Another entity has joined the litany of complaints against FirstEnergy subsidiary Potomac Edison. The Jefferson County Commission unanimously and enthusiastically voted last Thursday to send a letter to the West Virginia Public Service Commission asking the regulator to open an investigation of the company's billing and meter reading practices.The Commission heard from WV Delegate Stephen Skinner during the meeting, as well as public comments from three different citizens, regarding the outrageous, unjust, and unreasonable Potomac Edison business practices customers had been subject to over the past year or so.Delegate Skinner has been a vocal advocate for his constituents, many of whom have been hit hard by bills up to 1000% more than usual that are the product of the company's failure to read meters every other month as required by law
, as well as both human and computer error on the part of the company. As a regulated monopoly, Potomac Edison has obligations to its customers, and Delegate Skinner intends to do all he can to ensure Potomac Edison meets those obligations.Since he began questioning Potomac Edison's practices, Skinner has been contacted by the company's government affairs person, who made all sorts of excuses, and promises that have failed to materialize. The complaints continue.Commissioner Widmyer expressed her disappointment with the company's "robo-call" method of attempting to connect with and mollify angry "real people" customers.Meanwhile, the WV Attorney General pretends he is looking out for consumers by making a "hotline" number available for angry customers to call the company. There's already a customer service number on your bill, little consumer. The Attorney General recommends you call it. Personally, I'd rather call Delegate Skinner or the Jefferson County Commission for some real help. The parade of perturbed Potomac Edison patrons persists.
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!
Alice isn't the only one to find herself tumbling into a rabbit hole where up is down and down is up and nothing is as it seems.While trying to do a radio program about FirstEnergy's Potomac Edison/Mon Power plant transfer this morning, I found it interesting that every person who called in mentioned Potomac Edison's recent unjust and unreasonable billing practices
. And then I sat down to pay a pile o' bills when I got home and guess what? There was my Potomac Edison bill. The company has been urging customers with questions about their bills to call the customer service center, so I did.Forty minutes later, I still didn't have logical answers to my questions. I can only imagine how customers who have received astronomical bills they cannot pay must feel after an hour in Potomac Edison's "valued customer" funhouse.First, I had to verify that I actually was a customer because my name supposedly isn't on the bill. Now, we know that's just not true, don't we?
I guess that must be a common mistake, right, Randy?After the first customer service rep.
and I determined that the cause of my budget plan billings being inconsistent was Potomac Edison's lack of meter reading over the past year, it was suggested that I begin reading my own meter on those months that Potomac Edison can't make it to my house. I was assured that Potomac Edison attempts to read meters EVERY MONTH, however they are only required to read them twice a year. After being informed that was complete and utter crap, she further insisted that Potomac Edison's WV tariff required only two readings per year and began to argue with me. When I suggested she check her information with her supervisor, I got dumped onto hold for 29 minutes without explanation. TWENTY-NINE minutes! I guess I was supposed to hang up and go away, but I simply turned on the speaker and set the phone on my desk while I tackled the 472 emails that had piled up while I was away.
Oh... and I was highly entertained by Potomac Edison's hold muzak play list, which I have noted to share with you.... song by hysterical song:
You've got a friend
Still the sameTight ropeSister golden hair
Carefree highwayGood day sunshineAnd here's where it got really hysterical...How long (has this been going on)Rocket man (and I think it's gonna be a long, long time)
Operator (could you help me place this call)And just when I was starting to wonder what was coming next
, "the supervisor" picked up the line and was not surprised in the least to find that I had been waiting 29 minutes and no one had bothered to tell her why I was calling.At least she verified that Potomac Edison is required to read meters every other month according to their WV tariff and that the first customer service rep. was wrong. I wasn't convinced that the supervisor actually would correct this misconception, however. I guess it really doesn't matter how much Potomac Edison lies to you when you call for assistance.However, while also verifying that my inconsistent bills were the product of Potomac Edison failing to read my meter, even she couldn't tell me why my new (APP) Summary
only included 4 months while my neighbor's included 12. Or why last month's bill was much higher for less kwh. Apparently all my problems will be over if I only read my own meter from now on. Right.
Potomac Edison is also renumbering work routes; meaning meter-readers will work in close proximity.
"That way if I finish my route, I can come over and help you finish your route. That should help prevent some estimates on the back-end of your route, where we couldn't get to a customer," says Todd Meyers, Potomac Edison spokesperson.
Well, color me steamed! I invited Todd to come read my meter last year
, and he still hasn't "finished his route" and arrived to do his job.If you haven't seen Todd at your house either, be sure to contact him and let him know you need him to finish his route:
Maryland – Potomac Edison
West Virginia – Mon Power, Potomac Edison
Pennsylvania – West Penn Power
(724) 838-6650email: email@example.comWhat does Todd mean "help me finish my route?" I don't have a route! Is Todd insinuating that I should be reading my own meter from now on, aka "my route?" But that's what I'm paying you to do, Todd!I'm also paying you to trim trees and maintain your equipment. That's not news. And sadly, yesterday's little drama was just that -- a play staged for the media. Oh, look at us working today!
Big stinkin' deal! This hole is much, much deeper than Potomac Edison thinks.So, what has Todd been doing with the money we've been paying him for years? Todd has a lot to answer for. This is all Todd's fault!
Go ahead, give him a call!
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...
On April 9, 2013, the Maryland Public Service Commission opened an official investigation
into FirstEnergy subsidiary Potomac Edison's meter reading, usage estimation and billing practices.
The Commission hereby initiates an investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff, and delegates this matter to the Public Utility Law Judge Division (“PULJD”) for appropriate proceedings.
The investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff is not limited to the Tufts and Sugarloaf Conservancy Complaints; the PULJD shall determine the full scope of the investigation, and designate additional issues as appropriate. The PULJD shall notify the parties, including the Office of People’s Counsel, of the date and time of a scheduling conference at which deadlines are to be set for, inter alia, PE’s production of documents. The Commission hereby initiates an investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff, and delegates this matter to the Public Utility Law Judge Division (“PULJD”) for appropriate proceedings.
The investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff is not limited to the Tufts and Sugarloaf Conservancy Complaints; the PULJD shall determine the full scope of the investigation, and designate additional issues as appropriate. The PULJD shall notify the parties, including the Office of People’s Counsel, of the date and time of a scheduling conference at which deadlines are to be set for, inter alia, PE’s production of documents.
For more than thirty years, Potomac Edison's Maryland tariffs have provided that the
Company will read most meters every two months. This practice saves customers money, because fewer meter readers need to be used. For example, in Potomac Edison's last rate case in 1994, the expense filed for meter reading was just under $1.3 million for meter reading; if meters were going to be read every month, that requirement would have had to be significantly higher.
Footnote: In fact, even with reading every two months instead of monthly, the Company was spending $2.0 million on meter reading (even without taking into consideration the new hires and other recent measures discussed elsewhere in this response), substantially more than is collected in rates for this function.
Potomac Edison has been losing money on its meter reading function to the tune of $700,000 per year. This could be easily remedied by filing a new rate case with the Maryland PSC to collect this difference. However, the filing of a new rate case could also cause Potomac Edison to lose substantially more than $700,000 per year by setting a new rate of return for the company. The rate of return that the company is allowed to earn on fixed costs in Maryland is currently set at 11.9%, and is the second highest ROE in FirstEnergy's distribution affiliate stable
. If Potomac Edison filed a new rate case, the ROE would be updated and adjusted to today's financial realities. It is in FirstEnergy's financial interest to continue to collect rates set in the 1993/1994 settlement. If it were not, the company would file a new rate case. It has not done so.The annual loss on meter reading expense compared to the risk to ROE stemming from a new rate case was a loss Allegheny Energy was willing to accept. But when Allegheny Energy merged with FirstEnergy, apparently that was no longer true. FirstEnergy wanted the best of both worlds -- collection of the full amount of meter reading costs AND the 1993/94 rate case ROE. But because FirstEnergy couldn't collect more for meter reading AND maintain an 11.9% ROE, FirstEnergy opted to simply cut the cost of meter reading by slimming down their meter reading staff and not performing scheduled meter readings required by law. If Potomac Edison cut their meter reading expense to match the amount they were collecting, the loss would stop and the company could keep its 11.9% ROE, having its cake and eating it too!But now it appears the game is up. If I were the Maryland PSC, I would
require Potomac Edison to issue a refund to customers amounting to the difference between what Potomac Edison spent and what it would have cost to perform meter readings as required by law (around $700K per year, according to Potomac Edison.) And then, as a punitive measure, I would make them file a new rate case. :-) How about it, FirstEnergy?
FirstEnergy has also been pulling the same stunt in other states in which it operates. West Virginia's ROE is 10.5% and was set in 2007. Pennsylvania's ROE is 11.5% set in 1994. These jurisdictions are where FirstEnergy affiliates have also been failing to read meters. Coincidence? I think not.West Virginia legislators are not happy with Potomac Edison's excuses
. Could an investigation by the West Virginia PSC also be on the horizon?
The authority to site and permit high-voltage transmission lines has historically rested with the states. However, the federal government has been trying to wrest this authority from the states for years
.The states consider local need and issues when evaluating a project. Affected stakeholders are afforded due process to participate in the debate at the state level. Occasionally, a state will deny an application for a transmission project that provides no benefit to the state. The feds, and the investor owned utilities who relentlessly lobby them, want to remove consideration of new transmission projects to Washington, DC, where due process will be smothered by national policy goals.
But it hasn't been smooth sailing for the feds. Congress has repeatedly declined to federalize transmission permitting and siting, preferring to leave authority with the states. But the feds and the utility lobbyists have found other ways to try to gain what they haven't been granted by Congress.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 hid a few little wormholes for the feds to override states and claim eminent domain to site transmission under certain conditions. One was Section 1221, the creation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors and backstop siting authority for FERC to site transmission in these corridors in the event a state failed to act. That section has been neutralized by the courts.But, a second federal eminent domain tool that has not yet attracted much attention is about to be deployed through Section 1222, Third-Party Finance, in order to execute one of the worse abuses of federal eminent domain authority in history.
Section 1222 provides:
The Secretary, acting through WAPA or SWPA, or both, may design, develop, construct, operate, maintain, or own, or participate with other entities in designing, developing, constructing, operating, maintaining, or owning, a new electric power transmission facility and related facilities (“Project”) located within any State in which WAPA or SWPA operates if the Secretary, in consultation with the applicable Administrator, determines that the proposed Project--
(1)(A) is located in an area designated under section 216(a) of the Federal Power Act [16 U.S.C. 824p(a)] and will reduce congestion of electric transmission in interstate commerce; or
(B) is necessary to accommodate an actual or projected increase in demand for electric transmission capacity;
(2) is consistent with--
(A) transmission needs identified, in a transmission expansion plan or otherwise, by the appropriate Transmission Organization (as defined in the Federal Power Act [16 U.S.C. 791a et seq.]) if any, or approved regional reliability organization; and
(B) efficient and reliable operation of the transmission grid;
(3) will be operated in conformance with prudent utility practice;
(4) will be operated by, or in conformance with the rules of, the appropriate (A) Transmission Organization, if any, or (B) if such an organization does not exist, regional reliability organization; and
(5) will not duplicate the functions of existing transmission facilities or proposed facilities which are the subject of ongoing or approved siting and related permitting proceedings.
are federal power marketing agencies set up to sell and deliver hydropower across central, western and southern states. WAPA and SWPA, as federal agencies, are endowed with federal eminent domain authority to take private property for use in their systems. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? However, Section 1222 allows the Secretary of Energy to utilize WAPA's & SWPA's eminent domain authority for benefit of third-party projects in the agencies' territories that are not connected or necessary to their systems. And this is where the slippery slope starts, friends. Congress tried to prevent this kind of bad behavior by including qualifying standards for third-party projects, such as being approved in a regional transmission plan or equivalent, which would prevent duplication of projects, and requiring a finding of increased demand necessitating such a project. Congress also put a cap on the amount of money WAPA and SWPA could accept from third parties.
(g) Maximum funding amount
The Secretary shall not accept and use more than $100,000,000 under subsection (c)(1) for the period encompassing fiscal years 2006 through 2015.
And Congress also stipulated that Section 1222 could not override existing state laws.
d) Relationship to other laws
Nothing in this section affects any requirement of--
(1) any Federal environmental law, including the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.);
(2) any Federal or State law relating to the siting of energy facilities; or
(3) any existing authorizing statutes.
But, personal relationships between DOE personnel and leadership of a private, for-profit corporation made things just so cozy that an RFP for Sec. 1222 projects
was issued in 2010 that coincided with the development of this company's long-haul HVDC projects.
Jimmy Glotfelty – Executive Vice President of Clean Line Energy Partners
Mr. Glotfelty brings a wealth of public and private sector transmission experience to Clean Line. He is a well-known expert in electric transmission and distribution, generation, energy policy and energy
security. He most recently held the position of Vice President, Energy Markets, for ICF Consulting. Mr. Glotfelty served in the US Department of Energy where he was the Founder and Director of the Office
of Electric Transmission and Distribution, a $100 million per year electricity transmission and distribution research and development program. Mr. Glotfelty also was the lead US representative to
the joint US-Canadian Power System Outage Task Force investigating the Blackout of August 2003.
While at the Department of Energy, Mr. Glotfelty worked extensively with utility chief executive officers and senior management in the electric power and energy sectors. He led teams that focused on researching transmission and distribution technologies, gaining Presidential permits for cross-border transmission lines, studying the impacts of Regional Transmission Organizations, identifying major transmission bottlenecks, and securing the critical energy infrastructure of the United States.
DOE and Southwestern understand and agree that their ability to acquire through condemnation proceedings property necessary for the development, construction and operation of the Project is one of the primary reasons for Clean Line’s interest in developing the Project with DOE and Southwestern and through the use of EPAct 2005 section 1222.
DOE and Southwestern agree that, if the Secretary of Energy ultimately decides upon the conclusion of such evaluation as DOE and Southwestern deem appropriate that (i) the Project complies with section 1222, and (ii) to participate in the Project’s development pursuant to section 1222, then, DOE and Southwestern will use their condemnation authority as may be necessary and appropriate for the timely, cost-effective and commercially reasonable development, construction and operation of the Project.
Clean Line Energy Partners is a privately held company owned by Michael Zilkha
and ZAM Ventures
that is proposing to build four HVDC merchant transmission projects originating in the midwest. A merchant transmission project is a for-profit venture that is paid for entirely by its owner. In exchange for investing billions, Clean Line's super-rich owners will earn a hefty return on their capital by selling transmission capacity on the transmission lines to both generators and load serving entities. Merchant transmission projects are speculative ventures that are proposed and built outside the regulated regional transmission planning process. Merchant lines proposed outside a planning process have not been determined to be needed by anyone other than their owners. If a transmission project is needed for reliability, economic or public policy reasons, it is approved by and included in the plan of a regional transmission operator. A merchant transmission project is the wildcatter
of the transmission business.Without Section 1222 and SWPA's ability to take land for Clean Line via eminent domain, the company would have to apply for and receive public utility status and the power to condemn private property for its private gain from each individual state that it crosses. This could prove onerous to the super-rich and muck up or delay their profit.In exchange for stealing private property from citizens to be used for a private company's gain, SWPA could be granted a certain amount of transmission capacity on Clean Line's project, however, SWPA isn't in the wind business. But DOE can use authority it was granted under Sec. 1222 to pick winners and losers in the renewable energy business, and Clean Line's investors put together a team with strong DOE connections. Coincidence? Probably not.So, does Clean Line's project meet the requirements of Sec. 1222?(1)(A) is located in an area designated under section 216(a) of the Federal Power Act [16 U.S.C. 824p(a)] and will reduce congestion of electric transmission in interstate commerce; or
(B) is necessary to accommodate an actual or projected increase in demand for electric transmission capacity;Sec. 216(a) has been nullified by the courts, so (A) isn't even an option.
Here's Clean Line's justification for qualifying for (B) from their application: "In addition to the general demand for more transmission oriented to renewables, there is and will be a specific demand for transmission to address the following concerns:
Additional Transmission is Needed to Develop Wind Resources in the Southwest Power Pool;
Additional Transmission is Needed to Relieve Congestion in Western SPP;
Additional Export Capability is Needed from SPP; and
Additional Transmission is Needed to Import Power in the Southeast.
The Plains & Eastern Clean Line meets each of these needs."No actual projected demand for the project from any official authority tasked with determining same was included.
The company points to bits and pieces of out-of-date studies that it feels justifies its desire to build this project, along with studies privately commissioned by the company. I don't think this is the kind of "actual or projected increase in demand" that Congress had in mind. It's pure posturing of the worst kind.Other requirements stipulate that the project:(2) is consistent with--
(A) transmission needs identified, in a transmission expansion plan or otherwise, by the appropriate Transmission Organization (as defined in the Federal Power Act [16 U.S.C. 791a et seq.]) if any, or approved regional reliability organization; and (5) will not duplicate the functions of existing transmission facilities or proposed facilities which are the subject of ongoing or approved siting and related permitting proceedings.Clean Line's idea of compliance with this requirement?"SPP repeatedly has identified the need to build additional transmission to fully develop wind potential in
the region and to export it to neighboring regions."
Right, but SPP did not identify Clean Line as the solution in its transmission expansion plan, or otherwise determine its project was needed.Clean Line also relies on:"The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is consistent with transmission needs identified in the Joint Coordinated
System Plan 2008 (JCSP). The JCSP was the first inter-regional transmission planning effort in the
Eastern Interconnection. The JCSP was a collaborative effort and involved most of the major
transmission operators in the Eastern Interconnection, including, MISO, SPP, PJM Interconnection, TVA,
Mid-Continent Area Power Pool and several key members of SERC."And this 5 year old plan has been scrapped.
Also not what Congress had in mind for this requirement.When DOE questioned Clean Line's eligibility under Sec. 1222, the company submitted an "updated application" that contained the same old lack of convincing evidence of qualification.Nevertheless, DOE issued a letter entering into an agreement with Clean Line to move forward with the NEPA process. DOE has not completely committed to the project yet, but if it does:
- Clean Line will agree that eminent domain authority would be used only as a last resort after negotiations in good faith have concluded with all affected landowners;
- Clean Line will agree that the Department will retain the option to select and oversee any land acquisition company required for the Project.
In that case, DOE needs to take a look at the complete and utter mess Clean Line has made out of the public information and land acquisition process. Clean Line's idea of good faith negotiations with landowners, according to its updated application, put landowner notification last. Clean Line makes much of meeting with "stakeholders" such as environmental organizations, state agencies, state legislators, members of the governors’ teams, and federal congressional delegations. But only after all these entities, who are not personally affected and will not have to live with a Clean Line in their own backyard, have drunk the Clean Line Koolaid, does Clean Line consult with landowners:"After the workshops, Clean Line will host public
open houses to gather feedback on the preferred and alternative routes from landowners and other
affected parties. These outreach efforts are designed to assure that relevant stakeholders have early and multiple opportunities to provide feedback..."
except for landowners. Landowners are not considered "relevant stakeholders" by Clean Line.DOE should think long and hard about making the federal government liable for the legal mistakes of a private company. Just because the feds were successful in asserting federal eminent domain in another dissimilar situation, does not mean that helping the rich get even richer at the expense of the common man is a good idea. How much money does Congress have budgeted for another federal court beatdown over eminent domain takings?And DOE needs to take a good, hard, objective look at Clean Line's "qualifications" under Sec. 1222. The company doesn't qualify without torturing the language in the statute, and a finding that it does qualify is also likely to lead to a separate, but equally vicious, court showdown.Sometimes, it's just not worth the risk to help your "friends" by overstepping your legal authority and bending federal law. Maybe the incoming Energy Secretary needs to do a little housekeeping before Congress does it for him, or he finds himself explaining DOE's taking of ordinary citizens' private property for use by super-rich investors. Congress has resolutely rejected federal transmission siting authority over and over again and will likely continue to do so.
Today we're going to learn how to talk like a toolbag
. Our friends at "Mon Power" (really FirstEnergy) have been so kind as to demonstrate the art of toolbaggery for our edification.The word "spend" is a verb. It means
to pay out (money) in buying or hiring goods or services : the firm will spend $100,000 on hardware and software
.Only a toolbag who thinks he sounds cool uses "spend" as a noun : Mon Power Spend of $60 Million in 2013 Designed to Enhance Electric System and Reliability
.Since FirstEnergy's "news" was so boring, perhaps one of their toolbags thought he was spicing it up (and I say "he" because only men talk like toolbags)
by using such a cool noun as "spend." That makes it all better, right?Wrong. When Mon Power customers see the word "spend," they immediately associate it with the word "pay" : Mon Power spends, customers pay.
Customers don't like to pay. It annoys them.For the edification of the FirstEnergy toolbag responsible for this, a better word might have been "invest" : Mon Power Invests $60 Million to Enhance Electric System Reliability in 2013.
Don't let me catch you using stupid words like "spend" again, okay? Next lesson won't be free, like this one.
And while we're at it, there's really nothing newsworthy about FirstEnergy performing routine maintenance and upgrades, no matter how much they spend
doing their job. Let's just say the public was underwhelmed by FirstEnergy's "news."In fact, one West Virginia consumer was so unimpressed with FirstEnergy's "news" that she remarked, "
Awesome! I'm glad they're so focused on improving reliability while concocting a plan that would have their customers getting 90% of their electricity from 2 forty-year-old coal plants!"Another immediately made a resolution to send out a press release
every time he brushes his teeth from now on, because his own personal, routine maintenance is about as newsworthy as FirstEnergy performing routine maintenance on its own system.And another just found herself laughing hysterically at the "news."
I've been at this so long, it's finally starting to happen... I occasionally come across things I don't remember writing. While looking through some really old files yesterday trying to find some documents I need to prepare for a conference I'm speaking at later this month, I found a document from June of 2009 entitled "Petitioners Response to Applicant's Response to Petition to Intervene." This document pre-dates any involvement with PATH's formula rate updates or "open" meetings, but yet the concern about costs is there.
The applicants have received approval for special incentives from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, enabling them to recover all costs associated with construction and pre-construction of PATH, plus a guaranteed 14.3 percent return. Even without the Commission’s approval, pre-construction costs for PATH will increase my electric bill and provide a profit to the applicants. I object to my electric rates being increased to pay for construction of infrastructure (the transmission line) that will be used by private corporations (the applicants) to increase the sale of their product and corporate profits. I contend that this amounts to socialized cost and privatized gain.
Pre-construction costs, which I will be responsible for a portion of, are mounting daily. This spending of ratepayers’ money is being carried out in what I feel is an irresponsible and self-serving manner. For instance, the applicants spent $4,567,000 purchasing six properties in Loudoun County, Va, that are part of a county-held open space easement, paying well-above current market value for the properties. Once the properties were acquired, the applicants requested that Loudoun County release their easement for the construction of PATH. On April 7, 2009, their request was denied, rendering the properties a useless expenditure of ratepayers’ money. On the other end of the cost spectrum, on February 11, 2008, American Electric Power purchased the internet domain name “pathsucks.com”, presumably to prevent the creation of a website by future unknown opponents of their project. I do not agree that these irresponsible and unnecessary costs should be passed on to ratepayers.
Oh, wait, maybe it's not just about "opposition to PATH" but a genuine concern about out-of-control spending???
If the items above are typical of the applicants’ expenditures in the pre-construction phase, the ratepayers cannot expect that expenditures during the construction phase will be any more prudent and I wish to be allowed to defend against the increase of my electric rates for a project that I believe will ultimately be proven unnecessary.
Too bad for PATH that it just stood there in front of the speeding bus thinking it was invincible and did nothing to save itself.