Davis-Besse and other FirstEnergy news

June - August 2004

Aug 30:  Nuclear plant layoffs revive fatigue fears

TOLEDO -- "Sixty-three of those lost jobs are at Davis-Besse, with 35 layoffs taking effect immediately and 28 more planned as various projects are finished. The reductions, once completed, will bring Davis-Besse's workforce down to 740 employees. Taken as a whole, the layoffs are one of the biggest jolts to staffing since retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joe Williams, Jr., took control of the reins during the plant's prolonged 1985-86 outage and went in the opposite direction, increasing the payroll from 644 employees in 1985 to 890 in 1986. . . . David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists nuclear safety engineer, said it's possible to downsize the workforce and get better results. 'But if you work the [layoff] survivors too many hours, then you run the risk of them becoming fatigued,' he said. Mr. Lochbaum has participated in the rule-making process for the fatigue issue. 'The right way is to make yourself productive first. The wrong way is to make across-the-board cuts,' he said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OCC sealCOLUMBUS -- Weston named Deputy Consumers' Counsel. "Bruce J. Weston, an attorney in private practice, today was appointed Deputy Consumers' Counsel at a special meeting convened by the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel Governing Board.. . . The Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, Ohio State Legal Services Association, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Citizen Power and Ohio Citizen Action, among others, were supportive of Weston for the appointment," release, Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
DrawingAug 28:  Nuclear no-tell

TOLEDO -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is the wrong government agency to insist on more secrecy in its proceedings. After all of the NRC lapses revealed in the aftermath of the scary Davis-Besse debacle, the federal agency entrusted with ensuring the safe operation and maintenance of the nation's nuclear power reactors needs more openness and scrutiny, not less," editorial, Toledo Blade.
Aug 24:  Utility cuts 210 nuclear plant jobs

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp.'s nuclear operating company cut more than 200 positions Monday in the final phase of a three-month "roll down" of job reductions in which every employee was evaluated. The company said the reductions were part of a massive restructuring to build a standard organization - with the same job titles and responsibilities - at each nuclear plant to increase safety and efficiency. How the reductions were made - from the top down over months - probably affected morale, said David Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog group. And that would be especially important at Davis-Besse, he said, since investigators found that its safety culture - the commitment of its staff and managers to safety first - was weak," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Aug 19:  Boston firm will help with electricity bidding process
PUCO picks auction adviser

CLEVELAND -- "Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander late Wednesday filed an objection to the PUCO's latest version of FirstEnergy's rate plan if the company's price prevails in the auction process and it continues as the principal supplier here through 2008. The PUCO now intends to allow FirstEnergy to apply for rate increases to cover escalating fuel prices. Previously the commission rejected FirstEnergy's plan for the right to seek annual increases of up to 15 percent, if necessary, of the electricity-making portion of the overall rate. In its latest ruling opening the door to possible increases, the commission has eliminated the 15 percent cap as well. Migden-Ostrander objects to any fuel-related increase," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Aug 18:  Bush, Kerry get juice from FirstEnergy

Montgomery BurnsATHENS -- "George W. Bush's man in Ohio, Summit County (Akron) Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, is also a Statehouse lobbyist for FirstEnergy. But FirstEnergy's ratepayers aren't wrestling with a klutz. Like a Youngstown gambler, the company covers bets: Also among FirstEnergy's lobbyists is former Democratic State Chairman James M. Ruvolo of Toledo. And Ruvolo happens to be John Kerry's man in Ohio, though Kerry, in his Boston acceptance speech, promised voters that help -- not an electric bill -- was on the way. . . . Soon after Ohio went dark last year, the rest of the world figured out real fast that FirstEnergy's Ohio grid wasn't exactly peachy-keen. But true to form, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio -- a cheerleader disguised as a 'regulator' -- ducked. Its chairman, Taft appointee Alan R. Schriber, told the Associated Press, 'Everybody's trying to point their finger at Ohio. By golly, maybe it's not Ohio.' Actually, it was Ohio, but in Bob Taft's world, bad calls seem to earn rewards: Seven months after the blackout, the governor gave Schriber, a Cincinnati independent, another five-year term on the PUCO. (Schriber's salary is $109,595.), Tom Suddes, column, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Davis-Besse challenge rejected; NRC board finds plant's fire protection system adequate," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Notice is slim as NRC tells activists no, Toledo Blade.
Aug 17:  Don't let regulators, shaky nuclear plants hide behind secrecy

Morning Journal mastheadLORAIN -- "Our homes and jobs sit right between two nuclear power plants, both with a history of troubles, Davis-Besse west of Sandusky and Perry in Lake County. That puts the safe and secure operation of those plants high on our 'worry list.' But a black cloak of secrecy now will hide security problems found at all nuclear power plants by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC has decided it will no longer make public information on security problems it finds or the actions it takes against plant operators to correct such problems. . . .Secrecy breeds laxity. Plant operators, who are only human, would inevitably loosen up, cut corners and slack off on security over time with the assurance that they'd never be held to public account for any failings. Another huge temptation would be to nudge other types of operational problems under that cloak of 'security' to avoid public scrutiny," editorial, Lorain Morning Journal.

MADISON, WI -- Fire hazard; Bush leaves nuclear plants at risk, Anne-Marie Cusac, Progressive magazine, August 2004.

CocktailsPERRY -- Worker barred from Perry for alcohol. "His blood alcohol level was 'well below' the 0.04 percent limit set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, [FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider] said," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
  • How's that again? The NRC says it's OK for nuclear plant employees to work with up to 0.04 percent blood alcohol?
Aug 14:  Activists fret over nuclear plant missteps

"Richard Wilkins, a FirstEnergy spokesman, acknowledged Perry's performance issues. 'It's a fact there are a string of them and we don't seem to have a handle on them,' he said."
TOLEDO -- "The state's largest environmental group yesterday questioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about what it believes is a worrisome pattern of safety issues at FirstEnergy Corp.'s operating nuclear plants. . . .[Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action] sent her concerns to NRC Midwest regional chief Jim Caldwell in a letter yesterday. She wrote that she believes FirstEnergy did not learn enough from its troubles at Davis-Besse, where it allowed so much acid to escape from the plant's reactor that the radioactive structure nearly blew open its old lid in 2002. Ms. Buchanan said a blown fuse Davis-Besse workers failed to recognize while performing routine tests last week is a sign that FirstEnergy wasn't ready to resume operation. The fuse problem activated safety systems and automatically resulted in an emergency shutdown," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Citizen Action to feds:
"What will it take for the NRC to realize that FirstEnergy must not be allowed to run nuclear power plants?"

Perry Nuclear Power Plant
Perry plant
CLEVELAND -- "We warned that although the company had invested money in the hardware at Davis-Besse, the company as a whole does not know how to run nuclear plants safely, and the financial pressures on the company and workforce will continue to make the situation worse. We and others pointed out that the company's intense scramble to get Davis-Besse up and running was draining resources from the company's other two nuclear plants. . .What will it take for the NRC to realize that FirstEnergy must not be allowed to run nuclear power plants? You have already allowed them to come within three-eighths of an inch of a major nuclear accident at Davis-Besse. You have allowed them to make repeated mistakes in running Perry at a time when the company should have been on its best behavior. Will FirstEnergy have to cause an actual nuclear disaster before the NRC takes preventive action? . . . Please write me back and tell me under what circumstances you would consider stripping FirstEnergy of its authority to run these plants," Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to James Caldwell, Region III Administrator, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Aug 13, 2004.
Aug 13:  NRC says nuke plant lagged on safety fixes
Perry must shape up or shut down

Attention FirstEnergy executives: Now might be a good time to double-check your golden parachutes.
CLEVELAND -- "A string of problems with safety-related equipment has put FirstEnergy Corp.'s Perry nuclear power plant under heightened federal scrutiny and one step away from having to shut down. Only four other reactors have received that degree of NRC attention, agency spokesman Jan Strasma said. . . .If inspections turn up additional serious issues or performance continues to decline, Perry will have to stop making electricity. . . .Shari Weir, program director of Ohio Citizen Action, said Perry's problems are 'further proof that they [FirstEnergy] are totally incapable of operating nuclear plants and continue to put public health and the environment in serious jeopardy,'" John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- What it means, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Inspection due at nuclear plant, Akron Beacon Journal.
Aug 12:  Pact on nuclear fuel storage could aid FirstEnergy

TOLEDO -- "A settlement announced this week between the U.S. Justice Department and one of the nation's largest utilities could help Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. recoup millions of dollars spent since the mid-1990s to store highly radioactive decayed fuel from Davis-Besse's reactor core outside the Ottawa County nuclear plant. The settlement calls for the government to reimburse Exelon Generation Co., of Chicago, for costs associated with that utility's removal, drainage, and dry-cask storage of spent fuel. . . .This week's agreement leaves open the possibility that utilities can continue to recoup storage costs until the waste is hauled away. Richard Wilkins, FirstEnergy spokesman, agreed the Exelon settlement is a legal precedent that caught the attention of FirstEnergy's lawyers. He said the company did not want him to elaborate," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Aug 11:  Nuclear commissionís decision to keep public in the dark might have grave consequences
Leave it open

DrawingCOLUMBUS -- "Terrorists shouldn't be handed a map of where the armed guards are stationed and how they are trained to repel an attack, but without disclosing such specifics, the public has the right to know if problems exist and if they're being handled effectively. Without outside scrutiny and pressure, the staff at nuclear facilities literally could fall asleep at the switch. With the information suppressed, the public is forced to trust that the commission will do its job inspecting and enforcing the security standards at power plants. But no one will know for sure unless something goes drastically wrong. Not a comforting thought. Public disclosure is one of the best ways to ensure that plants and the officials who oversee them act promptly to correct problems. Critics say the commission is hiding from oversight and criticism. Whether thatís fair, secrecy does nothing to improve the public's confidence in the agency. This disturbing move toward classifying information is not isolated to nuclear facilities. Shortly after 9/11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pulled from its Web site a database of disaster plans for 14,000 chemical plants and industrial facilities. The database detailed the plants' emergency plans and the worst-case scenario if a disaster would strike. Those living in the danger zone around such plants are denied information about the risk they face," editorial, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

AKRON -- Davis-Besse at full power, Akron Beacon Journal.
Aug 10:  FirstEnergy is accused of manipulation
Group says sirens overtested at Davis-Besse to 'game' rules

AKRON -- "The May 7 failure involved a computer malfunction stemming from the change to daylight-saving time. The Ottawa County sheriff's office on that day was unable to activate the sirens, FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider said," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- Rate freeze thaws out, editorial, Toledo Blade.
Aug 9:  Warning sirens at Davis-Besse
Is FirstEnergy manipulating the siren test schedule to cover up trouble?

Siren map

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The NRC assured the public prior to the March 2004 restart of Davis-Besse that the management at the site could be trusted and the information provided to the NRC from the company would be credible and reliable. If FirstEnergy 'gamed' the [Alert and Notification System Performance Indicator] in order to keep it GREEN as the available information strongly suggests, neither assurance is valid. The near-miss at Davis-Besse was caused by FirstEnergy downplaying and dismissing problems and not being candid and forthcoming with the actual conditions at the plant. It appears that FirstEnergy has not fully rehabilitated this bad habit," David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer, Union of Concerned Scientists, letter to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 797 KB pdf.

OAK HARBOR -- FirstEnergy restarts Davis-Besse plant after shutdown, Associated Press.
Aug 8:  Davis-Besse set to restart
FirstEnergy says plant may resume producing power as early as today

OAK HARBOR -- "Both the Akron-based utility and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said they agree that the fuse blew because it was worn out," Associated Press.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy puts more focus on trimming after blackout; some property owners upset, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- Grid lacks standards; Changes intended to avoid blackout, Mary Ethridge, Akron Beacon Journal.

CLEVELAND -- Massive power failure's anniversary highlights progress and problems. "Now, a third detailed technical blackout analysis completed by the North American Electric Reliability Council, and recently released without public notice, also largely puts the blame on FirstEnergy. . . Among the long list of criticisms were FirstEnergy's: (1) Failure to upgrade its grid control center computer software since 1998 with updates routinely offered by manufacturers General Electric Co. and the Harris Corp. (2) Failure to adequately train its control-center employees. (3) Failure to operate its lines at voltage and reactive power levels set by its predecessors, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. and Ohio Edison Co.," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Aug 7:  Fuse failure not likely a sign of Besse flaws

TOLEDO -- "Both FirstEnergy Corp. and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed yesterday that the fuse in question blew because it was simply worn out. [The plant's four reactor trip circuit breakers] are grouped into two parallel sets and are part of a safety system that automatically shuts down the reactor when computers sensed a problem. . . Workers weren't aware that one of those two sets was holding a blown fuse when they performed a routine test on breakers Wednesday morning, something that's done once every three weeks. The reactor automatically shut down when the only fully operable set of breakers was opened for the test, Jan Strasma, a NRC spokesman, said. The NRC isn't classifying what happened as a procedural error. But it has told the utility to amend its procedure for future tests by waiting to do tests on either set of breakers until it knows all fuses are operable on the opposite set, he said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Aug 6:  Reaction harsh to governmentís nuclear secrecy

WASHINGTON -- "Critics of a federal agency’s decision to keep secret the security ratings of nuclear-power plants say the move is more about protecting the image of industry regulators and operators than safeguarding the facilities against terrorists. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Wednesday that the government would start withholding information about how well plant operators are protecting against physical threats such as terrorists. But that information, offered in a broad context with few details, would be of minimal aid to a terrorist, critics said. The only way to keep the pressure for improvements and oversight on the regulatory commission and nuclear industry is by having at least general information about how a plant such as Davis-Besse in northern Ohio is performing in various areas, said Paul Ryder, organizing director of Ohio Citizen Action. 'Information about errors by utilities has got to be known by the public," he said. 'Without public pressure, these guys go back to sleep'," Jonathan Riskind, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy says a blown fuse caused Davis-Besse shutdown, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Aug 5:  Davis-Besse has emergency shutdown

Control rods.
Control rods
OAK HARBOR -- "The Davis-Besse nuclear power plant went into an emergency shutdown Wednesday morning while workers were testing one of four circuit breakers for electro-magnets that hold the reactor's control rods above the nuclear core. Without warning, the reactor 'scrammed,' meaning the electro-magnets opened and the control rods dropped into the core. That immediately stopped the nuclear fission. . . .Owner FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron said the 925-megawatt plant will be offline for several days while engineers investigate," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Problem triggers shutdown of reactor; workers not at fault, FirstEnergy suggests, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy extra charge OK to 2008; But PUCO wants other parts of utility's plan altered, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Utility can raise its rates in 2006; FirstEnergy will likely wait longer, PUCO says. "The PUCO will still require an auction no later than Dec. 1 of this year to determine the market price of electricity as of Jan. 1, 2006. FirstEnergy and other electricity suppliers will be invited to bid on electricity sales for the Akron utility's northern Ohio territory. The auction process is being worked out," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Aug 4:  Davis-Besse shut down

OAK HARBOR -- "News 11 has learned that the nuclear reactor shut down at 10:24 Wednesday morning during a testing procedure. Spokesman Jan Strasma for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said workers at the plant were testing four circuit breakers this morning when one of them tripped. That caused a normal shutdown of the reactor, called a "scram." That's defined as the sudden shutting down of a nuclear reactor, usually by rapid insertion of control rods to stop the nuclear reaction, either automatically or manually by the reactor operator. Strasma said inspectors from FirstEnergy and the NRC are at the plant now, trying to determine why the circuit breaker tripped," WTOL-TV NEWS 11.

  • A scram is anything but a "normal shutdown". A scram is a way to shut down the reactor in a big hurry, when it is not safe to take the time for the steps involved in a normal shutdown.
OAK HARBOR -- Safety issue triggers surprise shutdown at Davis-Besse, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

WASHINGTON, DC -- NRC modifies availability of security information for all nuclear plants, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Jul 29:  Exelon CEO elaborates on merger talk

Exelon logoCHICAGO, IL -- "We think -- whether its utilities around the Northeast who have transition periods coming to an end or utilities in other parts of the country facing the need for new base stations -- there is going to be significant financial pressure in this industry. And that creates opportunities for people who know how to make money through cost savings. That's the kind of thing we keep our eyes on. . . . I do think in the long run, consolidation on a very hard-headed basis is one of the few ways that any utility has to grow beyond the average," John Rowe, CEO, Exelon, Exelon 2nd Quarter 2004 earnings release conference call, July 28, 2004.
Jul 28: FirstEnergy doesn't admit wrongdoing; $89.9 million covers all pending actions

Utility settles multiple lawsuits

FirstEnergy headquartersAKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. has agreed to pay nearly $90 million to settle all pending federal and state class-action lawsuits involving its troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant, a surprise 2003 earnings restatement and the 2003 massive blackout. The Akron utility announced the settlement agreement minutes after the stock market closed Tuesday, saying insurance will pay $71.92 million while the company will pay $17.98 million. FirstEnergy will take a charge of 3 cents a share for the second quarter; the quarterly earnings are scheduled to be released today," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy settles investors' lawsuits; Akron utility, insurer to pay nearly $90 million, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- August 14, 2003 blackout: FirstEnergy to settle lawsuits for $89.9 million; Plan covers investor cases over finances, reactor, blackout, Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy settles securities and derivative lawsuits, release, FirstEnergy, July 27, 2004.
  • Yesterday's announcement marks the second time in a month that CEO Anthony Alexander has removed a legal roadblock to selling the FirstEnergy to another utility. The first was the reported settlement of the federal lawsuit over FirstEnergy's Sammis plant, near Steubenville, the nation's second-worst sulfur dioxide emitter. According to the Columbus Dispatch, FirstEnergy would spend $1.1 billion to drastically cut pollution under an agreement reached with federal agencies."
Jul 26: Eastern firms are in its sights
Exelon is on acquisition hunt again

Exelon CEO John Rowe, who reportedly said in January "You'd have to have cobwebs in your head not to see the fit with FirstEnergy."
John Rowe
CHICAGO, IL -- "Exelon Corp. is scouting acquisition prospects in the eastern half of the country. The Chicago-based parent of Commonwealth Edison Co. quietly has approached other utilities about combining in recent months, a person close to the situation says. Exelon needs a deal to sustain growth in the mature electric industry. Eastern targets are more attractive because Exelon owns the Peco Energy Co. utility in Philadelphia and belongs to an East Coast transmission consortium. . . .'Consolidation is about the only way you create more value for shareholders,' [Exelon Chairman and CEO John Rowe] said in an article published last week in energy industry newsletter Restructuring Today. He told the publication he expects Exelon to be 50% larger within four years. . . . Mr. Rowe told a small group of investors in January that he'd earlier approached FirstEnergy and been rebuffed, says Hugh Wynne, a utility industry analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. LLC in New York, who attended the meeting. 'He said you'd have to have cobwebs in your head not to see the fit with FirstEnergy,' Mr. Wynne says," Steve Daniels, Crain's Chicago Business.
  • FirstEnergy's market capitalization, $12.51 billion, is 57% of Exelon's $21.73 billion.
Jul 24: Richard R. Grigg, 55, formerly of Wisconsin utility, hired as executive vice president of Akron company

FirstEnergy names head of operations

Richard Grigg
Richard Grigg
AKRON -- "The appointment, announced Friday by the company's board of directors, comes after a six-month search to fill the critical COO position previously held by Anthony J. Alexander, FirstEnergy's president and chief executive officer. Alexander was promoted to CEO following the death in January of H. Peter Burg, the Akron utility's chairman and CEO. Grigg, who is 55, retired in March as president and CEO of WE Generation at Milwaukee- based Wisconsin Energy Corp. He starts his new job in late August and will report to Alexander, FirstEnergy announced," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

CLEVELAND -- FirstEnergy hires former Wis. exec. "Grigg will be responsible for the company's transmission system and all 17 non-nuclear power plants. The three nuclear plants will continue to be in a separate division headed by Gary Leidich, reporting to Alexander and the board," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jul 15: U.S. Attorney: Grand jury criminal probe of FirstEnergy is "moving with dispatch"

CLEVELAND -- U.S. Attorney Gregory White says the federal grand jury investigating the Davis-Besse fiasco is "moving with dispatch." Cleveland FOX-8 News I-Team reported White's comment last night after showing videotapes of boric acid piled up on the trouble reactor's vessel head. Some of these tapes, shown on television for the first time, demonstrate that -- as early as 1996 -- both FirstEnergy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had all the evidence they needed to know they were courting disaster. As is customary, White gave no schedule for the grand jury to report.
Jul 14: NRC salutes Davis-Besse plant for safe operation since restart

SnoozingOAK HARBOR -- "'Are we happy?' [Lew Myers, chief operating officer of FirstEnergy's nuclear division] asked. 'No. Are we pleased with the performance of Davis-Besse's workers and managers? Yes,'" John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse filter-change procedures restructured. "Jack Grobe, chairman of the NRC oversight panel, told FirstEnergy officials that they had done well since the April restart to keep the plant on line without another shutdown. 'The plant has been operating reliably for 107 days,' Grobe said. 'That's noteworthy. That's absolutely noteworthy,'" Toledo Blade.
  • At the federal government, the word games never end: In fact, the restart was not in April, it was on March 8. This was followed by a series of problems and shutdowns until April 4, when FirstEnergy finally got the plant operating continuously. So the NRC is saying that Davis-Besse hasn't had a shutdown since the last shutdown. OK, but isn't that always the case?
FirstEnergy removes another roadblock to selling the company

Anthony Alexander
FirstEnergy CEO
Anthony Alexander
"If the Sammis settlement reported today [see below] goes through, it will remove one of the last roadblocks to the sale of FirstEnergy to another utility. The unknown liability of the massive case has been sitting on FirstEnergy's books as a giant question mark. No one wants to buy a question mark. Now, the biggest remaining issue is FirstEnergy's $2 billion rate case before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. FirstEnergy had originally insisted that they be assured of $3 billion by December 31, 2003. Now, it will be no more than $2 billion, and maybe far less, to be decided no sooner than January 2005. This uncertainty may not block outright a sale of the company, but it is certain to lower the price."

-- Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

FirstEnergy's Sammis plant, near Steubenville, the nation's second-worst emitter of acid-rain pollutant sulfur dioxide.
Sammis plant
Jul 8: FirstEnergy plant to pay cleanup of $1.1 billion

COLUMBUS -- "The owner of an aged coal-burning power plant on the Ohio River will spend $1.1 billion to drastically cut pollution under an agreement reached with federal agencies and three Northeastern states, sources close to the negotiations said. The agreement, framed in a closed meeting last week, sets a precedent and is expected to be scrutinized by other utility companies being sued over emissions, including Columbus-based American Electric Power. . . . Sammis' owner, Akron-based FirstEnergy, will reduce pollutants blamed for acid rain, smog and poor health at least 90 percent by 2010, said the sources -- who wouldn't give their names because the judge has told the parties not to talk. . . FirstEnergy spokeswoman Ellen Raines would say only that the company is in 'meaningful negotiations,'" Kevin Mayhood, Columbus Dispatch. Access fee; no link.

COLUMBUS -- Report: Big utility trial delayed after agreement to spend $1.1 billion on pollution controls, Associated Press.
Jul 3: Davis-Besse 'burp' causes no harm during fixes to filters

TOLEDO -- "The incident occurred at 11 a.m. Thursday as workers were changing one of two filters used to sift out airborne particles in the plant that settle in the reactor's coolant water. . . Nearby radiation-detection monitors rarely go off, [U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng] said. But they did on Thursday at Davis-Besse," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Jul 1: NRC's failure to view Davis-Besse tape frightening

PORT CLINTON -- "Even more incredulously, the staffers decided not to view the tape from the 2000 inspection. Why? Because a FirstEnergy executive said it showed the same thing as the '96 and '98 tapes," editorial, Port Clinton News Herald.
Jun 29: U.S. struggles to revive nuclear power industry

"'The political reality in the United States today would lead to the conclusion that there will not be any more nuclear power plants built in this country for a long time,' said James A. Baker, the former secretary of state to President George H.W. Bush."
James A. Baker
HOUSTON, TX -- "The 103 operational US nuclear power plants are so old they are being forced to apply for 20-year extensions on their 40-year operating licences. Even though they provide 20 per cent of the nation's energy, no provisions have been made to continue that supply, much less increase it, once the plants are too old to operate. A tedious application process, high costs and public resistance have made utilities skittish about new nuclear power for decades. . . Today Mark Urso, who works in the nuclear services division of Westinghouse Electric, gives talks on nuclear energy. 'Typically, the only thing they [the public] know or ask questions about are the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl,' he says," Sheila McNulty, Financial Times.

AKRON -- SEC wants to learn more of Davis-Besse shutdown; U.S. securities agency probes FirstEnergy's earnings restatement, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- SEC seeks additional documents about shutdown of Davis-Besse, Toledo Blade.
Jun 28: FirstEnergy receives request for additional information from Securities and Exchange Commission

AKRON -- "As part of its informal inquiry, which began last September, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has requested in a letter dated June 24, 2004, that FirstEnergy voluntarily provide information and documents related to an extended outage at its Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station that began in 2002. The company intends to comply with this request and continue to cooperate fully with this inquiry," release, FirstEnergy.

NEW YORK, NY -- SEC asks FirstEnergy for nuke data. "FirstEnergy has some dim news for investors. The Ohio utility, largely blamed for last year's record blackout, is fielding new questions from federal investigators," Melissa Davis, The Street.
Jun 27: Rate and pillage

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy Corp. would like to catch the ears of Cuyahoga County's mayors and pitch the utility's side of the Great Rate Debate. The Akron-based utility has taken a pounding in the press for its "rate stabilization" plan before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, in which FirstEnergy would continue to collect the highest rates in the state. At a meeting last week of the Cuyahoga County Mayors & City Managers Association, Lyndhurst Mayor Joseph Cicero said FirstEnergy was eager to come before the mayors group to explain its side of the story. But a couple of Cicero's colleagues said if FirstEnergy was coming, the mayors also needed to hear from the PUCO, the Ohio consumers' counsel and the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, a FirstEnergy competitor. The mayors could be a tough crowd for FirstEnergy. University Heights Mayor Beryl Rothschild, the bantam dean of mayors in the county, said FirstEnergy has charged area citizens billions to cover its bad decisions. Of FirstEnergy's rate push, Rothschild said, 'If we let them get away with it without an outcry, we get what we deserve,'" Tom Breckenridge, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jun 26: House panel to urge more NRC reforms after Ohio's close call

CLEVELAND -- "A powerful House panel will join the push for additional reforms at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the wake of the near-accident at Ohio's Davis-Besse reactor. . . .The subcommittee's involvement could signal broader legislative scrutiny. It also sends the message to the NRC that its funding could be affected if it continues to resist additional reforms recommended in May by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. 'We always pay attention to the chairman's report language, and we always look closely at the recommendations of the GAO,' said NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner. Asked if the agency is considering further changes, Brenner said 'it's premature to say how that would play out,'" John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jun 25: FirstEnergy overhauling nuclear operations

Todd SchneiderCLEVELAND -- "A massive shake-up is under way at FirstEnergy Corp.'s nuclear operating company that by summer's end will eliminate an undetermined number of jobs at three nuclear power plants and create new administrative positions and new departments. The company on Thursday announced the reassignment of 37 managers and executives to new positions and the promotion of 13 others. In addition, 21 other manager and executives were not selected and must compete for other jobs within the company, which has 2,700 employees. . . Over the next two months, all employees will be affected, said spokesman Todd Schneider. A few will be let go, Schneider says, but the exact number isn't yet known. 'We don't know how many yet,' said Schneider," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy restructures nuclear plant management; Three-phase process designed to improve efficiency; Layoffs expected, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy shuffles nuclear-power team, Toledo Blade.
Jun 24: FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. announces new organization, management

AKRON -- "Phase III, the implementation of the new organization, will be completed in August. When finalized, the size of some sections of the organization will increase and some will decrease. The overall size of the company is expected to be somewhat smaller through attrition and staff reductions, bringing FENOC more in line with other top-performing nuclear utilities," release, FirstEnergy.
  • After the big shake-up, FirstEnergy Nuclear will still have as its Chief Operating Officer, Lew Myers, whose fingerprints are all over the Davis Besse fiasco. Why is Lew Myers untouchable?
Jun 22: Perry to remain one of NRC's most scrutinized plants

CONCORD TOWNSHIP -- "The Perry nuclear power plant will remain under stepped-up scrutiny, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday, because of its management's failure to get to the bottom of equipment breakdowns, incorporate new industry maintenance procedures and effectively train technicians. The bad news for plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. came at a public meeting at the Renaissance Quail Hollow Resort to discuss the findings of a special inspection team that spent about 400 hours looking into the problems. It means that Perry will remain one of the most scrutinized reactors in the nation," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jun 20: Davis-Besse was as close as 60 days to a major accident
Lid problem was on tape, but NRC didn't watch

CLEVELAND -- "As a video camera pans over the lid of the Davis-Besse nuclear reactor, the plant workers conducting the routine inspection are startled by what they find. 'Big piles . . . mountains of it,' one of the plant's inspectors says when his TV monitor shows a thick blanket of dried corrosive acid on the steel lid. . . Neither the agency nor FirstEnergy considered the increasing amount of acid evident in those videos some of it rusty-looking a corrosion threat. That was despite the NRC's repeated warnings in the 1980s and 90s to nuclear operators that acid could eat through steel," John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jun 19: Davis-Besse was as close as 60 days to a major accident
FirstEnergy asks PUCO to reconsider rate plan

AKRON -- "The PUCO wants FirstEnergy to take part in a competitive bid process by Dec. 1 to determine market rates for electricity starting in 2006 for its Northern Ohio customer area. If the bids come in at a high rate, then state regulators want FirstEnergy to charge customers under a three-year rate stabilization plan that would control how high prices go. Other interested parties have 30 days from June 9, when the PUCO approved the modified FirstEnergy plan, to request a rehearing. A rehearing would not involve introducing new evidence or testimony," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Jun 17: FirstEnergy balks at state provisions in auction order

CLEVELAND -- "FirstEnergy Corp. will soon ask Ohio regulators to reconsider their order establishing power auctions, a company official said Wednesday. . . Others involved in the case, including the Ohio Consumers' Counsel and the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, are also considering appealing certain aspects of the order," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Utility will ask more of PUCO; FirstEnergy to request rehearing on rate plan, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

Light pole accident

Two Toledo city workers are treated on Main Street before they are taken to the hospital. The workers were replacing the sidewalk near the Sports Arena when a rusty pole 'just plopped over,' another worker said (Lisa Dutton, Toledo Blade).

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy, union debate streetlight maintenance. "FirstEnergy disbanded a Toledo Edison underground utilities maintenance unit more than four years ago whose duties had included inspecting and maintaining Toledo's freestanding streetlights, a union official said yesterday. But a utility spokesman countered that the ultimate responsibility for maintaining -- and, if necessary, replacing -- street-lights is an issue that remains to be determined during an investigation of an accident Tuesday on Main Street in which a rust-ridden light pole toppled and struck two city workers. . . . [Larry Tscherne, business manager for Local 245 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] said inadequate maintenance is to blame for the incident near the Sports Arena. 'This is deregulation at its finest,' said Mr. Tscherne, whose local represents 580 Edison workers. 'We have really experienced a decline in maintenance. We've had numerous discussions with the company about that. They simply don't have the people to do the maintenance, to keep up with it.' . . . He concurred with city workers' statements Tuesday that streetlight poles throughout Toledo are in poor condition, with rust often "repaired" with fresh coats of paint," David Patch, Toledo Blade.
Jun 16: FirstEnergy to ask PUCO for a rehearing on rate plan decision

NEW YORK, NY -- As expected, Richard Marsh, First Energy's Chief Financial Officer, today said the troubled utility would ask the PUCO for a rehearing on last week's opinion and order. After a storm of public criticism, the Commission chopped $1 billion off FirstEnergy's $3 request and ordered a competitive-bid auction this fall to see if the market could provide electricity more cheaply. Marsh's remarks came at the Deutsche Bank Electric Power Conference in New York City. CEO Anthony Alexander did not speak at the meeting, Ohio Citizen Action.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy still reviewing plans. "FirstEnergy Corp.'s board of directors took no action Tuesday on Ohio regulators' plans to determine electricity rates starting in 2006. The Akron utility said it would decide no sooner than the board meeting on whether to accept the Public Utility Commission of Ohio's new rate plan. The PUCO called for FirstEnergy to take part in a competitive bidding process no later than Dec. 1 to set market rates for electricity starting in 2006. If the price comes in too high, FirstEnergy is to implement a rate stabilization plan. FirstEnergy continues to review and consider its options, spokeswoman Ellen Raines said," Akron Beacon Journal.
Jun 14: As his strategy unravels
Anthony Alexander should expect to be on the hot seat at Tuesday's FirstEnergy Board meeting

CLEVELAND -- "There is no way to overemphasize the importance of the FirstEnergy rate plan in Alexander's strategy. His company has survived only due to $1 billion a year of overcharges, which were the result of a deal with regulators in 2000 which gave the company twice the nuclear construction expenses to which they were entitled. From management's point of view, continuing the overcharge is critical. . . . When [former FirstEnergy CEO Peter] Burg died in January, the Board did not wait 24 hours after his funeral to appoint Alexander the new CEO. Why? Because the board thought what the company needed most was this rate plan. Alexander, as the political fixer, would be best able to make sure it happened. The guaranteed $3 billion would sweeten any takeover deal, and would make Wall Street happy either way. Instead the rate plan is anything but guaranteed, and the board may be wondering why they picked Anthony Alexander to lead the company," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

Crain's logoCLEVELAND -- PUCO lets price gouging go forward; Support bid auction. "For months, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chairman Alan Schriber has been insisting that his motivation in pushing FirstEnergy Corp.'s rate case is to avoid the price-gouging and rate shock that plagued California in 2000 and 2001. That's a sensible goal. The commission's cure, unfortunately, is worse than the disease. The amount of price-gouging Ohio regulators have approved for FirstEnergy now exceeds that of the worst culprit in California, Enron," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, guest column, Crain's Cleveland Business.
Jun 13: Balance of power
The PUCO keeps FirstEnergy and consumers in mind

AKRON -- ". . . the Akron-based power company crafted a reasonable and realistic 'rate stabilization plan.' On Wednesday, the PUCO improved the proposal," editorial, Akron Beacon Journal.
Jun 11: A PUCO power surge
Electric rate auction is a creative, market-based idea that just might bring FirstEnergy some competition

CLEVELAND -- "The company does get to keep its dubious 'transition charges,' which pay for nuclear plants and other past construction projects. Opponents say the charges, which are due to expire at the end of 2005, are baseless. The PUCO also let stand a steep decline in shopping credits that give rival electric suppliers an incentive to compete against FirstEnergy. Glenn Krassen, a lawyer for the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, a small but staunch rival to FirstEnergy, said the decline in credits would gut his organization. The PUCO must not allow that to happen. Now the full-court press begins. FirstEnergy can reject the PUCO's plan, or it (and other critics) can request revisions," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jun 10: Electric customers get last shot at lower bill
FirstEnergy told to conduct auction

COLUMBUS -- "The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voted 4-1 to order the Akron parent of Toledo Edison and Ohio Edison to conduct an auction to see if enough competition has been sparked among electricity suppliers to undercut what FirstEnergy is now charging. If that fails, then the PUCO will lock in FirstEnergy's current rates, the highest in Ohio, through 2008. . . . The corporation's stock took an immediate hit after the order was issued. 'The expectation was that this was a slam dunk,' said one utility analyst who asked not to be identified. 'Given the current commodity pricing, it's unlikely someone will come in with a lower bid, but we won't know that until Dec. 1,'" Jim Provance, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- Electricity to go on auction block; Regulators want FirstEnergy's Ohio territory prices to be open for bids. "Utility analyst Daniele Seitz at Maxcor Financial told Bloomberg News that the decision leaves FirstEnergy with a lot of uncertainty regarding its rates," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

Clarence Rogers, Jr.
Clarence Rogers, Jr.
COLUMBUS -- Regulators try for competition for FirstEnergy. "Commissioner Clarence Rogers, who cast the dissenting vote, said the plan will do nothing to ensure lower costs for FirstEnergy customers, especially if the competition drive fails. 'The plan stabilizes rates at too high a cost,' Rogers said. 'FirstEnergy has placed itself in a strong position and basically said take it or leave it,'" John McCarthy, Associated Press.

CLEVELAND -- State puts FirstEnergy rates plan to a test; Rivals will be challenged to offer cut-rate prices. "The plan allows FirstEnergy to keep collecting the controversial 'transition charge' that was supposed to drop off monthly bills at the end of 2005 with the start of competitive markets. [Commissioner Clarence] Rogers said that is one of the reasons he voted against the order, because FirstEnergy had not justified why it needed to continue collecting the charge. Averaging $15 to $20 a month on a typical household bill, the charge would have given the company more than $8 billion by the end of next year for past construction projects, including nuclear power plants," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Jun 9: The Tongren scandal continues
FirstEnergy has its way with PUCO

"What if Gov. Bob Taft said his second-term economic plan was to pull $1 billion out of the northern Ohio economy in each of 2006, 2007, and 2008? That's what Taft and his appointee Alan Schriber just decided to let FirstEnergy do. The "Third Frontier" turns out to be our pockets."
-- Shari Weir
CLEVELAND -- "Today, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio gave FirstEnergy the lion's share of the $3 billion it demanded, and another chapter of what is known as the 'Tongren scandal' has been written. . . . Commission Chair Alan Schriber discarded all pretense of objectivity at the April 21 oral arguments on the case. He treated FirstEnergy opponents like the boy in "The Emperorís New Clothes" who got a swat on the head for saying what he saw. What is the truth that can't be said? FirstEnergy was demanding billions of dollars in exchange for nothing at all. All the costs for electricity generation, transmission, and customer service are already covered by the base rates. All the costs for paying off the expensive nuclear plants will have been paid already. . . With today's action, Chairman Alan Schriber has become, far and away, the worst PUCO Chairman in Ohio history. No one has even come close to his record for unjustified rate hikes," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action.

COLUMBUS -- Opinion and Order, Case 03-2144-EL-ATA, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, passed 4 - 1, with Commissioner Clarence Rogers dissenting.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy awaits PUCO decision on rate plan; Ohio agency to vote today on bill stabilization. Consumer watchdog may challenge, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- Toledoan's estate asks court to allow power-line lawsuit. "The estate argued Toledo Edison was partially responsible for the accident because Mr. Kampfer and his neighbors had repeatedly asked the company to trim the tree with no action by the company. About a week before the accident, he asked the company to turn off the power so he could do the work himself. The company refused. . . The estate's attorney, Richard Kolb, told the court a frustrated Mr. Kampfer feared a dead limb would bring down a power line near the backyard pool in which his children swam," Toledo Blade.
Jun 3: Does the PUCO have bad news for consumers?

FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander has told the Public Utilities Commission he won't tolerate amendments to his $3 billion overcharge plan.
Anthony Alexander
CLEVELAND -- "Has Public Utilities Chairman Alan Schriber tipped his hand on FirstEnergy's pending multibillion-dollar rate case? It sure looks like it, and it's bad news for ratepayers and the state's economy. . . . Given the scandal over the shredded consultant's report showing FirstEnergy's stranded costs to be only a fraction of the commission-approved $8.9 billion and the immediate and long-term effects that the pending case will surely have, one would expect Schriber to approach the decision with the utmost thoughtfulness and humility. His sharp rebuke of critics and disregard for normal case proceedings indicates otherwise. Yet, the commission's unexpected and unexplained delay of a decision on the case, originally scheduled for action May 5, could reflect an understanding that the rate plan in its current form is a windfall for FirstEnergy. With the utility publicly proclaiming it will withdraw the plan if the commission orders amendments, the commission may have worked itself into a box. The answer is simple, though: The commission should scrap the rate plan and follow the measures of Ohio's electric deregulation bill," Shari Weir, Cleveland Program Director, Ohio Citizen Action, op-ed column, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Deregulation system takes a jolt from electric company executive. Mike Morris, chairman and chief executive officer of American Electric Power, said that for companies to invest in new power plants, revitalize current plants and remain cost effective, re-regulation of the industry may be necessary. . . . [Ohioís Consumers' Counsel Janine] Migden-Ostrander said, however, the deregulation model is working. She called Morris' assessment a red herring because the major companies want to corner more of the market at the expense of small competitors," Paul Kostyu, Canton Repository.