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Sierra Club to host forum about FirstEnergy purchase

By DAVID CRAFT

The Journal

MARTINSBURG — As the deadline approaches for opposing statements against FirstEnergy’s purchase of its Pleasants Power Plant to its subsidiaries in West Virginia, the West Virginia Sierra Club will host a public informational forum today from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Martinsburg Public Library.

The West Virginia Sierra Club and the West Virginians for Energy Freedom coalition have spent the summer spreading their message of opposition for a $195 million purchase by FirstEnergy to move their Ohio-based Pleasants Plant to its subsidiaries Mon Power and Potomac Edison in West Virginia.

According to the coalition, the purchase is modeled after the acquisition of the Harrison Powerplant that occurred in 2013 and has cost consumers over $160 million.

According to the coalition, FirstEnergy has sent their application for the purchase to the Public Service Commission as the plant can’t compete in the deregulated market of Ohio. The coalition claims FirstEnergy is essentially “bailing out shareholders” and preventing losses by selling the plant to West Virginia subsidiaries where it will not have to compete with outside market influences due to the energy monopoly.

FirstEnergy claims the purchase is a preemptive reaction to a perceived power shortfall beginning in 2017 and reaching its peak in 2027. The shortfall would sum up to approximately 1,400 megawatts according to a FirstEnergy spokesperson.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission is set to hold public hearings in Parkersburg on Sept. 6, in Morgantown on Sept. 12 and in Martinsburg on Sept. 11.

The forum held tomorrow is set to prepare citizens with information needed to understand the deal and to organize a schedule for those who wish to give a five minute presentation at the public hearing.

“We are preparing residents with information about the case,” said Pamela Ellis, an energy efficiency liaison with the Sierra Club. “We are encouraging people to get out in the community and learn as much as possible. We want to get people ready and make sure the PSC knows why we oppose this.”

Ellis has been a key contributor to the opposition and is continuing work to educate the community.

“We have reviewed the litany of different reasons why we oppose this purchase,”Ellis said. “It’s important to be well informed. In fact, we are currently waiting on a huge study that the Sierra Club has commissioned from scientists that will help our cause around Aug. 4.”

Ellis presented at the Solar Congress along with multiple other organizations on June 24 in opposition of the purchase.

“The presentation went well and we were able to review a lot of discovery for the case,” Ellis said. “It’s important to continue to learn more.”

Ellis reiterated the stance of the Sierra Club and coalition as well.

“We are firmly opposed to this deal,” Ellis said. “We don’t see how this is a good deal for residents.”

The West Virginians for Energy Freedom Coalition also has a petition out opposing the purchase with nearly 1,000 signatures that they will present to the PSC in the coming weeks, according to Karen Ireland, director of the coalition.

Ireland addressed the tools the coalition is using to oppose the deal.

“We’ve had a lot of success with our petition and we have fax numbers for the PSC on our website so that rate payers can send letters to them directly,” Ireland said. “We will be hosting gatherings before public hearings so that speakers can practice their comments to the PSC, but the dates and locations are still tentative. We have also heard from people in Lewisburg, the county at the southernmost end of Mon Power coverage, that they are upset there is no public hearing in their neck of the woods. We will be working on organizing events down that way to maximize the voices heard.”

The forum today will allow for concerned residents and consumers to place their name on a speaking list and work with activists to write letters to the PSC, representatives and to media outlets. The last day to submit opposing statements to the PSC via their website is Aug. 25.

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