WV PSC Allows Farce to Continue

Today, the WV PSC filed its order denying its legal staff’s motion to dismiss and approved AEP/Allegheny’s request to toll the case.  The deadline for the final order in this case is moved back from June 28, 2011 to February 9, 2012.  Here is a link to the order.

In the wrangling over the staff motion to dismiss, intervenors, CAD and PSC staff got a number of concessions from both AEP/Allegheny and the Commissioners.

Yesterday, AEP/Allegheny filed a list of promises that they will include in their new testimony in the case.  The Commission repeated that list in their order.  Here is that list:

1. The PJM modeling of the impact of a completed rebuild of the Mt. Storm-Doubs 500 kV line for the first year violations of NERC Reliability Standards are projected to occur. (The rebuild is currently an approved baseline project in PJM’s 2010 RTEP (subject to FERC approval) and is expected to be included in the 2011 RTEP process.)
2. The PJM modeling of the revised Liberty transmission project and Dominion Alternative 1 for the first year violations of NERC Reliability Standards are projected to occur.
3. A comparative analysis of construction cost and feasibility information as between the PATH Project and the Liberty project.
4. A review of the current state of the Pruntytown-Mt. Storm 500 kV line, including its physical condition and the time period expected to be necessary to rebuild it.
5. A revised RTEP analysis incorporating the 201 1 Load Forecast.

Note that yesterday’s filing of this list was the first time AEP/Allegheny have ever used the words “Dominion Alternative 1” in this case.  The Commissioners included this list in their order, but failed to order AEP/Allegheny to actually do these things.  The power companies had only claimed that it was their “intention” to do so if the Commission would only delay the case again.

The Commission did order that any new information presented by AEP/Allegheny must be “complete and self-contained.”  The Commission made it clear that “complete and self-contained” means that AEP/Allegheny must clean up all of the conflicting and overlapping evidence they have presented and present it in a single package.

Once a witness for the Joint Applicants files supplemental testimony and exhibits pursuant to the revised procedural schedule, the superseded testimony and exhibits filed by that witness will not be considered by the Commission and should be ignored by the parties.

While the Commissioners have failed to serve “the best interests of West Virginia customers and its citizens” as required by WV law, by dismissing the PATH application, the Commissioners included the following statement in their order:

Dismissing this case at present would accomplish little besides increasing the cost of this already expensive and time-consuming litigation, particularly where, as here, the Joint Applicants have presented a concrete plan for moving forward.  Therefore, the Commission will deny the motions to dismiss. In denying these motions to dismiss, the Joint Applicants should understand that the Commission does so reluctantly, and fully expects all parties to comply with the revised schedule, adopted below, with the understanding that the Commission intends to complete the case within the revised deadline adopted herein. [emphasis added]

I take issue with the Commissioners claim that “the Joint Applicants have presented a concrete plan for moving forward.”  AEP/Allegheny have done no such thing.  Their stated purpose for tolling the case was so that they could revise their evidence based on PJM’s recent revision of its load forecasts.  PJM has now released those load forecasts showing a revision downward.  The only possible result, as a number of intervenors pointed out to the Commission in their responses, would be a further delay of PJM’s recommended start date for PATH.  That is certainly not anything new, and it certainly doesn’t move anything “forward”.  The only other “plan” that AEP/Allegheny presented is their “intention” to provide the information listed above, which the Commissioners didn’t even bother ordering them to provide.

No one who reads this order should allow the Commissioners to forget their statement “that the Commission intends to complete the case within the revised deadline adopted herein” the next time AEP/Allegheny come whining about another delay.

It is also interesting to note that the Commission did not address a single reference by intervenors or staff to the statutory obligations of the Commissioners in their decision making role.  The Commissioners noted that intervenors and staff raised these issues, but failed to respond to any of them in the order.

In its Conclusions of Law section, where the Commissioners had an opportunity to connect relevant statutes to their decisions, the Commission cited only the following as the basis for their tolling decision:

Granting the request to further toll the running of the suspension period is a prudent and cost effective alternative to dismissing this proceeding.

No mention of West Virginia law.  No reference to their statutory duty or the legal standards for applications.  No reference to standards they had set for themselves in their last Final Order for a high voltage transmission project.  All these issues were raised by intervenors and staff attorney John Auville in their motions for dismissal.  Not one of those issues was addressed by the Commission in this order.