Evidentiary hearing: Witnesses detail how bad FirstEnergy deal could be for WV

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In the first week of the evidentiary hearing on FirstEnergy Corp.’s bailout attempt before the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, witness after witness didn’t support the Ohio-based company’s claims of capacity and savings for Mon Power and Potomac Edison ratepayers.

On Sept. 26, neither of FirstEnergy’s witnesses submitted testimony before the hearing that the plant would definitely close, and neither witness would say it on the stand when asked under oath during the hearing. FirstEnergy's own experts contradict the doom-and-gloom message that the utility company is peddling.

Bradley Eberts, a witness for FirstEnergy on Sept. 27, says that even based on his projections, Mon Power and Potomac Edison will have a surplus of energy for every hour until 2021, except 3 hours in 2020 and 24 hours in 2021. And that's all WITHOUT buying the Pleasants plant.

Stephen Gabel testifying on behalf of Longview Power, an intervening party, on Sept. 28: “(Mon Power) overestimated their need by many hundreds of megawatts… The whole premise of this case is that they need capacity. They don't need capacity."

Also on Sept. 28, WV Consumer Advocate Division's witness Emily Medine when asked if Pleasants’ closure would break her heart: “Yes. But that doesn't mean a regulated utility should own that plant... I just joined the National Coal Council and I'm very supportive of coal ... That doesn't mean a regulated utility needs to be the owner of that plant."

Wrapping up scheduled testimony on Sept. 29, PSC Utilities Division Director Terry Eads, who is historically pro-utility, said he is concerned that if the energy prices aren't as high as FirstEnergy forecasts, then it isn't as good of a deal. Eads, however, says he is mostly worried about what he called "externalities." Example: How PJM deals with subsidies in other states for nuclear power plants and the potential of carbon pricing.

He closed by saying that if it is a good deal the companies should be willing to bear some of the risk.

Testimony in the evidentiary hearing resumes Oct. 10.