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Special-fee information sought from FirstEnergy

11/19/03

John Funk
Plain Dealer Reporter

FirstEnergy Corp.'s monthly "transition charge" for past nuclear plant construction has become an issue in its proposal before state regulators to extend current electric rates through 2008.

Green Mountain Energy, which supplies power at a discount to about 450,000 Greater Clevelanders through a contract with the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, wants the Akron utility to reveal how much it has collected through the transition charge in the last three years.

Green Mountain and NOPEC yesterday filed a request with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to compel FirstEnergy to divulge the amount in an open hearing.

The move came a day after three Greater Cleveland environmental and neighborhood groups asked the PUCO to take another look at the surcharge that FirstEnergy can collect through 2005 as the state moves toward full deregulation of retail electric sales. The surcharge, they said, adds between 30 and 40 percent to an average monthly bill.

The three groups - Consumers for Fair Utility Rates, the Neighborhood Environmental Coalition and the Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland - want the state to pay for a study to determine how much FirstEnergy should be able to pass on to consumers for the cost of the nuclear plants. Three years ago, a study for the Ohio Consumers' Counsel recommended FirstEnergy should receive no more than $2.6 billion; the state ultimately agreed to allow a total of $8.7 billion.

Consumers' Counsel Rob Tongren resigned this month amid controversy about his decision to go along with that settlement and his subsequent destruction of the consultant's report.

Green Mountain's request for the amount of transition charges collected is irrelevant, said FirstEnergy spokesman Ralph DiNicola, because the company has not filed an actual rate case. It has instead offered to extend the current rates - or move to deregulation in 2006 as originally planned, exposing consumers to prevailing market rates.

The three consumer groups also asked the PUCO to make a "reasonable schedule," which they believe would be nine months, to consider FirstEnergy's proposal.

Responding to the utility's request to expedite the case, the PUCO has scheduled public hearings for: 5 p.m. Friday at the Seagate Convention Center in Toledo; 4 p.m. Monday at the State Office Building in Cleveland; and 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Kent State University Kiva student center auditorium.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jfunk@plaind.com, 216-999-4138


2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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