RAGERs, a lot happened behind the scenes last week that I can now share. Please take a few minutes to read this summary. We need to step it up.
In this update:
1. Judge Visit
2. OAL Hearings, Round 2 -- DATE CHANGE and backstory
3. Time to Rally -- all hands on deck for getting new donors
1. THE JUDGE CAME AND VISITED LAST WEDNESDAY. I, Kin Gee, our attorney Peter Dickson, and multiple people from the other parties to the case (about 20 of us total) accompanied the judge on the site visit.
The judge selected 18 stops to visit on the tour, including 7 private residences where we entered backyards, so Judge Cookson could see the homeowner's perspective on how close the tracks are, and where the poles would be. We used JCP&L's maps and kmz simulation file to help with this. Here is the full list of locations she chose to visit:
1. Nutmeg Road, Aberdeen
2. Leitrim Lane Cul-de-Sac, Hazlet
3. Beers Street School, Hazlet
4. Beechwood Court, Hazlet (YARD ACCESS)
5. Hazlet Train Station
6. Templer Way, Hazlet (YARD ACCESS)
7. Garden Park Mobile Home Community, Hazlet
8. Wisteria Court, Village Grande, Holmdel (YARD ACCESS)
9. Dorothy Court, Middletown
10. Middletown Reformed Church & Covered Bridge, Middletown
11. Rolling Knolls Dr., Middletown (YARD ACCESS)
12. Applebrook Park & Fairview Fields, Middletown (ACCESSED FROM ILER DR)
13. Poricy Park, Middletown
14. Southall Lane, Middletown (Red Bank mailing) (YARD ACCESS)
15. Navesink River Road, Middletown (Red Bank mailing) (YARD ACCESS)
16. Oyster Point Hotel, Red Bank
17. G & G Hot Dog Truck, Red Bank
18. NJ Transit Substation, Red Bank
The entire site visit took over 5 hours. I can't comment any more on specifically what happened, but I can say that the fact that she chose to come down here is a big deal. She listened to the dozens of resident requests she got to visit the area, and selected a longer-than-I-expected list of locations to see firsthand (as a point of reference, when NJT visited last November, they saw 5 locations.) Also remember that she was driven through multiple neighborhoods and by multiple other locations close to the tracks as we went from stop to stop (eg, the Middletown Train Station, Middletown Village Elementary School, the Route 35 Bridge into Red Bank, etc.) It was impactful and a critical element to this case.
2. LATE BREAKING NEWS RE: THE 2ND ROUND OF OAL HEARINGS. As you know, Round 2 of the hearings was scheduled to be Weds and Thurs of this week, which we/our attorney have been prepping for. Then Thursday night, the day after the Judge visit, we got a mega document from JCP&L sent to all parties to the case. The RAGE Legal Volunteers spent time reading through it and having a late-night conference call to discuss, before having another conference call Friday with our attorney. The document was nearly 100 pages long, and was a report written by JCP&L's electrical witness, Larre Hozempa, in response to the testimony of RAGE's paid expert (Jeffrey Palermo) and Rate Counsel's paid expert (Peter Lanzalotta), basically trying to refute what each had testified to at the in-person hearings in April.
JCP&L challenging our expert's testimony was not a surprise, but to send over all this new info just 3 working days before the hearings with no warning was not expected and threw a big wrench in the works that we have to now deal with. Our attorney Peter, plus the Joint Municipal Group's attorneys, plus Rate Counsel attorneys, asked for an emergency conference call with the judge on Friday after getting the report. Long story short (there are other details at play I can't share here), the judge agreed to grant a delay so that RAGE and our expert, Jeff Palermo (as well as Rate Counsel, their expert, and the JMG attorneys) have the opportunity to digest the new info and ask new discovery questions on it, before the in-person hearings. AS A RESULT, ROUND 2 OF THE OAL IN-PERSON HEARINGS HAS BEEN MOVED TO JULY 6 AND 7.
HERE'S WHAT THIS MEANS.... JCP&L is really pulling out all the stops. They have already spent millions trying to get this project through, and now they are throwing even more at it. They wouldn't be doing this unless they knew they had a lot to gain if they win ($$$$$). As we've said all along, JCP&L has wanted this line for a long time, and they want it because they know they can make a bundle on it thanks to the regulatory financial incentives that are in play-- money that First Energy desperately needs. They were banking on this project to help their bottom line, and they are not about to walk away from all that potential profit. They are digging in their heels and fighting tooth and nail, and we need to do the same.
Which means that the need to grow the Legal Fund just got more urgent. We need to focus on raising more money to fund disarming this new grenade that JCP&L just tossed over the fence:
1. We have to have Peter Dickson and Palermo read through this new report - $$$$
2. We have to have Palermo and Peter Dickson develop Discovery Questions to ask about the content in the report - $$$$
3. We have to have Palermo and Dickson review JCP&L's responses - $$$$
4. We have to have Palermo and Dickson prepare even more now for both Palermo's cross-examination at the next round of hearings, AND the re-cross of Larre Hozempa based on the new report he submitted - $$$$
5. We have to pay for Palermo's flight change fee, in addition to his actual flight up to NJ, and his hotel - $$$$
6. We have to pay for 2 more full days of having 2 expensive experts in the OAL hearing room - $$$$
And beyond that, we still have to fund the writing of the Summary Brief after the hearings are over. This is the written closing statement from RAGE, which lays out all our arguments and cites all the evidence from the thousands of pages of testimony in the record. Our attorney has agreed to let RAGE volunteers help with the brief as much as possible to save us some money, but he still obviously will spend hours and hours on it as well, at $400 per hour.
3. WE NEED YOUR HELP TO GET NEW PEOPLE DONATING. We need to amp up the Legal Fund fundraising stat, and we need your help to do it. We need to get more people who have not donated before to donate. We can't keep tapping the people on this list and on our Facebook Page... though if you ARE on these, and you have not donated yet, NOW IS THE TIME. PLEASE. If you have, we need you to help us get more people in the fold. People on the periphery may think they don't need to get involved, that we "have it covered." I can assure you, we do not. Not with this new wrench that was thrown in. We need to rally and we need to raise more money to stay in this fight. We've come too far to back down now.
HELP US GET NEW DONATIONS. Please do at least one of these things TODAY. We need to get more people donating. Remember, we are fighting for EVERY resident of our 5 towns, and EVERY rider of NJT's North Jersey Coast Line. We need as many of them as possible to throw us a donation. We'd love big ones, obviously, but people who haven't donated yet are hard sells. We'll take anything we can get, even if it's just $25.
1. Post to your own FB pages with a plea for help in your own words, and a link to the RAGE donation info. Also include the mailing address for checks. Copy and paste this along with your message:
DONATE BY CHECK:
Residents Against Giant Electric, Inc. Legal Fund
1385 Route 35
Middletown, NJ 07748
2. Send out personal emails to your local friends, neighbors, colleagues. Tell them we all need to be in this if we want to keep these damn lines away from our families, kids, parks, schools, and houses. JCP&L is pulling out all the stops, and we need everybody to chip in. This is not over and it will not go away on its own. EVERYBODY should be helping, we ALL lose if these go in. If you haven't donated yet, NOW IS THE TIME.
BE SURE TO INCLUDE THE DONATION CALL TO ACTION INFO/LINK!
3. We are going to be posting a lot more educational posts to our official RAGE 2016 Facebook page, to help get awareness out that this fight is NOT OVER and that we need more people chipping in. WHEN YOU SEE THEM, SHARE THESE POSTS LIKE CRAZY. We can spend some money "boosting" them too, but the more organic traction they have, the further our message will go. We need to get beyond ourselves to really get some new blood (and money) in the game. It takes some time to create the graphics, write the copy, and optimize the user experience to be as effective as possible for these call to action posts (I've learned a lot over the past year), so I will focus on getting new different content out there in bite-size chunks for people to start sharing. Bit by bit we need to educate more people and convince them that they need to chip in. You can't rely on your neighbors to do it all. EVERYBODY needs to help. This fight is not a spectator sport.
This fight has not been cheap. We've been thrown some curveballs and incurred some unexpected expenses, and together we've spent over $200k on this fight so far. And we're not done. But even if we have to raise and spend $500k on this fight, that's still under 1% of the $100 million+ we'd lose together in property values alone if JCP&L wins. We can't let them win. WE WON'T LET THEM WIN.
NOW'S THE TIME. It's on all of us to get some new donations. LET'S ALL HELP EACH OTHER, RAGERS!
Thanks, and RAGE ON!