Davis-Besse and other FirstEnergy news

April - May 2004


May 28: New setback for Akron-based utility
Federal judge rejects FirstEnergy motion to dismiss shareholder suit

U.S. District Courthouse, Akron
U.S. District Court House
AKRON -- "In their consolidated complaint, Plaintiffs allege claims of: (1) breach of fiduciary duty; (2) gross mismanagement and waste of corporate assets; and (3) unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs base these claims on the Directors alleged mismanagement of the Company, the Company’s lack of proper corporate governance polices, and the entrenchment of the Directors. In their complaint, Plaintiffs declare that poor management led to (1) serious problems at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant; (2) the blackout of August 14, 2003; (3) and the Company’s restatement of finances for 2002 and the first quarter of 2003. Plaintiffs claim that these events have forced the Company to incur significant expenses and potential liability of millions of dollars. . . . The Court concludes that when viewing the allegations as a whole, Plaintiffs have sufficiently pled a claim for a breach of fiduciary duty under Ohio law. . . For the above-discussed reasons, the Court denies Defendant’s motion to dismiss," Judge James S. Gwin, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, opinion and order, In Re FirstEnergy Shareholder Derivative Litigation, Case No. 5:03-CV-1826, 37 KB pdf.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO Chair gives no explanation this time; Alan Schriber postpones $3 billion FirstEnergy giveaway for the 4th time. "When the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio meets on June 2, it will not consider the pending $3 billion FirstEnergy case, according to the posted agenda. No explanation was given. The last time Chairman Alan Schriber postponed consideration of this item, May 19, he used the words "nothing," "no," and "not," 9 times in a 99-word burst. It doesn't take a detective to figure out something's going on. I think he has two problems: first, he doesn't like the spotlight on him created by the public opposition, and, second, he is realizing that the deal he wanted to OK may well be declared illegal by the Ohio Supreme Court," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Rockville, MD
NRC HQ
May 27: Nuclear reaction
George Voinovich wants the NRC to learn from Davis-Besse

AKRON -- "Nuclear power plants are growing older, and thus, they are more vulnerable. The industry would benefit from a strict set of performance standards, holding operators clearly and precisely accountable. The senator isn't asking the regulatory commission to manage utilities. Rather, he wants to break the pattern of an agency that relies too heavily for information on those subject to its oversight. That isn't a healthy relationship. George Voinovich sees the value in diminishing further the chance of something far worse than the troubles at Davis-Besse," editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.
May 25: Faulty pump to idle Perry nuke plant over a week

CLEVELAND -- "The agency earlier this year issued five citations against Perry, including one for the same pump after the NRC determined workers had not followed the pump manufacturer's instructions when they disassembled it for routine maintenance. Last week's failure was traced to a coupling on the pump's main shaft. The coupling had been improperly installed in 1997, said the NRC. By regulation, the company must test the pump monthly. FirstEnergy Monday was replacing the pump's motor, its main shaft and all of its couplings with extra heavy-duty couplings, said spokesman Todd Schneider. New, stronger couplings for a second pump are being manufactured this week, and will be installed as soon as they arrive from California, he said. Depending on the severity of an accident, the pumps could be called upon to run for a long time," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

NEW YORK, NY -- NRC begins special inspection at Ohio Perry nuke, Reuters.
May 24: FirstEnergy's Ohio Perry nuke shut

NEW YORK, NY -- "FirstEnergy Corp. shut its 1,320 megawatt Perry nuclear unit in Ohio on May 21 due to the failure of a pump, the company told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an event report on Monday. In the report, the company said it was required to shut the plant due to the failure of an emergency service water pump. On Friday, the unit was operating at full power. The Perry station is located in North Perry, Ohio, about 35 miles northeast of Cleveland, Ohio," Reuters.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel calls for regulators to dismiss American Electric Power rate proposal; Advocate argues company must follow the law, release, Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
May 21: NRC warned: Sen. George Voinovich scolds the government's nuclear watchdog agency

NRC HQ

Auditorium, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Rockville, Maryland.

WASHINGTON, DC -- "'We're not in the business of managing utilities,' said Nils Diaz, chairman of the commission. A rule tracking the interaction of managers and workers on safety issues 'could be very, very subjective,' added Commissioner Edward McGaffigan. . . . Voinovich was not satisfied. After the rust hole was disclosed in 2002, he said he got nervous phone calls. 'George, what is going on? I thought things were fine,' he said he was asked," Tom Diemer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Voinovich: Nuclear plants must adopt 'safety culture'; Regulators told to act or face legislative mandate. "David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the deeper problem is that 'NRC has a safety-culture issue of its own.' He referred to a study that found that one-third of NRC employees who raise safety issues feel they face retaliation," Ann McFeatters, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Scandal triggers new rules for watchdog, Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel announces enhanced ethics and public records policies, Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio Consumers' Counsel, full text.
May 20: Republican demands more NRC safety regulation

U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio)
Sen. George Voinovich
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, head of a Senate subcommittee on nuclear safety, asked NRC Chairman Nils Diaz to explain why the agency didn't do more to address safety standards at the 103 U.S. commercial nuclear plants it regulates. Diaz called the incident at the Davis-Besse plant an 'unacceptable failure' by the NRC and FirstEnergy. But imposing specific 'safety culture' rules is the responsibility of plant owners, not the NRC, Diaz said. 'We do not believe that's the role of the commission,' Diaz said at a hearing of the Senate subcommittee. FirstEnergy 'did not meet its own definition of safety culture,' Diaz said. Voinovich rebuked Diaz. 'If you won't do it, I'll get legislation passed to get it done,' the senator said,"

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel changes ethics policies, Columbus Business First.
May 19: PUCO Chair Alan Schriber postpones FirstEnergy decision for the third time

SchriberCOLUMBUS -- At today's meeting of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Chairman Alan Schriber postponed consideration of FirstEnergy's $3 billion rate plan for the third time. In announcing the new delay, Schriber said, "That [case] has been pulled for a couple of weeks. That has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with any consternation being generated anywhere. It has nothing to do with negotiations. It has nothing, not much, to do with technicalities. It has everything to do with, as you can see, some [commissioners] are here now, some are not going to be here next week. It has everything to do with people being together and having the opportunity to go through the order as meticulously as possible. That's all it has to do with: no hidden agendas, no hidden problems, no nothing." Shari Weir, Ohio Citizen Action's Cleveland Area Program Director, said, "After insisting for months that the Commission couldn't take the time to conduct a real investigation of FirstEnergy's $3 billion rate demand, Chairman Alan Schriber is asking us to believe that he is postponing the decision for the third time so the Commission can tinker with the wording of the order. This is hard to believe."

AKRON -- Akron utility has no plans to sell; FirstEnergy CEO speaks to shareholders about trimming nonessentials. "No, a for-sale sign is not going out in front of FirstEnergy's corporate offices, its top executive said. Chief Executive Officer and President Anthony Alexander insisted that the company is not for sale, even after the approval of measures that could make FirstEnergy more vulnerable to a takeover. . . 'The company is not for sale,' Alexander said in response to a shareholder question. 'We are not in the business, or engaged in the business, of selling FirstEnergy.' . . . Alexander said he will inspect by helicopter part of the company's 14,000-mile-long transmission and distribution system next week," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy: No big blackout, but outages could still occur. "At the shareholders' meeting, one questioner asked whether FirstEnergy is for sale. Alexander said it wasn't, but acknowledged there were rumors within the company 'because of a lot of things that were happening, change in the CEO and corporate governance policies, just a lot of concern running through the organization. It's important for them to understand that FirstEnergy has a future, a significant future, and all of us are a part of it,' he said," Associated Press.

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy labels big blackout unlikely, alters board election, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- A tougher NRC would aid safety, cut costs, critic says, John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Report blasts Davis-Besse overseers; NRC blamed for not intervening, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- Problems plague NRC, report says; GAO criticizes ongoing conditions that led to Davis-Besse safety failure, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
May 18: Nuclear agency blasted for Davis-Besse work

CLEVELAND -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's refusal to fix the deep oversight flaws that caused it to miss a rust hole in the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor means there may be major incidents at other plants, congressional investigators say. In a scathingly critical report to be released today, the General Accounting Office concludes that the NRC in November 2001 miscalculated the risk to the public of letting Davis-Besse continue to run with suspected reactor leaks. The pineapple-sized rust hole was found three months later. The agency has since estimated the plant was as close as 60 days to an accident rivaling the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Nuclear Regulation: NRC needs to more aggressively and comprehensively resolve issues related to the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant's shutdown, U.S. General Accounting Office, full text, 4.53 MB pdf.
May 17: Ohio Citizen Action members have written a jaw-dropping 69,000 letters so far on FirstEnergy

MailmanCLEVELAND -- As of today, Citizen Action members have written an unprecedented 69,000 letters so far on FirstEnergy's wrongdoing: Davis-Besse and the $3 billion rate demand. These include 1,415 to the Public Utilities Commission to scrap FirstEnergy's pending $3 billion rate plan, and 4,065 neighbors writing their mayors to oppose it. 4,022 urged each of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Auditor Betty Montgomery, and Attorney General Jim Petro to demand that the FirstEnergy case get at least as much scrutiny as other rate cases, and 4,620 urged Gov. Bob Taft to do the same. Another 27,834 neighbors have urged FirstEnergy not to restart Davis-Besse, and 19,000 pressed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to stop FirstEnergy from doing so. The vast majority of these messages have been handwritten letters, with the rest being member names on sign-on letters and postcards, Ohio Citizen Action.

Before 1974, NRC functions were performed by the Atomic Energy Commission. According to newly found papers, Albert Einstein thought the agency so dangerous he called it "Atomic Extermination Commission."
Atomic Energy Commission logo
PORT CLINTON -- Nearness of Davis-Besse rupture doesn't rate positive spin. "'The significance is that at the time the plant shut down, there was still a safety margin remaining and the public was not in imminent danger of the reactor vessel rupturing,' Jan Strasma, an NRC spokesman said of the report. Now, public relations people like Strasma are supposed to put the best possible face on bad news, but that statement takes spinning the news to an incredible level. . . Is he saying that if the NRC had this report in hand back in February 2002, it would have allowed Davis-Besse to continue operating for at least two more months? The report said the reactor vessel wouldn't have been in imminent danger of rupturing until then. Is he saying that the damage found in the reactor head was acceptable? Are there circumstances in which the NRC would have allowed the plant to operate even if it knew about the damage?" editorial, Port Clinton News Herald.

COLUMBUS -- Plain talk on ethics issues; New consumers’ counsel forges policies on forbidding freebies, retaining records. "With Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander on the job, even a box of cookies isn't safe. Migden-Ostrander, who took over last month as the state’s new utility watchdog, has been implementing a host of new policies, including one forbidding employees from accepting gifts, meals and other freebies. . . Migden-Ostrander said she has made other policy changes, including one that certifies contractors hired by the consumers' counsel do not have conflicts of interest by working for utilities," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
May 16: Stakes are high for consumers, FirstEnergy in electric rate case

CLEVELAND -- "Whether competitors are eliminated is not FirstEnergy's concern, said FirstEnergy CEO Anthony J. Alexander. . . .FirstEnergy acknowledges that residential and some small commercial rates here are almost twice what they are downstate, but it maintains that is because FirstEnergy built nuclear plants and the other utilities did not," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
May 14: Davis-Besse problems, gains noted by regulator

PORT CLINTON -- "Utility and federal officials said the plant's culture has changed as a result of the shutdown, which began Feb. 16, 2002. . . . [John Grobe, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission committee overseeing the restart] pointed to a minuscule leak from the reactor's coolant system earlier this month. Plant employees were alerted to the leak -- 0.05 gallons per minute -- by an 'extremely sensitive' monitor FirstEnergy installed before the start-up," Toledo Blade.

  • Anxious to provide a feel-good newspaper story, the NRC has provided an excellent example of how to lie with statistics. The regulators are excited about an "extremely sensitive" monitor that can detect a leak of "0.05 gallons/minute." Think about it: that's the same as 3 gallons/hour (or 72 gallons/day). If you had a leak like that in your basement, would you need an "extremely sensitive monitor" to detect it?
PORT CLINTON -- Davis-Besse operating safely. "There are about 1,700 'elective maintenance' or low-priority jobs that must be done as well as about 7,600 'preventive maintenance' tasks, some very minor, that have piled up, said Mark Bezilla, vice president of plant-owner FirstEnergy Corp.'s nuclear division," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
MORE ON FIRSTENERGY
May 12: PUCO again postpones FirstEnergy decision

COLUMBUS -- At today's meeting of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Chairman Alan Schriber again postponed consideration of FirstEnergy's $3 billion rate plan. Again, Schriber did not explain why this agenda item was postponed, nor when the Commission would consider it. For more information, contact Shari Weir, Cleveland Area Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, (216) 861-5200.
May 8: Davis Besse: NRC cites utility for incorrect records;
FirstEnergy won't be fined for error


LISLE, IL -- ". . . David Lochbaum, a high-profile nuclear industry watch dog, said the only take-home message he got from Mr. Caldwell's letter was that if utility officials 'can stonewall the agency for five years, [they] can get away with it.' Mr. Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he was incensed that the NRC had let FirstEnergy off with another warning, saying it's the latest example of how the agency has gotten too cozy with the industry it's supposed to regulate. 'We need to get an NRC that's not evil and not inept,' he said. 'It's just unbelievable,'" Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- NRC: Davis-Besse violated federal rules, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy expects future to be bright; Akron utility's earnings are down from last year, but improvements made. "Shares in FirstEnergy fell 93 cents to $37.60 on Friday," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy earnings drop 20 percent in first quarter, Associated Press.

AKRON -- Davis-Besse repairs bite into profits for 1st quarter; Outlook good for meeting 2004 revenue projections, Toledo Blade.
May 7: U.S. NRC lets FirstEnergy get away with lying about a meltdown danger

This frown is harsher punishment than the NRC gave FirstEnergy.
Frown
LISLE, IL -- In 1998, FirstEnergy lied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to cover up a design flaw which could have turned an accident at the plant into a full-scale meltdown. Six years later, the U.S. NRC has brought its full weight to bear to hold FirstEnergy accountable: by sending them a letter. David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, notes that "the NRC's investigation concluded on November 12, 2003, one day after the five year statute of limitations expired."

NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy first-quarter profit falls 20 percent. "FirstEnergy Corp., under fire for the Aug. 14 blackout, on Friday said its quarterly profit fell 20 percent, mostly due to expenses related to an extended outage at one of its nuclear power plants," Reuters.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy reports first quarter earnings, release, FirstEnergy. MORE ON FIRSTENERGY
May 5: PUCO postpones FirstEnergy decision

COLUMBUS -- At today's meeting of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Chairman Alan Schriber postponed consideration of FirstEnergy's $3 billion rate plan. Schriber did not explain why this agenda item was postponed, nor when the Commission would consider it. For more information, contact Shari Weir, Cleveland Area Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, (216) 861-5200.
May 5: Davis-Besse could have blown top in 60 days

Anthony Alexander

FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander at Davis-Besse, Feb 26, 2004.

CLEVELAND -- "'This shows once again just how lucky the people of Ohio were,' said nuclear safety engineer David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The plant's badly deteriorated emergency cooling equipment likely would not have been able to keep the reactor core from melting, Lochbaum contends," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- NRC: Besse tragedy averted by 5 months. "Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action executive director, described the timeline released by the NRC as 'everybody's worst nightmare.' 'From what we've seen of the NRC, they allow so much leeway for industry that when they say two months as a worst-case scenario, it could have been even sooner than that. It's horrifying,' she said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- NRC releases report on reactor; Corroded head at Davis-Besse would have been able to keep operating for several months, agency finds, Malia Rulon, Associated Press.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy replaces manager at Perry, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- State utility watchdog adopts policy to keep records longer, Associated Press.
May 2: Watchdog faults reporting of lobbyist gifts to Tongren

SketchCOLUMBUS -- "In an April review, Legislative Inspector General Jim Rogers identified 21 gifts that lobbyists for the companies AEP, Columbia Gas, Cinergy, and Tongren's former employer Sprint had reported either incorrectly or not at all. Among the gifts were golf outings, meals, refreshments and a $51.95 Christmas ham. Each company received a warning letter, Rogers said, and has fixed the reporting errors. None faces additional sanctions. Rogers' review came in the wake of an investigation into Tongren's activities by Inspector General Tom Charles, which found in March that the former top advocate for Ohio utility cus tomers had ac cepted gifts from utilities more than 71 times between 1999 and 2003. Charles referred his most serious charge that Tongren 'deliberately concealed from the public' a potentially explosive 2000 consultant's report to the Ohio Ethics Commission. That panel's review is underway," Julie Carr Smyth, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Apr 30: NRC rejects plea to pull Besse license

Caterpillar and AliceTOLEDO -- "In a recent letter to James P. Riccio, Greenpeace nuclear policy analyst, the NRC said the petition's request for enforcement was being rejected because it 'represents a misinterpretation of the agency's enforcement policies regarding commitments. . . Reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety is, as a general matter, defined by the Commission's health and safety regulations themselves. In most cases, the agency cannot take formal enforcement actions solely on the basis of whether licensees fulfill commitments, as failure to meet a commitment in itself does not constitute a violation of a legally binding requirement,' said the letter, written by Jim Dyer, the NRC's nuclear reactor regulation director," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- Agenda, Wednesday, May 5, 2004 - 1:30 p.m.. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has put FirstEnergy's $3 billion rate case on its agenda for consideration next Wednesday (03-2144-EL-ATA).

MORE ON FIRSTENERGY
Apr 24: FirstEnergy asks to nix hearing

OAK HARBOR -- "FirstEnergy Corp. yesterday asked a Nuclear Regulatory Commission board to turn down a request for a hearing on the agency's decision to allow the Davis-Besse nuclear plant to resume operation. The petition accused the NRC of overlooking fire protection issues at the plant and showing 'regulatory indifference' to other matters. It was written by attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo on behalf of Michael Keegan of Monroe; Joanne DiRando of Maumee; Donna Lueke of Marblehead, Ohio, and Paul Gunter of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service in Washington. In a 22-page response filed with the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, FirstEnergy argued that the four people lack the authority to request a hearing and that their claims lack merit. NRC officials have said such hearings are not routinely granted," Toledo Blade.
Apr 22: PUCO head criticizes rate-plan foes

Alan SchriberCOLUMBUS -- "During rare oral arguments in front of the five-member commission, Chairman Alan Schriber complained about consumer groups issuing statements that are 'misleading, and in some cases, insulting to the commission because they tend to demonstrate . . .we really don't have the wherewithal to decipher what this case is all about,'" James Drew, Toledo Blade.

  • If you want to see for yourself how much Chairman Schriber tipped his hand on this case, you can watch all 2 hours and 13 minutes of yesterday's session. When witnesses against the FirstEnergy plan appeared, he was contemptuous and dismissive, relieved only by flashes of anger. When FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander testified, Chairman Schriber became respectful and courteous. Requires Realplayer; the video will remain on the Public Utilities Commission site until May 5.
COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy, opponents battle. "Deputy Consumers' Counsel Kim Bojko noted that FirstEnergy's existing deal, which expires at the end of 2005, calls for it to drop the charge it's now collecting for old construction costs. It would be illegal, she argued, to simply rename it a 'rate stabilization charge' and extend it through 2008. That charge accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of an average residential bill, she said, and removing it would open a critical window for competitors," Julie Carr Smyth, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy's rate plan gets PUCO review; Rare hearing likely to produce ruling within weeks, chief says. "Schriber said he called the hearing to get all sides' opinions before the public and to counter misleading information that some of the parties had released," John McCarthy, Associated Press.
Apr 21: FirstEnergy gets a dose of tough love

CONCORD TOWNSHIP -- "Though the equipment and procedural problems at the plant that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission documented in recent months don't have high safety significance individually, the accumulated violations put Perry among the six most heavily monitored plants in the country, the NRC said. FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse plant near Toledo currently tops the list as the NRC's most heavily monitored facility because of a rust hole discovered in the reactor's lid two years ago. . . Violations included both equipment and procedural breakdowns. One involved the failure of the reactor's operators to quickly alert the community when radioactive gas from a damaged, spent fuel rod escaped into a building. Operators have 15 minutes to declare the alert but took nearly an hour. No radioactive gas escaped into the environment. . . In an interview after the meeting, Caldwell said he saw no obvious connections between Perry's problems and those at Davis-Besse," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- NRC panel to decide if activists get a hearing, Toledo Blade.

COLUMBUS -- FirstEnergy Corp. outlines rate plan to regulators, Associated Press.
Apr 20: Panel will review Davis-Besse challenge

Davis-Besse control roomCLEVELAND -- "A three-judge panel appointed last week by the chief judge of the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will review the merits of the challenge. The complaint alleges that Davis-Besse has failed for years to meet federal fire protection rules. And it says the NRC has shown a 'pattern of regulatory indifference' to the fire issue and other questionable actions of plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. . . The residents contend that the NRC shouldn't have allowed the restart because Davis-Besse has not complied with a 1998 agency fire protection order. The order required that the plant have fire barriers to prevent a blaze from destroying crucial cables and making it impossible for operators to shut down the reactor from the control room. FirstEnergy says the plant is in compliance. The NRC says it hasn't specifically checked whether the utility's plan meets the order," John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Apr 18: Nation watching Diablo Canyon;
Local activists want more say in nuclear plant safety, take case to federal court


SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA -- "The case -- San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- will be heard this summer by a federal court of appeals in San Francisco. The outcome of the case has serious national implications, legal experts say. It will determine whether state and local governments have a meaningful oversight role in protecting not only nuclear power plants but also shipments of nuclear waste to a centralized storage repository, said David Mears, senior assistant attorney general for Washington state," David Sneed, San Luis Obispo Tribune.

AKRON -- Power pact; Electricity deregulation has so far fizzled in Ohio. A FirstEnergy plan would give it more time. "For all of its recent troubles, from the Davis-Besse nuclear power plan to the August blackout, FirstEnergy has been a responsible (if reluctant) partner in the deregulation experiment," editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.
Apr 17: Consumer groups take aim at FirstEnergy rate plan

OREGON -- "Mark Frye, president of Palmer Energy and a consultant for [Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition], the coalition representing users in Sylvania, Maumee, Toledo, Lucas County, Perrysburg, and Holland, while the group was negotiating in 2001 with potential suppliers, including FirstEnergy and WPS, said the plan would hurt consumers by stifling competition. 'FirstEnergy is asking consumers to pay billions of dollars more just to keep the highest rates in the state for another three years," he said. "This plan will stall competition until at least 2009 and will eliminate the millions in savings that northwest Ohio customers now receive from their government aggregation programs,'" Larry Limpf, East Maumee Bay Press, article dated Apr 19.
Apr 15: PUCO to allow unusual hearing;
Foes of FirstEnergy's rate plan get chance to argue case directly


COLUMBUS -- "The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on Wednesday granted a request by opponents of FirstEnergy Corp.'s electricity rate stabilization plan for an unusual face-to-face hearing with state utility regulators before the panel decides on its response to the Akron utility's proposal. The opponents -- the City of Cleveland, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC), electricity suppliers and others -- requested permission to make oral arguments against FirstEnergy's rate proposal," Betty Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon Journal.

  • On April 13, FirstEnergy filed a motion with the PUCO angrily opposing a hearing, saying "The Motion is simply another rant about the Plan. . . .The Marketers simply want another forum in which to whip up public sentiment against the Plan. Several of the Marketers have already held 'media briefing' at which they have misrepresented the Plan and made inflammatory arguments about its effect."

  • On April 14, FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander told a Chicago audience "there's a lot of noise right now" about FirstEnergy's rate plan.

BROOKLYN -- Groups ready to fight FirstEnergy rate plan, John Kametz, Brooklyn Sun Journal.

PERRY -- FirstEnergy is cited over facility east of Cleveland, Toledo Blade.

PERRY -- NRC checks safety at Perry plant, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Apr 14: 
Consumers’ counsel outlines goals;
Migden-Ostrander plans to decrease utility costs, offer more choices to Ohioans

Janine Migden-OstranderCOLUMBUS -- "The state’s top consumer advocate yesterday said she wants two things for residential utility customers: lower costs and more choices. Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Janine L. Migden-Ostrander also vowed to 'restore trust and accountability' to an office rocked by a scandal that led her predecessor, Robert S. Tongren, to resign Nov. 5. She outlined her plan yesterday, eight days after being sworn in as the state’s third consumers’ counsel, representing 4.5 million customers of Ohio’s electricity, gas, telephone and water companies. Migden-Ostrander said one of her goals is for electricity consumers to be able to choose power generated by renewable resources, such as wind. Most of Ohio’s power now is generated by burning coal. "I want to find ways to empower customers," she said. "I want to give consumers the tools to reduce usage or use energy in other ways." . . .The agency will be more active in lobbying the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Congress for changes in the wholesale power market. Those changes should bring cheaper power into Ohio and provide choice for some American Electric Power customers, she said," Ken Stammen, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.
Apr 13: Group seeks meeting on utility plan;
Members oppose FirstEnergy's rate proposal


AKRON -- "Opponents of FirstEnergy Corp.'s electric rate stabilization plan want an unusual face-to-face hearing with state utility regulators before they decide what to do with the Akron utility's proposal. The eight-member group, made up of the city of Cleveland, the Ohio consumers' counsel, Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, electric suppliers and others, want to give oral arguments opposing FirstEnergy's rate proposal before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

WILLOUGHBY -- PUCO must weigh rate plan carefully. "The four organizations that took their show on the road last week in a series of public sessions designed to point out flaws in the plan are the Ohio Consumers' Counsel office, the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, Ohio Citizen Action and the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition. The four groups claim the proposal, which would take effect in two years, is a not-so-thinly-disguised rate increase that offers no rate stability at all. . . .But since NOPEC strongly believes the plan would be destructive to its organization, that it would be put out of business, it would be enlightening to know what it is about the plan that the PUCO finds so attractive," editorial, Lake County News Herald.
Apr 12: Rate debate could hit high court

Ohio Cupreme Court

Ohio Supreme Court Justices (back) Maureen O'Connor, Paul E. Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Terrence O'Donnell, (front) Alice Robie Resnick, Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, Francis E. Sweeney.

CLEVELAND -- "If FirstEnergy Corp. manages to prevail in its rate case currently before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, it might find itself in front of the Ohio Supreme Court, courtesy of the new state consumers' counsel and, perhaps, other participants in the case. Janine L. Migden-Ostrander was sworn in as Ohio Consumers' Counsel last Monday, April 5. Asked during a visit to Cleveland last Wednesday if she would pursue the case through a legal appeal if FirstEnergy wins before the PUCO, she said, 'We would give that strong consideration.' Ms. Migden-Ostrander said 'there are aspects of the plan that are not consistent' with Senate Bill 3, the 1999 legislation that laid out a five-year restructuring plan to move Ohio toward deregulation of electric power," Jay Miller, Crain's Cleveland Business.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers urge state regulators to hear arguments about FirstEnergy rate plan, release, Office of the Consumers' Counsel.

ERIE, PA -- Your turn to talk power; Customers ready to speak out at electric hearings. "An administrative law judge will hold two public hearings in Erie as part of the state Public Utility Commission's investigation into the reliability of Penelec and two other FirstEnergy subsidiaries in Pennsylvania. And some local residents are getting ready," Jim Carroll, Erie Times News.

NEW YORK, NY -- Lessons From a Blackout. "The report said further that if [FirstEnergy] had understood what was happening, it could have quickly shed a small amount of its load in the Cleveland area and thus prevented cascading failures elsewhere," editorial, New York Times.
Apr 11: Utility rate plan generates questions;
FirstEnergy proposal on cost of electricity could shape debate on Ohio deregulation


AKRON -- "Representatives of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, Ohio Citizen Action and the Toledo-area Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition traveled around northern Ohio this past week holding press conferences to talk about their opposition to FirstEnergy's plan. Janine Migden-Ostrander, the new Ohio Consumers' Counsel, said deregulation needs more time to work. But she's afraid FirstEnergy's rate stabilization plan will hurt competition and help end deregulation. 'I think the plan is a nail in the coffin to deregulation,' Migden-Ostrander said. 'I think competition is a good way to keep rates down. I think it is healthy for the economy and for customers.' . . . Either late this month or in May the commissioners will decide whether to approve the plan as is, modify it or reject it outright," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Apr 10: Plainfield, Pennsylvania, customers say utility's power surges damage properties

EASTON, PA -- "Light bulbs exploded, the furnace blew and two televisions fried when a surge of electricity shot through Verna and Earl Teel's home last year, and Met-Ed has refused to cover the repairs or find the source of the problem that has caused repeated blackouts in their Plainfield Township community since 2002, the couple said. The Teels' account of the Sept. 30 power swell was the most dramatic testimony presented Thursday at a public hearing into the service reliability of Met-Ed and two other electrical providers owned by FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio. 'We are totally frustrated with Met-Ed,' Verna Teel testified at the Best Western hotel in Easton. 'It was like we were living at the circus, and we weren't enjoying it. We went through hell,'" Steve Esack, Allentown Morning Call.

EASTON, PA -- Customers rip Met-Ed's service; PUC ordered hearing after reliability reports, Wayne Fishman, Easton Express-Times.

YORK, PA -- White roses, editorial, York Daily Record.

PITTSFIELD, MA -- The blackout next time. "This summer, when the weather gets hot and America cranks up the air conditioning, prudent citizens will make sure to have plenty of candles, batteries and tuna fish on hand, because the chances are pretty good the lights will go out again," editorial, Berkshire Eagle.
Apr 9: Will consumers pay higher electric bills?
Groups, FirstEnergy spar over pending rate proposal


TOLEDO -- "A coalition that included the new Ohio Consumers' Counsel gathered in Toledo yesterday to blast a FirstEnergy Corp. proposal that would freeze electric rates for three years after the current rate plan expires at the end of next year. The pending plan would hurt homeowners and renters by maintaining unnecessary charges and killing competition, said Janine Migden-Ostrander, who this week took office as the consumers' counsel. The coalition also contended the plan could allow the utility to increase rates," Toledo Blade.

BRATTLEBORO, VT -- Social and environmental best practice linked to financial outperformance in electric sector. "FirstEnergy ranked dead last in both EV21 and IVA ratings, with a CCC grade in both. . . Innovest applies both the EcoValue21 (EV21) rating, which examines 60 aspects of environmental risk and opportunity, and the Intangible Value Assessment (IVA), which analyzes 80 aspects of social and governance performance. Innovest's ratings mimic bond ratings, ranging from AAA (best) to CCC (worst)," William Baue, SocialFunds.

OAK HARBOR -- NRC lauds safety focus at Davis-Besse, Steve Murphy, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- Close watch on Davis-Besse, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Apr 8: Fighting FirstEnergy rate plan

Janine Migden-Ostrander

New Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander (Photo by Vanessa Stewart, Ohio Citizen Action) .

CLEVELAND -- "New Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander took her agency's opposition to FirstEnergy Corp.'s proposed electric rates into the streets Wednesday with a string of news conferences. Joined by leaders of watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action and by mayors of cities represented by the Northern Ohio Public Energy Council, Migden-Ostrander urged the public to tell state officials to kill the utility's pending rate plan. . . . [FirstEnergy] Chief Executive Officer Anthony Alexander said in an interview Wednesday that he could 'almost guarantee' that the company would not need to ask for increases under the provisions," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
MORE ON FIRSTENERGY
Apr 7: Newly-released documents on safety culture:
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ignored evidence to OK Davis-Besse start-up

CLEVELAND -- "The Commission failed to do the most basic assessment: whether what it calls 'HIRD' -- harrassment, intimidation, retaliation, and discrimination -- was actually continuing at this workplace. Further, the minimal investigation they did was so skewed as to rule out finding out what was going on. Even so, the employees, as always, took advantage of every opportunity to try to get through to the Commission that something is very wrong at this plant. As before, they provided disturbing new evidence," report, Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

KENT -- The pending FirstEnergy rate plan should be scrapped. "FirstEnergy customers have already written 20,000 letters and postcards to Gov. Robert Taft, announced gubernatorial candidates and mayors with that message. . . And while the billions of dollars that the plan would cost northern Ohioans should be enough to prompt the Public Utilities Commission to reject it, the plan has a second disastrous provision: it would destroy competition. . . FirstEnergy's plan would erase savings now achieved through aggregation and erect other barriers to stack the deck so that the only competitor able to survive would be its own subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, statement for press briefings in Kent, Eastlake, and Brooklyn.

CLEVELAND -- Probing the darkness. "FirstEnergy executives might begin repairing the company's reputation by mustering the courage to utter three simple words: We are sorry," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- After the blackout, editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.
Apr 6: New utility watchdog gets down to business;
FirstEnergy plan challenged minutes after swearing-in


Janine Migden-Ostrander is sworn in as Ohio Consumers' Counsel by Attorney General Jim Petro, left, as her husband, Stephen Ostrander, and 17-year-old son, David, look on (Eric Albrecht, Columbus Dispatch).
Janine Migden-Ostrander
WASHINGTON, DC -- "Within 20 minutes of being sworn in as Ohio's new utility watchdog, Janine Migden-Ostrander took a bite out of First-Energy Corp. Migden-Ostrander said First-Energy wants to extend a costly rate plan on a 'take it or leave it' basis. 'We should say, 'Let's leave it,' she said. 'It’s more like a rate stabilization plan for FirstEnergy than for consumers.' . . . Migden-Ostrander replaced Robert S. Tongren, who resigned under fire in November after signing off on a controversial electricity-deregulation agreement with FirstEnergy and ordering the destruction of a $579,000 consultant's report that recommended the company should get far less than the amount to which Tongren agreed. . . She vowed to 'push the envelope' in representing consumers," Alan Johnson, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Blackout report rips FirstEnergy. "FirstEnergy Corp. could have isolated the blackout to Greater Cleveland had it cut power to some of its customers when voltage on its big, 345,000-volt lines began to collapse, task force engineers concluded. But computers in the Akron- based utility's control center failed that day, and sloppy operating procedures, lack of emergency planning and poor training of grid managers made shutting down portions of its customers, called 'load shedding,' all but impossible," John Funk, Teresa Dixon Murray, Tom Diemer, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Utility's excuses rejected. "Still, the company steadfastly rejected many of the findings against it Monday but said it had decided to 'move on' because the task force made up its mind months ago about FirstEnergy being the root cause," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Here's what investigators are urging, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Blackout panel rips utilities; Task force calls for mandatory standards, better oversight; FirstEnergy in spotlight, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Report sheds unfavorable light on energy blackout, Associated Press.
Apr 5: Officials warn blackout could be repeated

Spencer Abraham
U.S. Energy Secretary
Abraham
WASHINGTON, DC -- "The final report, as did the earlier one, leveled much of the blame on Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., which it said failed to adequate recognize or respond to problems on three of its Ohio lines. Investigators also found inadequate monitoring of events by the regional grid system operator. . . .The report Monday said none of the information received during the past four months 'have changed the validity' of its interim findings in November. Those conclusions were that the blackout should have been prevented; that it originated with power line problems in Ohio; and that the outages rapidly cascaded because of communications problems, faulty equipment and inadequate training," H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press.

NEW YORK, NY -- FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse nuke back at full power, Reuters.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse at full power for first time in 2 years, Toledo Blade.
Apr 3: FirstEnergy utilities to undergo scrutiny;
Pennsylvania regulators will have public hearings about reliability of service from three companies

HARRISBURG, PA -- "The reliability of three companies owned by FirstEnergy Corp. will be the subject of public hearings this month as Pennsylvania regulators look into whether electricity service to 1.2 million homes and businesses has been substandard. . . .'There have been problems in much of the FirstEnergy territory, so it's important -- to the extent that people can -- to let the commission know what their experience has been,' said Irwin 'Sonny' Popowsky, the state's consumer advocate," Marc Levy, Associated Press.
Apr 2: Changes that give shareholders more power spark talk of FirstEnergy sale

WILLOUGHBY -- "According to Virginia Rosenbaum, senior director of research at the Investor Responsibility Research Center in Washington, there is a growing trend of companies weakening their anti-takeover measures. 'Companies have perked up their ears a bit' in response to shareholder demands, Rosenbaum said. Even so, ditching the poison pill, shortening board terms, weakening supermajority requirements and boosting severance packages all at once could raise red flags. 'It's probably a little unusual to do all those,' Rosenbaum said. 'That is a lot of change in a relatively short period of time,'" Lake County News-Herald.

TOLEDO -- The price of impropriety, editorial, Toledo Blade.

TOLEDO -- Nuke plant shutdown leads to tax shortfall; Toledo feeling effect of Davis-Besse woes, Tom Troy, Toledo Blade.
Apr 1:  State to review FirstEnergy rates;
Utility wants to extend current plan, says deregulated marketplace can't keep prices down


AKRON -- "The Ohio Manufacturers Association on Tuesday said FirstEnergy's proposal will hurt businesses and the economy, and asked the PUCO to reject it. 'We're going to be continuing to have a monopoly supply of electricity,' association spokesman David Hansen said. His group wants the PUCO to allow a fully competitive marketplace to develop in FirstEnergy's territory starting in 2006, he said. 'Manufacturers live by competitiveness. The market can develop.' But FirstEnergy spokesman Ralph DiNicola said Hansen and other critics apparently do not understand the plan," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- At stake: FirstEnergy Corp. says a competitive electric marketplace will not develop in time to meet a 2005 deadline, sidebar, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- Trial judge won't stop Edison tree-trimming
"There is nothing in the easement in the instant case that requires [Toledo Edison] to be reasonable in their conduct of maintaining the power lines," Judge Stephen Yarbrough said in his decision. Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse 'above 70% and climbing', Rick Neale, Port Clinton News Herald.