting to more than $1000 each. Potomac Edison disconnected their service without warning.More than 100 people came out to the meeting, in spite of a torrential downpour,
and five state legislators, three county commissioners and a representative from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin's office came to listen. Conspicuously absent from the gathering were Potomac Edison and the West Virginia Public Service Commission.After listening for nearly two hours, the panel showed real anger during their remarks, and most importantly, promised
action. We will continue to work with our legislators to ensure that it happens. I've seen a whole lot of dubious and unethical actions on the part of FirstEnergy, Potomac Edison's corporate parent, over the past several years. But even those dirty, underhanded schemes paled in comparison to what I heard last night.FirstEnergy, you are truly despicable.Media links:
Potomac Edison customers shocked in W.Va. PanhandleLocal Residents Speaking to Officials About Electric Bills ChargesTake WHAG's newest viewer poll:Have you been overcharged on an electric bill?
Power issues voiced by residents in Charles Town
We have caused a huge stink at FirstEnergy.
The public's response to the Citizens' Public Hearing on Potomac Edison business practices
to be held May 22, jointly sponsored by the Jefferson County NAACP, the WV Chapter of Sierra Club, and the Coalition for Reliable Power, has been overwhelming!Thousands of people have viewed and downloaded the meeting notice, nearly 500 people have "liked" and shared the notice on Facebook, numerous organizations and local governments have disseminated the meeting notice to thousands more, and meeting notice fliers are popping up all over the tri-state!
And, something truly amazing (but completely expected) is happening -- people from diverse backgrounds are coming together to talk about electricity issues, volunteer their time, and to speak with one voice!We heard many horror stories last week while out and about spreading the word. We have made many more connections through emails, social media, phone calls and comments on this blog. Particularly tragic was the story of a customer relying on a ventilator who was told to pay up on the more than $1000 monthly bill his family received
, or Potomac Edison would shut off his service. Meanwhile, Potomac Edison's parent company is proposing to compensate its CEO at a rate of more than $23M per year
. What's wrong with this picture? The investigation of Potomac Edison's billing and meter reading practices in Maryland begins today. The "legal housekeeping" described by Potomac Edison spokesman Todd Meyers in the article is actually the company's effort to prohibit participation in the case by the individual customers who originally brought the complaint last year
. Potomac Edison would much rather deal directly with state agencies and not have to dirty its hands consorting with the hoi polloi.
Meyers said that most of the company’s past problems with the meter readers are “in the rearview mirror.”
“We look forward to going to the hearing and giving our side of the story,” Meyers said. “We’re prepared to go there and cooperate with the PSC, and I think we have a good story to tell.”
Todd's story pales in comparison to all the stories I have heard from disgruntled Potomac Edison customers lately, who continue to receive outrageous bills they cannot pay. Despite Todd's insistence, all the problems are not "in the rearview mirror." That's merely how it looks to Todd as he's driving away from the hit and run that monthly Potomac Edison bills have become. The problems continue.We'd also like to hear Potomac Edison's side of the story about its proposal to purchase a 40-year old power generator from one of its affiliates at an inflated price that will translate into another 6% rate hike. We will be presenting a brief overview of the issue and asking the meeting participants to let the PSC know what they think about the proposal.Potomac Edison continues to make the same old excuses and insist that the problems have been fixed, but the community says that's just not true.Please join us this Wednesday night, May 22, at 7:00 p.m. at Wright Denny Intermediate school in Charles Town. Doors open at 6:30 and we will have information stations and handouts available. We ask that attendees bring along a copy of their most recent Potomac Edison bill for reference in filling out our survey about billing issues. Data collected will be used to develop statistics for use in illustrating the widespread nature of the problem for the Public Service Commission. We hope you will attend and add your voice to our call for the WV PSC to open its own investigation
of Potomac Edison's practices. We the people will not be denied!We have invited your elected officials, both state and local, as well as representatives of the PSC, the Consumer Advocate, and Potomac Edison, to come and listen to your concerns and demonstrate that they actually care about you and are not merely providing lip service while posturing for the press.Electric utilities continually play a divide and conquer game with their customers. The company prefers to deal with each customer individually, where the customer may be at a disadvantage due to lack of knowledge about electric rates and tariffs and a feeling of isolation.
"We take our billing process very seriously," said Gilliam. "It's also personal and private. The conversation is between a customer service rep and the customer."
It's much easier to blow us off, one by one. Potomac Edison's greatest fear is that its customers may unite and rise as one. See you all on Wednesday!
POTOMAC EDISON ELECTRIC BILLING PROBLEMS?
Outrageously high bills?
Month after month of estimated bills?
Poor customer service and too many excuses?
We’ve had enough!
Join us for a citizens’ public hearing on May 22, 2013, at Wright Denny Intermediate School in Charles Town where we will gather information, share experiences, and provide feedback to the West Virginia Public Service Commission, your elected representatives, and representatives from the electric company. Let your voice be heard!
Wright Denny Intermediate School
209 W. Congress St.
Charles Town, WV
7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22nd (doors open at 6:30)
Public input calling for investigation of Potomac Edison business practices and information about additional increases to Potomac Edison bills caused by the company’s proposed generation purchase.
Jefferson County NAACP
West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club
The Coalition for Reliable Power
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Please bring a copy of your most recent Potomac Edison bill. We will be distributing a questionnaire to gather information on common problems residents are facing. If you plan to make public comment, please bring a copy of your comments to submit to the PSC.
Have you been plagued with high electric bills? Has your electric company failed to read your electric meter as required by law? Has your electric bill been estimated more often than not? Has your billing date changed, causing you to get an outrageous bill? Do you feel you are being lied to by your electric company's customer service? Welcome to the club, Potomac Edison, Mon Power and West Penn Power customers! There are thousands, perhaps millions, of us!
But, don't despair... your electric bills are going toward a good cause.Potomac Edison, Mon Power and West Penn Power parent company FirstEnergy will be holding it's annual stockholders' meeting later this month and asking its investors to approve (although approval is merely a formality that can be overruled) an executive compensation package that will provide CEO Tony Alexander with $23.3 MILLION in annual compensation and performance awards, including perks such as:
- Company-paid financial planning and tax preparation services.
- Limited personal use of the corporate aircraft. Pursuant to the direction of the Board, Mr. Alexander is required to use our corporate aircraft for all personal and business travel for security purposes (because those hoi polloi cooties can be deadly). With CEO approval, other executives including the (henchmen) NEOs, may from time to time, use our corporate aircraft for personal travel. We have a written policy that sets forth guidelines regarding the personal use of the corporate aircraft by executive officers and other employees. The Committee believes these perquisites are reasonable, competitive, and consistent with our overall compensation philosophy.
- Severance Plan which provides three weeks’ base pay for each full year of service with a minimum benefit of 52 weeks of base salary and maximum benefit of 104 weeks of base salary (and a golden parachute). Additionally, executives who elect continuation of health care for the severance period will be provided this benefit at active employee rates and must also pay taxes on any amount in excess of what employees with the same level of service would receive under the FirstEnergy Employee Severance Benefits Plan.
- In addition, certain executives are eligible to receive limited perquisites. In 2012, the NEOs were provided: (1) financial planning and tax preparation services for Alexander and Vespoli of $11,370 and $9,265, respectively; (2) charitable matching contributions for Vespoli and Jones; (3) premiums for the group personal excess liability and life insurance for all NEOs; and (4) personal use of the corporate aircraft for Alexander, Vespoli, Jones, and Lash. Executive officers’ spouses and immediate family members may accompany executives on Company aircraft using unoccupied space on flights that were already scheduled, and we incur no aggregate incremental cost in connection with such use. (bring the whole fam damily for a ratepayer financed vacation!)
- Accumulated pension benefits of $33M.
- Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan in addition to pension.
Additionally, FirstEnergy's Board shares:Also in 2012, we entered into an employment agreement (later referred to as the Alexander Agreement) with our President and CEO, Mr. Anthony J. Alexander. Your Board believes Mr. Alexander is uniquely qualified to guide your Company through the current unsettled environment based on his lengthy experience in the industry, familiarity with the regulatory process, and visionary leadership. The Alexander Agreement, by its terms, is expected to incent
(psst - "incent" isn't a word!) Mr. Alexander’s service, expertise, and direction through at least the next several years as we execute our strategy, address the challenges of a weak economy and increasing regulations, deploy our succession plans, and position your Company for long-term success.Finally, your Board is confident the Alexander Agreement, which encourages Mr. Alexander’s continued employment, will benefit shareholders and your Company favorably.However, given Mr. Alexander’s age, eligibility for retirement, personal circumstances, and the fact that he was evaluating the timing of his retirement from the Company, your Board believed it was important to shareholders and our Company to look beyond the annual compensation programs in order to solidify Mr. Alexander’s continued employment through at least the next several years. Your Board believes Mr. Alexander is uniquely qualified to continue to direct the achievement of our strategy based on his vision for the future and strong commitment to that vision, deep understanding of the strategic direction of our Company, ability to identify opportunities to navigate market complexities, and foresight to understand the impact of potential opportunities on our Company. In support of our strategic business objectives, Mr. Alexander guided the Company through the transition to competitive generation markets in Ohio and Pennsylvania, developed our long-term retail strategy to compete in deregulated markets and led the execution of the strategy to pursue opportunities for growth that would not otherwise be available in regulated markets. He was also instrumental in pursuing our merger with Allegheny Energy, Inc. in 2010 which was consummated in February 2011. The merger created opportunities to enhance shareholder value, including repositioning our business mix to include a substantially larger regulated utility base that supports our dividend. Also, your Board believes Mr. Alexander’s 40 years of experience with the Company, including 23 years as a senior officer; his knowledge of regulatory and governmental affairs; and the relationship he has built with regulators, policy makers, investors, and employees is critically important to our success, especially during the current continuing depressed economic conditions.
The primary objectives of your Company’s executive compensation program are to attract, motivate, retain, and reward the talented executives who we believe can provide the performance and leadership we need to achieve success in the highly complex and competitive energy services industry. Our executive compensation program is centered on a pay for performance philosophy and is aligned with the long-term interests of our shareholders.
Our vision is to be a leading regional energy provider, recognized for operational excellence, customer service and our commitment to safety; the choice for long-term growth, investment value and financial strength; and a Company driven by the leadership, skills, diversity, and character of our employees.Puh-leeze! I'm betting if Tony and his henchmen were the sudden and unfortunate victims of a targeted alien abduction
that our lights wouldn't even blink. Simply put -- nobody would miss them -- and we'd be paying millions less for our electric service! Where's a good alien invasion when you need it? Of course, I expect the aliens would promptly return the NEOs when they realize how completely useless they are. Hope dashed once again.Now, compare the plight of Tony and his henchmen to Philippe, who writes,"Potomic Edison is in the business of gouging it's customers. I received a bill due april 12 2013 for 831.35. I found out about it through my online checking account which I was floored. Apparently they missed a reading and due to UNDER estimating this bill covered costs that went back 6 damn months. No phone call no anything other then sorry sir but the money has allready cleared and there is nothing we can do about it. I am fed up with all the back handed undermining and borderline extortion that we as a citizen have to endure all because of greed and that all mighty dollar. I will be taking up the cause of bringing a class action lawsuit against this company as I have already spoken to many of my neighbors in regards to this Companies less then lawful and misleading ways. I am a disabled vet on a very fixed income and in the 20 plus years of living here I have never had a bill exceed the hi 300 dollar range EVER. As for Potomic Edison who is already having to explain themselves in court in the State of MD. may now ad another state to the mix, WV. and very very pissed off about this!"Or perhaps the plight of Cathy, who told others gathered to discuss Potomac Edison's billing issues that
she hadn't yet moved into her trailer when she received an electric bill for $600. The Harpers Ferry resident, who has been living next door to the home for six months, said she set the thermostat below 50 degrees all winter and only kept a small light burning as a deterrent. "Their explanation to me was they estimated it for two months, and then we had a hurricane and they couldn't come. And then we had bad weather and they couldn't come," Jackson said of her conversations with the company. "I said, 'Then why didn't you come when the weather was good?' They didn't have an answer."Or "SWOFLO" who writes:"some of us live on a limited income and cant afford to pay 2 bills in 1 month. mine was estimated 4 months and by the time it got read they overcharged me 900 dollars, of course i will get a few months of bill less elect but i wont get the car i had repossed back because i couldnt make the payment for 2 months."Tony, the peasants have no bread!
I fear that telling them to eat cake instead
would be equivalent to fomenting insurrection. Let Marie be a lesson to you!
Ut-oh, transmission project owners!While attending the Wisconsin Energy Action Fair in Mauston over the weekend, experienced transmission opponents from across the country gathered to compare notes, share experiences and tactics, and discuss strategy and national energy policy.
Online friendships and alliances were cemented together in person.Know what happens when you put a bunch of transmission opponents in a room together? It's the all-transmission-all-the-time gab fest, where we're all allowed to indulge in thought-provoking and laughter-inducing
conversations about our favorite subject that bores most of the other people we know: transmission!I suppose this could be considered the first of many national transmission opposition conventions, however, I'm not going to put my "The Importance of Strategic Planning in Grassroots Opposition" PowerPoint, or any summaries of any other speaker presentations, online. That's what transmission owners do. We're smarter! If you weren't there, you missed out!Many thanks to Rob, Jane, and all the friendly folks at SOUL for
being such gracious hosts and making the weekend worth the trip! Looking forward to the next event!
Ut-oh, FirstEnergy. UT-OHHHHHHH!If I wasn't buried under a mound of your paper, I might have more to say right now, but I did NOT say the quote attributed to me in the article.The big, uncaring, faceless corporation really ought to be ashamed of itself for the effect it is having on ordinary people who have been surprised with outrageous, inaccurate bills over the past year.More to come...
The Jefferson County NAACP will sponsor a public meeting concerning the recent outrageous increase in electric bills, and a proposal to further increase electric rates to purchase a 40-year old coal fired power plant. This meeting will also present information on the potential of energy efficiency to save money on electric bills and create thousands of West Virginia jobs.
The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 18, 7:00pm at the Fishermen Hall located at 300 South West Street in Charles Town. Daniel Chiotos of the Sierra Club and Patience Wait of Stop PATH will be speaking and answering questions.
The local state legislators have been invited to attend and hear the public concerns. If you are unhappy and concerned about your electric and want to prevent another unnecessary rate hike, please come to this meeting so that a message can be sent to the WV Public Service Commission. There will be opportunities to take action at this event.
The transmission industry, safely ensconced in its self-congratulatory echo chamber dream world, continually perpetuates poor performance, execution mistakes, and bad ideas. In the real world where the rest of us live, successful "public participation in transmission line siting" is based on successfully interacting with the public to convince them that a project is needed, and to maintain effective communication with the public as a project proceeds through approvals. It's all about what the public
deems successful, since they are the ones who are "participating" in said project information sessions. It really does no good for other deaf and blind transmission owners to judge whether their transmission-owning peer's transmission projects are successfully participating with the public. This blind leading the blind self-contratulatory echo chamber reaches a pinnacle every year with EUCI's (that's Electric Utility Consultants, Inc., whose sole existence is derived from getting the utilities to participate in its continuing "education" seminars) Public Participation in Transmission Siting Conference. During this conference, utility employees make presentations crowing about their "success" participating with the public, even when the reality is that said utility employees are piloting a rapidly sinking Titanic of a failed public relations program. For example, PATH's PR laughing stocks presented this little gem just 6 short weeks before withdrawing project applications and giving up, after being thoroughly trounced by that "entrenched opposition":LEVERAGING LESSONS LEARNED
Tom Holliday, Director of Communications Services, American Electric Power
Doug Colafella, Manager, External Communications, Allegheny EnergyAmerican Electric Power and Allegheny Energy are applying best practices to help gain approvals for the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), a 765-kV project extending 275 miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Learn how the two companies are working together to apply successful strategies for grassroots outreach, community involvement, and public education while contending with project delays, entrenched opposition, and the economic downturn
So, what are participants at EUCI's conference really learning? How to congratulate each other for failure, apparently. Yee-Hawwww!
This year's conference upped the fun factor by adding a special award to the festivities: EUCI will debut the EUCI Excellence in Public Participation in Transmission Siting Award! The 2013 award will focus on the most engaging, creative, and useful websites. Websites serve as a foundation for sharing project information with the public. EUCI wants to recognize and share the industry's most engaging transmission line siting websites. Finalists will present at the conference and winners will be chosen by the conference attendees.
Wowzers! It's almost like winning the lottery, huh? In addition to this great honor, tell the audience what the winner will receive, Rod Roddy...
Rod Roddy: Winners will receive:Highlight of website and award announcement in EUCI Energize Weekly newsletter
Web banner recognition for winning website
Award Plaque for your office !!!
What do you get when you combine a bunch of self-congratulatory airheads taking nominations for their website award with two successful transmission opponents who never miss a chance to tell the industry the fearful truth?Ta-Daaaaa!
We thought our entry would be immediately tossed in the cyber trash, after all, we didn't attempt to hide anything. It was just a little laughter over a couple of beers.
Apparently there's dumb and then there's EUCI dumb
I do have to hand it to them for running a "fair" contest and making sure all "entries" were judged inside the self-congratulatory transmission echo chamber by public relations shysters in denial: a panel of industry experts to include RES Americas, PEPCO, American Transmission Company, Allegheny Energy
, Southern California Edison, and The Wilderness Society. Just a little FYI observation... some of the transmission project judging species are much dumber than others...
So, did we win? Of course not! EUCI and their transmission owner stable don't want to feature and award any "public participation" that actually got its hands dirty participating with the public (to stop an unnecessary transmission project). Therefore, in the spirit of EUCI's self-congratulatory echo chamber, we hereby award ourselves the FIRST ANNUAL EFFECTIVE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE REAL WORLD TRANSMISSION PROJECT OPPOSITION WIN! Award
It's just as valid and just as satisfying as any award from EUCI's echo chamber, and best of all, the industry stays safely separated from any real world truth so they can keep making the same "public participation" mistakes that doom transmission projects.
So, which websites won the "contest" and were judged "most engaging, creative and useful for the public?" I can't speak to three of the nominees, but one of the websites nominated was Clean Line Energy's Rock Island Clean Line website. Useful? Creative? The last time I checked, Clean Line was busy deleting comments from and banning "the public" from participating on their websites
. Not very "effective" participation with the public in my book. RICL's opposition seems to be doing a better job here
. Maybe I'll make Block RICL its very own special little website ribbon to compete with RICL's... sort of a People's Choice Awards vs. The Oscars thing.
Thanks for the laughs, EUCI, your organization plays a great straight man! And thanks for sending "Allegheny Energy" our contest entry so that our little coal fella could have a panicked moment wondering if his peer judges were laughing at him (and yes, indeed they were!) And thanks for making sure that none of that nasty ol' reality confronts any of your precious transmission owners and makes them question their bag of stale "public participation" best practices that are easily neutralized by reality-based opposition.
StopPATH WV, Inc. presented gifts of $1,000 each to two local churches at a ceremony in Charles Town on November 7. The payments represent a distribution of remaining assets as the organization prepares to wrap up its business affairs.
“We strongly believe in ‘paying it forward’ to the communities that supported our organization to achieve its goal of stopping the PATH Project,” said Robin Huyett Thomas, President of StopPATH WV, Inc.
The gifts were presented to Chestnut Hill United Methodist Church of Harpers Ferry and Summit Point United Methodist Church of Summit Point.
Accepting the check on behalf of Chestnut Hill UMC, Pam Gearhart said, “Because many members of our congregation would have been affected by PATH, we were happy to do whatever we could to help fight the battle and we appreciated all the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the effort.”
Dianna Dick from Summit Point UMC expressed the Summit Point community’s appreciation for the dedication and countless hours organization members contributed to the successful effort.
The PATH Project was a 765kV, 275-mile, high voltage electric transmission line that was proposed to cut through 16 miles of Jefferson County on its route from St. Albans, West Virginia to Mt. Airy, Maryland. The $2.1B project, proposed in 2007, was recently removed from regional transmission expansion plans and cancelled for good.
“The churches recognized that the project posed grave threats to their communities,” said Keryn Newman, Treasurer of StopPATH WV, “and they supported our efforts by fostering community discussions and donating the use of their facilities as meeting venues.”
L to R: Dianna Dick, Summit Point UMC and Pam Gearhart, Chestnut Hill UMC, receive checks from StopPATH WV President Robin Huyett Thomas while StopPATH WV Board members Sharon Wilson, Bob Montgomery, Patience Wait and Debbie Royalty look on.