In their Formal Challenge to the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, LLC 2010 Formula Rate Annual Update, filed Friday, January 21, with the Commission, Keryn Newman of Shepherdstown and Alison Haverty of Chloe say their review of 2009 project costs revealed a pattern of misleading marketing efforts using funds inappropriately charged to ratepayers and a range of accounting errors. The complaint asks that the FERC not accept PATH's Annual Update and begin a broader investigation.
Newman and Haverty allege that the PATH Companies wrongly recovered expenses for a $2 million advertising campaign and over $1 million for creation and management of front groups and a propaganda program carried out with private groups and inappropriately billed as "public education." The women describe improper lobbying and charitable donations, and actions to suppress citizen opposition in Loudoun County, Va.
"This Challenge tells the story of PATH's public relations war against the customers they are supposed to serve, as revealed to us by the money they spent -- our money," said Newman.
The 275-mile PATH electric transmission project is currently being considered by state regulatory commissions in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland. Regional grid operator PJM Interconnection has collected an annual revenue requirement for yearly PATH expenses from PJM's 51 million ratepayers every year since 2008.
"We all see our rates going up, but rarely do we understand why. It is extremely upsetting to know PATH spent almost 20 percent of their collected costs on front groups and advertising for a project they can't get approved. They just asked for another delay in the approval process. It's a nightmare for the thousands of West Virginians whose lives are in limbo. When you see injustice like this, you have to try to do something," said Haverty.
Bill Howley, who writes The Power Line blog that has focused on the PATH project for the last three years, said, "The FERC challenge reveals just how out of control FERC's cost recovery system has become. This rate increase scheme for PATH was created by FERC almost four years ago, and now Dominion Virginia Power's Alternative One has made PATH completely unnecessary. Ali and Keryn are right, and all West Virginia consumers should stand by them in their fight against this crazy system."
Newman and Haverty have been examining PATH's costs since last summer using rules designed to provide public transparency. The two citizens filed a Preliminary Challenge on the PATH Companies last November, which was not answered to their satisfaction.
"The burden has now shifted to the PATH Companies to prove the accuracy of their accounting and the prudence of their expenditures," said Newman.
The PATH Companies have 20 days from the filing date to produce their answer to the Commission.
A copy of the complaint can be viewed on the following FERC docket: ER08-386-000
Or downloaded here (small file - complaint only) or here (large file - complaint and exhibits)
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE!
We are asking for you to add your voices to our FERC Challenge. It will only take a few minutes of your time and/or a stamp but here is the deal. Comments on the challenge will only be accepted until the 10th of Feb. (20 days after the filing).
You can brave FERC's e-comment system and try to submit comments online Update: Nevermind FERC's online system -- it is set to take comments on hydro projects only. You will have to go with the snail mail option detailed below.
At this link you will find a basic template w/the address and docket nos. for download. All you need to do is add the date, your comments and your signature. You will need to stick it in the U.S. mail in enough time to be received by the 10th. If you want the FERC Commissioners to know what you think about the challenge and our assertion that PATH has over-collected from you, here is your chance. Ali and I would honored to have you join us.
We spent six months on this thing... please take six minutes and add your voice!
Any questions, let us know, and please feel free to forward this to all your contacts.
We are talking about over 3 million dollars we allege PATH had no business collecting from all of us as electric ratepayers in PJM's region. If you pay an electric bill, this affects you! Don't miss this chance to say NO!!
Thanks for your support!