March/April 2015 Newsletter:

Sierra Club Responds to PUCO Vote on Bailout for AEP’s Coal Plants

PUCO shuts down AEP’s request to increase customers’ bills to pay for aging coal plants

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) stood up for Ohio electric customers by denying a bailout request by American Electric Power (AEP), the Columbus-based utility that was seeking to pass increasing coal plant electricity costs to customers’ bills. The measure would have guaranteed AEP a revenue stream for its aging coal plants for decades, forcing other electricity generators to compete in an unfair market that benefits AEP and makes customers’ electric bills higher than they should be.

AEP’s coal plant bailout is among a series of other high-profile cases, including Akron-based First Energy’s bailout request, pending at the PUCO that have drawn extreme criticism from residential and business electricity consumers alike. In October, a group of 12 Ohio businesses, including Lowe’s Home Improvement, Staples Inc., and Macy’s Inc., sent a letter urging the PUCO to reject the bailouts proposal. The businesses cited a new poll by Public Policy Partners showing a strong percentage of Ohio electricity customers favor clean, renewable energy sources to power the state — and do not support paying more to keep aging coal plants in operation.

More recently, Dynegy (NYSE:DYN), a electric generation company that is in the process of finalizing a multi-billion dollar expansion into Ohio, has “vehemently” disagreed with and opposed AEP’s bailout request.

Meanwhile, public hearings in FirstEnergy’s similar bailout case occurred in mid-January in Cleveland, Akron and Toledo drawing hundreds of opponents and hours of testimony with the Cleveland Plain Dealer reporting FirstEnergy’s request was “pummeled” by the public.

In response to the PUCO bailout decision, Daniel Sawmiller of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, released this statement:

“We disagree with the PUCO that these bailouts are a legal proposal in accordance with Ohio law. The PUCO was right however to not allow AEP to prop up its outdated coal plants by forcing those costs on to electricity customers at this time, protecting customers from the substantial costs of these harmful bailout requests. These aging coal plants are not competitive with today’s market prices for electricity and this corporate bailout, if ultimately allowed, would hurt Ohio’s working families.

“While today’s Order is generally positive, the Sierra Club will not waiver in its opposition to these bailouts. With more bailout cases still pending, like for FirstEnergy’s expensive and dirty Sammis coal plant, we encourage the PUCO to continue to scrutinize the utilities’ sweeping requests to increase customers’ bills and eliminate customer choices.”

To learn more about the “No Coal Bailouts” campaign, visit sc.org/nobailouts.

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