January 14, 2004
Jim Petro, Attorney General
State of Ohio
30 East Broad Street, 17th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Dear Attorney General Petro:
On behalf of the 100,000 dues-paying members of Ohio Citizen Action, I am writing to urge you to immediately and publicly call for the Public Utilities Commission to halt the breakneck schedule on FirstEnergy's pending rate stabilization case (03-2144-EL-ATA) and to conduct the normal full nine-month review used in other rate cases.
The rushed schedule does not allow sufficient time for thorough investigation and analysis of the complex issues and billions of dollars on the line in this case. Routine rate cases that change monthly bills by only a few dollars are subject to a much more rigorous review. Normally, before requesting a rate change, a utility must first file a 30-day notice of intent to file. After the application is filed, the commission has 275 days to carry out all phases of its review, including a detailed staff report, and intervening parties have ample time for necessary discovery. Typically, the rate change takes place within weeks after the commission’s decision. FirstEnergy's rates, however, would not be affected until 2006.
FirstEnergy’s pending case is at least thirty times bigger than the last rate increase sought by Toledo Edison and Cleveland Electric Illuminating. Yet, the commission -– under pressure from FirstEnergy -- has scrapped the regular review process. Additionally, all work in the case is now scheduled to be completed before a new Consumers’ Counsel is appointed, meaning that residential ratepayers will not have our state-appointed advocate in place as the second largest rate case in state history is argued. Only the FirstEnergy stranded cost case had a bigger price tag.
FirstEnergy filed its application October 21, and asked for a decision by the end of the year. The commission extended that deadline by 8 weeks, but substituted staff testimony for a detailed staff report, collapsed normal time periods for parties to intervene and conduct discovery, and held public hearings too early in the process for the public to have enough information to make a forceful statement.
The hasty schedule was adopted even though the rate filing is a skeleton, leaving the door open for various rate increases that are not even quantified. FirstEnergy has provided no documentation to support its plan to continue to collect rates 30% to 60% higher than rates charged by utilities in the rest of the state. And neither FirstEnergy nor the commission knows or will say how much the company has collected so far in stranded costs or how much more will be collected.
This is the biggest economic issue facing Ohio. There are many important questions to explore. And there is plenty of time to do the job right. As a state elected official and as someone who will be running for governor the year these rates would take effect, we urge you to join with northern Ohioans in calling for a full nine-month rate case review.
Please let us know what you will do. Thank you.
Cleveland Program Director
Ohio Citizen Action
[Similar letters sent to State Auditor Betty Montgomery and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell]