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Ohioans oppose power plant bailouts

(iStock photo)

Ohioans overwhelmingly oppose the agreements under consideration by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that would guarantee profits for older American Electric Power (AEP) and FirstEnergy power plants, according to two independent opinion polls.

AARP Ohio and the Alliance for Energy Choice jointly released the opinion polling data to alert state policymakers that that they will hear from angry Ohioans if the PUCO approves charges costing households and businesses an estimated $6 billion over eight years. Earlier this week, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel provided new estimates suggesting costs to consumers may be even higher.

Results from AARP Ohio’s survey of Ohio voters age 50 and over showed that a wide majority (69 percent) said affordable utilities are a very important issue in determining how they will vote. Affordable utilities are a top-of-mind issue for the vast majority (82 percent). In addition, 64 percent of these voters say their income is falling behind the cost of living and cite rising utility costs as a major contributor to their concerns about their future financial security.

The Alliance for Energy Choice, a non-profit organization composed of independent electric power producers, also took the pulse of Ohio voters throughout the state.

This poll found that more than 75 percent of voters oppose Ohio allowing AEP and FirstEnergy to charge extra to subsidize their power plants. More than 63 percent believe that the request is an “unneeded government handout that comes at the expense of higher costs for families and businesses.” Of those surveyed, 55 percent also oppose guaranteed profits from the increase.

“Consumers lose big time with these proposed settlements. They are especially onerous for those who can least afford another hit: Ohioans who live on fixed incomes and whose Social Security checks will not see a cost of living adjustment this year,” said Trey Addison, of AARP Ohio, which represents 1.5 million members.

Alliance spokesperson Todd A. Snitchler, a former PUCO chairman, said, “AEP reported a $2 billion profit last year, even as the company claims that their plants are not making enough money. Why should Ohioans be forced to pay the company more?”

Both Addison and Snitchler said the strong disapproval is impressive since the polls were conducted before either organization started consumer education campaigns. Their organizations are planning ways to join forces to stop the agreements.

Addison said, “Consumers face a double whammy if the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio grants multi-billion dollar bailouts to FirstEnergy and AEP, as proposed. The settlements not only would cost consumers an added charge every month for the next eight years, but they also would hike the cost of nearly everything they buy. Every business that pays a higher electric bill to FirstEnergy and AEP as a result of this bailout will add that expense to the cost of their goods and services.”

“AARP continues to maintain that Ohioans can’t afford these handouts. We urge the PUCO to reject the proposed settlements,” he said.

Snitcher added, “Legislators are elected to represent their constituents, and their constituents don’t want to pay these handouts.”

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