Settlement reached on Harrison sale

BRYAN CLARK Spirit Staff

CHARLES TOWN – Today FirstEnergy reached a settlement with several groups who had opposed intra-company sale of the Harrison Power Station, that is projected to lead to an immediate decrease of $1.50 per month in residents’ electric bills. Critics of the sale argue those costs will rise in the future, however.

Todd Meyers, spokesperson for Potomac Edison, a FirstEnergy subsidiary, said the settlement represents a good compromise.

“Negotiations yielded a very reasonable settlement,” Meyers said. “It was compromise on all sides.”

Besides Potomac Edison, the staff of the Public Service Commission – including the Consumer Advocate Division charged with advocating for ratepayers – the Coal Association, and several labor unions have all signed off on the settlement.

It includes commitments on behalf of Potomac Edison and Mon Power, also a First Energy subsidiary, to employ 50 new workers in the state, $2.3 million in credits from large commercial and industrial customers, and $500,000 each for home weatherization, school energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance.

A statement released by FirstEnergy says the purchase will protect consumers from volatility in the electricity generation market. Myers said the purchase represents the best economic option for the state’s ratepayers.

“Throughout the entire time that we identified the Mon Power purchase of the entirety of Harrison as the best opportunity to get capacity and energy for our customers, we’ve always maintained that that was the best and most economic option,” he said. “We continue to believe that.”

Karyn Newman, and anti-PATH activist and critic of the Harrison sale, argues that the sale is trading short-term savings for a long-term increase in expenses.

“This is not a good decision for ratepayers,” she said. “If you look at it, rates will only go down temporarily.”

Newman points out that the settlement involves Mon Power’s sale of a small ownership a second power plant at Pleasants to another FirstEnergy subsidary, which is being credited against the sale of Harrison.

“They are taking that credit and putting it up front and amortizing it over 18 months,” she argued. “It looks like rates are going down, but that is because they took the only credit part of this transaction and put it up at the front.”

Newman argues the sale, if approved, will also expose state ratepayers to the risk of rising coal prices and new environmental regulations.

“If the commission approves this, we own a coal plant,” she said. “We own the risk. Over the long term, it is going to cost ratepayers a significant amount of money.”

Newman said she feels the settlement is very likely to gain approval from the PSC.

“I’d say its pretty much a sure thing,” she said. “I don’t know of any instance where the commission did not approve a settlement.”

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