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FirstEnergy wants PUCO guarantees on nuclear and coal prices
A public meeting in Cleveland will look at FirstEnergy rate plan

Kabir Bhatia
About two dozen people showed up near the West Side Market Saturday to draw attention to the public meeting at Cleveland City Hall Tuesday
Courtesy of K. Bhatia
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The last of three public meetings on FirstEnergy’s new rate plan happens Tuesday. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia reports on the proposal that has drawn criticism from some business groups, as well as environmentalists.

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Akron-based FirstEnergy runs the Illuminating Company, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison, and it wants a 15-year agreement that those utilities buy all the power generated by two aging plants.

FirstEnergy says without the deal, its Sammis coal plant near Steubenville and its Davis-Besse nuclear plant would not be able to compete against lower-priced gas plants and wind turbine farms.

Currently, the subsidiaries buy power through regulated, competitive auctions. Michael Shields is a researcher with PolicyMatters Ohio.

“They would like to bypass that market and sell at operating costs, plus a rate of return for these plants. They want to stick Ohio consumers with the bill. FirstEnergy says we would be better off in the end. Independent analysts say this is going to cost about $3.1 billion.”

Others opposed to the plan include the Ohio Manufacturers Association and Walmart, while the Council of Smaller Enterprises is backing FirstEnergy. Tuesday’s meeting is at Cleveland City Hall at 6 p.m.

The two plants employ about 800 people, but Shields says investment in renewable energy could create new jobs.

“We’re always concerned about jobs. But the reality is, for the public, this would really in effect be a public bailout. When the public is investing in a project, it needs to be a project with a public benefit.”

The Sammis plant opened in the early ‘60s, and Davis-Besse in the late ‘70s. Both have been cited for issues in the past. 

Public hearings on the proposal were held earlier this month in Akron and Toledo, and a fourth hearing is set for next Wednesday, when FirstEnergy attorneys present the plan to a PUCO judge. The company has asked for a vote on the plan by April 8.
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