PSC denies request for reconsideration
It's standard practice for an attorney to request a reconsideration after a court or agency issues an order. Legal rules often allow a party to request a reconsideration, within a specified period of time, and attorneys often calculate, "why not?" and "the worst that can happen is they say no."
Six weeks after the Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order in the Snowshoe-area sewage dispute, Pocahontas County Public Service District (PSD) board attorney Chris Negley requested a reconsideration and the PSC said, "no."
Following three days of hearings, the PSC issued an order on May 10, directing the PSD board to obtain Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) approval within 45 days for a decentralized wastewater system for the Snowshoe area. The deadline for the PSD to obtain DEP approval is June 24.
In the PSD motion for reconsideration, Negley disputed the authority of the DEP to hold "veto power" over the Snowshoe project.
"[T]he PCPSD disagrees that the WVDEP must provide its consent in order for the PCPSD to proceed with the study of a decentralized sewer project as authorized in the order. Accordingly, it is asking that the PSC reconsider that portion of its order," Negley wrote.
In a June 3 order denying Negley's motion, the PSC wrote, "The commission condition of WVDEP concurrence was clearly reasonable in view of the public monies already spent by the district to develop a regional sewer plant, and given the evidence of the WVDEP position as to the district. The district should not spend any additional and substantial monies on an engineering contract, the goal of which is to replace an already paid-for project design, absent some indication from WVDEP that it is at least reasonable to consider a decentralized approach to the District's needs."
The PSD board held a meeting with top DEP officials on May 20 to discuss approval of a decentralized design. During a PSD meeting on May 31, board chairman Tom Shipley said, as a result of the discussions at the DEP, he expected to receive the agency's approval to move forward with a decentralized design, along with a mandatory timeline to achieve project milestones.
The May 10 PSC order directed that the PSD spend no more than $110,000 to complete a preliminary engineering report and preliminary design for a decentralized Snowshoe-area sewage system.
The PSD board held a special meeting on June 8, in anticipation of receiving conditional approval from the DEP. Because DEP approval had not been received, the board tabled action on all four agenda items.
During a public comment portion of the meeting, Linwood resident Russell Holt, a complainant in the recent legal action against the PSD, said that PSD board member David Litsey could be guilty of ethics violations.
"Did Litsey, a self-proclaimed developer abuse the public trust to gain financial advantage for himself and possibly others by denying some of the public equal access to a public utility?" Holt asked. "Did Litsey's actions meet the minimum requirement of the appearance of impropriety?"
In its May 10 order, the PSC held that alleged ethics violations fall under the jurisdiction of the West Virginia Ethics Commission. Holt said the six complainants, including Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., were in the process of preparing a joint ethics complaint.
Snowshoe Property Owners Council member Donelle Oxley praised the hard work of the PSD to gain approval of a decentralized sewage system design. SPOC strongly supports a decentralized design and its officers have stated they believe a decentralized design could be built for $10 million less than a Thrasher Engineering, Inc. centralized design.
The next regular PSD meeting is scheduled for June 28, 7 p.m., location to be announced. The board stated its intent to conduct a special meeting and/or work session when the DEP decision is received. The agenda for any PSD meetings will be posted at pocahontastimes.com when received.