In December, 2009, West Virginia State Building and Trades Council signed a Project Labor Agreement with the PATH companies that provides for "a major portion of work for Trades members". However, this agreement only covers, "foundation and site preparation for the
substations as well as work on roads and buildings."
The PATH proposal consists of 276 miles of transmission
line, of which Trades members are guaranteed "work on roads". Since what PATH calls "most" of the transmission line runs parallel to existing transmission lines with existing access roads, there's a limit on the amount of work on roads needed.
The "buildings" will exist at the substations. There are two substations proposed for the PATH project. One in Welton Springs, WV and one in Mt. Airy, MD. This leaves only ONE proposed substation in WV. I don't have details on the Welton Springs substation, but I expect it will be similar to the Mt. Airy substation. I sat in on hours of hearings regarding the Mt. Airy substation in Frederick County, MD, last fall. I learned a lot about the proposed Mt. Airy substation. The "buildings" would be a white metal structure.
At the Nov. 13 BZA hearing, Robert Dahlin of Kenny Construction claimed that there would be only 130 construction jobs on that substation overall during the 4 years it would take to build, approximately 50 jobs at any one time in each 4 - 20 week separate construction activity. He said that these jobs would result in temporary, imported workers sprinkling their dollars around Frederick County with their Motel 6 stays, McDonald's meals and shopping trips to Wal-mart. Kenny Construction, an Illinois company, is PATH's general contractor. It sounded to me like they are intending to import workers to build the Mt. Airy substation, despite the Project Labor Agreement.
Those are the facts about promised jobs in the future; tenuous, at best.
So, let's take a look at the jobs and economic benefit PATH is currently providing to West Virginia while it's in its application and planning stage.
A look at some of PATH's vendors from their Construction Work In Progress (CWIP) FERC account in 2009, received from the PATH companies in discovery, reveals these vendors:
Burns & McDonnell, Missouri
Contract Land Services ($11,250,526), Texas
DiGioia, Gray & Assoc., Pennsylvania and Virginia
GAI Consultants, Pennsylvania
KEMA, Inc., Massachusetts
Kenny Construction, Illinois
Louis Berger Group ($1,253,323), New Jersey
Technical Solutions, Inc., Pennsylvania
PAR Electrical Contractors, Inc., Texas
Tri-State Drilling, Inc., Minnesota
I won't say that there weren't any WV companies on the list, but they mostly seemed to be involved with minor work setting up office space for Contract Land Services offices in the state. Contract Land Services provides those imported land agents that the citizens of West Virginia have come to know and love. And the more than $11 million that they were paid for services in 2009 does not include the price of the land or rights of way purchased. It looks like West Virginia isn't receiving many jobs or economic benefit from PATH's current application/planning process either.
However, all the expenses in PATH's CWIP account are paid for, in part, by West Virginia electric customers, along with ratepayers in 12 other states and the District of Columbia, with a 14.3% return on equity payable to the PATH companies every year.
What other PATH expenses are West Virginians paying for? Being reimbursed by ratepayers at dollar-for-dollar are the PATH companies' "memberships" and "corporate stewardship" (go ahead, look this one up on google) expenditures in West Virginia. Some notable "memberships and corporate stewardship" opportunities PATH has paid for with money recovered from ratepayers in 2009 include:
WV Business and Industry Council $300
WV Chamber of Commerce $26,000
WV Economic Development Council $100
WV Manufacturers' Association $2,200
The "memberships" are for the purposes of "education of business leaders about PATH". Was this ratepayer "stewardship" intended to curry favor with West Virginia industry and trades? Is it really all about providing good-paying, long-term jobs and economic benefit for West Virginia's working population? Doesn't look like it to me.
At the September 2009 WV-PSC PATH public hearings in Shepherdstown, a large contingent of union members from Cumberland, MD showed up. A few of them were allowed to testify before the PSC caught on that the union was an intervenor and therefore prohibited from speaking. One young man testified how he was out of work and needed the PATH project to put food on the table. I will assume that the rest of the union crew were also without work at that time, enabling them to spend a weekday to travel 2 hours to another state to testify at a public hearing. On that same day they were out of work and testifying at the public hearing, the TrAIL transmission line was being constructed by one of the PATH partners in West Virginia. If there were local union jobs to be had from transmission line construction in WV that would put food on their tables, they would have been hard at work on TrAIL and not cooling their heels in the Shepherd University auditorium.
Read the testimony of two union boilermakers that The Power Line has highlighted in a recent post. TPL also examines the jobs issue related to the PATH project and compares PATH to Dominion's Alternative One on the jobs issue. Dominion uses local labor, not out-of-state corporations supplying transient labor for project construction, on their proposed transmission line rebuild projects in West Virginia.
So, what does the average West Virginia working man get out of the PATH project? Maybe one of a handful of short-term, temporary jobs. The rest of the citizens get the bill for the project, plus 14.3% return on equity paid to the PATH companies yearly. And thousands of West Virginia landowners along PATH's route get their property taken by eminent domain or have their property devalued by new rights of way. Many West Virginians, especially our senior citizens, have a huge portion of their economic worth tied up in their property. When they are stripped of their carefully planned and expected return on equity on their property built over a lifetime, and in some cases over generations, they will never financially recover.
Are the inflated, pie-in-the-sky promises of a handful of jobs by two out-of-state energy corporations worth what the citizens of West Virginia are going to lose in return? You decide.