Where Things Stand, April 2011

Many people believe that when PJM dropped PATH from its 2011 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP) there was no longer any reason to follow the high voltage transmission line cases in WV.  Wrong.

Here is what has happened to date:

  • PJM has dropped PATH from the 2011 RTEP, stating that its computer models do not show any problems on existing circuits during the 15 year scope of the new RTEP.  The problems that showed up in earlier RTEPs have gone away as a result of falling overall demand, reductions in peak demand as a result of PJM’s own demand management programs, the rebuilding of the Mt. Storm to Doubs 500 kV line, the energizing of the TrAIL line in June, and the construction of a new 2000 megawatt gas fired generator in Northern Virginia.
  • The WV PSC dismissed the PATH application for a certificate of necessity in WV almost immediately after learning of the death of PATH.  The WV PSC rushed to dismiss without ever considering the wise course of placing conditions on any new application for a PATH project.
  • The MD PSC, upon learning of the death of PATH, solicited motions from parties in their case on the issue of their dismissal of the PATH application.  The MD PSC has not announced any decision to allow PATH to withdraw its application in MD.
  • The situation in East Virginia is even more interesting.  Despite the fact that the VA SCC Hearing Examiner had ordered PJM and AEP/FirstEnergy to produce a specific set of analyses by March 15, PJM arrogantly told the SCC that because it was no longer pushing PATH, it didn’t have to do the studies ordered by the SCC’s Hearing Examiner.  The SCC held a public hearing on AEP/FirstEnergy’s request to withdraw the East Virginia PATH application on March 17.  The SCC has not issued any decision on the withdrawal of the PATH application in East Virginia.  Although the East Virginia procedural schedule has been suspended pending this decision, the actual final hearing date on PATH is fast approaching at the SCC.  If the SCC for some reason fails to allow AEP/FirstEnergy to withdraw the PATH application, the case will continue and there will be a final decision by this summer on the PATH certificate of necessity application.
  • AEP/FirstEnergy’s EIS application, being administered by the National Park Service (NPS), has been stalled since last summer.  The consultant hired by NPS and the power companies, CH2M Hill, mysteriously quit or was fired following the public meetings held in early summer of 2010.  The NPS has taken no further action in their announced EIS process schedule since then.
  • Following the PJM death of PATH, AEP/FirstEnergy sent another arrogant communication to FERC stating that because PJM used the word “abeyance” to describe their elimination of PATH from their transmission planning, the power companies were going to continue to charge rate payers for their costs on PATH.  Despite the fact that FERC has received numerous letters urging the agency to stop this outrageous plan, there has been no response from FERC.
  • The formal challenge to over $3 million in illegitimate 2009 charges by AEP/FirstEnergy in the FERC cost recovery scheme is still pending.  West Virginia citizens have filed their challenge and AEP/First Energy filed a response.  FERC has yet to make a decision concerning the challenge.  AEP/FirstEnergy will open their books, as required by FERC, in June 2011 for their 2010 charges.
  • FirstEnergy has filed with FERC to charge rate payers for the section of the TrAIL line that it was not allowed to build in PA.  A number of large power companies have intervened in that case, which is also still pending.
  • Three West Virginia citizens have filed a formal complaint with the WV PSC clearly showing violations of the PSC’s August 2008 order granting Allegheny Energy (now FirstEnergy) a certificate of necessity to build the TrAIL line.  This case is historic, because a complaint of such scope has never been filed with the PSC concerning these kinds of violations for a high voltage transmission line.  The case has been recessed for a month or so to allow the FirstEnergy to respond to the devastating evidence presented by one of the complainants last Tuesday.

There is still a lot to keep up with before PATH is completely dead.  FirstEnergy’s TrAIL maneuvers illustrate clearly that even with the TrAIL line almost completely built, the power company is still trying to game the regulatory system and misrepresent its activities to citizens.

Mr. Cheney, AEP’s Mr. Morris and the US Congress in 2005 designed a Rube Goldberg system for these projects that was misleading and unnecessarily complicated.  This process was deliberately designed to keep citizens in the dark, so, as one power company participant in the Charleston Love Fest put it, “they won’t be talking about [the power line projects] around the dinner table.”

Things didn’t quite work out the way they planned.  Hundreds of citizens in three states have figured out what is going on.  We will continue the hard work we have been doing for the last four years until these companies are held to account.