West Virginians For Energy Freedom launches coalition to fight FirstEnergy’s bailout scheme

By Ben Delman on February 1, 2017

Emmett Pepper of West Virginians for Energy FreedomYesterday, a coalition of economic and ratepayer advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, businesses, and elected officials launched West Virginians For Energy Freedom, a coalition aimed at stopping FirstEnergy Corp.’s scheme to force West Virginia electricity customers to bail out an obsolete power plant.

FirstEnergy, the Ohio-based parent company of Mon Power and Potomac Edison, has long hinted at plans to have Mon Power purchase the Pleasants power plant from another FirstEnergy subsidiary. The scheme, if successful, would shift the plant’s costs onto Mon Power and Potomac Edison’s West Virginia customers. FirstEnergy’s scheme is now moving forward, and later this year Mon Power is expected to seek approval from the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) to buy Pleasants.

A similar transfer of ownership of the Harrison Power Plant in 2013 has cost Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers more than $160 million so far.

West Virginians For Energy Freedom members WV SUN and Energy Efficient West Virginia, joined by the WV Consumer Advocate Division, delivered a letter Jan. 31 to the PSC explaining how Mon Power’s recent request for proposals is part of FirstEnergy’s plan to sell the Pleasants plant, so that Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers are forced to bear the plant’s financial risks. Click here for a copy of the letter.

“We should not be responsible for bailing out a corporation like FirstEnergy. Compare the company’s executive salaries and the net worth of its shareholders with the income of the average West Virginian and tell me again how this deal makes sense?” said Karan Ireland, state director of WV SUN, during the coalition’s press conference Tuesday, Jan. 31, outside the PSC in Charleston, WV. “It doesn’t make sense for consumers, it doesn’t make sense for small businesses, and it doesn’t make sense for our state.”

“Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers have seen enough rate increases,” said Emmett Pepper, executive director of Energy Efficient West Virginia. “FirstEnergy is bending over backwards to find a reason to force West Virginians to pay for this plant. We don’t need the Pleasants Plant’s energy, and it wouldn’t be a good deal for customers, even if we did.”

West Virginians For Energy Freedom includes individuals, organizations, businesses and officials who believe they should not have to bail out FirstEnergy Corp. and its shareholders.

During the press conference, The Rev. Jeffrey Allen of WV Council of Churches, a coalition member, said utility bills are one of the most frequent requests that come before faith-based and social service agencies as a need of those seeking assistance in the state. “Families can face dire circumstances when funds run low to pay utility bills,” The Rev. Allen said. “It makes sense to us, then that power companies should seek to produce electricity at the lowest rate possible, because of the impact these rates can have on low-income families.”

Another West Virginians For Energy Freedom member agrees. “We need an energy policy that serves consumers, not cronies,” said Stephen Smith of WV Healthy Kids & Families Coalition.

Members of West Virginians For Energy Freedom includes:

●      Energy Efficient West Virginia

●      John Manchester, Mayor of Lewisburg

●      William A. Kawecki, Deputy Mayor of Morgantown

●      American Friends Service Committee – West Virginia

●      Solar Holler

●      West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families

●      West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy

●      West Virginia Citizen Action Group

●      West Virginia Council of Churches

●      WV Healthy Kids & Families Coalition

●      WV SUN

West Virginians For Energy Freedom plans to mobilize West Virginia residents, organizations, and businesses; conduct email/postcard/social media campaigns; and organize rallies to prevent FirstEnergy’s bailout.