The Scoping Meetings are designed to hear comments and gather input from the public -- this means affected citizens are to be drawn into the process. The applicants have already provided their input in the form of a voluminous application, as well as over the past year with monthly update conferences with the EIS contractor. They will receive plenty of opportunity in the future, as this process continues, to make their concerns known. Despite this, PATH felt it necessary to turn these citizen-directed meetings into some sort of corporate staff meeting, press conference and opportunity to use paid talent to gather information about their opposition to be used in future advertising campaigns. Shame on you!
There were at least 8 - 10 PATH executives from Allegheny Energy and AEP present at each meeting, where they stood in their little clusters and took up space, milled around from station to station reading the comment pads, and eavesdropped on what the citizens were saying to the staff and each other. Despite the memo to dress casual and blend in, they stuck out like sore thumbs. Was it their obsessive staring? Or was it that the citizens have actually seen them before at various meetings and events?
They received a surprise on the first night when it was announced an hour into the meeting that public comment would be given at 7:00. And here they were without their little tape recorders or any shills to stack the speakers' pool! I notice they did manage to record or broadcast the audio with a blackberry-gadget, but that was highly noticeable. The second night, they came prepared with their hidden recording devices and their shill from Virginians for Reliable Energy (notice Corporate Partners under the "Coalition" tab). Unfortunately for them, nobody bought it and they ended up embarrassing themselves.
Allegheny's Randy Palmer confirmed via email that Matt Sutton, Director of Strategy and Research at Charles Ryan Associates, was contracted by PATH to attend all the meetings and "observe". Randy says that this expense will be recovered from ratepayers under the FERC formula rate (it's being charged to you in your electric bill). But, Sutton never left the lobby at the Purcellville meeting, so what was he observing? The conversations of the opponents in the lobby? They should have sent Matt the memo about attire, those neon polos didn't help him at bit.
The idiocy of Allegheny's Jeff Trout (Senior Attorney, State Regulatory, Maryland and Virginia) at the Frederick meeting took the prize. He was observed stopping while walking through the parking lot and taking multiple pictures of the rear of the vehicle of one of the PATH opponents -- where the license plate is located. When confronted, he claimed to be taking a picture of the protest sign taped to the back window. When questioned as to who he was and what he was doing, he demanded to know who we were, but ended up admitting that he already knew who we were (although we had never met him before). How did he know? Has Allegheny been doing some spying on their citizen opponents? Duh. Some attorney... he immediately became intimidated and spilled his guts. Jeff was accompanied across the parking lot by Gary Alexander, Maryland Office of People's Counsel, who tried to take the blame, saying he encouraged Jeff to do it because the sign was so "creative". What was Jeff going to do with his picture? Put it in his trophy case? Take it back to Allegheny Energy in Greensburg so they could all have a good laugh at the expense of the citizens who are going to lose everything they worked for their entire lives and develop cancer from an unneeded transmission line? If he wanted a souvenir, there were plenty for sale in the lobby by the Maryland opposition groups, or maybe he could have asked Randy to borrow his StopPATH t-shirt? Gary seems to have the same problem as his friend in West Virginia, Byron Harris. Welcome to the club, Maryland citizens! Both of them then proceeded to argue with us about the new line PJM's TEAC shows coming from the proposed Kemptown substation heading to Salem, NJ (page 14, right where we said it was). If they are truly this clueless, God bless them, and in the case of Gary, the citizens of Maryland.
Seriously -- what ever happened to the patient Buddhist mountain-top guru act? PATH seems to be spinning out of control in desperation because they have lost any integrity or chance to influence public opinion. I'm sure they "observed" how coordinated and knowledgeable the large opposition in all three states is, as well as how far PATH has sunk in the court of public opinion. This is one fight they are going to lose. Good luck, Matt. You're going to need it.