Feb 7: Alan Schriber reappointed PUCO chairman

ash spill

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who yesterday reappointed the worst PUCO Chairman in Ohio history. The news came late Friday afternoon, the traditional time for politicians to announce decisions they are ashamed of.

CLEVELAND -- "Gov. Ted Strickland re-appointed Alan Schriber on Friday to an unprecedented third term as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. . . . PUCO is in the middle of deliberations over requested rate increases by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp and American Electric Power of Columbus," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Feb 6, 2009: PUCO finalists named: Current Chairman Schriber on short list

ash spill CLEVELAND -- "Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Alan Schriber, two of the agency's veteran attorneys and an experienced private utility lawyer are the finalists for a seat on the PUCO governing board when Schriber's current five-year term expires in April. The independent PUCO Nominating Council voted Thursday to recommend the four to Gov. Ted Strickland, who will have 30 days to make the appointment or ask for another slate of four. The governor's choice must be approved by the Ohio Senate," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Schriber's reappointment is "the other shoe dropping," the last step in a maneuver to take advantage of gullible legislators.

In 2007, an Ohio Citizen Action investigation uncovered a way for Gov. Ted Strickland to replace Taft's notoriously anti-consumer Public Utilities Commission (See 1, 2, 3, 4). Strickland instead reappointed them, and then proposed an energy bill giving them much more power.

During the debate on the energy bill, the governor's staff and allies assured legislators there was nothing to worry about. After all, PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber was on his way out. His term would expire in 2009 and then Strickland would appoint his own Chairman who would protect consumers. Because of this scenario, they said, it was OK to support a bill giving much more power to the PUCO.

The bill passed, but the promised scenario has not come to pass. Instead, Schriber threw his name in for reappointment, and is on the short-list of four finalists sent to Strickland for consideration. When Strickland picks Schriber, the gambit will have been completed.

How can we be so sure that Strickland will pick Schriber? Because Schriber would never have submitted his name had he not had an understanding with Strickland. That's how Columbus works.

-- Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action

Jun 20, 2008: Utilities, regulators discuss electric rates in private

Alan Schriber, PUCO Chair
CLEVELAND -- "In just six weeks, Ohio's electric utilities will file requests to increase rates. But they are already talking with regulators about what they will want -- behind closed doors. Critics say the discussions shortchange consumers and shut the public out of rate discussions. 'It's not the transparent process the legislature and the governor promised,' said Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander. . . . Ohio Citizen Action executive director Sandy Buchanan, a long-time FirstEnergy critic, put it more bluntly: 'The idea that a utility could talk with commissioners while nobody else is there to monitor what is going on, sounds like they could make a quiet deal with the PUCO and implement it later.' [PUCO Chair Alan] Schriber said nothing of the kind is happening or will happen. 'We are not negotiating. We are talking,' he said of his discussions with utilities," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Rebirth of nuclear energy sidetracks Ohio. "Gov. Ted Strickland's new energy policy calls for Ohio utility companies to develop alternative energy sources, including nuclear power. The Legislature went along and the state's top regulator embraced it. But no Ohio utilities are expected to apply to build nuclear reactors soon, citing high construction costs and the expense associated with disposing of radioactive waste. . . . Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, fears the utility companies will pass the construction costs - estimated at $5 billion to $7 billion per reactor - on to customers. But the biggest problems are the possibility of accidents and what to do with the waste, she said. "It (the cost) doesn't even include the waste," Buchanan said. "Now, our waste is sitting on the shores of Lake Erie. That's a great spot," John McCarthy, Associated Press.

Jun 2: Mounting costs slow the push for clean coal

Artist's rendering of the proposed FutureGen plant.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "For years, scientists have had a straightforward idea for taming global warming. They want to take the carbon dioxide that spews from coal-burning power plants and pump it back into the ground. President Bush is for it, and indeed has spent years talking up the virtues of 'clean coal.' All three candidates to succeed him favor the approach. So do many other members of Congress. Coal companies are for it. Many environmentalists favor it. Utility executives are practically begging for the technology. But it has become clear in recent months that the nation’s effort to develop the technique is lagging badly," Matthew Wald, New York Times.

May 19: The end of coal?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- "More than any other source, 'King Coal' is satisfying the energy appetites of Americans. But this fossil fuel is also the single biggest polluter. The ash escaping from the stacks at coal plants carries one-third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions -- mostly carbon dioxide -- blamed for global warming. Those environmental concerns, and expected federal regulations in the next year or two concerning carbon emissions, are killing dozens of proposed plants around the country," H.J. Cummins, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

May 8: Consumers' Counsel analyzes new Ohio energy law

soft switches
Soft Switches by Claes Oldenburg, 1964.

COLUMBUS -- "Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio Consumers' Counsel, has released an analysis of the new Ohio energy law, signed on May 1 by Governor Ted Strickland. Her perspective deserves attention because she is one of a handful of people in Columbus who actually understand the new law. As Consumers' Counsel, Migden-Ostrander is a residential utility consumer advocate in proceedings before state and federal regulators and in the courts," Paul Ryder, Organizing Director, Ohio Citizen Action. MORE ON OHIO CONSUMERS COUNSEL

May 6: $1.5 billion should make breathing easier
Coal-fired power plant finally gets air scrubbers

An 850-foot smokestack is being built as part of the overhaul at the W.H. Sammis plant.
STRATTON -- "FirstEnergy will spend six years and $1.5 billion by 2011 to settle a pollution lawsuit and meet federal clean-air rules at one of its power plants. By then, three massive scrubbers and two huge filters will operate at its W.H. Sammis coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River, helping remove thousands of tons of pollutants that cause smog, soot and acid rain. 'Many people have probably heard the term scrubber but have no idea just how massive an undertaking the project really is,' FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

STRATTON -- Scrubbing air, Ohio coal-fired power plant forced by regulations, lawsuits to reduce compounds tied to smog, soot and acid rain, Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

May 2: Kansas governor's third coal plant veto sustained

TOPEKA, KS -- "Kansas will not have two new coal-fired power plants at Holcomb in the western part of the state. Late Thursday night, the Kansas House narrowly sustained the third veto of a bill to allow the plants by Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat. The vote in the House was 80-45, four votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor's veto. Closely watched as an indicator of the mood of the Midwest on coal power, the battle between the governor and the Republican controlled Statehouse over Sunflower Electric's bid to expand its Holcomb Generating Station has absorbed much of this legislative session," Environmental News Service.

Apr 29: Coal price hikes boost electric rates, more increases coming

Construction continues on the Elm Road Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
NEW YORK, NY -- "Consumers struggling with high gas prices, rising food costs and falling home values have something new to worry about: Sharply rising electricity rates due to a surge in coal prices over the past year. There is an abundance of coal in the United States, but like many other commodities its price is increasingly dependent on events elsewhere in the world. Snowstorms this winter cut coal production in China and heavy rain flooded mines in Australia — the world's largest coal exporter. Meanwhile, demand for coal to generate electricity and make steel is rising almost everywhere, especially in fast-growing China and India," John Wilen, Associated Press.

Apr 16: Virginia rejects AEP power plant


CHARLESTON, WV -- "American Electric Power plans to appeal Virginia's rejection of a plan to build a $2.23 billion clean-coal plant in West Virginia, a company spokesman said. Virginia's State Corporation Commission on Monday denied a request from Columbus, Ohio-based AEP to build the Mason County plant. The commission also rejected a proposal to increase rates to start recovering construction costs from customers. The commission said the plant's estimated price, which dates back to November 2006, isn't credible. It also said AEP has no plans to provide a detailed, updated estimate until it gets full regulatory approval," Tim Huber, Forbes Magazine.

Apr 14: Utilities amassing landfills
Tougher air standards send tons of plants' sludge, coal ash into ground

American Electric Power's Conesville plant
CONESVILLE -- "The surface of the barren landfill resembles a piece of the moon dropped in the middle of the eastern Ohio countryside. Against a backdrop that includes the towering stacks of American Electric Power's coal-fired Conesville plant, a stream of huge trucks dump load after load of black coal ash and dried gray scrubber sludge for two bulldozers to spread... 'It's obviously another problem with coal,' said Sandy Buchanan, director of Ohio Citizen Action. 'You end up with all this ash and sludge with coal that you don't have with other kinds of power.' Her group is critical of pollution from coal-fired power plants and opposes a proposal from American Municipal Power to build a new plant in Meigs County," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Apr 14: Still breathing
Village lives on after power company's buyout, residents' relocation to find cleaner air

AEP's plant burns coal near a bulldozed part of the old Cheshire village. (Doral Chenoweth/Columbus Dispatch)
CHESHIRE -- "This village crouched beneath the belching smokestacks of a coal-fired power plant didn't vanish when American Electric Power bought out most of its residents and bulldozed their homes. Instead, the community along the Ohio River moved north and west, expanding its boundaries by annexing land and people from neighboring Cheshire Township. Now, six years after the Columbus-based energy company announced the novel town buyout, on April 16, 2002, Cheshire lives on, and so does its big neighbor," Mary Beth Lane, Columbus Dispatch. Published April 13.

Apr 9: Historic settlement provides states with $24 million

AEP HQ in Columbus COLUMBUS -- "The figures are out on a $75 million portion of a landmark settlement between the country's largest power company and the federal government and several states. Ohio-based American Electric Power Co. will pay $24 million to eight states, $15 million in civil penalties and $36 million for various environmental protection projects, putting the finishing touches on a settlement reached in October. The settlement also called for improvements to AEP's 16 sites at an estimated cost of $4.6 billion, making it the largest environmental enforcement settlement ever in terms of the value of the injunctive relief and emission reduction," John O'Brien, Legal Newsline.

Mar 31: $40 million ad campaign
Energy companies plug coal's 'clean' benefits

This billboard in downtown Columbus promotes coal as a cheap, clean source of electricity. (Tom Dodge/Columbus Dispatch)
COLUMBUS -- "Dogged by pollution and growing concerns about global warming, power and mining companies have mounted a $40 million nationwide ad campaign aimed at cleaning up coal's dirty image... Sandy Buchanan, director of Ohio Citizen Action, said that, despite Clean Air Act regulations, many older power plants were allowed to operate for years without expensive scrubbers and filters. 'I would be shocked if this industry doesn't have a strategy of opposing (global warming) changes and getting as much as they possibly can either grandfathered or exempted,' Buchanan said," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Mar 20: Coal can't fill world's burning appetite
With supplies short, price rise surpasses oil and U.S. exporters profit

coal deposits

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Big swings in the prices of coal and other commodities are common. But while the price of coal has slipped slightly in recent weeks, many analysts and companies are wondering whether high prices are here to stay. As increasing numbers of the world's poor join the middle classes, hooking up to electricity grids and buying up more manufactured goods, demand for coal grows. World consumption of coal has grown 30 percent in the past six years, twice as much as any other energy source. About two-thirds of the fuel supplies electricity plants, and just under a third heads to industrial users, mostly steel and concrete makers. Meeting rising demand will prove difficult. To maintain its role as the world's producer of last resort, the United States will need to make major investments in mines, railways and ports," Steven Mufson and Blaine Harden, Washington Post.

Mar 5: Loans program for coal plants suspended

US Dept of Agriculture BILLINGS, MT -- "The federal government is suspending a major loan program for coal-fired power plants in rural communities, saying the uncertainties of climate change and rising construction costs make the loans too risky. After issuing $1.3 billion in loans for new plant construction since 2001, none will be issued this year and likely none in 2009, James Newby, assistant administrator for the Rural Utilities Service, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, said Tuesday. The program's suspension marks a dramatic reversal of a once-reliable source of new coal plant financing. It follows the announcement last month that several major banks will require plant developers to factor in climate change when seeking private funding," Matthew Brown, Business Week.

Mar 4: U.S. coal power boom suddenly wanes
Worries about global warming and rising construction costs give the edge to natural-gas and renewable-energy plants

Texas is aggressively putting up more wind turbines, including this one outside Abilene. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

BOSTON, MA -- "Concerns about global warming and rising building costs are blocking construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States and pushing utilities to turn to natural gas and renewable power instead. Utilities canceled or put on hold at least 45 coal plants in development last year, according to a new analysis by the US Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh. These moves – a sharp reversal from a year ago, when the industry had more than 150 such plants in development – signal the waning of a major US expansion into coal," Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor.

Feb 29: EPA: Ruling will hinder coal plans

coal plant plans
States with two or more pending plants are Iowa, Michigan, Wyoming, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, New Mexico and N. Carolina.

DES MOINES, IA -- "A national environmental group on Thursday predicted utilities will have a tougher time building coal plants in Iowa and a dozen other states after a federal appeals court earlier this month threw out a federal pollution-trading system that allowed excess mercury emissions at some plants... The nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council claims that three dozen proposed coal plants will have to be redesigned to include different pollution-control equipment because of the decision. The Feb. 8 ruling by the Washington, D.C., appeals court has not been appealed, but there's still time," Perry Beeman, Des Moines Register.

Feb 26: City of Toronto thanks Ohio Citizen Action AEP court decision pdf

Seal of Toronto TORONTO, Quebec -- "City Council commend the U.S. EPA ... for their commitment to reducing air pollution through U.S. Power plant litigation, and in particular, their intervention in the case against American Electric Power Corporation Inc., the result of which will lead to improvements in Toronto's air quality, diminish the frequency and severity of smog episodes and reduce the health impact of air pollution in Toronto. City council thank the following organizations for their championship of the case against American Electric Power Corporation Inc., Ohio Citizen Action, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana... ," Candy Davidovits, Board of Health Secretary, City of Toronto.

Feb 4: Wall Street shows skepticism over coal
Banks push utilities to plan for impact of emissions caps

NEW YORK, NY -- "Three of Wall Street's biggest investment banks are set to announce today that they are imposing new environmental standards that will make it harder for companies to get financing to build coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley say they have concluded that the U.S. government will cap greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants sometime in the next few years. The banks will require utilities seeking financing for plants before then to prove the plants will be economically viable even under potentially stringent federal caps on carbon dioxide, the main man-made greenhouse gas," Jeffrey Ball, Wall Street Journal.

Jan 31: Utilities drop coal projects, pursue other fuels

Edison Electric Institute WASHINGTON, DC -- "Private electric utilities cancelled 11,084 Megawatts of coal plant projects in the first nine months of 2007, according to the industry's trade association, the Edison Electric Institute. The projects "fell victim to rising construction costs, uncertainty over future carbon regulation, and a reassessment of need," the report said. During the third quarter of 2007, private electric utilities "announced the intent to build 10,794 MW of new capacity . . . Perhaps due to the difficulty of getting new coal plants approved, none of [these] announced projects are coal plants." Companies scrapping new coal plants last year included American Electric Power, TXU Energy, Integrys Energy Group, Xcel Energy, Duke Energy, Westar Energy, Florida Power and Light and OGE Energy," Quarterly Financial Update: Construction, Third Quarter, 2007," Edison Electric Institute.

Jan 30: 'Clean' power plant might be trashed
Federal officials reportedly pull support for expensive facility once pursued by Ohio

An artist's rendering of the proposed "clean" coal-fired power plant, which is planned to be built in Illinois.
COLUMBUS -- "An experimental, 'clean' coal-fired power plant that was sought by Ohio and six other states might be scrapped because of its rising construction costs. The power plant, called FutureGen, was supposed to test methods to trap carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming. The plant's price nearly doubled in five years from $950 million to $1.8 billion. Department of Energy officials, who were supposed to pay 74 percent of the plant's cost, reportedly told federal lawmakers yesterday that they were dropping their support for FutureGen," Spencer Hunt Columbus Dispatch.

Jan 28: Event to revisit power company's purchase of town

"Cheshire, Ohio 2004" photo by Mitch Epstein
ATHENS -- "Nearly six years after American Electric Power bought the town of Cheshire, Ohio for $20 million, the purchase remains at the center of discussion on environmental and social-justice issues, a reminder of how growing rates of consumption can change communities across the country. This Tuesday, the Environmental Studies Program at Ohio University will revisit Cheshire's legacy in its presentation, 'When the Lights Went Out in Cheshire.' A screening of the film 'The Cheshire Transaction' will follow a discussion by professors Nancy Bain and Geoff Buckley of OU's Geography Department, at 7 p.m. in the Baker Theatre in Baker Center," Maria Gallucci, The Athens News.

Jan 21: Proposed plants face opposition in Meigs

Sunflower Electric Cooperative’s coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kan. churns out electricity. The company wants to expand its generating station with two 700-megawatt coal-fired power generators.

ATHENS -- "Two proposed coal-burning power plants under development in Meigs County are among dozens of such projects nationwide under attack from environmental groups. American Electric Power plans to build a 629-megawatt power plant in the Great Bend area along the Ohio River, while American Municipal Power-Ohio is seeking approval of a 960-megawatt power plant in Letart Falls. Opposition to the AEP proposal so far seems to be substantially less than that of the AMP-Ohio project, which several local, state and national environmental and consumer groups oppose," Richard Heck, Athens Messenger. Published January 20.

Jan 15: Coal power on trial nationwide
Dozens of plants challenged by environmentalists in 29 states

Southern Company's Plant Bowen in Cartersville, Georgia is one of the biggest coal-fired plants in the country. (Chris Baltimore/Reuters)
COLUMBUS -- "In federal and state courtrooms across the country, environmental groups are putting coal-fueled power plants on trial in a bid to slow the industry's biggest construction boom in decades. At least four dozen coal plants are being contested in 29 states, according to a recent Associated Press tally. The targeted utilities include giants like Peabody Energy and American Electric Power down to small rural cooperatives," Associated Press.

Gavin Jan 11: Ohio EPA cites area for soot problems

AKRON -- "It's official: Summit, Stark, Portage, Medina and Cuyahoga counties have bigger problems with microscopic soot. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants to designate these five counties plus 16 others as failing to meet tighter federal limits for soot, or particulates, and creating a health threat. The 21 counties aren't complying with tighter daily soot limits adopted in 2006 by the U.S. EPA. Most of the counties are under earlier federal orders to curtail soot levels by 2010. The new designation, which had been expected, could trigger tighter new and costly restrictions on diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles, coal-burning power plants and smokestack emissions," Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal. Article published Januray 10.

Bruce Monzyk stands above Topper Run, where two abandoned coal mines have polluted the watershed for decades.
Jan 8: Taming toxic waters
Battelle researchers say they can clean streams polluted by abandoned coal mines

ST MICHAEL, PA -- "Thick iron girders and broken concrete litter the snowy banks of Topper Run, remnants of the Maryland No. 1 and No. 2 coal mines that closed 50 years ago. But perhaps the ugliest reminder is the 4.3 million gallons of toxic water that flow from an old shaft every day. It's called 'acid mine drainage' -- water spiked with sulfuric acid and eroded iron -- and it has turned hundreds of streams in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia into toxic wastelands for fish, mollusks and insects," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Dec 27: Plans for at least 8 clean coal plants hit snags

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist ordered utilities to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2025.
ORLANDO, FL -- "Clean coal-fired power plants have been touted as a remedy for an environmentally challenged age, offering the promise of turning cheap but dirty coal into a pollution-free energy source. Don't turn off those wind turbines yet. At least eight clean coal plants, more than a third of those on the drawing board, have been canceled, delayed or rejected by regulators this year. Developers cite soaring construction costs, technology hurdles and uncertainty about regulation of greenhouse gases," Paul Davidson, USA Today.

Dec 12: Utility snuffs coal projects

Two expansion projects planned at the Jim Bridger power plant in Sweetwater County have been set aside.

SWEETWATER COUNTY, WY -- "Two coal-based power projects planned for southwest Wyoming have been snuffed due to an uncertain political climate regarding greenhouse gases. PacifiCorp, which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming, said it has pulled all coal-based power generation from its plan to meet increasing load demand within the six Western states it serves... 'The situation the company finds itself in now is a significant amount of uncertainty about what climate change regulation might do to the cost of coal plants,' Eskelsen said Monday. 'Coal projects are no longer viable,'" Dustin Bleizeffer , Casper Star-Tribune. Published December 11.

Dec 11: Judge greenlights AEP settlement

SAINT CLAIRSVILLE -- "The largest environmental settlement involving the U.S. government was approved this morning by District Court Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. near several power plants affected by the deal. The federal government, eight states and 13 environmental groups signed off on the agreement with American Electric Power. The Columbus-based company will begin reducing sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions at 16 power plants east of the Mississippi. The emissions will be reduced from about 1 million tons annually to 246,000 tons by 2019, according to the settlement," Kevin Mayhood, Columbus Dispatch.

SAINT CLAIRSVILLE -- AEP reaches settlement pact in clean air case, WTOV.

Dec 10: Judge approves AEP clean-air settlement

SAINT CLAIRESVILLE -- "The largest environmental settlement involving the U.S. government was approved this morning by District Court Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. near several power plants affected by the deal. The federal government, eight states and 13 environmental groups signed off on the agreement with American Electric Power. The Columbus-based company will begin reducing sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions at 16 power plants east of the Mississippi. The emissions will be reduced from about 1 million tons annually to 246,000 tons by 2019, according to the settlement," Kevin Mayhood, Columbus Dispatch.

Dec 3: What's my connection to mountaintop removal?

BOONE, NC -- "Coal-fired power plants around the country are connected to mountaintop removal, a radical form of coal mining in which mountains are literally blown up, devastating communities throughout Appalachia, polluting drinking water and destroying rivers. And the worst part is, you're paying for it. If your home or business is on the electric grid, chances are you are connected to mountaintop removal in the Appalachian Mountains. Find out how -- and then find out what you can do about it," End Mountaintop Removal Action and Resource Center.

Nov 26: Ohio's coal output slips
Production fell 10 percent in 2006; experts think it was an aberration

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio's sulfur-rich coal has long been linked to pollution, including acid rain. Tougher federal air-pollution limits prompted power companies and businesses to burn lower-sulfur coal from other states as a cheaper alternative to scrubbers. That pushed Ohio's coal production down from a 1970 record of 55 million tons. A Dispatch investigation published in December found that as coal production increased, the state lacked the money and manpower to oversee mines and to clean up more than 36,000 acres of abandoned mine lands," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch. Published November 25.

Nov 19: Round the rotunda
Strickland caught between coal and a hard place

CLEVELAND -- "Pressure and time. Crank up some heat, and that's the basic recipe that nature has followed for millions of years to create the coal beds in Ohio's soil. Those elements were also at play in Milwaukee last week, when Gov. Ted Strickland found himself in a delicate political situation as Midwestern governors gathered to sign a pair of regionwide agreements. The twin pacts are basically agreements among Midwestern states and the Canadian province of Manitoba to reduce greenhouse gases, increase alternative-fuel production and raise renewable energy standards in the distant future," Aaron Marshall, Cleveland Plain Dealer. Published November 17.

Nov 9: $4.6B pollution payout signals major shift
Largest environmental settlement in U.S. history will reduce smog and acid rain across northeast

health cost savings WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "Once AEP has fully installed the pollution control equipment required by the settlement, the U.S. estimates that the annual benefits to public health will include approximately $32 billion per year saved in avoided health-related costs associated with respiratory and cardiopulmonary illnesses, including asthma and heart attacks, according to a statement released by the Department of Justice. One study blames power plant pollution for than half a million asthma attacks, 38,000 heart attacks, and 60,000 premature deaths every year," Associated Press, CBS News.

Nov 8: Fueled by coal
China's addiction grows despite safety, environmental concerns

Jungar Qi, China
Coal workers load up a truck with coal in Jungar Qi, a bleak boomtown, nestled in the sand-sculpted ravines of Inner Mongolia, China. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

JUNGAR QI, China -- "In Ohio, coal employment is closing in on 3,000 workers, up from 2,500 in 2005, according to the Ohio Coal Association. Perhaps more impressive is the amount of coal mined in the state -- about 26 million tons a year, up from 19 million at the beginning of this decade, the association said. But nowhere is coal bigger than in China. The explosion of coal comes amid rising alarm over its dire consequences for workers and the environment. An average of 13 Chinese miners die every day in explosions, floods, fires and cave-ins. Toxic clouds of mercury and other chemicals from mining and burning coal are poisoning the air and water far beyond China's borders and polluting the food chain," Elaine Kurtenbach, Associated Press.

PARIS, France -- Why coal is to get additional attention, Neil King Jr. and Spencer Swartz, Wall Street Journal. Subscription required.

Nov 7: Higher levels of pollutants found in fish caught near a coal-fired power plant

mercury path

PITTSBURGH, PA -- "A new study found higher-than-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-recommended levels of mercury and elevated levels of selenium in channel catfish caught in a rural area upstream of Pittsburgh and downwind from a coal-fired power plant. Both mercury and selenium are well-known contaminants of coal burning for power generation.  To complete the study, researchers recruited local anglers to catch channel catfish from the three rivers area of Pittsburgh and from Kittanning, Pa., an area 40 miles upstream of Pittsburgh. The three rivers area includes the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers," Science Daily.

NEW YORK, NY -- Is burning coal a patriotic duty?, Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times.

Nov 1: Coal, power and poison

South Carolina coal plant
Santee Cooper's Cross coal-fired generating plant

BOSTICK, SC -- "Coal is the United States' most important source of nonforeign energy. It is relatively cheap and plentiful. More than half of the country's electric power comes from burning coal. But of all the fossil fuels, experts say, coal causes the most air pollution. It fouls the air with soot and gases, and many scientists contend that the burning of fossil fuel is a key contributor to global warming. Burning coal also unlocks mercury in the coal, turning it into a vapor and shooting it up tall smokestacks and into the air. Where this mercury lands has huge implications. Does the wind carry it thousands of miles away, even halfway around the world, thus causing virtually no local problem? Or does much of it come down within a hundred or so miles of the plant?," Tony Bartelme and Doug Pardue, Charleston Post and Courier. Published October 29.

BOSTICK, SC -- The Mercury Connection, We know mercury taints fish. What about people?, Tony Bartelme, Charleston Post and Courier. Published October 29.

Oct 24: Emissions Debate
Ohio won't block plants based on CO2 ruling

global warming gases chartCOLUMBUS -- "The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency this year has approved one draft permit and is considering a second for two proposed coal-fired power plants in Meigs County. Both would produce millions of tons of carbon dioxide. 'That's just not an approach that we are prepared to take here in Ohio,' Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski said. Ohio, like many other states, uses a 'don't ask, don't tell' carbon-dioxide policy with businesses seeking pollution permits. State and federal governments do not regulate carbon dioxide, which has been tied to global warming," Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

Oct 14: The Anatomy of a Clean Air Milestone

trees killed by acid rain
Trees killed by acid rain

COLUMBUS -- "At $4.6 billion for the cleanup, plus $75 million in spare change for penalties and mitigation projects, the Environmental Protection Agency says the consent decree is the largest single environmental settlement in American history. EPA, one of the plaintiffs, estimates that pollution controls will keep more than 800,000 tons of NOX and SOX out of the air. NOX and SOX (that’s nitrogen and sulfur oxides), emitted by coal combustion, are bad actors that fill the air with unhealthy particulate matter, ugly haze, and acid precipitation that harms lakes and forests. EPA estimates that the public health benefits of reducing airborne gunk from the AEP plants will be worth $32 billion in avoided health care costs," Jim DiPeso, The Daily Green.

Better now than never for AEP deal, editorial, Coshocton Tribune.
Pollution settlement good news for region, editorial, Springfield Republican.

Oct 11: State agency sat out AEP suit
Ohio EPA says it was too busy to get involved; other states say politics had role

Ohio EPA COLUMBUS -- "When Gov. Bob Taft presented American Electric Power's Muskingum River Plant an award for outstanding pollution-prevention efforts on Oct. 27, 1999, he praised the company for voluntarily cutting waste and emissions. Exactly a week later, the plant was a target of lawsuits filed by eight eastern states, environmental groups and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Muskingum River was among the nation's oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants violating the Clean Air Act, the lawsuit said. For eight years, while the lawsuit proceeded to the record multibillion-dollar settlement announced this week, the Ohio EPA sat on the sidelines. The state had no voice in an agreement that will make Ohio's air cleaner and affect jobs and electricity rates. Why?," Kevin Mayhood, Spencer Hunt, Columbus Dispatch.

EPA joins settlement of lawsuit but adds a waiver, Action against polluting utility is ruled out until 2018, Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
EPA's record settlement with utility could lead to other deals, AEP agreed Tuesday to spend $4.6 billion to install pollution controls on 16 power plants, Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor.

Oct 10: Breathing easier

Columbus Dispatch map

COLUMBUS -- "Air-pollution reductions that American Electric Power must make at 16 of its coal-fired power plants will save $32 billion a year in health costs, the federal government estimates. To clear the air, Columbus-based AEP already started spending $6.6 billion, including about $2.8 billion in Ohio, the company said yesterday after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a multibillion-dollar settlement in an eight-year dispute. AEP said it already has spent much of the money included in the settlement and has budgeted for the rest. Since January 2006, Ohio customers have paid an extra $2 to $3 per month, part of which pays for the upgrades," Kevin Mayhood, Jonathan Riskind and Paul Wilson, Columbus Dispatch.

Area resident part of win in fight against AEP, Jeremy Lydic, East Liverpool Review.

Oct 9: American Electric Power agrees to record-breaking $4.6 billion clean-up of 16 coal plants to settle Ohio Citizen Action et al v. AEP et al

AEP Conesville plant
AEP's Conesville, Ohio, coal plant. Photo by Peter Essick, National Geographic.

COLUMBUS -- "Columbus-based American Electric Power (AEP) today agreed to a $4.6 billion clean-up of sixteen coal plants in five states to settle the Ohio Citizen Action et al v. AEP et al lawsuit.

More emission cuts are required under today's agreement than in any other single air pollution settlement in history, according to the U.S. EPA. Under today's settlement, the AEP plants will emit 79% less sulfur dioxide by 2018, and 69% less nitrogen oxides by 2016.

Ohio Citizen Action Executive Director Sandy Buchanan said, 'Citizens of the five states and our downwind neighbors have just won an unprecedented public health victory. We regret that it took eight years and a legal two-by-four to get AEP's attention,'" release, Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action (34 KB doc).

AEP agrees to record settlement, United Press International.
Settlement reached in acid rain case, Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press.
Utility to pay large sum in clean air settlement; AEP agrees to deep emissions cuts to control acid rain, Steven Mufson, Washington Post.
AEP settles clean-air case, Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal.
Big utility says it will settle 8-year-old pollution suit, Matthew Wald, Stephanie Saul, New York Times.
Settlement with EPA; Lawsuit deal may cost AEP billions; Impact on consumers already felt, utility says, Kevin Mayhood, Columbus Dispatch.
AEP reaches settlement agreement in NSR case, release, American Electric Power.

Sep 20: The coal industry is in big trouble

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Big Coal is in deep trouble and wants Congress to provide a massive federal bailout. Since the beginning of 2006 at least two dozen new coal-fired electric power plants have been canceled, most for environmental reasons. As of May there were only 132 coal plants scheduled for construction nationwide, down from 137 in 2006, and even this number will likely dwindle. A small but effective citizens' movement has managed to box in Big Coal," Peter Montague, Rachel's Democracy & Health News.

Sep 4: Coal rush reverses, Power firms follow; Plans for new plants stalled by growing opposition

Washington Post WASHINGTON, DC -- "A year after the nation appeared to be in the middle of a coal rush, widening alarm about greenhouse gas emissions has slowed the efforts of electric companies to build coal-fired power plants from hills of eastern Montana to southern Florida.

Recently, proponents of coal-fired power plants acquired a new foe: Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid. In late July, Reid (D-Nev.) sent a letter to the chief executives of four power companies in which he vowed to "use every means at my disposal" to stop their plans to build three coal-fired plants in Nevada. Last month, after a speech in Reno, Reid said he was opposed to new coal-fired plants anywhere. 'There's not a coal-fired plant in America that's clean. They're all dirty,' Reid told reporters after speaking at a conference on renewable energy. He said that the United States should turn to wind, solar and geothermal power in an effort to slow climate change. "Unless we do something quickly about global warming, we're in trouble," he said.

Reid's opposition to coal plants is the latest in a series of new obstacles for power companies seeking to use the fuel to generate electricity. A combination of rising construction costs, state mandates for the use of renewable energy and lawsuits by environmental organizations have forced many utilities to drop or postpone coal projects this summer," Steven Mufson, Washington Post.

Aug 29: Governor Strickland Proposes Energy, Jobs and Progress Plan

AEP's Gavin coal plant, Cheshire, Ohio: Sulfur dioxide, mercury, hazardous air toxics, carbon dioxide, soot (Photo by Mitch Epstein, 2003).
COLUMBUS -- "Ohio Governor Ted Strickland today announced his Energy, Jobs and Progress plan that will ensure predictability of affordable energy prices and serve as a catalyst to enhance energy industries in Ohio, bringing new jobs while protecting existing jobs," release, Office of the Governor.

In fact, Governor Strickland’s energy policy was unveiled almost five months ago, on April 9, when he reappointed the Taft PUCO.

Ohio Citizen Action’s pursuit of the illegal PUCO Nominating Council process had given Strickland a golden opportunity to replace the Taft commissioners. They had routinely ignored the 1999 deregulation law in order to undermine competition, and had approved billions in unjustified rates to Ohio residents and businesses. Strickland decided to welcome them back.

Today’s speech will soon be forgotten as lobbyists descend on the legislature and the PUCO, where the deals will really be cut.

Jul 25: Block new wave of power plants

Wall Street Journal logo LOS ANGELES, CA -- "From coast to coast, plans for a new generation of coal-fired power plants are falling by the wayside as states conclude that conventional coal plants are too dirty to build and the cost of cleaner plants is too high. . .

As recently as May, U.S. power companies had announced intentions to build as many as 150 new generating plants fueled by coal, which currently supplies about half the nation's electricity. One reason for the surge of interest in coal was concern over the higher price of natural gas, which has driven up electricity prices in many places. Coal appeared capable of softening the impact since the U.S. has deep coal reserves and prices are low. But as plans for this fleet of new coal-powered plants move forward, an increasing number are being canceled or development slowed. . .

It's hard to say how many proposed plants will never be built. Some projects suffer public deaths when permits are denied. Many more simply wither away, lost in the multiyear process of obtaining permits, fending off court challenges and garnering financing. In the wake of the fading coal proposals, and others that are expected to follow, Citigroup downgraded the stocks of coal-mining companies last week, noting that 'prophesies of a new wave of coal-fired generation have vaporized,'" Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal (no link).

Jul 18: Coal: Missing the window; Downgrading on stubborn stockpiles, hostile politics

Citibank logo NEW YORK, NY -- "Prophesies of a new wave of coal-fired generation have vaporized, while clean coal technologies such as IGCC [Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle] with carbon capture and coal-to-liquids remain a decade away, or more," Citigroup, 507 KNB pdf.

Apr 17: PUCO takes its time learning to meet in public session

COLUMBUS -- "After the nominating council of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio met last week, a consumer advocate said the meeting was 'like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit.' Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action said the council 'clearly had difficulty' meeting in a session open to the public. In the past, the council made its decisions in private and switched to public meetings only after being called on the carpet by Attorney General Marc Dann, who said the private sessions violated the state’s open meetings law, which requires decisions of public bodies to be made in public," Paul E Kostyu, Canton Repository.

Apr 15: Strickland placates a powerful lobby with PUCO move

CLEVELAND -- "A Strickland spokesman told The Plain Dealer that the governor would leave the PUCO as is because he wants to 'ensure stability and predictability in Ohio's regulatory market.' Or, in plain English, Ohio's new Democratic governor doesn't want to irk one of the Statehouse's most powerful lobbies. In the real world, 'stability and predictability' is Statehouse-ese for 'regulators' who roll over on command, like strive-to-please pooches. That's why Ohio's motto - 'With God, All Things are Possible' - could be re-cast as 'Higher Rates; Deteriorating Service,'" Thomas Suddes, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Apr 11: Strickland takes the high road

CLEVELAND -- "Some utility watchdog groups have offered a more cynical explanation, suggesting that Strickland doesn't want to make waves at PUCO because he's indebted to the utilities - especially the electric power industry. Perhaps time will prove that to be the case. For now, Strickland deserves the benefit of the doubt and credit for doing what's right," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

LIMA -- Open government. "A representative of the environmental organization Ohio Citizen Action made a public records request to obtain minutes from the nominating council’s Feb. 7 meeting, the Dispatch reported. The minutes showed the group went into closed session to interview 10 candidates and came out to public session to nominate, without any discussion, four people," Lima News.

Apr 10: Utilities board nominees reappointed
3 rejoin Ohio panel and a 4th is selected

COLUMBUS -- "Just days after being told their nominations were illegally decided behind closed doors, three commissioners and one hopeful were swiftly recommended again and reappointed yesterday by Gov. Ted Strickland to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. That left the makeup of the utility regulatory panel exactly as it was before Attorney General Marc Dann pointed out the open-meetings law violations and requested the resignations of the three members last week. The move left some supporters of Mr. Strickland slack-jawed as they saw a rare opportunity slip through their fingers to remake in one fell swoop what they consider to be a regulatory panel prone to side with utilities over consumers. 'Why did this happen over the Easter weekend?' asked Sandy Buchanan of government watchdog Ohio Citizen Action. 'The announcement was made late on Good Friday that they would meet on Easter Monday. It’s a classic PR move when you don’t want people to pay attention during a holiday weekend,' Ms. Buchanan said. 'It’s a cynical process,'" Jim Provance, Toledo Blade .

COLUMBUS -- Out with the old, in with the old at PUCO, Chairman, commissioners reappointed after flap over open-meetings violations, Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.
COLUMBUS -- More than a charade, editorial, Cincinnati Post.
COLUMBUS -- Governor reappoints utility regulators who resigned, Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press.
COLUMBUS -- PUCO panel's nominees list looks familiar, Mark Rollenhagen, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
COLUMBUS -- PUCO Nominating Council submits recommendations to Gov. Strickland to fill four vacancies, news release, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Apr 9: Letter to Thomas Green of the PUCO nominating committee

COLUMBUS -- "The only way Governor Strickland could already have made a decision to reappoint these commissioners is if he knew that the PUCO Nominating Council would recommend them to him. How did Governor Strickland know this? There must have been some form of communication between him, directly or indirectly, and you or other members of the Nominating Council. What was it? When did it happen? Who was involved? What was the content of the communication? Were these communications conducted in public?," Catherine Turcer, Ohio Citizen Action.

Strickland has eye on 'stability,' won't bump state utilities board destroy
Handwritten note to destroy ballots: "Move to destroy ballots made by D. Helmick second H. Meshel -- passed."

COLUMBUS -- "Council meeting minutes obtained by the watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action showed that the panel met in executive session in February to narrow down the candidates and then, in public session, voted to destroy the ballots used in the deliberations... Ohio Citizen Action is a frequent critic of PUCO, contending it favors the interests of the large energy, communications and transportation businesses it regulates rather than the interests of consumers," Mark Rollenhagen, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Operate openly, Correct secret nominating process, but don't change membership of PUCO, editorial, Columbus Dispatch.

Apr 8: PUCO reappointments:
Strickland bows to utilities, abdicates leadership

Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher
Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher celebrate on election night, November 7, 2006. The next morning, Catherine Turcer, Ohio Citizen Action's Legislative Director, issued an analysis which warned, "Ted Strickland has a commitment to coal interests that is unparalleled since Jim Rhodes, who began running for governor in 1950."

CLEVELAND -- "Gov. Strickland's promise to reappoint three Taft Public Utilities Commissioners is a remarkable abdication of leadership. He could do more to Turn-Around Ohio by installing new leadership at the PUCO than all his campaign promises put together. It's just that important to Ohio family budgets and to Ohio's business climate. Instead he has decided to let Ohio utilities proceed unregulated by either the market or the government. At the same time, his pre-emptive decision violates the whole purpose of Ohio's sunshine law. It cuts the public out of the process as thoroughly and cynically as the illegal meetings identified by Attorney General Dann," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

COLUMBUS -- Dann fights for Ohioans' right to know, Benjamin Marrison, Columbus Dispatch.
Apr 7: PUCO commissioners won't be replaced, Strickland says

COLUMBUS -- "At the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, they may be singing the refrain from a classic rock song next week: Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss. The song fits. While a special nominating council will meet Monday -- this time in public -- to recommend candidates for four of five spots on the commission, Gov. Ted Strickland remains committed to reappointing the members who resigned yesterday. . . While the process would afford Strickland, a Democrat, the opportunity to restock the PUCO with his own nominees, [Strickland Press Secretary Keith] Dailey said the governor will not do that simply to gain partisan advantage. Strickland has been under pressure from consumer advocates to appoint new members viewed as less utility-friendly. "He intends to reappoint the current commissioners," Dailey said. "The governor believes that just because he has the ability to take advantage of this situation, it doesn't mean he must,'" Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

COLUMBUS -- Chairman Schriber and Commissioners Fergus and Lemmie resign from the PUCO, press release, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
COLUMBUS -- Lemmie, others resign but expect to keep jobs, Associated Press.
COLUMBUS -- Three on PUCO offer resignations, Mark Rollenhagen, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AKRON -- Three on PUCO resign posts, might return; Attorney general alleges their selection process violated law; Governor may reappoint them, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.
WILLOUGHBY -- Dann did right thing with PUCO, editorial, Lake County News-Herald.

Apr 5: Critics want new members at PUCO
3 on utility board review order to quit

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio Citizen Action spokeswoman Catherine Turcer agreed that the agency should be reshaped: 'Why not rethink the whole process? Why not open the process to public comment? This is the right time... What you want to have at the PUCO is accountability to consumers.' Turcer made a public-records request to obtain minutes from the nominating council's Feb. 7 meeting. They showed that the panel went into closed session at 9:30 a.m., interviewed 10 applicants and returned to public session 2 hours later. At that point, without discussion, the commission voted to recommend four PUCO nominees," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

COLUMBUS -- Three on PUCO should resign, official says; Latest appointee also questionable because of closed-door process, Akron Beacon Journal.

Apr 4: 3 PUCO officials asked to resign
Their nominations violated Sunshine Law, Dann says

COLUMBUS -- "Attorney General Marc Dann has asked three members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to resign, saying they were illegally nominated in secret. All three were appointed by former Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican; if they leave, Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, could name a majority of the powerful five-member board, which regulates electricity, gas, telephone, water and commercial transportation," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO seats were filled illegally, Dann says, Mark Rollenhagen, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Ohio Citizen Action's investigation: Apr 1: PUCO always protects its own

COLUMBUS -- "Maybe Strickland's hesitation at shaking up the commission is due to an early-term toe-stubber. Less than a month after his inauguration, Ohio Citizen Action's Sandy Buchanan blew the whistle on what she said was a 'wired' deal to name Charles Moses to a PUCO vacancy. Moses, a Democrat, heads the Ohio Telecom Association, a lobby for phone companies. While no one could seriously doubt Moses' integrity and qualifications, Buchanan said Moses' background might tilt the commission even further toward utility viewpoints. Strickland instead appointed Worthington lawyer-economist Paul Centolella to the commission, a choice that drew praise. But that was a whisper of the praise the governor would draw if he emphatically signaled PUCO yes-persons that it's high time for the periodic 'no,'" Thomas Suddes, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Feb 24: New PUCO board member has 25 years in utilities field

COLUMBUS -- "The current consumers' counsel, Janine Migden-Ostrander, who was a staff attorney for the agency in the early 1980s, said she is 'very pleased' with [Paul] Centolella's appointment. 'I worked with Paul many years ago,' she said in an interview. 'He is very bright, independent and fair-minded. I think he will bring a broad perspective, which includes a consumer perspective, to the job,' John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Feb 23: "Gov. Strickland did the right thing by appointing a commissioner without a conflict-of-interest"

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Governor Ted Strickland today appointed Paul Centolella to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director Ohio Citizen Action, issued the following statement:

"Governor Strickland did the right thing by appointing a commissioner without a conflict-of-interest. Now it is time for Governor Strickland and the legislature to fix the broken PUCO Nominating Council to prevent similar utility lobbyist takeovers in the future."

COLUMBUS -- Strickland reappoints Rehabilitation and Corrections Director, names PUCO Commissioner, press release, Office of the Governor.

COLUMBUS -- Consumer advocates praise PUCO appointment. "Ohio Citizen Action Director Sandy Buchanan, who has been critical of commission rulings that she felt favored utilities over consumers, also liked the appointment. 'This is the type of commissioner we need to see,' Buchanan said," John McCarthy, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- Strickland appoints Worthington man to PUCO, Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

Feb 21: PUCO Nominating Council chair comments on selection process

COLUMBUS -- "I believe [Mr. Moses] would make an outstanding public utilities
commissioner although he may not be given that opportunity due to continued
assaults on him as a 'lobbyist,'" Thomas Green, lobbyist, AT&T and Columbia Gas; Chair, PUCO Nominating Council.

Feb 20: Lobbyist doesn't belong on PUCO, watchdog says

New PUCO seal COLUMBUS -- "As a utility lobbyist vies for a seat on the powerful Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, a watchdog group pointed out that utility interests poured $2.7 million into Ohio political races in the past two years. 'They already have quite a bit of influence. Our basic point is the utility lobby should not be deciding on people's electric and phone bills,' said Ohio Citizen Action Executive Director Sandy Buchanan. Citizen Action, a nonpartisan good government and consumer advocate, put out the report Monday. . . Buchanan said the PUCO's pattern of decisions has been to grant what the big utilities want, and it's a conflict of interest for lobbyists to be on the powerful board," Laura Bischoff, Dayton Daily News.

CLEVELAND -- Heckuva job, Alan! Strickland spokesman says the Governor doesn’t intend to replace Alan Schriber as PUCO Chairman. "All of this is very confusing to those of us who listened to candidate Strickland say this in a Meet The Bloggers interview last March: '. . . we need a government and we need a Governor who will have a strong consumer advocacy position, and make sure that the people who are appointed to the PUCO are people who have a track record of being concerned about the needs of the consumer,'" Bill Callahan, Callahan's Cleveland Diary.

Feb 19: Utility interests poured $2.7 million into Ohio politics in 2005 - 2006

Utility bills "As I campaigned across Ohio . . . I talked about what I consider the kitchen-table issues, or the bread-and-butter issues."

Governor Ted Strickland, speech, Akron Press Club, January 18, 2007.

No real kitchen table is complete without a pile of utility bills. In the average Ohio household with basic service, the monthly electric bill is $78.14, the gas bill is $114.53, and the telephone bill is $22.80, for a total of $215.39, according to the November 2006 Ohio Utility Rate Survey. The numbers on these bills are determined by state law and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. When a governor, a legislator, or a commissioner is under the influence of utilities, everyday Ohioans can get fleeced. That's why utilities spend a lot of money to buy influence," Ohio Citizen Action.

Feb 18: Governor: Utilities board pick will signal regulation philosophy

COLUMBUS -- "Critics had hoped that Strickland, the first Democratic governor in 16 years, would change the direction of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which some have viewed as too cozy with - and easy on - utility giants like FirstEnergy Corp., American Electric Power and AT&T. 'He should start over from scratch,' said Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, a nonprofit consumer and voter advocacy group... Strickland said Citizen Action has every right to complain, but he played down their concerns. 'It's unfortunate when judgments are made about people based on superficial factors. I think individuals should be judged on the totality of their life and work,' he said," John McCarthy, Associated Press.

Feb 13: Spokesman: Governor likely to keep utilities commission chairman

COLUMBUS -- "Strickland's choice is being watched by consumer groups and environmentalists concerned about the campaign support he received from utility companies and the coal mining industry," John McCarthy, Associated Press.

Feb 12: Background:
Why was the PUCO Nominating Council created in the first place?

Gov. James Rhodes enters the
Ohio House, January 5, 1971
James Rhodes
CLEVELAND -- "By the 1970s, the Commission had stopped regulating. Governor Jim Rhodes, whose political base was the coal industry and electric utilities, appointed commissioners who were certain to approve whatever the electric utilities wanted. For example, Ohio's electric utilities wanted to go on a nuclear power plant construction spree. Rhodes' Commission agreed and then allowed utilities to charge their customers for electricity that had not yet been produced, through the notorious "construction work in progress" charges. This rubber-stamp regulation hit consumers hard. In 1981 alone, the cost of gas, electricity and telephone for the typical Ohio family climbed 14.5%. The next year, 1982, it jumped 27.7%." Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, full text.

Feb 9: Watchdog: PUCO nominees tilt to utilities

COLUMBUS -- "The head of Ohio Citizen Action says the list of nominees announced Wednesday for an upcoming opening on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio confirms her fears that the process is 'wired' to favor the interests of utilities... 'Any member of the Public Utilities Commission must be knowledgeable about utility issues,' said Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action's executive director. 'But the PUCO must not be allowed to have a revolving door between it and the very industries it regulates,'" Mark Rollenhagen, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Ohio Public Radio logo COLUMBUS -- Lobbyist among those in the running to join state's utility regulators board. "Consumer advocates are worried that Governor Ted Strickland may soon appoint a utility lobbyist to become one of Ohio's utility regulators. Statehouse correspondent Bill Cohen reports," Bill Cohen, Ohio Public Radio, listen (requires Real Audio).
  • The following PUCO-regulated utilities contributed through the Ohio Democratic Party to Governor Ted Strickland's January 8 Inaugural : AT&T, American Electric Power, Dominion (East Ohio Gas), Duke Energy, FirstEnergy, Sprint Nextel, and Time-Warner (Source: Strickland-Fisher Inaugural Committee, Dayton Daily News, January 14, 2007).
NBC 4 at 5, WCMH-TV Columbus

NBC 4 logoAnchor: A watchdog group is taking aim at the Strickland Administration because of recent nominations. The group, Ohio Citizen Action, says two of the four people nominated to the Public Utilities Commission are tied to utility companies. One man, Charles Moses, is a lobbyist for the Ohio Telecommunication Association.
Catherine Turcer, Legislative Director, Ohio Citizen Action: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that somebody who lobbies for the telephone industry will not make a good advocate for consumers on the Public Utilities Commission.
Keith Dailey, Press Secretary, Office of the Governor: Many of them have both private sector and public sector experience, which is a good balance to have when seeking to resolve disputes. The governor will make the best decision.
Anchor: Governor Strickland has a little less than a month to nominate someone to the PUCO.

Feb 8: PUCO Nominating Council's four picks include utility lobbyist, utility lawyer

COLUMBUS -- The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Nominating Council on Wednesday recommended four candidates for a seat on the five-member Commission. The four finalists are Paul Centolella, Paul Duffy, Gretchen Hummel, and Charles Moses. From these four, Governor Ted Strickland will choose the new commissioner, who will take office on April 11.

Sandy BuchananOn Monday, Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director of Ohio Citizen Action, had said "selections by the Governor and legislative leaders have given a bloc of slots [on the Nominating Council] to the very utilities that are regulated by the PUCO . . . In the language of the State House, the outcome of this process is ‘wired,’" full text. Today, Buchanan issued the following statement:

My warning was well-founded. The Council has produced a list which includes Charles Moses, a utility lobbyist, and Gretchen Hummel, a utility attorney.

Of course, any member of the Public Utilities Commission must be knowledgeable about utility issues. But the PUCO must not be allowed to have a revolving door between it and the very industries it regulates.

Moses is rumored to have the inside track on the appointment, due to his relationships with the Strickland Administration. And by all accounts, he is a capable and talented individual. However, as President of the Ohio Telecom Association, he is now the chief lobbyist for the interests of 41 telecommunications providers, 3 wireless providers and over 100 associate member companies. These include ALLTEL, Century Tel, Cincinnati Bell, Horizon Telcom, AT&T, Embarq (Sprint) and Verizon.

Had the Nominating Council not been stacked with utility lobbyists, it likely would not have recommended someone with such an immense conflict-of-interest. Now they have left it up to Governor Strickland to realize that, as a public utilites commissioner, Mr. Moses' every vote would be cast under this cloud.

Fortunately, Governor Strickland has other choices. And in Paul Centolella, he has someone who understands both consumer and business perspectives and would be a balanced choice.

In making this decision, we urge Governor Strickland to remember that Ohio voters are anxious for him to bring integrity back to state government. Surely, he can give Mr. Moses the opportunity to serve the State in another position.

COLUMBUS -- Thomas Green responds to Sandy Buchanan statement on PUCO nominees, email, Thomas Green, lobbyist, AT&T and Columbia Gas; Chair, PUCO Nominating Council.

COLUMBUS -- List for PUCO vacancy narrowed to four, Mark Rollenhagen, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO candidate list narrowed to four, Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO Nominating Council submits recommendations to Gov. Strickland, release, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Feb 7: Nine names still on list for seat on PUCO

COLUMBUS -- "The leader of the trade group that represents Ohio telephone companies and the state’s first utility watchdog are among nine candidates to be considered for a critical spot on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. A nominating committee will meet today to recommend four of the names to Gov. Ted Strickland, who will make the final decision," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch.

Feb 6: PUCO Nominating Council picks eight Commissioner candidates to interview

COLUMBUS -- On Monday, February 5, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Nominating Committee chose eight Commissioner candidates to interview from a field of 115 applicants:

  • Bob Burns, Senior Institute Specialist and Attorney, National Regulatory Research Institute
  • Bill D'Onofrio, consultant, former Vice President, American Electric Power
  • Paul Duffy, Legal Director, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
  • Gretchen Hummel, attorney, represents Ohio Industrial Energy Users, Vectren Corporation, formerly on staff at the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel and the Public Utilities Commisison of Ohio
  • Ray Lawton, former Director, National Regulatory Research Institute
  • Steve Lesser, Attorney Examiner, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
  • Charles Moses, President, Ohio Telephone Association
  • Bill Spratley, Executive Director, Green Energy Ohio, first Ohio Consumers' Counsel (1977-1993)
Midday Tuesday, February 6, the Nominating Council added the name of Paul A. Centolella, of Worthington, senior economist at Energy Solutions Group, to this list of eight interviewees.

88 original applicants (43 KB pdf); 27 additional applicants (12 KB pdf).

Feb 5: Off to a bad start:
PUCO Nominating Council stacked with utility lobbyists

COLUMBUS -- "After sixteen years of State coziness with utilities, consumers have been looking for some relief. Unfortunately, the panel that sends the short list of Public Utilities Commissioner candidates to the Governor is as cozy as ever," statement, Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

For more information:
Sandy Buchanan
Executive Director
(216) 861-5200

Propose AMP Ohio coal plant