Ohio PUC greenlights rehearing for FirstEnergy plant subsidy case
- Ohio regulators agreed to re-evaluate FirstEnergy's case for income guarantees of some of its power plants a week after the company asked regulators to restructure the agreements in a way that would pass federal scrutiny.
- FERC rejected the power purchase agreements last month and pulled affiliate waivers, arguing the deals infringed on the agency's authority over wholesale markets. FirstEnergy's new proposal would recover costs through a bill rider the company hopes will avoid FERC review.
- PUCO's decision to reconsider the case drew swift criticism from environmentalists, who called for more "independent oversight of monopolies" and accused regulators of "rubber-stamping" the utility's request.
The deadline to oppose FirstEnergy's rehearing request was supposed to be today, but Ohio regulators went ahead and granted the utility's request "because of the number and complexity of the assignments of error raised ... as well as the potential for further evidentiary hearings in this matter."
Briefs could be due next week in the matter, a quick decision that drew the ire of environmental activists.
At Environmental Defense Fund, Midwest Clean Energy Director Dick Munson called it an "unprecedented move," writing that PUCO allowed FirstEnergy to "seek a new power plant bailout – a full day before opponents were to offer their objections. So, without listening to the arguments against the deal, the PUCO rubberstamped the utility’s request for a rehearing."
FirstEnergy filed its new plan last week, restructuring the deal to eliminate the power purchase agreements for the plants, while still adding monthly surcharges to customer bills as part of its rate plan. The surcharges would avoid review by FERC.
The bill rider would cover megawatts "projected to clear" PJM auctions, rather than MW that actually clear. And because the surcharges are not based on wholesale prices, the plan would not come under FERC jurisdiction.
EDF's Munson called the change "sleight of hand," and predicted that "most likely FERC will see through this sham, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the PUCO from pushing through FirstEnergy’s radically 'new' proposal."
- Public Utilities Commission of Ohio PUCO order
- Environmental Defense Fund Rubber-Stamp Regulators: Ohio Gives FirstEnergy Another Go-Ahead
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