PSC memo shows support for PSD
An internal memorandum from the Public Service Commission (PSC) Engineering Division to the agency's Legal Division shows support for the Pocahontas County Public Service District in response to a recent complaint filed at the PSC.
Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and five Snowshoe-area landowners filed a complaint at the PSC on June 16, asking for a PSC order that the PSD complete a regional sewage project and asking the PSC to petition the Circuit Court to appoint a receiver to complete the project.
The complainants support Thrasher Engineering's plan to build a $25.5 million, 1.5 million gallon per day plant on Snowshoe Drive with a capacity nearly three times the highest recorded sewage flow at the PSD's three sewage plants. They were spurred to action when the PSD considered an alternate plan put forward by engineer David Rigby, president of Waste Water Management, Inc., which Rigby said would cost $14 million.
Thrasher evaluated Rigby's plan and reported it would cost $26.7 million.
The memorandum, posted at www.martinsaffer.com, is titled, "Engineering Division, Initial Internal Memorandum," and is apparently written by Jonathan M. Fowler, of the PSC Engineering Division, and addressed to Cassius H. Toon, of the PSC Legal Division.
The memorandum reads, in part:
"Engineering Staff notes that the issue of timing for the construction of nearly any significant or costly utility project is always subject to debate. Many times these projects become the subject of heated and prolonged debate and a myriad of legal, technical, environmental and regulatory challenges. Such was the case when this Project was originally brought before the Commission.
"However, in dealing with such issues of timing, we generally act in deference to the management of the local utility, feeling that we can not interject ourselves into the middle of such discussions without bringing with us the dual issues of incomplete knowledge of local circumstances and the specter of micro-management. Simply put, barring unusual circumstances (such as Court Orders or regulatory actions), decisions of this type are opined to best rest with the locally-appointed boards of these (local) public utilities."
The memorandum states a newly-composed PSD board should have time to make its own decisions:
"Further, we understand that a new PSD Board is now (or will soon be) in-place and we believe that this new governing board should be allowed adequate time to fully assess their options and the full consequences of any actions which they may take with regard to this project."
The memo mentions a recent lawsuit filed against the PSD by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP):
"Additionally, Staff understands that the WV DEP has recently filed (or will soon file) a civil action to force the District to comply with the provisions of a previous Consent Order and/or to assess significant monetary and/or criminal penalties should the District not achieve compliance with the terms and conditions of their State and Federal water pollution control permits. Clearly, the gravity of such an enforcement action would need to be carefully and fully considered by the new Board and this may take some time. Consequently, Engineering Staff believes that the instant case may be somewhat
premature and will recommend that the new District Board be given more time to fully
consider the consequences of their actions."
The memorandum concludes with a recommendation that the DEP be made a party to the PSC action:
"Finally, Staff would recommend that the WV DEP be joined as a party to this case since they are the agency holding authority to enforce the terms and conditions of the Districtﾒs water pollution control permits and would, through such enforcement actions, largely dictate the future course of the project
which lies at the core of this complaint."
County commissioner Martin Saffer notes on the website:
"I do note a 'fox in the hen house' position here in that the recommendation is for the WVDEP to be made a party. I think that their threats of humongous fines do not add to the solution but only are used as a hammer. I reflect that Snowshoe never paid any part of the millions in DEP fines so I likewise think that the County PSD should pay no fines as well."
David Litsey, who replaces Mark Smith on the PSD board on September 23, commented on the website in favor of Rigby's plan, which is supported by theﾠ Snowshoe Property Owners Council (SPOC):
"I believe that SPOC has an excellent plan. It is safer, it is less expensive, and in fact better. In the interest of time, and in recognition of DEP's total failure to secure the rights of citizens to live free of negligent pollution caused and condoned by them, SPOC will be presenting our case to the EPA in hopes they will order the plant built, and presenting it to the Pocahontas County Circuit Court in hopes they will do the same. Save the river, save the fine, save the time. Get R' Done! The DEP does not have to be a hindrance. They can join the cause and reap the applause. It is up to them how much egg they have on their face when they exit the hen house. Smiling or smelling, it is up to them."