WV PSC Turns Tail and Runs from PATH FERC Case

Just as settlement discussions are reaching a conclusion, what does the WV PSC do?  They cut and run.  Yup.  Last week, the WV PSC filed a letter withdrawing from the PATH abandonment case.  That is the case in which AEP/FirstEnergy are trying to dump millions of dollars of unrecovered costs for their failed PATH project on WV rate payers.

AEP/FirstEnergy want $121 million in all from all rate payers in PJM Interconnection’s region.

One thing is certain, the WV PSC doesn’t care about our electric rates going up.  Two WV citizens, Alison Haverty and Keryn Newman have been fighting PATH’s bogus rate increases for the past four years with no help from either the WV PSC or the WV Consumer Advocate.  Two other WV citizens, in addition to citizens from MD, have filed as intervenors in the FERC abandonment case, but the WV PSC hasn’t got the time or the interest to stick around and fight for West Virginians.

Shame on the WV PSC.


PATH Zombie Goin’ Down

Here are the points from slide 15 of today’s TEAC reliability update that I linked to in my last post:

•Continue to validate preliminary analysis
•Complete 2017 N-1-1 analysis
•Additional sensitivity analysis

Slide 15 is titled PATH and MAPP Next Steps.  The N-1-1 (N minus 1 minus 1) is a contingency analysis where PJM runs a model of the PJM system under peak load and then drops a major generator off the system.  Then, a few minutes later, they drop another generator off the system to test how much transmission capacity is needed to handle the emergency power flows that result from this event.  This appears to be the last test for PATH and MAPP.

Here is a paraphrase of the situation from an email that was sent to me by a participant in the TEAC conference call:

They still need to do their N-1-1 power flow analysis. But they have completed all of their other tests – voltage and thermal. So far, it looks like PATH and MAPP are not needed throughout the 15 year planning horizon.

It looks like the lower CETO numbers, reconductoring of Mt. Storm to Doubs line, and reactive upgrades may have eliminated the need for PATH (as our experts were saying). This result indicates that alternatives can help eliminate the need for large potential projects.

PJM intends to complete their analysis (the N-1-1 testing) before the next TEAC meeting on 8-9-12. If the analysis continues to show that the PATH and MAPP lines are not needed, the TEAC committee will recommend to the PJM board that the projects be dropped from the RTEP (and no longer held in abeyance).

In other words, it looks like PATH is goin’ down and we should know the final decision at the August 9 TEAC meeting.

Here’s Pam Kasey’s story over at the Grounded blog.

The PATH Zombie Could Be Dead

Remember this post where I tried to read the PJM Kremlinology concerning the future of PATH?  Remember PJM’s Steve Herling telling Pam Kasey at The State Journal that PJM’s board of managers would make a final decision on PATH in “June or July”?

Read this new post by Keryn at StopPATH WV.

PJM’s Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee has just issued its latest reliability update on the PJM system.  Here’s a direct link to the TEAC report.  Here are some important features of that report:

  • PJM didn’t even bother to model either MAPP or PATH in the analysis
  • MAPP has dropped off all reliability need scenarios for the 2012 RTEP
  • The CETO value, which is the required transfer capability of power when the system is under stress in the models, is less than the CETL limit for safety on the system, which means that PJM’s current system can handle any of the problems they threw at it in their modeling, thus, no reliability problems anticipated in the Mid-Atlantic region.
  • The need for PATH has completely disappeared from the analysis.

There is a conference call with the TEAC, which is taking place until about 3:00 pm today.  I will post again if the TEAC reveals any specific plans about PATH.

It could all be over for the zombie after today.

PJM Capacity Results Coming Soon

If you want to learn more about PJM’s capacity auctions, here is a good story from Reuters about the auction results that will be released after this year’s auctions close on Friday.

This is an important date for people following the PATH zombie.  Remember when PATH tried the unsuccessful “60 days after whenever” game on the National Park Service?  Here’s what they told the NPS:

As indicated by the PJM Staff report, additional analysis will be undertaken after completion of the May 2012 forward capacity auction results. The time required by PJM Staff to perform such analysis thereafter is not yet known. [emphasis added]

The NPS didn’t buy that line, and cut off the PATH EIS process for good.  But then we got this statement from PJM’s Steve Herling in early March, as reported by the State Journal’s Pam Kasey:

PJM will make a recommendation about PATH to its board of managers in June or July. It will make its recommendation based on information gleaned in the first part of the year about planned generation construction and retirements and about consumer commitments to reduce demand during peak periods.

Note that Herling says that PJM will make its final decision on PATH’s fate in “June or July,” in other words, after the May capacity auction results are released.

Remember that one of PJM’s original arguments for PATH was that capacity prices in eastern PJM were much higher than prices in western PJM.  They didn’t say it out loud, but this was the real reason for Project Mountaineer and PATH — to increase the profits of power generators in western PJM and also to raise electric rates in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia by sending more of their power to East Coast states.

In the years since PATH was proposed in 2006, the capacity auction price difference has been reduced dramatically, mainly because of the rapid expansion of demand resources (from marketable demand management) on PJM and expanding generation on the East Coast.

If that trend continues at this year’s auction, it is quite likely that PJM will pull the plug on PATH, at least that is the latest Kremlinology hint from PJM headquarters at Valley Forge.  We’ll be looking for the PJM press release on this years auction results.

WV Media Blackout on Alternative One Continues

The Martinsburg Journal’s Matt Armstrong appears to be the only West Virginia reporter covering House Concurrent Resolution 58.  Here is today’s story.

In the last month or two, there has been some reporting on Alternative One.  In all of these stories, reporters have allowed AEP/Allegheny FirstEnergy publicists to confuse the Mt. Storm to Doubs rebuild with the much larger Alternative One project.  No reporter has challenged these deliberately misleading statements.  No one has reported the fact that the Virginia SCC has ordered the power companies to provide an evaluation of Alternative One on an equal footing with PATH, while the WV PSC has failed to require this analysis.

It’s no wonder Sen. Manchin can get away with such whoppers as his recent statement that “I thought PATH was dead.”

It appears that, when it comes to WV reporting on PATH and Alternative One, Mark Twain was right, “”If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”  There are a few exceptions, like the Journal and the Hur Herald and the Weston Democrat, as well as Ken Ward’s reporting in the Gazette, but these are exceptions, not the rule.

The Louis Berger Group – War Profiteers Behind the Bat Guys

One of our friends in Barbour County has recently put up a new Web site called LouisBergerSucks.com.  She has a lot of great information about the massive failures of the Louis Berger Group, which turns out to have been a major war profiteer in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The Berger Group has done its part for the failure of these Cheney administration attempts to destroy our country’s national security.

Not only is Berger providing the bat guys, but they were responsible for designing the routes for TrAIL and PATH through WV, MD and East Virginia.  The Berger Group is deeply involved in the profitable business of destroying West Virginians’ land for dubious construction projects.  Dubious construction projects appear to be Berger’s specialty, whether in Appalachia or Afghanistan.

Here is a link to the Berger Group’s promotional brochure touting its work on transmission lines.  The top three projects noted in the brochure?

Trans Allegheny Interstate Line (TrAIL)
In June 2006, PJM directed the construction of $1.3 billion in electric transmission upgrades to respond to looming transmission infrastructure reliability concerns. Included in these necessary upgrades are roughly 240 miles of 500 kV and 138 kV lines connecting substations within the Allegheny Energy and Dominion Virginia Power service territories. For this project, the Berger Team conducted route planning efforts, facilitated public meetings, and prepared route selection reports and associated expert witness testimony for three 138 kV lines and nearly 180 miles of 500 kV line in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The Berger Team completed the entire study area analysis, route planning, public outreach effort, and report preparation under an aggressive schedule necessary to meet in-service dates driven by PJM’s projections for system reliability failures in 2011 and 2012.

Potomac-Appppalachian Transmission Highline (PATH)
The Berger Team is currently conducting efforts in support of the PATH Project, a joint venture transmission project between American Electric Power Company, Inc. (AEP) and Allegheny Energy, Inc. (Allegheny). The PATH project consists of a 765 kV line that begins at AEP’s Amos Substation in Putnam County, West Virginia and eventually ends at a proposed Kemptown substation east of Frederick, Maryland. The Berger Team is currently conducting route selection efforts, supporting the public involvement process, and coordinating local, state, and federal agency consultations for this project in West Virginia and Virginia. We are presently conducting permitting for this project. The portion of this project being planned by the Berger Team is roughly 230 miles in length and covers a study area of nearly 10,000 square miles.

Susquehanna to Roseland 500 kV Line
The proposed Susquehanna to Roseland Transmission line entails the construction of approximately 145 miles of 500 kV transmission line extending from Berwick, Pennsylvania to Roseland, New Jersey. PSE&G and PPL both retained the Berger Team to conduct siting efforts, permitting, , and licensing support for this major transmission infrastructure improvement project. The Team’s siting study and review of potential impacts included, among other issues, an evaluation of current land use, cultural resources, wetlands, vegetation, wildlife, and aesthetics. In addition, Berger helped both utilities submit applications for certification to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Berger is currently leading the federal, state, and local permitting efforts on both states on behalf of PPL and PSE&G.

The Berger Group brochure is also notable for some really creepy pictures of high voltage and extra high voltage transmission lines.

So the bat guys are just the tip of the “Berger Team” iceberg.  The Berger Group ranks right up with Cheney’s Halliburton for corruption and incompetence.  Berger’s management knows how to latch onto the money gravy train, where ever it is.  It is no wonder they popped up on these FERC subsidized transmission projects.

See for yourself on Berger’s Web site.  Berger must have a great marketing department.  They designed a logo for the company that resembles the crosshairs on a rifle scope aiming at the earth.

First Steps on Federal Environmental Impact Statement Work

The National Park Service, the lead agency on the PATH federal environmental impact statement (EIS), has filed its scope of work description in preparation for bidding out its EIS work for PATH.

Here is a link to the document.

A few noteworthy items:

  • The EIS will include a determination on “Climate Change and Sustainability: The proposed action [PATH] could have an effect on or be affected by climate change and sustainable energy use.”  Read Christopher James’ expert testimony in the VA SCC case.  There is no question that PATH will make climate change worse.
  • The EIS process will include public comment and meetings at several points in the study process.  WV meetings will be held in Elkins and Harpers Ferry.
  • It appears from the schedule of the EIS process included at the end of the scope of work document that the federal EIS public meetings will take place between March and July 2010.

Get ready for the federal EIS process.  We can have a major impact on the PATH project if we show up and file public comments in large numbers.

Climate Change and Sustainability: The proposed action could have an effect on or be affected by climate change and sustainable energy use.

Erica Peterson Provides a Model for WaPo and NYT

WV Public Broadcasting’s Erica Peterson filed a simple, clear report on the withdrawal of the PATH application in East Virginia.  Writers at WaPo and the NYT could learn a lot from Erica’s research methods and work ethic.

Here is a link to her story.

And I’m not just praising Ms. Peterson because she quotes me in the story.  She could have gotten the same information from any number of PATH opponents in WV.  The point is, she makes the effort to really find out what is going on.

East Virginia Hearing Examiner Has Issued His Recommendation

Hearing Examiner Alexander Skirpan has issued his recommendation on the AEP/Allegheny motion to withdraw their East Virginia application.  Here is a summary direct from a Sierra Club staffer’s email:

His report recommends granting the motion to withdraw with the following conditions:

1) Any future application for the PATH Project must be based on PJM’s 2010 or later RTEP.

2) Any future application for the PATH Project should contain the updated load flow analysis filed on Jan. 4, 2010, and an analysis of changes in circumstances, including changes in generation, demand response and energy efficiency resources.

3) Any future application for the PATH Project should provide information on the PATH Project’s original routes, consistent with other proposed and alternative routes.

He also recommended that the Protective Ruling be amended to allow parties to retain confidential information for a year, and to use it in future proceedings, with leave of the Commission. He found that the Commission lacks authority to impose sanctions or costs. Parties have 5 business days to comment on the report.

What the hearing examiner did not mention is that the Jan. 4 2010 load flow analyses appear to show that PATH is not needed until 2021, if ever! That change was the result of incorporating demand response resources that cleared in PJM’s May 2009 RPM auction. So it is great news that they will be required to consider demand response in the future.

Here is a link to the Hearing Examiner’s entire recommendation.

I have not read it, so we will have to go with the Sierra Club staffer’s summary and assessment for now.  If the Jan. 4, 2010 load flow analysis does show that PATH is not needed until 2021, this is indeed good news for all of us in WV, MD and VA.

The Gray Lady Finally Notices PATH

The NY Times has finally done an article on PATH.  The writer, Peter Behr, does a decent job of summarizing the mess that AEP/Allegheny have made of their state utilities commission cases in WV, MD and VA.

As with most other national media outlets that cover PATH, the article ignores the fact that almost all of the popular opposition to PATH, from the very beginning, has been based on the fact that PJM cooked their figures to promote the PATH project.  Behr, like the power companies, focuses on the economic recession as the cause of PATH’s problems, despite clear evidence that there was never a need for PATH as demonstrated clearly in the independent analysis provided by George Loehr and Hyde Merrill in their VA SCC testimony.

Mr. Behr could have spent a half hour reviewing the VA expert testimony and could have written a much better article.  Well, maybe next time.

Here is a link to the NYT article.

PATH Overview Map Recovered

We have recovered several of the original PATH maps. We are waiting to see what happens to the project before we go to the trouble of posting a lot of the detail maps. Here is the original overview map showing the entire route.

Potomac Stewards has been working hard to stop the PATH project. Thanks to them for saving this map. You can see the rest of their site, and what they have to say about PATH at this link.

PATH Route Info

Now that AEP/Allegheny have pulled their Web site, there is no easy access to information about where the old PATH power line route was.  I say “old,” because events in East Virginia indicate that changes may be in store for PATH in the near future.

I do have a copy of the narrative route description filed by AEP/Allegheny with their WV PSC application.  The link to that description is here.

I will check the WV application on the WV PSC Web site later this week to see if I can find the actual route maps.  Everyone has just used the maps that used to be on the AEP/Allegheny Web site, because the map files are huge and the power companies, of course, had a faster server.

Until the power companies tell us what they are going to do, the narrative description is probably the best way to find out where the old PATH was going to go.

WV Dept. of Agriculture “Monitoring” Impact of TrAIL & PATH

At the beginning of each monthly Market Bulletin, WV Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass makes observations about the state of farming in West Virginia.  In the January issue, the Commissioner notes

I’ve also been observing the electric transmission lines proposed across the State of West Virginia. The proposed power line across northern West Virginia [the TrAIL line] is now in the land acquisition phase of the project. [Actually, construction is well advanced east of Hardy County.]

There is one acquisition in court in Hardy County. The question is whether an individual poultry grower can be put out of business by the power company under the eminent domain statute. Can the company take the land where his four operating broiler houses are located and with the condition that there will be no future broiler houses on his property? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered regarding the income and future of this family. In the past, companies only paid for the depreciation value of poultry houses. My opinion is he should be put back in business somewhere in the community with new houses if the power company is resolved to running transmission lines close to his existing poultry houses. My staff is carefully monitoring this situation.

Those of us who have been fighting AEP/Allegheny’s assault on rural West Virginia for the past three years are glad that at least one elected official in the executive branch is now showing some interest in protecting our state’s farms.  Let’s hope that Commissioner Douglass’s concern extends beyond the one example he cites.

The Department of Agriculture would have been more effective speaking up in 2008 before the TrAIL line was approved.  They still have a chance to get involved in the PATH case at the WV PSC.

The problem with these power lines is not just that they destroy farms.  The problem is that TrAIL and PATH destroy farms and they are completely unnecessary to improve the reliability of the regional transmission grid.  Why should a farmer be forced to move when the power lines aren’t needed?  The power companies shouldn’t have access to eminent domain in the first place for these projects.

If Commissioner Douglass had gotten involved in stopping the TrAIL line in 2008, chicken farmers in Hardy County would not be facing any threat from Allegheny Energy in 2010.

WaPo PATHetic Again

As we have come to expect, the Washington Post did a horrible job covering the collapse of the PATH case in East Virginia.  The Post’s writer repeated his past cliches about opponents being NIMBYs concerned only about “scenic views.”  And the editor attached a headline stating that the PATH application had been withdrawn in VA, quite simply a false statement.

If you have the misfortune of going to the Post “article,” go directly to the comments.  You will learn many more facts there.  Here is an extended quote from a commenter AppDev (who I believe is a friend of WV PATH opponents who lives in MD) :

Later Wednesday, Dec. 30, the PATH Web site showed up as entirely offline, with a message saying it is being revised. A mystery that Mr. Fahrenthold did nothing to resolve is why American Electric Power, Allegheny Power and their partners would act with dispatch to keep a Maryland application active but then try to shut down one in Virginia.

One possibility is a change in plans to avoid northern Virginia. In its current form PATH is a weird fit with the power network, as it is to be augmented by the Trans-Allegheny project. However, the original form of the PATH project, known as I-765, has a far clearer objective, carrying power all the way to New Jersey.

Another possibility concerns the strong case presented by opponents in Virginia. Withdrawing the current PATH application in Virginia handily severs a hearing record that includes adverse testimony from expert witnesses offered in October, 2009.

The essence of the testimony was that regional transmission supervisor PJM Interconnection, ignoring its responsibilities, has promoted coal-fired power generators AEP and Allegheny at unfair expense to other interests. The testimony has been summarized by Community & Environmental Defense Services of Owings Mills, MD, available at http://ceds.org/PATHWV/PATHExpertWitnessTestimony.pdf.

Expert testimony indicated that the PATH project, promoted on the basis of reliability and security, would instead reduce reliability and security compared with other approaches. Many examples of inadequate analysis were cited. PJM was shown to have cooked the books to predict “reliability criteria violations” that weaved erratically from year to year. Virginia would have found it difficult to approve the application and, had it done so, would probably have faced potent legal challenges.

As pointed out in expert testimony, the PATH project was organized so that its cost would be shared by all power users in the PJM region. Because it would transmit power from sparsely populated western parts of the region, it would subsidize power generation located there at the expense of generation located near the main centers of use, in the eastern and central parts of the region.

System reliability is improved by locating power sources near centers of use rather than transporting power over long lines, with their potential for critical failure. One such new source, called out in testimony, is an advanced nuclear unit planned for Calvert Cliffs, MD, now scheduled for 2016, to produce on average about 1.3 GW, or about two-thirds of the 2.0 GW expected to be transmitted over the PATH line. Other advanced nuclear units are planned for Bell Bend, PA, and North Ana, VA, although they are not as far along.

New power sources in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia will probably eliminate all need for the PATH project and therefore curtail eastward expansion of markets for coal-fired power from the Ohio valley, For that reason AEP and Allegheny might obviously want to rush the PATH project through if they can, before new power-plants are built to the east of theirs.

Here is another comment from AppDev:

Mr. Fahrenthold [the Post writer] is focused only on local readers. Actually it is clear that the entire PATH project is dead and gone. The documents have disappeared from the PATH Web site, http://www.pathtransmission.com, just as though they were never there. You can still see a map at http://conserveland.org/pp/Transmission/path, maintained by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.

What happens to the plan by Dominion Power for a 500 KV, 65-mile line through Loudoun and Frederick Counties? That line, drawing power from the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, was approved by the Virginia Corporation Commission in October, 2008, and recently upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court [James Hohmann, Virginia court allows Dominion’s controversial power line, Washington Post, November 6, 2009, at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/05/AR2009110503666.html]. According to the Post, Dominion Power “warned of rolling blackouts” and said the line was “critical to provide electricity to the area’s growing population.” Have the lights gone dim?

As AppDev points out, there was never a need for the PATH line, and there never will be.  I have created links for the URLs in these comments so you can go directly to the references AppDev provides.

Here is a link to the expert testimony that transmission engineer Hyde Merrill filed in the East Virginia case in October. It is Merrill’s testimony that prompted the VA SCC Hearing Examiner to order PJM Interconnection to revise its goofy computer simulations and resulted in AEP/Allegheny’s motion to withdraw its VA application.  There is more information on the need issue and the independent engineers who testified about PJM’s bogus analysis here and here.

If you would like to see a pretty decent, and accurate, press account of yesterday’s hearing at the VA SCC, you can read Charleston, WV-based Brian Farkas’ story for the Associated Press here.

Baltimore Rally, Dec. 1

Here is a great video from the December 1 rally at the offices of the Maryland PSC in Baltimore.

Maryland has very strong policies that restrict increased coal-burning as a source of the state’s electric power.  Using PATH as a source of future power flies in the face of that policy.  Yet Maryland policy makers continue to entertain PATH as a “solution” to the state’s energy issues.

This video shows that Marylanders know the score and are here to help us stop PATH.  You will also see West Virginia’s own Patience Wait representing all of us here in WV who couldn’t make it to Baltimore on Dec. 1.

America the Sustainable- Clean Energy Rally from Byron Banghart 2b4theWorld.com on Vimeo.