Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pinocchio Armstrong

Way back in March we commented on the war that Delegate Ward Armstrong was waging against Appalachian Power. We concluded then that this was largely a Political PR campaign, since his bills didn’t seem to be designed to actually DO anything--which probably explains why it didn’t even come close to passing.

But maybe passing legislation was never the point (why end a great PR stunt before you have to?) His activities since last week, after the State Corporation Commission (SCC) came out with an order on Appalachian’s rates, certainly suggest that Armstrong does indeed value this gift that keeps on giving.

But in keeping the flames burning, the truth is hard to come by. Armstrong put out the following “facts” in a statement last week when the Order came out:

“Today the State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved a $61.5 million base rate increase for Appalachian Power Company.”

Yes, this is what the SCC did, but wouldn’t it be useful to know this is less than half of what the company requested. All Session long, Armstrong railed against the 2007 deregulation legislation for having taken the teeth out of the SCC. For toothless regulators, they sure took a bite out of Appalachian’s request – a $92.5 million dollar bite to be exact.

Of course, admitting this would deny him the opportunity to make this next point, one the WSLS’s fact checkers corrected for their viewers (albeit a little too politely for my taste).

“Virginia APCo customers now face the highest electric utility rates in the Commonwealth as well as the highest rates in the AEP system nationwide.”

Okay, this one is just flat out false and Armstrong of all people should know this because one of the many places in Virginia that have higher rates is in his own backyard. His Martinsville constituents, who get their power from the city-run Martinsville Electric Department, are being charged higher rates than his Appalachian Power constituents. The second part of that is as false as the first: AEP has higher rates in at least 2 other states than it does in Virginia.

As if all this weren’t already a ridiculous and transparent stunt, he has the nerve to blast out an email criticizing Republican Delegates Don Merricks and Will Morefield for voting against his bill last session. That would be the same bill that less than half of his own caucus voted for. What he doesn’t tell you is that what will keep rates rising for everybody, are the actions of his own Democratic Party in Washington – Cap and Trade legislation and an anti-coal EPA.

But why solve problems when they are so much fun to keep kicking around. If this episode proves anything it is that Homer Simpson was right, “Facts are meaningless, they can be used to prove anything.” Especially when they are used like Armstrong does.

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