Davis-Besse and other FirstEnergy news

September - December 2004


Dec 21:  Exelon plans to buy New Jersey utility

Merger talks

E. James Ferland, chief executive of P.S.E.& G., left, and John W. Rowe, head of Exelon, discuss their companies' planned merger (Photo by Marko Georgiev).

NEW YORK, NY -- "Strategically, Mr. Rowe and Mr. Ferland said the deal fitted into both companies' plans. For Exelon, the merger enables the company to expand into the Northeast, gain a foothold in the country's largest electricity market and add customers and nuclear power plants to its existing operations in Illinois and Pennsylvania. It also comes as Exelon anticipates a revenue drop in 2007, when competition for electricity service in Illinois intensifies. For P.S.E. & G., the merger will provide the scale required to operate its fossil-fuel plants more efficiently and the management expertise to turn around its nuclear power plants, which have contributed to its stock's underperforming industry peers by 20 percent this year," Eric Dash, New York Times.

NEWARK, NJ -- Exelon stock deal buys PSEG; Nation's largest power company would serve 18 million people. "Federal regulators would be concerned about the market power of the combined company, [David Schanzer, a utility analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott] said. 'This is going to be the 800-pound gorilla,' he said. The deal, if approved, also might encourage other utilities to consider merging to compete, he said," Jeffery Gold, Associated Press.
Dec 18:  Biggest utility in New Jersey seen as target of acquisition

NEW YORK, NY -- "The Exelon Corporation, the owner of utilities in northern Illinois and eastern Pennsylvania, is in advanced talks to acquire New Jersey's largest utility, P.S.E.&G., for about $12 billion, executives involved in the negotiations said yesterday. A deal would create the largest utility holding company in the country, with annual revenue of more than $26 billion and 25,000 employees. Buying P.S.E.&G. would allow John Rowe, Exelon's chief executive, to expand his business in the Northeast, the country's largest electricity market, and add both customers and nuclear power plants to his existing assets in Illinois and Pennsylvania. . . The acquisition fits with Exelon's pattern of buying troubled companies and turning them around by selling some assets," Jad Mouawad, Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times.

CHICAGO, IL -- Exelon may be eyeing N.J. electric utility. "Some observers theorized Exelon was interested only in Public Service's three nuclear plants. Exelon's management in the past has not ruled out the acquisition of existing reactors, in part because the company has gained a reputation in recent years for running nuclear plants efficiently and safely. . . [Paul Ridzon, an energy analyst with Keybank Capital] noted that Public Service's territory is contiguous with Exelon's territory in Pennsylvania," Robert Manor, Chicago Tribune.
Dec 17:  Rate auction's bidders sought

COLUMBUS -- "The Ohio consumers' counsel is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to release to the public the names of the companies that bid this month in the experimental electricity auction for FirstEnergy Corp.'s Ohio territory. The names need to be released so the public can have confidence in the process and result, the consumers' counsel argued in the office's request to the PUCO," Akron Beacon Journal.
Dec 16:  Energy auction needs airing

CLEVELAND -- "Now FirstEnergy is beating the drums for the return of a regulated electric market. . . [PUCO Chair Alan] Schriber dismisses [Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander's] call for more transparency. He said private experts who ran the auction told the PUCO they required total confidentiality to protect trade secrets. Because experts aren't perfect, and because a second auction might be more successful in attracting dozens of suppliers offering lower prices, a second auction with a more transparent process is required. But that might be difficult to do since the PUCO's report on this auction was full of redactions, and no one has explained why some information was omitted. The PUCO is considering this matter now. When it rules, it should be aware of the high stakes and err on the side of making more, not less, information available to the public," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- The deregulation myth, editorial, Toledo Blade.
Dec 11:  Grand jury targets utility

FirstEnergy may face criminal charges in Davis-Besse probe

AKRON -- "In its statement, which was also filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, FirstEnergy said, 'Today, the company received a letter from the United States attorney's office stating that FENOC (FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co.) is a target of the federal grand jury investigation into alleged false statements made to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the fall of 2001. . . The letter also said that the designation of FENOC as a target indicates that, in the view of the prosecutors assigned to the matter, it is likely that federal charges will be returned against FENOC by the grand jury. . . . The investigation likely will be complete by early 2005, [Gregory White, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio] said,'" Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy expects to face charges in grand jury probe, Associated Press.

CLEVELAND -- Davis-Besse likely to face federal charges, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Criminal case over reactor taking shape; NRC allegedly was misled about facility's condition, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Dec 10:  Ohio Citizen Action asks three Supreme Court justices for recusal from FirstEnergy case

Ohio Chief Justice
Thomas Moyer
COLUMBUS -- "Ohio Citizen Action today asked Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, Justice Terrence O'Donnell, and Justice-elect Judith Ann Lanzinger to recuse themselves from the FirstEnergy rate case which the Ohio Consumers Counsel has filed at the Ohio Supreme Court. Each of these justices received at least $20,000 in campaign contributions from FirstEnergy on August 6, 2004 -- two days after the PUCO made a key decision in the FirstEnergy rate request. The most recent precedent for such a recusal is the decision that, 'Four Ohio Supreme Court justices, all victims or beneficiaries of corporate-bankrolled election ads, will not participate in decisions related to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's attempt to prevent disclosure of its contributors. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Alice Robie Resnick, Terrence O'Donnell, and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton have recused themselves from an appeal filed by the chamber's non-profit Citizens for a Strong Ohio.' Those recusals were excellent decisions. The FirstEnergy case deserves no less," Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action.

COLUMBUS -- Power auction fails to generate savings, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Auction fizzles; Toledo Edison rates prevail, Mary-Beth McLaughlin, Toledo Blade.

AKRON -- Ohio Edison's rate will stand, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy updates status of grand jury investigation involving its FENOC subsidiary, release, FirstEnergy.
Alan Schriber
PUCO Chair Alan Schriber, who designed the auction
Dec 9:  PUCO rejects auction price for FirstEnergy retail load

COLUMBUS -- "The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio today rejected the final auction price for FirstEnergy’s operating companies retail load. As a result, the modified rate stabilization plan approved for FirstEnergy will be implemented on January 1, 2006. The auction was conducted to test the adjusted price of FirstEnergy's rate stabilization plan against market prices. The auction commenced at 9:00 a.m. on December 8 and concluded that same day," release, finding and order, consultant report [37 pp. 1.11 MB pdf], Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

  • "Modified rate stabilization plan" is the Commission's term for forcing ratepayers to continue to subsidize FirstEnergy's mismanagement. The Commission's claim -- that the market can't supply power cheaper than FirstEnergy -- is laughable. Utilities can and do supply cheaper power across Ohio and around the country every single day. The only place they can't is in an auction designed to fail.
COLUMBUS -- Ohio Consumers' Counsel reacts to result of FirstEnergy auction, "It is vital that consumers continue to oppose the FirstEnergy rate plan, which our office has appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. We believe this plan violates Ohio's electric choice law, fails to protect residential customers and will result in the continuation of high rates," Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

COLUMBUS -- Energy auction a short circuit?; Bidding concludes after only two hours, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Dec 8:  Competitive bid auction in Ohio complete

Results provided to PUCO

COLUMBUS -- "NERA Economic Consulting, independent auction manager for the competitive bid process for the Ohio operating companies of Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. said today that the auction had been completed and the results have been submitted to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The auction was designed to procure electric generation service for Standard Service Offer customers of Ohio Edison, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and The Toledo Edison Company, for the period of January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2008. The PUCO has said that it will review the auction results and announce its decision within two business days," release, NERA Economic Consulting.

AKRON -- Electricity bids may lower rates; E-mail auction could decide how much Ohio customers of FirstEnergy will be paying, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Dec 7:  Davis-Besse morale off, problems unresolved

OAK HARBOR -- "Workers at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant are losing confidence in their managers, new internal surveys and independent assessments show. And the plant's ability to keep on top of problems is not what it should be. In a meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the plant Monday night, plant officials blamed recent layoffs stemming from owner FirstEnergy Corp.'s reorganization of its entire nuclear fleet for the drop in morale and said they will have a complete report next month on how to address the slippage. The plant's ability to get to the bottom of equipment problems meanwhile appears no better than it did two years ago, according to a report just released by a special NRC inspection team," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

OAK HARBOR -- Davis-Besse official says changes are still needed, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Dec 5:  Outcome of electricity auction could be lower consumer rates

CLEVELAND -- "A large portion of northern Ohio's electrical demand goes on the auction block Wednesday in an eBay-style competition ordered by the state to test whether anyone can beat the rates FirstEnergy Corp. charges its residential and commercial customers. For sale will be contracts from 2006 to 2009 to supply 'tranches,' or slices, of wholesale power to replace the more than 9,000 megawatts that FirstEnergy generates and sells to its Ohio customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. . . One company planning to compete, Columbus-based American Electric Power, did reveal last week that it would initially bid to supply 630 megawatts, or seven tranches, which is a relatively small amount of the total needed. . . . Should FirstEnergy lose its monopoly status, its earnings per share could drop by 24 cents to 50 cents, predicted senior research analyst Hugh Wynne at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

TOLEDO -- Electricity on the auction block; At issue: lower rates for 3 years, Mary-Beth McLaughlin, Toledo Blade.

TOLEDO -- FirstEnergy offers a deal below cost, Jon Chavez, Toledo Blade.
Dec 3:  FirstEnergy scores low on diagnosis of own ills 2nd of 4 assessments gets 'marginal' grade

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Despite nearly three years of intense scrutiny, FirstEnergy Corp. still is doing no better than a "marginal" job of self-diagnosing problems at the utility's Davis-Besse nuclear plant, according to an industry report. The report, made public yesterday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was the second of four assessments performed by an independent team of nuclear industry experts. The latest assessment looked at Davis-Besse's corrective-action program, which is designed to measure how well the plant's work force and management team work together to identify problems without NRC officials looking over their shoulders," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Dec 2:  FirstEnergy stock falls on spending news

CLEVELAND -- "The announced extra spending coincides with the uncertainty of future revenues in the face of a state-ordered power auction next week that could end with FirstEnergy losing its retail customer base to outside suppliers," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy stock sinks on outlook; Analysts expected higher 2005 profit, Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

LONDON, ENGLAND -- Cracked reactors may force closure of nuclear plants, Terry Macalister, Guardian.
Dec 1:  FirstEnergy slumps on disappointing 2005 outlook

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- "Shares of Ohio power company FirstEnergy slumped Wednesday on a disappointing 2005 outlook that prompted lower earnings estimates and a swift downgrade from utilities analysts. . . . 'Management's priority now is to spend a majority of FirstEnergy's free cash flow rebuilding its nuclear plants and T&D [transmission and distribution] system ... rather than returning it to shareholders in the near-term,' [Morgan Stanley analyst Kit Konolige] added. . . .The company has predicted it would be able to recover most of the costs associated with these system upgrades through rate increases charged to its 4.4 million utility customers," Jim Jelter, CBS News.
Nov 30:  Union of Concerned Scientists and Ohio Citizen Action want Davis-Besse investigation

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Union of Concerned Scientists and Ohio Citizen Action today asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to investigate whether two reactor coolant pumps at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse nuclear power plant are operating safely. The groups are asking NRC to conduct the investigation during Davis-Besse's planned mid-cycle outage this winter. FirstEnergy chose not to replace gaskets on two of its four reactor coolant pumps during the plant's two-year shutdown from 2002 to 2004," David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sandy Buchanan, Ohio Citizen Action.

LISLE, IL -- NRC Davis-Besse oversight panel to meet Dec. 6 in Ohio, press release, U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 67 KB pdf.

OAK HARBOR -- Independent Assessment of the Davis-Besse Corrective Action Program Implementation, Mark Bezilla, Vice President Nuclear, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, submission to James Caldwell, Administrator, Region III, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Nov 15, 2004, 13.9 MB pdf.

  • This report, based on a September 2004 investigation gave FirstEnergy's program to identify and fix mistakes at Davis-Besse an overall rating of "marginal," rating their efforts as "marginal" for six of seven criteria and "unsatisfactory" for the seventh.
Nov 19:  Auction to supply generation service to FirstEnergy's Ohio utility customers to begin December 8

COLUMBUS -- "National Economic Research Associates, independent auction manager for the Competitive Bid Process for the Ohio operating companies of Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., announced today that it has received sufficient indicative bids for the auction process to go forward. The auction is designed to procure electric generation service for Standard Service Offer customers of Ohio Edison Company, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company and The Toledo Edison Company, for the period of January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2008. The auction is scheduled to begin December 8, 2004," release, National Economic Research Associates.
Nov 18:  Merrill Lynch downgrades FirstEnergy

NEW YORK, NY -- Merrill Lynch today downgraded FirstEnergy's rating. It was the sixth downgrading in a row for FirstEnergy since December 16, 2003, Yahoo Finance.
Nov 17:  FirstEnergy outlines improvement plan

Utility meets with officials from NRC to discuss future of Perry Nuclear Power Plant

CONCORD TOWNSHIP -- "'It's like with a car. You can sometimes just look at one and say, 'Well, that's what's wrong with it, and here's what we need to do to fix it,' " [Viktoria Mitlyng, public affairs officer for the NRC] said. 'But other times, you have to take it apart and dig deeper to find out what the problem is. That's how it is with this,'" Jonathan Tressler, Lake County News Herald.

CONCORD TOWNSHIP -- FirstEnergy tries the fleet' approach; Three nuclear plants being operated in similar manner, John Funk, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

PAINESVILLE -- FirstEnergy nuclear operations: Merging efforts will boost safety, NRC told, Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Nov 10:  U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to discuss performance at three nuclear plants

Perry Nuclear Power PlantLISLE, IL -- "Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will meet with FirstEnergy Corp. officials Tuesday to discuss the performance of its three nuclear power plants, including the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Oak Harbor. The public is invited to the meeting, at 6 p.m. at the Renaissance Quail Hollow Resort, 11080 Concord-Hambden Rd., Painesville, Ohio. There will be time for questions and comments. The officials will discuss FirstEnergy's plans to deal with the results of the two-year shutdown at Davis-Besse, degraded performance at its Perry nuclear plant in Perry, Ohio, and maintaining adequate performance at the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant near Shippingport, Pa.," Toledo Blade

Oct 30:  Critics say NRC move makes it impossible to judge performance

CLEVELAND -- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision this week to block access to its vast document collection has left the public with no way to judge if the agency is adequately policing the industry, critics said Friday. The NRC temporarily shut its Web portal to more than 700,000 documents -- covering every aspect of its regulatory activities -- out of concern that terrorists could download 'potentially sensitive information' about radioactive materials in hospitals and universities. The action comes two months after the agency permanently barred the public from seeing security inspection results at the nation's 103 nuclear plants. The NRC also will no longer disclose when it has punished a reactor operator for security lapses. . .'The government is withholding far more information than terrorists could ever use,' said Rebecca Daugherty of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. 'It's incredibly frustrating because if you can't monitor the vulnerabilities of nuclear plants, you are not going to be able to demand any kind of action to make them safer,'" John Mangels, John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Oct 28:  European utilities top Oekom sustainability rankings, U.S. utilities crowd the bottom

MUNICH, GERMANY -- ""In the present study a wide gap is noticeable in the results of the Corporate Responsibility Rating between companies such as Scottish and Southern Energy and Severn Trent with grades of B on the one hand and Southern, Pacific Gas & Electric, FPL Group, Terasen, Dominion Resources, and FirstEnergy with grades of D+ and D on the other hand," state Evelyn Bohle, Oliver Rüdel, and Dietrich Wild, the Oekom analysts who authored the report. . . .Industry leader Scottish and Southern Energy devotes almost four fifths of its generation to natural gas (69.6 percent) and renewables (8 percent) and just over one fifth to nuclear (12.7 percent) and hard coal (9 percent). Industry laggard FirstEnergy devotes more than four fifths of its generation to coal (55 percent) and nuclear (28 percent) and only about one tenth to natural gas (8 percent) and renewables such as hydro power (5 percent)," William Baue, Social Funds.
Oct 26:  Feds to review failed Besse sirens NRC inspectors will study plant performance, utility's response

OAK HARBOR-- "Two inspectors from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission arrived yesterday at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station to investigate the failure of 54 warning sirens in an emergency planning zone around the plant during a test May 7. The inspectors, who will be at the facility for a minimum of "several days," also will study FirstEnergy's response to the failed test, including whether the plant correctly reported its siren test performance for the quarter, said Viktoria Mitlyng, an NRC spokesman. She said this is the first time the regulatory agency has dispatched inspectors to a plant to investigate an operator's performance indicator data. The 54 sirens are in a 10-mile radius of the plant in Ottawa and Lucas counties and can be activated by plant staff or the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office. During the May 7 test, a sheriff's dispatcher was unable to activate the sirens," Steve Murphy, Toledo Blade.
Oct 23:  Utility opts out; impact varies

FirstEnergy won't join electricity auction, but will still be firm to call

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. won't take part in a fledgling electricity auction that may determine how much people in Northeast Ohio pay for their power. But most FirstEnergy customers probably won't notice much of a change in how their bills look even if the auction -- now scheduled for Dec. 8 -- results in other utilities supplying electricity to FirstEnergy's region. . . The Ohio consumers' counsel, Janine Migden-Ostrander, said FirstEnergy's decision to pull out of the auction is bad for Ohio electricity users. 'The more participants in the bidding, the better chance for a good price,' she said. 'We are encouraged that AEP announced it will bid.' The PUCO has two days after the auction ends to decide whether to go with the bid prices or with FirstEnergy's rate plan," Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.
Oct 22:  FirstEnergy won't join in rate auction
Move threatens process, but competitor stepping in

AKRON -- "FirstEnergy Corp. said Thursday that it will not participate in the state's competitive bidding to determine the cheapest customer rates a move that could derail the auction and allow the company to continue its current rates, the highest in the state, for four more years. But American Electric Power, with the lowest rates in the state, could come to the auction's rescue, saying it intends to bid. That makes it more likely that the total amount of electricity from outside suppliers will equal what FirstEnergy now generates. FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander said the utility will not bid because its "rate stabilization plan" is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. FirstEnergy has remained attractive to Wall Street despite problems with its nuclear division and its culpability in triggering the 2003 blackout because its rate proposal would guarantee a strong, predictable and high cash flow. A successful auction could change that," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Oct 20:  SEC launches formal probe of FirstEnergy

SEC sealSAN FRANCISCO, CA -- "Ohio energy provider FirstEnergy said Wednesday the Securities Exchange Commission has launched a formal investigation examining a lengthy, and costly, outage at its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. The probe grew out an informal commission review of FirstEnergy's bookkeeping, focusing on how it accounted for a two-year shutdown at the plant, plus its impact on shareholders and rate payers. 'The SEC notification also encompasses issues raised during the SEC's examination under the Public Utility Holding Company Act,' FirstEnergy said in a statement issued after the stock market closed. The Akron, Ohio-based company said the SEC has subpoenaed further documentation related to financial restatements linked to the Davis-Besse outage," Jim Jelter, CBS News.

AKRON -- FirstEnergy updates status of SEC investigation, release, 5:38 PM, FirstEnergy.

TOLEDO -- Panel concludes Davis-Besse is making progress," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Oct 17:  Plan to make baby buggies from nuclear waste
Industry in bid to recycle contaminated material

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND -- "Thousands of tonnes of radioactive scrap metal from nuclear plants could be melted down and recycled into cutlery, saucepans and baby buggies under a scheme being promoted by the nuclear industry and its regulators. A report compiled for the government’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and leaked to the Sunday Herald concludes that 'metal melting' is a good way to deal with nuclear waste because it would save money and be environmentally friendly. The aim is to reduce the levels of radioactivity in metal from decommissioned nuclear facilities by mixing it with less contaminated scrap. Some of the metal could then be sold on to the open market and used to make household items. . . . .Coincidentally, the nuclear-free group of local authorities also held a conference on the issue in Hull on Friday. The group’s chairman, Dundee councillor George Regan, pointed out that some scientists thought that even the tiniest amounts of radioactivity could increase the risk of cancer. 'Do you think an ordinary housewife would buy radioactive pans, even if they told her they were safe? I doubt it. I wouldn't take the chance. The fact is that people do not want products recycled from radioactive material,'" Rob Edwards, Peter John Meiklem, Sunday Herald.
Oct 7:  Electric auction rules get a rewrite

CLEVELAND -- "The PUCO rejected FirstEnergy's proposal that competitors should bid enough power to supply FirstEnergy's industrial customers who have negotiated contracts with deep discounts. It also ruled that competitors' bids will not have to include power for residential customers in Greater Cleveland who are now supplied by other retail electric companies, such as Green Mountain or WPS Energy. . . .Ohio Consumer's Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander had said the initial rules were designed to fail. She was more optimistic Wednesday after a quick reading of the order," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AKRON -- Utility must revise power bidding plan, Akron Beacon Journal.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel is analyzing the power auction process outlined by the PUCO, release, Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

COLUMBUS -- PUCO modifies FirstEnergy competitive bid process, release, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
Oct 2:  Consumers' Counsel challenges rate plan

COLUMBUS -- "The Ohio Consumers' Counsel on Friday charged that a rate stabilization plan that regulators approved for FirstEnergy Corp. is illegal, and the agency asked the state Supreme Court to overturn the proposal. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved the rate plan in June. . . .The Consumers' Counsel's office argued that the rate plan would harm residential customers by: Imposing an excessive rate stabilization charge; Forcing some consumers with alternative suppliers to pay part of FirstEnergy's electricity generation charges; Imposing a plan that does not follow the state's electric choice law," Roger Mezger, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

COLUMBUS -- Consumers' Counsel challenging FirstEnergy rate plan at Ohio Supreme Court, Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel, release dated Oct 1.
Sep 30:  Power to the people?
New rules may make or break state electricity auction

Janine Migden-Ostrander
Janine Migden-Ostrander
CLEVELAND -- "A showdown that has been brewing for years between FirstEnergy Corp. and outside power companies is coming to a head this fall with the state's first-ever electric auction. At stake for residential and commercial power users is whether they will remain shackled with the highest electric rates in the state or whether deregulation will finally deliver the substantial savings promised by its advocates. . . Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander and her legal staff say that the auction rules as now proposed by FirstEnergy are 'designed to fail' and have asked for a host of revisions. Competitors argue that the rules make comparisons with FirstEnergy's rates nearly impossible," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- About Ohio's electric bidding. "Rules first used in the auction of Dutch tulip bulbs in the 17th century will be at the heart of Ohio's first electric auction in November. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio plans to use a so-called 'Dutch auction,' or 'descending price auction,' to seek bids from electric wholesalers to supply power for FirstEnergy Corp. customers. The bidding opens with a much higher price than the auction manager wants to pay. Bids are submitted over the Internet. The auctioneer then lowers the price, and a second round of bidding ensues. The auction concludes when the manager has secured the amount of power needed at the lowest possible price. Bidders who are able to deliver that price are the winners. New Jersey's first auction took 72 rounds and nine days to auction out 18,000 megawatts of electricity. This year the process took 71 rounds over eight days," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CINCINNATI -- PUCO electricity rate ruling angers both sides of dispute, Associated Press.
Sep 29:  NRC scolds Davis-Besse for lack of focus on details

Davis Besse
The Davis-Besse nuclear power plant as seen from Magee Marsh Nature Preserve and the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Photo by Karen Schaefer, WCPN).
OAK HARBOR -- "Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials last night expressed anxiety about FirstEnergy Corp.'s ability to self-diagnose problems at Davis-Besse, grilling company officials who moments earlier had touted the nuclear plant's safety record since it went back in service six months ago. . . 'It's not clear that the organization has that fire in the belly that carried you into restart,' said Jack Grobe, the agency's oversight panel chairman. . .During a shift change between night-and-day crews in August, NRC inspectors noticed communication was so poor, the day crew was not fully aware of the equipment configuration and how to adjust the reactor's ratio of boric acid to purified water. An optimum level of boric acid is necessary to maintain control over the reactor. . . 'The expectation was there would be continuous improvement [since restart] and we're not seeing that,' Mr. Grobe said," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.
Sep 28:  Nuke watchdog issues cybergeddon alert

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency warned Friday of growing concern about cyber attacks against nuclear facilities. Last year, the Slammer worm penetrated a private computer network at Ohio's idled Davis-Besse nuclear plant and disabled a safety monitoring system for nearly five hours. The worm entered the plant network through an interconnected contractor's network, bypassing Davis-Besse's firewall. News of the Davis-Besse incident prompted Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) last fall to call for US regulators to establish cyber security requirements for the 103 nuclear reactors operating in the US, specifically requiring firewalls and up-to-date patching of security vulnerabilities," Kevin Poulson, Security Focus.
Sep 23:  Change in chairman of NRC Davis-Besse panel

Jack Grobe
Jack Grobe
LISLE, IL -- "Jack Grobe, who has served as the chairman of the NRC Davis-Besse Oversight Panel since it was formed in April 2002, will be filling a new position in the agency and will be leaving the panel at the end of the year. . .Grobe has been part of the NRC Region III Office staff since 1980, but will now be moving to the NRC Headquarters as Director of Nuclear Security Special Projects. His is a new position established to direct NRC activities regarding the identification and evaluation of enhanced security precautions and strategies for commercial nuclear power plants," Jan Strasma, spokesman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region 5.

This means the U.S. NRC today entrusted the security of 103 nuclear plants to the man who pushed the restart of Davis-Besse -- despite clear evidence of FirstEnergy's continuing harassment, intimidation, retaliation, and discrimination against employees at the plant.

CLEVELAND -- Straight talk, please; Davis-Besse plant and its minders at the NRC face a job of rebuilding credibility; downplaying problems won't help, editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- NRC study on efficiency is past due, John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.

CLEVELAND -- Nuclear agency review finds need to make reforms, Associated Press.
Sep 21:  Reactor head corrosion
2002 Davis-Besse problem ranked among worst ever

OAK HARBOR-- "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's research arm yesterday ranked Davis-Besse's recent meltdown threat as one of the most serious ever at an American nuclear plant. . . .Activists said the findings further call into question remarks that NRC Chairman Nils Diaz made during the agency's 2003 Regulatory Information Conference. In a packed ballroom in Washington, Mr. Diaz told 1,200 people from 15 countries -- many of them nuclear industry executives and government employees -- that Davis-Besse's risks were exaggerated by the media and that the public had not been in danger," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

OAK HARBOR-- Davis-Besse incidents among 5 worst in U.S. , Jim Mackinnon, Akron Beacon Journal.

OAK HARBOR-- Ohio's nuclear near miss, Feds call Davis-Besse '02 risk significant , John Funk and John Mangels, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 19:  UK Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett rejects nuclear option

LONDON, ENGLAND -- "Building nuclear power stations would risk landing future generations with 'difficult' legacies, the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, warns today in a clear rebuff to the nuclear industry. . . . she rejected demands from a growing lobby, including former energy minister Brian Wilson, for a significant expansion of nuclear power, ruling out new stations for at least the next 15 years. 'The long and short of it is we certainly do not need extra nuclear power in anything like a 10, 15-year cycle' she said, in an interview for ITV's The Jonathan Dimbleby Programme, to be screened today. Her words will also be seen as a rebuke to Downing Street, seen as keener on nuclear power than Beckett's own department and the Department of Trade and Industry," Gaby Hinsliff, Observer.
Sep 18:  A negligent NRC

CartoonTOLEDO -- "Living in the shadow of Davis-Besse makes every action or inaction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission a matter of legitimate concern. After what the community of Oak Harbor and the rest of northwest Ohio experienced with the Ottawa County nuclear power plant over the last two years, the importance of the NRC's oversight responsibilities cannot be emphasized enough. . . Lax government regulators allowed Davis-Besse to careen perilously close to a meltdown akin to Three Mile Island. Now congressional investigators say inattentive government regulators are not aggressively protecting the nation's nuclear reactors from terrorist threats. Sleeping better anyone? The Government Accountability Office recently informed a House subcommittee that, among other things, the NRC can't independently verify that tougher security measures are being strictly enforced at every nuclear power plant in the country," editorial, Toledo Blade.

CLEVELAND -- Nuclear security: Get serious. "The NRC cannot afford further complacency. It must crack down on lax nuclear power plants while there is still time," editorial, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 17:  Consumer chief sets the bar
Official says she adheres to strict rules on gifts


Migden-OstranderCOLUMBUS -- "The staff of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, which represents state consumers in utility matters, has "always acted in a very appropriate manner, adhering to the codes of conduct and the laws and regulations of the state of Ohio," said Janine Migden-Ostrander, who was appointed as consumers' counsel in March, during a taping yesterday of The Editors television program. Her predecessor, Robert Tongren, resigned as consumers' counsel in November after allegations that he destroyed a costly consultant's report and accepted gifts and gratuities from utilities. "FirstEnergy has some of the highest rates in the state and Toledo Edison's rates are among the very highest in the whole state, which is what led in part to deregulation," she said. "It was the whole notion that an act of geography shouldn't set the rate that somebody would be subjected to, that there should be more equality in rates around the state."She said her office is working to creative a competitive market for electricity, Toledo Blade.
Sep 15:  NRC's monitoring of reactor security lacking, agency says

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The Government Accountability Office told a House subcommittee that the NRC's monitoring of reactor security has been largely 'a paper review' that falls short of assuring that industry security plans are meeting the more stringent requirements now demanded," H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press.

WASHINGTON, DC -- Review of nuclear plant security is faulted, Matthew Wald, New York Times.
Sep 13:  FirstEnergy's proposed auction process could lead to failed bid, allow high electric rates to continue

COLUMBUS -- "The Office of Consumers' Counsel's concerns with FirstEnergy's auction proposal include: (1) Forcing competitive suppliers to bid on electricity served under FirstEnergy's special contracts. . . .(2) Failing to have a separate auction for each FirstEnergy company [Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison] . . . (3) Neglecting to account for potential rate increases contained in FirstEnergy's modified rate plan. . . If the auction fails and FirstEnergy's rate plan goes into effect in 2006, customers' rates will stay as high as they are today because a Rate Stabilization Charge will be imposed," Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio Consumers' Counsel.
Sep 12:  Time for PUCO to hold FirstEnergy accountable

Ralph DiNicola, FirstEnergy public relations chief
Ralph DiNicola
CLEVELAND -- "Now we learn that FirstEnergy is on the hot seat yet again. This time it's the utility's Perry nuclear plant in Lake County. Because of a string of screw-ups, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission a few weeks ago placed that reactor on its second- worst status, one cate gory away from being shut down. . . .The question is, is anyone at the PUCO adding up the totality of the carelessness of FirstEnergy? Since so many in the public realm are responsible, is anyone 'responsible'? . . . On Thursday, FirstEnergy told Wall Street it wants to get a rate increase next year because of higher fuel costs. It was news to Schriber, who said he'd be 'pretty shocked if they do.' Would asking their coming hat in hand for more money be an opening to the PUCO to hold FirstEnergy accountable for its miserable performance? 'I do believe there is an entrée for us,' [PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber] said, 'the entrée being to take a look at these fuel adjustments in light of the problems of nuclear power plants and outages,'" Steve Talbott, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 10:  FirstEnergy sees rate hike in '05
Company says it expects request would be based on rising fuel cost


NEW YORK -- "FirstEnergy Corp. expects to seek a rate increase in 2005 to cover the rising cost of fuel, particularly coal, a top company official said Thursday. If approved, an increase would most likely show up on consumers' electric bills at the beginning of 2006, the company said. The only development that could derail the company's plans is a winning bid from outside suppliers that participate in a power auction in November. The auction will test whether FirstEnergy's retail rates can be beaten. If outside companies can deliver power here at a cheaper rate, the PUCO will scrap the rate stabilization plan. The auction rules have been an issue for Ohio Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander, who fears that, as proposed by FirstEnergy, the rules will make it hard for outside power companies to compete. "If FirstEnergy has plans to come in [to the state] to increase fuel cost in '05 something they assured the public they would not do then those prices have to be factored into the auction's price to beat, " Migden-Ostrander said," John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Sep 7:  Green Twp. may form electric-bill buying pool

GREEN TOWNSHIP-- "Want to cut your electric bills? That'll be a choice in Green Township, where trustees want to form a buying pool to cut the cost of electric bills for residents. If voters approve a measure Nov. 2, Green Township would join Indian Hill as the only jurisdictions in Southwest Ohio to launch what is known as an electric aggregation program. Such pooling is much more popular in northern Ohio, where rates are higher. Trustees estimate that creating a buying pool could save residents as much as 11 percent on their electric bills. "It's a no-brainer," said Trustee Tony Upton, who recently switched from Cinergy to Dominion Energy, saving about 8 percent on his bill. "It costs the township nothing to do this, and there is no risk involved for the residents." Governmental aggregation would allow the township to negotiate with electric suppliers to get a cheaper group rate for its citizens. Residents would be under no obligation to change suppliers if the measure passes, and they could opt out of the program," Kevin Aldridge, Cincinnati Enquirer.