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Mon County Sherif Investigates Longview-County-Board of Education Shell Game: Is the County Trying to Bypass the State School-Aid Formula? Was Longview Undervalued and is the County Getting Cheated out of Tax Money?
MONONGALIA COUNTY COMMISSION
PILT issue referred to legal counsel Report: Checks show 'intent to mislead'
BY TRACY EDDY
Monongalia County Sheriff Al Kisner said in a report to the County Commission there was an “intent to mislead” the state Department of Education when a former commissioner requested the county issue the Board of Education (BOE) separate checks for property taxes and Longview Power Plant’s payments in lieu of taxes.
Former commissioner Asel Kennedy said county officials previously agreed to make sure the monies were sent to the BOE separately to avoid any confusion. “That’s how the former sheriff and the former County Commission did it,” he said. “We were simply trying to make sure it was known it wasn’t property taxes, it was something different. It was payment in lieu of taxes.”
During its Wednesday meeting, the County Commission voted to refer the sheriff ’s report and the county’s 2003 Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) agreement with Longview Power Plant to its legal counsel — Assistant Prosecutor Phil Magro. Commissioner Tom Bloom recused himself from voting. He is also a guidance counselor at Morgantown High School — the county’s Board of Education (BOE) is his employer. Bloom said he opted not to vote since the issue involved the BOE and he didn’t want the vote to be questioned over ethics.
The commission plans to ask county attorney Phil Magro if it should take any action in light of the report, and if so, what it should do. Also, commissioners said they would like to know if there are deficiencies in the PILT agreement and how they could be fixed. Commissioner Bill Bartolo said Magro should recuse himself if he was involved in the 2003 PILT agreement.
Kisner said he had a previous conversation with Kennedy, in which the former commissioner told him to issue separate checks for tax money and payments in lieu of taxes so the school wouldn’t lose any money. Kennedy said he didn’t know why the report would say there was an intent to mislead, as the distributions were always handled the same way — as separate checks.
Kisner said there was nothing in writing anywhere that said an agreement for separate checks existed between the county and the BOE. Bartolo said the commission has an obligation to address the report’s findings, particularly the intent to mislead. “It presents issues I don’t think should just be forgotten about.” Commission President Eldon Callen said he didn’t like the term “mislead,” adding that some could interpret rules in different ways.
A representative from the state Department of Education also sent information to Kisner, showing no PILT funds were used in calculations for the school aid formula. It was included in the report. The state uses a formula to determine how much aid a county school system receives, based on its population. Once the state comes up with a figure, it subtracts the money the county school system received in taxes and gives the county the difference.
Kisner said unless an intent is carried out, no crime is committed.
From now on, the Sheriff ’s Tax Office will issue property taxes and the PILT monies in one check, for each of the school’s three funds — general, excess and bond. Kisner said the change was made so the office could be more efficient. The office has always been in compliance with state laws in procedures, he said, even when separate checks were issued. The specifics of distribution are up to the sheriff as long as there’s proper documentation of what’s been done.
FirstEnergy and AEP are trying to effectively increase rates in West Virginia again
FirstEnergy and American Electric Power (AEP) are asking the West Virginia Public Service Commission's permission to transfer expensive and uncompetitive coal-fired power plants from their subsidiaries in Ohio, where power generation is subject to the free market, to their customers in West Virginia, where power generation is a monopoly. These plans would shift the cost of owning outdated coal plants onto West Virginia families and businesses. This will cost West Virginia ratepayers over $2 billion while FirstEnergy and AEP stockholders rake in the profits — all without creating any new jobs in West Virginia.
Please submit a "letter of protest" to the West Virginia PSC asking them to choose lower bills for their customers, more jobs for West Virginians, and energy efficiency. We West Virginians are tired of being treated like dumb hillbillies!
Submit comments online HERE.
or mail comments to the PSC at:
Sandra Squire, Executive Secretary Public Service Commission of WV 201 Brooks St Charleston, WV 25301
Please be sure to reference the case number in any correspondence to the PSC: Case No. 12-1571-E-PC.
Here is more Information (from Energy Efficient West Virginia Fact Sheet (pdf)):
Jim Kotcon and Beth Little Receive National Recognition for their Work
A national award was given to Jim Kotcon and Beth Little for their hard work making West Virginians safer from environmental degradation. Beth is active in several groups including the Highland Conservancy, and Jim is the backbone of many organizations especially the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and this organization, MVCAC.
Mon County & Morgantown *Finally* Implement Clean Indoor Air Act
Monongalia County and the city of Morgantown are finally smoke free in all indoor public places.
Mon County Proposed Amendments to the Clean Indoor Air Act
MVCAC Provides Proposed Legislation and Asks WV Legislature's Select Committee to Regulate Air Emissions from Marcellus and other Shale Gas Exploration and Extraction
Air emissions from drilling and completing natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale and similar formations are not on the radar screen for most West Virginians, but they should be. The USEPA found that air emisions from such operations are considerable, are underestimated, and are under reported by the industry. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that companies extracting natural gas from US Government lands can increase profits and decrease environmental degradation by capturing their emissions rather than venting or flaring them. The West Virginia Legislature failed last spring to produce legislation to address the issues surrounding the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale and similar rock units. During the current interim session ten state legislators, five from the WV Senate and five from the WV House of Delegates, were appointed to a select committee to study the Marcellus. To aid them in their quest for knowledge, the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition (MVCAC) wrote this letter regarding air emissions to the committee and attached this Proposed Legislation concerning air emissions.
A (Temporary) Victory! PJM Says PATH Not Needed and WV PSC Dismisses PATH, but Leaves Door Open
PJM Interconnection, LLC said PATH is not needed right now. The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an Order dismissing the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) permit application. However, all is not as it appears. Please read the thoughts of The View from Calhoun County for more insight into the issue.
WV PSC Allows PATH to Linger ...
The West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) issued a Press Release today stating it once again will deny the wishes of its own Staff to dismiss the permit application, and instead will grant the request of the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) to delay the permit decision until February 9, 2012. Dominion Virginia Power plans to upgrade it parallel transmission line to increase capacity; thus negating the need for PATH.
the True Cost of Coal Poster
The Beehive Design Collective has produced an amazing, intricate poster illustrating the True Cost of Coal to raise awareness. Buy one for yourself today or get several and give them as gifts to your friends and family.
Comment to EPA before Nov. 19, 2010 on Coal Combustion Waste Regulation
Send comments by Nov. 19 to US EPA asking them to:
Nemacolin, PA Waste Burner Supposedly Still on Track
An editorial in the O-R mentions that Wellington Development, LLC requested an extension to the air-quality permit for its proposed gob-burning power plant to be located in Nemacolin, Pennsylvania. The editorial is here.
Death on TrAILCo Transmission Line
One man was killed and three were injured in a helicopter crash on the 500kv TrAILCo Transmission Line in Tucker County, West Virginia. The article is here.
PATH Not Needed According to Regional Grid Operator PJM
Allegheny Energy, Inc. and American Electric Power's latest news release admits the PATH transmission line is not needed. View the entire Press Release at their web site here.
WV PSC Rejects its Own Legal Counsel on PATH
November 24, 2009
The West Virginia Public Service Commission (WV PSC) rejected its Staff's Motion to Dismiss and gave PATH (Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline) what it wanted by extending the deadline for its decision on a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity until February 24, 2011. View the Order here.
WV PSC Legal Staff Suggests Rejecting PATH's Application
October 28, 2009
Staff attorneys for the West Virginia Public Service Commission (WV PSC) filed a motion to deny the PATH (Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline) application for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity in West Virginia. Here is a link to the WV PSC Staff's Motion. In the Motion, "Staff asserts that the Applicant's failure to seek all necessary regulatory approval for the proposed transmission line in a timely manner prejudices Staffs ability to accurately evaluate this certificate application and prepare its case on the statutory deadline applicable in this case. Forthcoming economic forecasts, PJM load forecasts, and an updated RTEP will contain crucial information and present a compelling reason to require PATH to file updated information for this Commission's consideration. As a result of the prejudice resulting from PATH'S failure to seek all necessary regulatory approval in a timely manner, Staff moves that the Commission either dismiss this case or require PATH to request a tolling sufficient to allow the Commission to implement further case processing procedures for the parties and assure a complete review of the application."
Maryland Rejects PATH Power Line Application
September 9, 2009
Maryland's Public Service Commission rejected an application for PATH (Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline) saying the company applying is not a public utility. Here is a link to the MD PSC's Order. Approximately 20 miles of the 275-mile proposed high-voltage transmission line would have been in Maryland.
The Health Costs of Coal Outweigh the Benefits
June 22, 2009, WVU Health News
Researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University have released a study in the July–August 2009 issue of Public Health Reports entitled "Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost" (pdf here). The data show that the health costs of coal outweigh its economic benefit to Appalachia. Read the news release.
Sierra Club Appeals PSC's TrAILCo Decision to WV Supreme Court
March 14, 2009, the Charleston Gazette via AP
The Sierra Club is appealing the WV Public Service Commission's decision to approve the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line (TrAIL), a 200+ mile long high-voltage transmission line that will connect southwestern Pennsylvania to northern Virginia by going through (formerly Wild and Wonderful) West Virginia. Read the Charleston Gazette's story.
What is PM2.5 and what does NonAttainment mean for us?
December 26, 2008
Very fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) is so fine that it is not caught by the cilia in the nose and throat, and therefore can become lodged deeply in the lungs. It generally cannot be coughed out, as coarser particulate matter sometimes can. It is fine enough to get into the blood stream from the lungs, enter the brain and heart, and cause severe damage. See this scientific article for more information.
When asked what this means for Mon County, West Virginia, Jim Kotcon of the Sierra Club's West Virginia Chapter said, "The designation will require the WV-DEP to propose a revision to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) within 3 years. The SIP will require emissions reductions adequate to return the area to "attainment" of the EPA Health Standard. Ultimately, this will require reductions in emissions of fine particulates, and the implementation of these reductions is to occur by 2014. According to the EPA data, (available at: www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/2006standards/rec/letters/03_WV_EPAMOD.pdf, the largest "uncontrolled sources" contributing to Mon County nonattainment currently are the Fort Martin, and Hatfields Ferry power plants." Kotcon notes that both of those coal-fired power plants are having scrubbers installed, which should help the problem. He says that while those are the largest PM sources in the area, we still have others we need to worry about, including more distant power plants such as the Kammer plant in Marshall county, as well as diesel trucks and similar mobile sources.
Mon and Greene Counties Now in Nonattainment for PM2.5
December 22, 2008, News Release from US EPA
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced that Monongalia County, WV and a portion of Greene County, PA are in nonattainment for very fine particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). EPA's 12/22/08 News Release.
Also included in the designation for West Virginia are Kanawha, Putnam, Cabell, Wayne Counties, and part of Mason County. For Pennsylvania, the counties constituting the greater Pittsburgh metro area are in nonattainment. Here is a table of all the PM2.5 nonattainment areas in the US.
Not Another Power Line? Here comes PATH
December 2008, News Release from Allegheny Energy
Allegheny Energy, along with American Electric Power, plans yet another multi-state high-voltage transmission line. This one, dubbed PATH (Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline), is planned to cut across West Virginia south of TrAIL.
PATH Information (continually updated): Here's more information on the meetings, hearings, and what you can do.
PA Approves TrAILCo Power Line
November 13, 2008, News Release from Allegheny Energy
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved "construction of a 1.2-mile segment of its 500-kilovolt transmission project in Pennsylvania. The 1.2-mile segment will extend south from the new 502 Junction substation in Greene County to the West Virginia border. This segment is the starting point of the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line (TrAIL), a 215-mile project that will traverse parts of West Virginia and extend into northern Virginia." PDF of News Release.
PA Judges Recommend PUC Denial of TrAILCo Power Line
August 21, 2008, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review & Observer-Reporter
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission's (PUC's) Office of Administrative Law Judges recommends that the PUC deny TrAILCo all five of its applications. September 10, 2008 is the deadline for filing objections to this recommendation and September 22, 2008 is the deadline for replies to objections. The news stories (links below) say the judges were very critical of TrAILCo's applications. The PUC reportedly has no deadline to rule. Both the Washington County Commission and the Greene County Commission have opposed TrAILCo. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story and Observer-Reporter story.
Sierra Club Appeals WV PSC Decision
WV Public Service Commission approves TrAILCo
August 1, 2008. The WV Public Service Commission (PSC) approved TrAILCo's application. To follow the document Trail, go to the PSC's webdocket for this case and click on Activities at the top of the page. The (very large) pdf of the Order is here.
"Consumer Advocate" cuts deal with TrAILCo
April 17, 2008. The consumer advocate for the WV Public Service Commission (PSC), Byron Harris, has worked a deal for the TrAILCo High-Voltage Transmission Line to follow an existing transmission line. The route will increase the size of the right of way needed along the existing corridor by 200 feet. The new proposed route diverges from the exiting power-line corridor in Preston County to avoid Maryland. Here is a good interview with the PSC's Consumer Advocate on WV PBS via YouTube.
Governor Manchin Backpedals on Support?
Governor Joe Manchin originally supported the proposed TrAILCo High-Voltage Power Line, but now he appears to be feeling the political heat. Story
PSC Staff Opposes TrAILCo Transmission Line
The Staff of the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) and its consultants have come out against the proposed TrAILCo High-Voltage Transmission Line. Story
New Reports Out
click image for link The Dirty Truth about Coal and Coal Rush have been prepared by the Sierra Club. They discuss coal from mining to burning to waste and "Why Yesterday's Technology Should Not Be Part of Tomorrow's Energy Future."
The First-Ever State of the Carbon Cycle Report from the Carnegie Institution of Science was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). It finds a "Finds Troubling Imbalance" in North America's carbon budget caused by human-generated emissions.
MVCAC Opposes Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo)
Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo), part of Allegheny Energy, plans to build a huge high-voltage transmission line through southwestern Pennsylvania, across northern West Virginia, and into Virginia.
MVCAC supports the Halleck and Southern Monongalia County Community Association, the Capon Valley Coalition, the Laurel Run Watershed Association, and the Sierra Club, West Virginia Chapter in West Virginia, Stop the Towers in Pennsylvania, and Virginia's Commitment in opposing TrAILCo's proposed transmission line.
Check out NoTowersinWV.org to see exactly how you can help.
The PSC's evidentiary (court) hearing will be conducted in two parts. The first will be presentation of evidence by all parties except TrAILCo and is scheduled January 9 through January 11, 2008 and January 14 through January 15, 2008. The second phase, consisting of TrAILCO’s direct case and possibly Commission staff’s expert witness, is scheduled for February 12 through February 15, 2008 and February 19 through February 22, 2008. The evidentiary hearing will be conducted in the HMC Hearing Room, PSC headquarters, 201 Brooks Street, Charleston, WV and are open to the public.