Coalition intervenes to stop FirstEnergy’s latest bailout

By Ben Delman on March 31, 2017

On March 15, 2017, WV Solar United Neighborhoods (WV SUN) and West Virginia Citizen Action Group (WVCAG) took action to prevent West Virginia residents and business owners from having to bail out Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. and its shareholders.

The groups filed a motion to intervene in a Public Service Commission (PSC) of West Virginia case where FirstEnergy’s West Virginia utilities – Mon Power and Potomac Edison – are trying to unload the Pleasants coal plant onto West Virginia electric customers.

Under FirstEnergy’s proposal, Mon Power would buy the aging Pleasants power plant from another FirstEnergy subsidiary. The move would shift the financial burden of the plant from FirstEnergy shareholders to Mon Power and Potomac Edison’s customers. These customers would be forced to cover all of the plant’s costs, assume the plant’s financial risks, and pay FirstEnergy a guaranteed profit.

FirstEnergy’s proposal comes after a lengthy effort to lay the foundation for this financial bailout. In late 2015, FirstEnergy filed a plan with the PSC that recommended the purchase of a coal plant to meet demand. WV SUN and WVCAG, represented by Earthjustice, challenged that plan’s assumptions, explaining that this was a thinly disguised attempt to pave the way for purchasing the Pleasants plant. Later, when Mon Power sought proposals to meet the power needs it identified, WV SUN and WVCAG, together with the Consumer Advocate Division, filed a letter with the PSC explaining how the flawed process was heavily skewed to favor the Pleasants plant.

“If this plant was such a good bet, then FirstEnergy would be putting its own money on the line, instead of asking the government to force ratepayers to gamble on it being a good deal,” said Emmett Pepper, director of WVCAG’s Energy Efficient West Virginia project. “Pleasants is currently part of a deregulated free market, but FirstEnergy wants to use its monopoly status in West Virginia to force its Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers to pay for this.”

WV SUN and WVCAG are leading the recently formed coalition fighting the bailout – West Virginians For Energy Freedom. The coalition is comprised of economic and ratepayer advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, businesses, and elected officials. The coalition will hold a series of community meetings to discuss the bailout.