Let's examine the "Best Practice" that was singly responsible for the slow, but certain, death of the PATH project over the past three years... shameless, blind arrogance.
It started with their "Open House" public information meetings. Instead of opening a respectful dialogue with the public, the meetings were designed to frighten, intimidate, divide and conquer affected landowners and concerned citizens. The meetings also initiated their sometimes amusing and sometimes infuriating practice of what I call "peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining." Basically, their message to the public was, "We're smarter than you are and can easily deceive you." The glaring flaw in their plan is the reality that they are NOT smarter than the vast majority of the public, who saw right through their sham.
They continued by bullying and lying to landowners. Instead of treating them fairly and honestly, it was all about getting them to sign legal agreements that were not in their best interests as quickly as possible and without proper legal advice. They also utilized intimidation, lies and outright trespassing to complete their "surveys" on private property. Why was it all about swindling the landowner at every turn? It's not like they were trying to save themselves money by acquiring land as cheaply as possible -- all costs were being picked up by the ratepayers. In fact, the more they spent, the bigger their profit. I can only conclude that the disrespectful way they treated the landowners was derived from sheer arrogance, the "thrill" of getting over on someone they considered less intelligent, and pure spite. I've heard a lot of stories from frustrated landowners over the past three years, none of them good.
Although there will be more detail about this in an upcoming Best Practices chapter, let's briefly examine their public relations/marketing strategy. These idiots go around to industry conferences making bragging presentations about past "success". Instead of "success", the rest of the world only sees the misery of people mistreated and robbed by other projects that the power companies managed to ram through approvals. Their presentations are accompanied by really stupid, arrogant power points that get uploaded to the internet for anyone to find: Allegheny Energy's presentation and AEP's presentation. A quick read of these presentations confirms that these corporations don't give a damn about the people they run over with their projects; it's all about corporate profit and success... and arrogance.
The companies also utilize front groups, shills, very well-paid "spokesmen" who are supposed to lend authority to their project, "donation" bribes, propaganda advertising, and inappropriate lobbying in an attempt to influence public opinion and approvals. All of the above are financed by the very same ratepayers who they are attempting to deceive with these practices. PATH would never consider actually earning respect through honest communication, trust and responsible actions. Why would they when their basic instinct is that of dishonest predator who thinks they can bully and buy their way to corporate riches?
PATH's arrogance was also shared generously with the news media, many of whom developed a secret hatred for the companies because of PATH's heavy-handed, deceptive treatment. PATH's PR flacks need a refresher course in basic human respect. Overworked and underpaid reporters don't really give a damn about your corporate schemes, especially when the schemes cause them daily grief. Almost all reporters are highly intelligent, well read, and see right through your smarmy crap. And they resent you. A lot.
PATH's arrogance was also readily apparent in their quarterly earnings calls, where they put on another face for their investors and lied to them. Not only has the opposition seen this, but now PATH's investors see it as well.
PATH failed to realize that all their lies were easily debunked by public information that was just sitting around waiting to be discovered. Their arrogance told them that the "stupid" opposition would never question them, let alone become educated and conquer complex concepts. PATH also hid behind PJM's skirts, using PJM as an "authority". However, PJM has also been outed as a biased, industry cartel and is now being scrutinized by FERC.
Here are three specific examples of PATH's arrogant actions coming back to bite them:
1. The federal EIS meetings -- PATH's arrogant treatment of the whole EIS process and the citizen stakeholders these meetings were designed to solicit input from really opened the eyes of the NPS & NFS officials. These federal employees do their jobs with honesty and integrity and do not subscribe to PATH's corporate agenda of deceiving, denigrating and intimidating the public. PATH screwed up here.
2. Frederick County, Maryland -- PATH's arrogant trivializing of Frederick County's government and democratic processes paved the road to complete and utter failure to site their substation, and a hefty helping of public embarrassment. But yet they still arrogantly persist in trying to neutralize local government authority. PATH really screwed up here.
3. FERC -- PATH's (and more specifically Randy Palmer's) arrogance gave them the deluded notion that FERC processes were too complicated for the opposition and resulted in the Formal Challenge to PATH's 2010 Formula Rate Annual Update. This has had and will continue to have a significant negative effect on their silly, little project because it effectively exposed their dirty secrets and dishonesty. It also opened the door to all things FERC. It's really not that complicated. If PATH had been following the rules honestly instead of treating recovery from ratepayers like a gravy train, none of this would have happened. PATH really, really screwed up here.
And one last glaring example... hiring arrogant lawyers like Phil Melick. His gleeful haranguing of PATH's citizen intervenors in WV has reflected very poorly on the PATH project. This guy seems to have some serious mental issues and is not a good "public face" for a company attempting to be granted the power of eminent domain.
PATH's arrogance has also been telling them way too many West Virginia jokes. PATH needs to admit to themselves that those jokes just aren't true. The citizens of West Virginia came out strong and easily showed PATH to be the true ignorant fool. They may think we talk funny and some of us may lack a college degree, but West Virginians have proven over and over again that they possess some things that PATH is sorely lacking: common sense, honesty, an innate intelligence, basic human decency and the will to fight for what's right. I guess the joke is on PATH after all.
It really didn't have to end with the general public's utter disgust for American Electric Power and FirstEnergy. The world is not your oyster. Arrogance is never "best" when trying to win trust and approval from others.