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AARP AARP States Advocacy

PUCO should reject bailout proposal

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Hume, Priscilla R

It isn’t bad enough that two million Ohioans who receive Social Security checks have been denied a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for the year ahead after being told the higher prices they are paying for food and medicine don’t count as inflation. Now they might have to endure a hike in their electric bills, too, just in time for colder weather and the holidays.

A settlement proposed by the staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and FirstEnergy would grant a bailout of $3.1 Billion to subsidize FirstEnergy’s unregulated merchant power plants, owned by a subsidiary, which they claim are no longer competitive in today’s wholesale power market.

While lower wholesale power prices may not be good news for the plants, they are good for consumers. Forcing all ratepayers to subsidize them is terrible public policy.

Earlier this year AARP members and volunteers testified against the FirstEnergy proposal which ignores other payments already in place for such plants. PJM, which operates the power grid in much of the Midwest and east, already provides payments for the unregulated FirstEnergy plants in question. Further, there is no reason FirstEnergy could not sell the output of such plants to states like Michigan under lucrative long-term contracts.

Wholesale power prices have dropped due to a surplus of power throughout the region and the falling demand for power. Residential ratepayers should benefit from this and not have their electric bills artificially padded with unwarranted subsidies of private companies.

It was FirstEnergy that got us into this situation in the first place by supporting deregulation legislation 15+ years ago. Ratepayers already paid the company to construct the plants and then for so-called stranded costs when the state deregulated the industry. The third time is not the charm.

The PUCO should reject this blatant corporate welfare at the expense of Ohio's seniors.

Please call the PUCO toll-free at 1-800-686-7826 and press option 4. Please leave a comment referring to Case 14-1297 and tell them that Ohioans cannot afford the FirstEnergy bailout and urge the PUCO to reject the FirstEnergy settlement.

This is a Christmas present from the PUCO that should be returned unopened!

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