Coal / Energy / FirstEnergy

Tomorrow is judgement day for FirstEnergy’s bailout

Dick Munson is Environmental Defense Fund’s Director, Midwest Clean Energy.

COLUMBUS — “Tomorrow, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will issue its rehearing order on FirstEnergy’s bailout plea.

If, like us, you have vacation brain, here’s a refresher: Last October, the PUCO gave a tentative $625-million subsidy to reduce FirstEnergy’s debt associated with its bad business decisions. Admittedly less than the $12 billion the utility giant requested, it was still an unnecessary bailout and tax on Ohioans.

While the PUCO has been mulling over whether to give final approval to that bailout for ten months, FirstEnergy has been raking in the big bucks. In fact, our ticker shows Ohioans likely have paid the utility more than $80 million dollars for the bailout as the regulators have delayed making a decision. And no matter what they decide tomorrow, the PUCO’s rules allow FirstEnergy to keep the $80+ million.

It was a bad decision in October, and it only got more indefensible after the Ohio legislature rejected a measure that would have let utility giants bolster their credit ratings through higher electricity rates. In other words, utilities were asking the legislators for a no-strings-attached bailout so they could borrow more money – the PUCO’s very argument to give FirstEnergy credit support. If state legislators are unwilling to force Ohioans to pay for utilities’ financial mistakes, regulators should follow suit.

Finally, it’s judgment day. If the PUCO rubber stamps the subsidy tomorrow, EDF and others will say, “See you in the Ohio Supreme Court.”

— Dick Munson, Midwest Clean Energy Director, Environmental Defense Fund

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