FERC Won’t Meet Public About PATH

Here is a link to the letter FERC Chairman Wellinghoff sent to Congressman Roscoe Bartlett yesterday.  In his letter, Mr. Wellinghoff refuses to participate in a public meeting to inform citizens about the status of the failed PATH’s cost recovery and guaranteed profit rate.

Mr. Wellinghoff claims that to hold a public meeting would be to conduct ex parte communications in a pending FERC case.

He uses the fancy term which means:

Latin meaning “for one party,” referring to motions, hearings or orders granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only.

In general, in formal legal procedure, judges are forbidden from conducting discussions with only one of the parties in a case before them, except in rare cases.  Mr. Wellinghoff is hiding behind this legalism which only marginally applies, if at all, to the public meeting.

Congressman Bartlett asked for a public meeting.  As in the cases of all other public meetings about PATH, power company employees and contractors will undoubtedly attend any meeting that FERC or Congressman Bartlett convenes.  So any communication at the public meeting cannot fit the definition of ex parte because both parties to pending FERC cases will have the opportunity to attend.

How would this public meeting be any different from the Coal Power Love Fest which was an official FERC function in 2005?  FERC held this event knowing full well that it would be hearing many, many cases in coming years about the Project Mountaineer that FERC Chairman Kelliher touted so highly at the Charleston, WV meeting.  For those of you who haven’t had a chance to peruse the Love Fest transcript, here’s the title — “PROMOTING REGIONAL TRANSMISSION : PLANNING AND EXPANSION TO FACILITATE FUEL DIVERSITY INCLUDING EXPANDED USES OF COAL-FIRED RESOURCES, Docket No.AD05-3-000”.  I guess that title doesn’t tell us quite clearly what FERC “judges'” agenda will be in the cases it presides over in the coming years, including PATH.

The fact is that state PSCs and FERC regulators are in contact with power company representatives constantly.  The current closed atmosphere at most industry regulators’ offices is a 24/7 ex parte festival.  Only when citizens want to know what is happening behind closed doors do the regulators go all legalistic on us.  State and federal regulators make their own quasi-legal rules which they apply in which ever way suits best their own interests and the interests of the industries they “regulate.”  If normal citizens don’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to challenge their practices in federal court, that’s just too bad.