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FirstEnergy’s bailout in a nutshell: Like investing in flip phones just before the iphone

Two years ago today, FirstEnergy filed its original coal bailout case at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. At the time, industry insiders, consumer groups and environmental organizations alike thought it unlikely that FirstEnergy would get what they were asking for – billions of dollars from their customers to pay for the Sammis coal plant and the Davis-Besse nuclear plant.

Both of these plants were thought to be losing millions of dollars a year in the competitive markets for energy. Evidence showed that the plants were uneconomic, environmentally damaging and therefore needed to retire. FirstEnergy argued that they needed these plants or else the lights would go out, power prices would spike and the jobs at these plants were critical to the local economies in which they were located.

As the final hearings at the PUCO have wrapped up on the modified proposal the company put forward because a federal oversight court rejected their original proposal, we can see this case is not about grid reliability, price stability or saving jobs at these two plants. It’s devolved into a unapologetic cash-grab from customers to help support the credit ranking of a company that made poor business decisions.

A recent article by Bloomberg News sums it up best:

“First Energy is a company that invested heavily in flip-phone technology just before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. ”

As decision-time nears for the PUCO to make a final call on whether or not FirstEnergy can charge its customers millions of dollars a year – by some estimates the range is anywhere between $131 million/year for 3 to 5 years – $558 million/year for 8 years (plus an additional amount up to $568 million/year to cover the economic development benefits of having FE’s headquarters in Akron)  – we’re struggling to see how the PUCO’s approval of such a proposal gets us any closer to a clean energy future. The transition to clean energy is already underway in Ohio, and FirstEnergy is behind. How is this the fault of customers?

TAKE ACTION: Say no way to FirstEnergy’s money grab