UPDATE: Day 8 of OAL Evidentiary Hearings -- Thursday, 7/6/17

Alrighty RAGERS, settle in. I am not known for my brevity.

Today was the first day of the continuation of Judge Cookson's evidentiary hearings. The first 7 days happened in April.

WHERE WE LEFT OFF... Day 7 of the hearings in April ended with our superstar electrical engineer expert witness, Jeff Palermo, providing oral testimony that he not only had a less invasive and cheaper way to avoid the possibility of a P7 violation at Red Bank, but (thanks to donations from you all and our OK to authorize the extra work/$$$), he had done the simulation studies to prove it.

As a result of this, JCP&L said they wanted some more time to look at this proposed solution and be able to ask discovery questions about it before they could move forward with their right to cross-examine Palermo on the stand. The judge agreed and ordered 2 more days of hearings, and scheduled them for June 14 and 15.

IN THE MEANTIME... a lot happened between then and now. Here's the very abridged version:

1. Our expert, Jeff Palermo, had to submit a big written report of his proposed alternative and its nuances to the judge and all parties to the case.

2. JCP&L got to ask discovery questions about the work Jeff had done, and Jeff/Peter had to respond to them in writing.

3. The judge came to visit the route JCP&L is proposing a new transmission line be constructed as part of their preferred solution to the fix the P7.

4. Right after the judge visit and 3 days before the June 14 hearing date, JCP&L submitted a big rejoinder (response) report to us and all parties, essentially trying to discredit Jeff Palermo's solution and saying it would cost more than he said it would.

5. Given this new hiccup, our attorney Peter Dickson and the other attorneys representing other parties in the case -- namely Bevan and Mosca who represent the towns (aka the Joint Municipal Group) and Rate Counsel -- asked for an emergency conference call with the judge, where they requested they get the same treatment JCP&L got... that they get some time to read the report, and ask discovery questions about it for JCP&L to answer. Judge agreed and bumped back the hearing dates to July 6 and 7.

6. Peter and Jeff Palermo spent a bunch of time reviewing the report and coming up with discovery questions, and then reading through and digesting all the answers to those discovery questions -- meaning both the answers to their own questions, and also the new discovery questions that the JMG and Rate Counsel had submitted about the rejoinder report. (Those discovery answers, FYI, we received late last week, the day before the holiday weekend started.)

7. Peter, along with the JMG and Rate Counsel, each submitted motions to try to suppress this new report of JCP&L's because it introduced some new info that had not previously been put out there, specifically about a requirement re: cascading outage testing. (In terms of the pace of this case, there has always been lots going on behind the scenes. Thousands and thousands of pages of information have gone back and forth and have had to be created and reviewed. SO MUCH.)

8. Peter had multiple calls/emails with us to talk about the plan and prep for the hearings. He also spent a lot of time over the past week and a half talking to Jeff.

The "point" of today was to pick up where we left off, with Palermo on the stand. It was JCP&L (and Rate Counsel and JMG's) turn to cross-examine him. Before that started though, there was some official back-and-forth re: the motions to strike the Rejoinder report that RAGE, Rate Counsel, and the JMG had submitted. The judge said she would hear all the new questioning today and tomorrow about this report before ruling whether or not it would be admissible.

So then Jeff got re-sworn in and JCP&L's and then the JMG attorney asked him a bunch of questions about his proposed solution and the different options he offered. After that, our attorney Peter got to re-direct examine him as well, and ask some more questions of Jeff based on the questions that JCP&L and the JMG attorney had asked.

Here's where Jeff absolutely shined -- he was able to answer each question (and these were very complicated technical questions) in a way that "normal people" could understand, all while underscoring over and over again that while he totally acknowledges that the P7 is something that could happen and is something that JCP&L needs to have a plan in place to prevent, the likelihood of it ever actually happening is VERY, VERY RARE. Like once in thousands of years rare. So, the Board of Public Utilities should consider this, and keep it in mind with regard to any solution proposed. A massive, invasive, detrimental project like JCP&L's MCRP is a big, expensive, and destructive fix for a problem that is a "maybe" that DOES NOT have a high likelihood of even happening at all. (Especially since peak load actuals have been coming down, and PJM forecasts show them coming down even more... which further reduces the risk of the Big Bad P7 ever becoming reality.) He very clearly got this "keep it in perspective" message across.

I don't think I can overstate how amazing Jeff Palermo has been in this case. He is amazingly smart and eloquent, and his presence and style of explaining things draws you in. I doubt anybody else in the world has been able to captivate an audience with a description of a radial electric distribution system design like Jeff did today. He makes the complicated understandable, which is clutch for this case. He is super. Hence, my terrible photoshopping of his head onto Superman's body.

This summary doesn't do justice to all of the insane detail and complexity that has been explored by our attorney Peter and by "SuperPalermo" over the past 8 months. I left that hearing room today thinking, my god, they are fantastic... we would not be where we are without them. They are phenomenal and we are incredibly lucky to have them on Team RAGE.

Tomorrow, JCP&L gets to put back up on the stand two of their witnesses -- their in-house electrical engineer/transmission planner Larre Hozempa, and the PJM head of transmission expansion planning, Mark Sims. (So much for PJM being a "neutral" player in the industry, right? They are actually in this case as a JCP&L witness -- because of course somebody in charge of PJM Transmission Expansion is going to be in favor of any proposal that Expands Transmission...)

Anyway, Peter and the other attorneys will get to ask them questions about all the new info that was in the Rejoinder Report that Hozempa submitted and all the discovery answers submitted after it. And then Greg Eisenstark, the main attorney for JCP&L, will get to re-direct examine Hozempa and Sims and ask them questions about the new report as well.

After that's all done and Hozempa and Sims step down from the stand, the evidentiary hearings are officially over.

We know the rough order of things, but not the timeline. At the end of the hearing day tomorrow (I think) the judge will tell all the attorneys when their Summary Briefs are due. (Instead of oral closing arguments like on TV, each party to the case gets to submit their "final report" of their arguments, including citations to all the stuff in the thousands and thousands of pages of testimony and exhibits and transcripts. It's meant to be the big finale and encompass all the key components of the case. RAGE's will likely end up being dozens and dozens of pages long. Every party to the case has the right to submit a Summary Brief.)

So, we will find out the Due Dates for the final briefs, which is a big deal. The Legal Team volunteers will help Peter to do the grunt work for the major undertaking of getting RAGE's brief written, edited, and with all the citations in place. Our volunteer time will help save some money, but Peter will no doubt spend a boatload of time on this.

After our and all the other briefs get submitted to the judge, she will read through them all, along with all her own notes and documentation of the case, and theoretically has 45 days to write her initial decision to the BPU (could take longer, could take shorter).

And THEN, the BPU has their own 45 days to review her decision, review all the testimony and evidence in the record, and decide if they will uphold her decision, reject it, or amend it. They will announce their final ruling at one of their monthly BPU board meetings.

So that's where we are. We still have work to do (and to pay for), but we are much closer to the end than we are to the beginning. Your contributions have been put to excellent use. Our voices were heard loud and clear at the 2 public hearings. We drastically changed the course of this project and opposed it with more strength, perseverance, and (to be blunt) funding than JCP&L ever expected. The result has been a kick-ass showing by RAGE in the case. Who would have guessed that the little grassroots citizens group would be able to put up a fight like this? ;)

RAGE ON, keep listening, and PLEASE, keep telling others we are still fighting and need all the support we can get. Forward this email. We need all the help we can get to keep paying the bills and ultimately keep these power lines OUT and stop JCP&L from robbing us of our health, property values, and peace of mind. To do that, we have to pay for Peter, we have to pay for Jeff -- all the time they have spent in June and July so far (haven't gotten those bills yet!) and what is still needed from them to close this out.

Here is the link to donate to the "Keep Kicking JCP&L's Butt" Fund: http://smarturl.it/RAGEdonate

Tomorrow's another day! Stay tuned!