Howley's motion was based on the premise that notice to affected property owners was defective. Commissioners Albert and McKinney and counsel for the applicants contend that notice was given according to the applicable statute in effect at the time of application. The statute requires that the applicants publish notice in the newspaper of record for all affected counties. In plain English, this means that a legal notice which required a magnifying glass to read was published in the legal notices area of the the newspaper's classified section. The Commission feels they went above and beyond this requirement by making the applicants publish this notice twice! Who routinely reads the legal section of their local newspaper's classified section, especially a notice with a font so tiny it required magnification? I guess Mike Albert, Jon McKinney and Phil Melick spend their evenings with such intellectually stimulating reading material, magnifying glass at the ready next to their recliners, just in case some out-of-state corporation has applied for a project that will take their properties. Does this make sense to you?
The commissioners also believe that the considerable media coverage of the PATH issue served as additional notice to affected property owners. While this may have increased awareness of the project, many affected individuals mistakenly believed that they would receive some sort of notice via U.S. Mail if they were affected so they did not thoroughly investigate PATH. And, since we're intent on following the statute, nowhere in there does it mention publicity as a form of notice to affected property owners. Does this make sense to you?
The statute that deals with intervenors allows for petitions to intervene to be submitted up until the time the case is called for hearing, unless a deadline is set by the Commission. In this case, the Commission was quick to set a deadline because they were bombarded with so many petitions to intervene so quickly after the application was filed. I get the impression from reading Commission orders that they are completely nonplussed at the thought of sharing their private, little playground normally only populated by the utility industry with the hoi polloi. They seem certain that ordinary people who are under threat of having their homes and/or ancestral land taken by eminent domain for an unneeded power line will create a "circus" if allowed to participate fully in this case and upset the status quo. Could this be why an artificially narrow deadline was established and they refuse to consider re-opening the case? Recent filings on the case docket show that Howley's motion was supported by several affected landowners who were either denied status due to late filing or were notified of the case by land agents after the deadline had passed. Although the Commission claims they will consider late petitions to intervene if the party can show good cause, they continue to deny these landowners. One landowner filed several days late due to a sudden, tragic death in the family and starting a new job just before the deadline. He was denied several times. Another landowner lives out of state and only lives at his property on weekends and was notified of PATH by a land agent after the deadline. Was he supposed to be subscribing to and reading the legal notices of the local newspaper at his weekend home? If these are not valid reasons for missing the deadline, what would constitute an acceptable reason in the eyes of the Commission? Does any of this make any sense to you?
Howley also points out in his motion that the applicants had all available information to notify affected property owners via mail long before they filed their application. It was only after the period to intervene had closed that PATH land agents began calling on affected land owners. Does this make sense to you?
Because of this entire situation, the West Virginia Legislature recently enacted a new law requiring applicants for a transmission line to notify affected property owners at least 30 days before the deadline to intervene by certified mail.
Obviously, our elected officials felt that notice in the PATH case was defective. Governor Manchin also thought notice was defective, because he signed the bill into law several weeks ago. Commissioner Staats must agree that notice was defective since he dissents with the Commission's order.
By refusing to re-open the case to intervenors for a period of 30 days, the Commission has missed an opportunity to remedy defective notice, hiding behind the fact that they are not required to do so by the new law.
The only ones who don't think notice was defective are Commissioners Albert and McKinney and counsel for PATH.
That is nonsense!