On Tuesday, Aug. 15, West Virginians For Energy Freedom members – along with a new superhero – delivered to the Public Service Commission of West Virginia nearly 1,000 petitions protesting FirstEnergy Corp.’s Pleasants Power Station sale.
The delivery was made to the PSC office in Charleston. Watch the Facebook Live video at right.
FirstEnergy, the Ohio-based parent company of Mon Power and Potomac Edison, seeks to transfer the Pleasants Plant to its Mon Power subsidiary from another FirstEnergy subsidiary. If approved by the PSC, costs will be passed on to Mon Power and Potomac Edison's West Virginia customers.
West Virginians For Energy Freedom is a coalition of economic and ratepayer advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, businesses, and elected officials who oppose FirstEnergy’s bailout attempt.
The Energy Freedom Fighter, a superhero who stands up for West Virginians against out-of-state utility companies, presented petitions along with WV4EFcoalition members. The caped, masked crusader chose to remain silent during the delivery. “The signatures of hundreds and hundreds of West Virginians speaks volumes about opposition to the proposed sale,” said Karan Ireland, program director for WV Solar United Neighborhoods (WV SUN), a founding member of the coalition.
“West Virginians For Energy Freedom want to make sure Chairman Mike Albert and Commissioners Brooks McCabe and Renee Larrick are aware of the number of people who do not support FirstEnergy’s tactics,” said Ireland.
On March 15, WV SUN and West Virginia Citizen Action Group (WVCAG) filed a motion to intervene with the PSC over FirstEnergy’s proposed sale of the Pleasants plant. In early May, the groups also filed a protest against FirstEnergy with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Federal Power Act prohibits such transfers if they would result in a public utility inappropriately cross-subsidizing a corporate affiliate.
“The proposed Pleasants sale is purely a business maneuver to transfer ownership from a deregulated state like Ohio to a regulated state,” said Emmett Pepper, executive director of Energy Efficiency West Virginia, another founding member of the coalition. “And it’s a bad deal for consumers that is familiar to Mon Power and Potomac Edison consumers.”
In 2013, WV Public Service Commissioners Albert and Jon McKinney, approved FirstEnergy’s transfer of ownership of the Harrison power plant in Haywood to Mon Power. Commissioner Ryan Palmer was the lone vote against that transfer.
The Harrison sale has cost Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers more than $160 million, so far, according to industry analysts. “That FirstEnergy deal is fresh in people’s minds since they see it every month when they go to pay their power bill,” Pepper said.
Another part of West Virginians For Energy Freedom's mission is to give people tools to engage and have a voice in what happens to their money.
Along with the petition drive and a letter-writing campaign on the public hearing sites, the coalition added a Fax the PSC tool to its website (EnergyFreedomWV.org) to make it easy for people to send in comments for the public docket.
The fax machine is one of the four ways the PSC accepts public comments on a case. The Fax the PSC tool allows people to send a fax from their laptops and phones. "People tell us it's more convenient than navigating the PSC website to send an email and takes less time than mailing a letter,” Pepper said.
During the coalition’s first #FaxThePSC Day campaign Aug. 10, the PSC received 40 faxes protesting FirstEnergy.
Commissioners will hear from consumers at the PSC’s public hearings in Parkersburg on Sept. 6, Martinsburg, Sept. 11 and Morgantown, Sept. 12. “We want to pack the chambers so commissioners will hear and see the people who will be most affected by FirstEnergy’s bad deal,” said Ireland. West Virginians For Energy Freedom will hold rallies before the hearings.
And you can keep an eye out the Energy Freedom Fighter around the Mountain State. The consumer crusader will be at events, fairs, and festivals to raise awareness about the public hearings and get more signatures for the petitions.