Davis-Besse and other FirstEnergy news

Feb, 2004

Feb 29: Hostage to higher rates

CartoonTOLEDO -- "FirstEnergy is attempting, with apparent complicity from meek regulators, to ram through this rate case in an unusually short period, preventing the exhaustive scrutiny and questioning merited by such a plan. The company filed its request in October and imperiously told the PUCO it had to have approval by the end of the year. The agency has agreed to act by the end of April, setting a six-month time frame for a procedure that normally takes nine months or more. What's the hurry, if not to quickly brush aside objections?" editorial, Toledo Blade.
Feb 28: FirstEnergy to end takeover defense;
Company denies it is marketing the utility

TOLEDO -- "But one analyst said the utility may also have done so because it is getting feelers from a few competitors about being taken over. 'I think they've been approached, sure,' said Jim Halloran, an analyst with NatCity Investments, the investing arm of National City Bank in Cleveland. 'I know they have had some from [Chicago-based] Exelon. They have told some people they had at least introduced the subject to FirstEnergy and it went nowhere.' Other industry experts have speculated that Dominion Resources, Inc., of Richmond, Va., might be eyeing FirstEnergy. 'I've got to believe that either one of those would make sense,' he said," Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse is geared up for restart, FirstEnergy says;
Utility puts upgrades on display for media
, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse rolls out welcome mat, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- Davis-Besse execs eager to start plant, Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse looking up; Workers feel plant ready to steam ahead, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR -- Events at Davis-Besse plant, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- Bill takes aim at FirstEnergy, Akron Beacon Journal.
Feb 27: Davis-Besse plant gears up for restart;
Five-year review mandatory at FirstEnergy facility

Justice Department sealAKRON -- "[Dave Lochbaum, the nuclear safety expert with the watchdog group Union of Concerned Scientists] and Ohio Citizen Action on Thursday asked the NRC to review the roles of FirstEnergy managers at Davis-Besse from 1996 onward. A federal grand jury is reviewing whether there was any criminal wrongdoing on the part of FirstEnergy over the Davis- Besse problems. Lochbaum and Ohio Citizen Action, in their letter, said no nuclear plant has ever gotten permission to restart while a grand jury investigation was under way," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Nuclear plant told to tighten safety measures, Gary Stoller, USA TODAY. "Paul Ryder of Ohio Citizen Action, which represents about 100,000 consumers, says the NRC 'has learned nothing' if it thinks Thursday's order is going to make a difference. 'Davis-Besse is still a dangerous place to split atoms,' he says."

WASHINGTON, DC -- FirstEnergy OKs terms on Besse inspections, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- NRC gets tough on Davis-Besse, John Funk, John Mangels, Stephen Koff, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Search narrows to four finalists for state's top utility watchdog, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Feb 26: Are key Davis-Besse culprits still at FirstEnergy?

This photo of the reactor head at Davis-Besse, known as the "White Photo," shows boric acid on the head of the reactor. It was taken in April 1998, four years before FirstEnergy announced it had discovered a hole in the head of the reactor.
The White Photo
CLEVELAND -- "No nuclear plant has ever been given permission to restart while a grand jury investigation related to findings of possible criminal actions at that plant is still going on. In the Millstone case, the grand jury had finished its work before restart permission was granted. How can members of the public, or even personnel working within the nuclear industry, be expected to "trust" that no one involved in the critical decisions made in over a decade at Davis-Besse - or that the FirstEnergy corporation itself - won't ultimately be indicted? . . . We request that you determine the current roles of various FirstEnergy managers who were in key management positions at Davis-Besse during the years from 1996 on. How is the public to have confidence in FirstEnergy's "new" decision-making at Davis-Besse when many key managers who made important decisions at Davis-Besse in the past were promoted within the FENOC system and are still involved in critically important nuclear safety issues?," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, David Lochbaum, Nuclear Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists, letter to James Caldwell, Regional Administrator, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; letter dated February 25.

CLEVELAND -- Fourth step in two weeks: FirstEnergy execs push to weaken 'supermajority' voting rules, open company up to takeover, Ohio Citizen Action. In its February 23 preliminary proxy statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, FirstEnergy management proposed the weakening of the company's "supermajority" voting rules from 80% to 2/3. In arguing for the change, management acknowledged that the 2/3 rule will make a takeover of the company easier:
"In addition, an 80 percent Supermajority voting requirement encourages potential acquirers to negotiate with the Board of Directors rather than just a few large shareholders, thereby enhancing the Board of Directors' ability to maximize value for all shareholders. Furthermore, while 80 percent Supermajority provisions do not preclude an unsolicited takeover offer, they can make it more likely that all shareholders will be treated fairly in the takeover process," FirstEnergy Preliminary Proxy Statement, Schedule 14A information.
This marks management's fourth step in two weeks to open up the company for a takeover. The other three are (1) elimination of staggered board member terms, (2) ending the 'poison pill' provisions, and (3) improved 'golden parachutes' for top executives."

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy chief defends rate proposal, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "The company in recent days has eliminated staggered terms for FirstEnergy board members, removed the company's anti-takeover 'poison pill' defense, and provided new 'golden parachute' exit packages for several executives, including Alexander. [Attorney Glenn Krassen, who represented the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, a power-buying alliance that represents about 500,000 customers in Northeast Ohio] sought to question [FirstEnergy CEO Anthony] Alexander about the buyout. He said other utility companies have sought to raise rates in anticipation of a takeover, so the material was relevant. Hearing examiners disagreed, and Alexander was not required to address his questions,"

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy threatens to withdraw plan to extend rates; Opponents' objections short-sighted, CEO says, Jim Provance, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy seeks lesser penalty for switchers; Utility asks PUCO to approve rate stabilization charge once market opens in service area, Associated Press.

CLEVELAND -- Confusion continues over bonus program, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "The SEC document also reveals that the company's board of directors last week beefed up the severance package for Alexander in the event the company merges with another utility and he is forced out. The new severance package, commonly called a golden parachute, adds three years to his service with the company. Pension benefits, payable at the age of 55, will be calculated from the adjusted age. The changes are aimed at making certain that Alexander, who is 52, and other executives stay focused on what is best for shareholders rather than on their own compensation packages, the company said. The new plan will become effective for other top executives Jan. 1, 2006."

LISLE, IL -- NRC issues letter on planned Davis-Besse order, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- NRC sets inspections order for FirstEnergy nuke, Reuters.
Feb 25:  PUCO to hear utility's newest offers

COLUMBUS -- "Seeking to appease opponents and sway regulators, FirstEnergy Corp. has offered to increase some of the incentives and lower some of the penalties proposed in its blueprint for future rates. Whether the concessions offered by the Akron-based utility go far enough may become clear today, when CEO Tony Alexander takes the stand to face lawyers fighting the rate plan at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Feb 25: Five executives get 2003 raises at FirstEnergy

AKRON -- "While none of FirstEnergy Corp.'s 14,000 employees received a short-term bonus in 2003, the Akron utility's top five executives got raises ranging from 3.1 percent to 10.3 percent, according to a document the company filed Monday. The executives also received hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of a long-term incentive plan, though a lot less than was paid out in 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission document shows," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Feb 23:  NRC to study new criticism of Davis-Besse's communication

TOLEDO -- "In a Feb. 2 letter to NRC Chairman Nils Diaz, agency Inspector General Hubert T. Bell said NRC management simply hasn't done enough to improve communications. Mr. Bell said efforts have been taken to minimize acid leakage at nuclear plants in the wake of Davis-Besse's high-profile reactor head problem. Acid from that plant's reactor had been allowed to leak for years, nearly burning a hole through the device's massive steel head. But the letter said such efforts 'do not address the underlying, more generic, communication failures identified during our inquiry.' The inspector general's office has claimed there was poor communication between the NRC's headquarters and its Midwest regional office that oversees Davis-Besse, as well as between those offices and former resident inspectors assigned to the plant," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Feb 21:  FirstEnergy's rate plan assailed as unpredictable

Constellation logoReliant logoCOLUMBUS -- "FirstEnergy's latest rate proposal would keep competitors out of Ohio and mean unpredictable rates for consumers, economist and energy expert Craig Roach testified Friday. Roach's testimony at a hearing on the proposal came as two out-of-state power marketers -- Reliant Resources and Constellation Power Source -- unsealed documents showing their interest in providing electricity in FirstEnergy territory if the plan is rejected and the market is opened to competition. Both indicated that they could provide pools of power at less than FirstEnergy charges," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy users should shop around, experts tell PUCO, Jim Provance, Toledo Blade.
Feb 20: Besse shutdown costs millions

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. earned about $130 million less in 2003 than the year before, largely because of continuing costs of the shutdown at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. . . . [Chief financial officer Richard] Marsh told analysts not to make anything out of the company board of directors' decision this week to ask the Securities and Exchange Commission for approval to terminate its shareholder rights plan next month instead of in 2007. Often called a 'poison pill,' the plan allows existing shareholders to buy more stock if it appears a hostile takeover is imminent," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Davis-Besse shutdown cost $300 million in 2003, Mary Beth McLaughlin, Toledo Blade.
Feb 19: First Energy profits down for the year, hurt by Davis-Besse expenses

DrawingAKRON -- "Davis-Besse nuclear power plant repairs and electric replacement expenses totaled $289 million last year, cutting FirstEnergy Corp.'s 2003 profits by $170.3 million, the utility reported Thursday," Associated Press.

NEW YORK -- U.S. corporate bonds: FirstEnergy narrows, Wal-Mart steady, Reuters. ". . . investors also responded to the fact that the company may be more likely to be taken over after it said it would let so-called 'poison pill' provisions from a shareholders rights plan expire early, a trader said. 'Poison-pill' provisions allow shareholders to take steps to make a takeover much more expensive. 'We've had some mergers and acquisitions activity recently, so people think it could happen here,' a trader said, referring to Cingular Wireless's announcement on Tuesday that it was buying AT&T Wireless Services Inc., and Comcast Corp.'s recent unsolicited bid for Walt Disney Co. A spokeswoman for FirstEnergy said the poison-pill provisions were removed at the request of shareholders, and said the move was not a first step in the company putting itself up for sale."

AKRON -- FirstEnergy reports 2003 earnings, release, FirstEnergy.

Good point

At FirstEnergy's financial presentation this afternoon, Richard H. Marsh, senior vice president and chief financial officer, described the company's search for a new Chief Operating Officer, and ended by saying, "Nuclear experience would be a plus."

COLUMBUS -- Eleven on the list for state's utility watchdog, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Feb 18: FirstEnergy accelerates end of poison pill

NEW YORK, NY -- "U.S. power company FirstEnergy Corp. on Wednesday said it would terminate its poison pill plan on March 31, more than three years ahead of schedule, potentially removing obstacles to an acquisition. The Akron, Ohio-based utility company said its shareholder rights plan, designed to make unsolicited takeovers prohibitively expensive, was scheduled to expire on Nov. 28, 2007. President and Chief Executive Anthony Alexander said the board of directors accelerated the poison pill's termination in response to shareholders' concerns and as part of efforts to 'enhance corporate governance,'" Reuters.
  • "Poison Pill": "A strategy used by corporations to discourage a hostile takeover by another company. The target company attempts to make its stock less attractive to the acquirer. There are two types of poison pills: A 'flip-in' allows existing shareholders (except the acquirer) to buy more shares at a discount. The 'flip-over' allows stockholders to buy the acquirer's shares at a discounted price after the merger," Investopedia.
AKRON -- FirstEnergy accelerates termination of shareholder rights plan, release, FirstEnergy.

OAK HARBOR -- U.S. nuclear regulators hit for still not talking, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer. ". . . a midlevel NRC manager in the Chicago office logged 38 occasions between April 1999 and April 2000 when the agency's senior resident inspector at Davis-Besse told him of signs of coolant leakage and corrosion at the plant. But because the regional managers thought of Davis-Besse as a 'good performer,' they didn't give the reactor added attention."
Feb 17: Keeping utilities in line;
The next PUCO chief should serve the law, not a constituency

COLUMBUS -- "As Gov. Bob Taft considers whom to appoint as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, some people are demanding that his candidate be consumer-friendly. Although the work of the PUCO ultimately is intended to benefit consumers, applying some kind of a pro-consumer litmus test to candidates for the post is the wrong approach. Ohio already has an official whose sole responsibility is to look out for the interests of utilities customers: the Ohio consumers’ counsel," editorial, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

[In fact, Ohio does not have a Consumers' Counsel, since Attorney General Petro's Governing Board decided to let FirstEnergy's massive $3 billion rate case go through before naming a new one. And, as last fall's Robert Tongren scandal showed, since 1993, Ohio's Consumers' Counsel has served in a ceremonial role only.]
Feb 15: Davis-Besse: 2 years, $605 million cost; no restart slated

OAK HARBOR -- "Feb. 16, 2002. The date will be etched in the annals of American nuclear history -- not for what happened at Davis-Besse, but for what didn't. Through sheer luck, the nation's biggest nuclear accident since Three Mile Island in 1979 was avoided by the mere width of a pencil eraser. FirstEnergy Corp. has admitted it sacrificed safety for production. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has conceded it was oblivious to the near-hole in the plant's reactor head and some of the site's other longstanding problems. And the two-year outage has cost the utility more than $605 million," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Feb 14:  Complaint cites Davis-Besse design flaw

WASHINGTON, DC -- "A cooling system at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant has a design flaw that the utility diagnosed years ago but still may not have fixed, a prominent nuclear engineer says in a formal complaint [139 KB pdf] filed Friday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plumbing system circulates water from Lake Erie to remove heat during the plant's normal operation. In the event the reactor begins to overheat, the piping network also removes heat from various emergency equipment such as the diesel generators. The potential flaw in this "service water system" is that pressure relief valves on the pipes may be set to pop open prematurely, said nuclear safety engineer David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists. That would protect the pipes from bursting but leave too little water to cool emergency equipment effectively," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Feb 13: Davis-Besse restart remains on hold

Yesterday's hearing at Camp Perry attracted a crowd of 400, including Clevelanders Aleksandar Veljkovic, left, and his son Zeljko (Photo by Allan Detrich, Toledo Blade).
Camp Perry meeting
PORT CLINTON -- "The safety-first culture at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant has improved enough to earn the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's special panel over seeing rehabilitation of the troubled facility. But the panel stopped well short of agreeing with Davis- Besse's managers that the plant and its workers are ready to restart Davis-Besse's reactor. That decision is still weeks away at minimum, said top NRC officials, and will require more inspections, perhaps more information from the company and extensive deliberations, first among the panel members, then among NRC officials in Chicago and Washington, D.C. . . . Ohio Citizen Action's leader also spoke against allowing the plant to restart, reasoning that changing the culture of the plant is 'like turning around an aircraft carrier and does not happen quickly.' 'FirstEnergy's financial situation, which drives its 'production over safety' mentality, is even worse than it was two years ago,' Citizen Action Executive Director Sandy Buchanan said in a prepared statement arguing that FirstEnergy cannot be trusted to make safety culture permanent," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

PORT CLINTON -- No timetable at Davis-Besse, John Seewer, Associated Press.

PORT CLINTON -- NRC notes progress at Davis-Besse, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade. "Results of the latest safety culture inspection, designed to show whether the plant is free of intimidation, showed Davis-Besse management and staff 'were clearly not aligned in a number of areas,' Geoff Wright, a NRC inspection team leader, said. And he said many employees, based on more than 75 recent interviews and discussions with six focus groups, appeared to have even less confidence in FirstEnergy management than in March, 2003."

PORT CLINTON -- Nuclear plant gets good news; Federal inspections find no big obstacles to Davis-Besse restart; no decision made, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- Opponents ask if giveaways' tied to FirstEnergy rate plan, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Feb 12: "No company the size of FirstEnergy could turn around its corporate culture in a two month period"

CLEVELAND -- "The NRC safety culture inspection teams delivered a scathing report on FirstEnergy’s safety culture on December 19, 2003. The observations of these inspectors confirmed both the comments which Davis-Besse employees and contractors have been making in company surveys, and information which we receive from people who work for FirstEnergy. Even if FirstEnergy’s financial problems were solved tomorrow, much work would need to be done on reorienting management priorities. The blackout proved to the world that FirstEnergy’s lack of safety culture is pervasive throughout the corporation, with its most dangerous manifestations at Davis-Besse. Changing a safety culture, as reportedly has happened at Millstone and at some other corporations around the country, is like turning around an aircraft carrier: it does not happen quickly. While many plant-level managers and personnel have come and gone at Davis-Besse in the last two years, top management has remained the same," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, memo to James Caldwell, Administrator, Region III, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy to ask again for the OK to start Davis-Besse, John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- NRC lacks guidelines on safety culture, John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "The agency's stance has been that safety culture declines can be inferred when a plant's equipment repeatedly fails, long-standing technical problems aren't resolved, or there is a jump in complaints from workers who feel that they have to go directly to the NRC. But that oversight process failed to alert the agency that Davis-Besse's safety culture was disintegrating."

SAN FRANCISCO -- NRC sees FirstEnergy progress for Ohio nuke restart, Reuters.

PORT CLINTON -- NRC inspectors find improvement at Davis-Besse, John Seewer, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy plan reworks 2000 deal, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer. "FirstEnergy has said it will withdraw its offer -- and fall back on market-based prices beginning in 2006 -- if its plan isn't approved by March 31."

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy pushes rate plan to PUCO, Jim Provance, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Rate plan takes heat; FirstEnergy may OK changes, Carrie Spencer, Associated Press.
Feb 11: FirstEnergy's rates, future in the balance

COLUMBUS -- "The rate case has attracted the attention of Wall Street, where analysts have been concerned about FirstEnergy's ability to pay down the huge debt it incurred when it bought New Jersey-based utility GPU Inc. in 2001. 'FirstEnergy's ability to obtain a constructive long-term rate order from the PUCO will be critical to the company's future finances,' said Peggy Jones, bond analyst with ABN Amro in New York," Julie Carr Smyth, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Panel submits PUCO nominees, Akron Beacon Journal.

ERIE TOWNSHIP -- Teleconference capability at Davis-Besse meeting, Port Clinton News Herald.
Feb 10:  Consumer groups assail PUCO, citing a 'dirty dozen' decisions

COLUMBUS -- "Among the coalition members are Citizen Power, the Cleveland Legal Aid Society, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy and AARP. PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber's five-year term on the commission expires in April, and he and six others are being interviewed for the seat today," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Groups seeking more consumer-friendly PUCO, Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link. "'This is a good time to renew the mandate of the PUCO to balance the interests of utility companies and consumers, especially in view of recent decisions that have been costly to consumers,' said Ellis Jacobs, attorney for the Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition in Dayton."

COLUMBUS -- Selection process begins for new chief of PUCO; Consumer advocates criticize agency, Susanne Cervenka, Dayton Daily News. "'They're out there, they've always been out there and I wouldn't expect them to say anything different,' [PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber] said. 'It's the same old stuff that's been going on for an eternity.'"

CLEVELAND -- Group airs complaints about state agency, looks for new direction, Associated Press.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO chief would like to keep job; Chairman Alan Schriber must compete with six challengers for post at agency, Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.
Feb 9: "Mr. Petro: You are already up to your neck in this."

CLEVELAND -- "Thank you for your January 30 reply. Our January 14 letter urged you to speak out on the breakneck pace adopted by the Public Utilities Commission for approval of the $3 billion FirstEnergy case. You declined, referring generally to 'statutory requirements' preventing you from saying anything. Your letter cites no specific provision of the Ohio Revised Code in this regard -- understandably, since there is nothing to cite, nothing in the statutes barring you from commenting on state policy or process. . . .Further, it is simply too late for you to say you don't want to get involved in the FirstEnergy case. You are already up to your neck in it. Other than the deregulation case itself, this is the biggest rate case in Ohio history, and yet Ohio consumers are not represented in the proceedings by a Consumers' Counsel. Why? Because the Consumers' Counsel Governing Board, in full knowledge of the Public Utilities Commission's schedule, decided that the hiring of Robert Tongren's replacement could wait until it was too late for his replacement to represent consumers in this case. You had to understand the implications of the board's schedule. And as the elected official to whom the Governing Board is accountable, you also knew that you could influence the board to change it. Manifestly, you did not," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro.

NEW YORK -- FirstEnergy debt downgraded, Crain's Cleveland Business.

NEW YORK -- U.S. corporate bonds: Spreads narrow with Fed on hold, Reuters. "Among the actively traded credits on Monday morning was FirstEnergy Corp. Moody's Investors Service cut the energy company to a step above junk on Friday, but said the longer-term outlook for the company's ratings is 'stable'."
Feb 8: FirstEnergy picks up the pieces;
Utility recovering from blackout, deals with death of CEO

WASHINGTON, DC -- "After a wave of negative publicity last year — most from the August blackout that left 50 million people in eight states, including Michigan, and Canada without power — Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy hoped for a brighter new year. But it’s off to a rocky start. . . .Ohio Citizen Action, a consumer group with about 100,000 members, says a common thread runs through FirstEnergy’s problems: poor maintenance, weak employee training and mismanagement. 'Davis-Besse is the single most dangerous outcome of FirstEnergy's shoddy management,' says Shari Weir of Ohio Citizen Action. 'But there are plenty of other examples to show that it’s not confined to the Davis-Besse operation,'" Gary Stoller, USA TODAY.
Feb 7: Electric rate freeze may cost users;
FirstEnergy says it will stabilize rates; counsel says customers will pay

COLUMBUS -- ". . . the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, or NOPEC, which represents about 455,000 electric customers in 113 communities in Northeast Ohio, strongly opposes FirstEnergy's plan, saying it is actually a huge increase for electric customers. 'Far from stabilizing electricity rates, this insidious plan is a disguised rate increase that would gouge as much as an extra $4 billion from consumers in Northern Ohio during 2006-2008,' said NOPEC Chairman Dan DiLiberto, Eastlake's mayor, in a prepared statement. Both the Ohio Consumers' Counsel and NOPEC said their study of FirstEnergy's plan shows the utility can increase generation rates as much as 15 percent each year over three years," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- NRC team debriefs utility officials, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Feb 6: Moody's cuts FirstEnergy to a step above junk

NEW YORK, NY -- "Moody's Investors Service on Friday cut FirstEnergy Corp.'s debt rating to a step above junk, citing high debt levels at the company and government investigations into the company's role in the August 2003 blackout. Moody's cut FirstEnergy's senior unsecured rating to 'Baa3,' its lowest investment grade rating, from 'Baa2.' The moves affect $13 billion of debt securities, and include ratings for utility subsidiaries like Jersey Central Power & Light," Reuters.

TOLEDO -- Activist groups ask for NRC briefing on Davis-Besse restart, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- NRC rejects meeting on Davis-Besse, John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer. ". . .the company recently said it hopes to have Davis-Besse making electricity again by the end of March."

Before you bet your next paycheck on that 'end of March' date, take a look at some other predictions.
Feb 5: Union of Concerned Scientists, Ohio Citizen Action want U.S. NRC Commissioners to hold a public briefing on Davis-Besse

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Other than one short briefing about a year ago, you have not -- at least publicly -- shown much interest in the activities of your 0350 [Davis-Besse oversight] Panel and FirstEnergy. By comparison, you had a high level of engagement during the restart process for the Millstone, D.C. Cook, and Salem nuclear plants in recent years. As Commissioner McGaffigan said: '. . . we sort of have this rolling area where we shine spotlights on things and as we shine the spotlights we can solve some issues.' . . . We respectfully request that the Commission shine its light on Davis-Besse by conducting a public briefing," David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists, Shair Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Chairman Nils Diaz, Commissioner Edward McGaffigan, Jr, and Commissioners Jeffrey Merrifield, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 121 KB pdf.
Feb 4: Davis-Besse gets vote of confidence from NRC;
Utility may be fined for 1998 deficiency

OAK HARBOR -- "Although FirstEnergy gave the agency the confidence it sought, the utility faces the prospect of a fine for deficiencies cited in a company report to the NRC on Nov. 11, 1998. In that report, the utility claimed it had used qualified coatings to paint the inside of Davis-Besse’s reactor containment area. The NRC said it learned those coatings were not qualified and likely would have chipped in the event of an accident, clogging the emergency core coolant system’s containment sump screen. Clogging the screen would have impaired the sump’s ability to collect coolant water off the floor to be re-circulated, to stave off a meltdown, officials said. The problem was fixed during the outage," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.