Ohio

Midwest Energy News: ELPC to Focus on Issues Such as Mercury Pollution on ORSANCO Advisory Committee

Conservation and environmental groups will now have a formal seat at the table when regulators meet to review water quality issues and standards for the Ohio River – a status enjoyed by the power industry and other groups for years.

Last month the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) agreed to formation of the new Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee. The move was a response to a June 2015 petition from 17 groups.

Although the groups had been submitting comments and participating informally, formal status comes with a nonvoting seat at technical committee meetings, a closer opportunity to participate with various working committees, and an opportunity to report at ORSANCO’s board meetings.

“In the entire 68-year history of ORSANCO, there has never before been an official seat at the table for watershed and wildlife advocacy organizations,” noted Judy Petersen of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, who chairs the new committee.

“We’re pleased to have the Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee established to help us in our development of Ohio River studies and policy,” said ORSANCO’s executive director, Richard Harrison. “We’re looking forward to working with them collaboratively to improve Ohio River water and quality.”

Mercury issues continue

The power industry’s advisory committee hasn’t focused on any single issue, Harrison noted, but has rather been involved with the wide range of issues that affect the river and its tributaries.

Nonetheless, various issues are particularly relevant to the energy industry, said Madeline Fleisher of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Columbus, Ohio. That includes mercury pollution, which can originate from coal-burning power plants, as well as other sources.

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Press Release: Wisconsin Electric Co-Op Sets Standard for Rural Solar

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2016

Contact:
David Jakubiak

Solar Shines for Rural Electric Co-Ops
Announcement Nearly Doubling Wisconsin Solar Sets Roadmap for Midwest Co-Ops

Wisconsin’s Dairyland Power Cooperative and its member cooperatives announced a historic investment in solar energy on Wednesday unveiling plans to build more than 15 megawatts of new solar energy at 12 locations across Wisconsin.

The announced projects will nearly the double the amount of solar power installed in Wisconsin, which now has about 25 megawatts of installed solar. The projects will be built by solar developers SoCore Energy, based in Chicago and groSolar based in White River Junction, Vermont. Together the installations will create enough electricity for more than 2500 homes.

“Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives are now national and state leaders for solar energy,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Madison. “Dairyland was clear that this effort grew out of support for solar from their members, commitment to diversifying their generation and stabilizing costs , which are goals of cooperatives across the region.”

Brad Klein, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the Dairyland announcement sends a strong signal to rural electric cooperatives across the Midwest. “The enormous potential for solar energy in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois is just now beginning to be realized, and rural electric cooperatives, which have strong relationships with their members, have an opportunity to lead the way.”

To learn more about the Dairyland Power announcement visit:

http://www.dairynet.com/dcontent/article/SolarResourcesannouncementSoCoregroSolar.pdf

Press Release: ELPC Named to New Ohio River Advisory Committee of Watershed Non-Profits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                              

 ELPC Named to New Ohio River Advisory Committee of Watershed Non-Profits   

Committee gets seat at table with ORSANCO commissioners

 Columbus, Ohio – The Environmental Law & Policy Center and more than a dozen other environmentally-focused non-profit organizations within the Ohio River Basin were named to a newly-formed Advisory Committee to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), a multi-state group charged with setting pollution and abatement standards for the waterway.

The new Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee includes representatives from water-focused environmental non-profits throughout the Ohio River Basin that will be interact with other stakeholder advisory committees and ORSANCO members during scheduled meetings. ELPC already has been an active participant in ORSANCO deliberations over mercury “mixing zones” and other issues during public comment periods and in other ways. The new committee will enable ELPC and its partners to play a more participatory role early on in ORSANCO’s decision-making process.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our fellow advocacy organizations have been working hard over the past year to make sure that ORSANCO understands the environmental and public health ramifications of its decisions,” said Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney at ELPC. “We look forward to participating on this committee as a new avenue to address the serious problems confronting the Ohio River, such as mercury contamination and toxic algae outbreaks.”

Judy Peterson, Executive Director of Kentucky Waterways Alliance, was voted chairman of the committee. “On behalf of the Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee members, I thank the Commissioners for their cordial welcome,” said Peterson. “In the entire 68-year history of ORSANCO, there has never before been an official seat at the table for watershed and wildlife advocacy organizations.”

ORSANCO Chairman Douglas Conroe added, “I am delighted to see the interest that the 17 watershed organizations have offered in helping ORSANCO in its development of Ohio River studies and policies and welcome working with them at the table.”

The new committee will serve its first ex officio role at ORSANCO’s Technical Committee meeting in June 2016.

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Porstmouth Daily Times: ELPC Named to ORSANCO Advisory Committee

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and more than a dozen other environmentally-focused non-profit organizations within the Ohio River Basin were named to a newly-formed Advisory Committee to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), a multi-state group charged with setting pollution and abatement standards for the waterway.

The new Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee includes representatives from water-focused environmental non-profits throughout the Ohio River Basin that will be interact with other stakeholder advisory committees and ORSANCO members during scheduled meetings. ELPC already has been an active participant in ORSANCO deliberations over mercury “mixing zones” and other issues during public comment periods and in other ways. The new committee will enable ELPC and its partners to play a more participatory role early on in ORSANCO’s decision-making process.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our fellow advocacy organizations have been working hard over the past year to make sure that ORSANCO understands the environmental and public health ramifications of its decisions,” said Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney at ELPC. “We look forward to participating on this committee as a new avenue to address the serious problems confronting the Ohio River, such as mercury contamination and toxic algae outbreaks.”

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC Questions FirstEnergy’s Withholding of Documents, More Opposing Voices Join the Chorus

That proposal followed a commitment made two weeks ago by Chicago-based Exelon Corporation to provide the same amount of energy for $2 billion less with resources whose emissions would be 100 percent carbon-free.

“Dynegy agrees with Exelon that this process should be competitive,” Dynegy president and CEO Robert Flexon said in a prepared statement when his company’s plan was announced on Tuesday.

“We believe the counter-proposals are uniformly better for Ohio consumers and businesses than the AEP and FirstEnergy [plans], keeping and creating jobs in the state that stimulate economic growth and development rather than weakening Ohio’s competitive position,” Flexon added. “We ask for serious consideration from the PUCO and Ohio elected and state officials for our proposals.”

Meanwhile, additional information questioning the plan has been produced and filed by grid operator PJM Interconnection.

“The business case against the bailout has become particularly stronger” as a result, said Dick Munson of the Environmental Defense Fund, which also opposes FirstEnergy’s plan.

Limited information

FirstEnergy’s revised plan would have its regulated utilities buy all the output from the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, the W.H. Sammis coal plant, and FirstEnergy’s share of power from two 1950’s era coal plants.

The utilities would resell the electricity in the competitive market, and distribution customers would pay any shortfall or get a credit for the difference between the resale price and the contract price. That price includes a guaranteed rate of return for FirstEnergy Solutions.

The proposed settlement that was filed last month would shorten the term to eight years instead of the original 15. Yet even the revised plan would boost a typical residential customer’s bill as much as $130 per year, according to the Office of the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel (OCC).

The settlement “taken as a whole, does not provide a net benefit to customers, is not in the public interest, and should be rejected by the PUCO,” said expert witness Matthew Kahal in supplemental testimony filed on December 30.

Under the settlement, FirstEnergy would also assume a small share of the potential downside to consumers, reinstate the energy efficiency programs it suspended after 2014, and make other changes.

Critics say some of those provisions could lead to additional changes that would increase consumers’ costs. One example is a section that would raise the fixed costshare of the bill for electricity distribution and could also discourage energy efficiency.

Similar concern focuses on provisions in the settlement for grid modernization.

Some programs that fall into that general category “may have benefits for customers,” said Rob Kelter of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), which is among the parties who oppose the settlement. “But there’s also a lot of expense involved.”

Yet FirstEnergy has refused to produce documents about the details of the plans for grid modernization. The company claims no final versions exist and says any drafts are protected as attorney work product. It has also refused to provide supporting materials sought in follow-up requests, saying those were too broad or came later.

“Their plan may not be final yet, but we want documents that indicate what they intend to do. And that’s what discovery is all about,” Kelter said. “You don’t get to pick and choose what you want to give up to the other side.”

The big concern is that approval of the settlement might later be interpreted as “some type of preliminary permission” for whatever FirstEnergy might later submit—without the benefit of a full review beforehand, Kelter explained.

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Columbus Dispatch: AEP profit-guarantee case, who’s in and who’s out

American Electric Power has 10 allies in its proposal for a profit-guarantee for certain coal-fired power plants, while 11 parties have said they will fight the plan, and a key player has chosen not to participate.

This sets up a battle that looks like a family feud. Each side includes energy companies, consumer advocates and environmental groups.

They will square off next month in a hearing, and in filings with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

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Howard Joins WBEZ’s Worldview to Discuss Paris Climate Agreement

Monday afternoon, Howard Learner joined Jerome McDonnell on WBEZ’s global affairs program Worldview to discuss what the COP21 agreement reached in Paris means to efforts to address climate change. You can listen to the broadcast below.

Crain’s Cleveland Applauds PUCO for Putting the Brakes on FirstEnergy Deal

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio should be applauded for putting the brakes on a proposed settlement plan with FirstEnergy Corp. that would leave ratepayers footing the bill for the utility’s plan to keep a handful of antiquated power plants online.

A PUCO administrative judge last Wednesday, Dec. 9, ruled that more hearings are needed on a long-negotiated plan that would guarantee ratepayer-funded subsidies to keep aging, inefficient and costly coal and nuclear plants operating. More hearings are needed, and common sense must prevail.

FirstEnergy says ratepayers would pay more for their electricity initially — about $3.25 a month for residential customers — but would save money later on, leading to a total cost savings of $560 million. The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, however, says the plan could cost consumers up to $3.9 billion.

When FirstEnergy advocated deregulation almost two decades ago, coal-fired plants provided electricity for consumers and still generated a profit when FirstEnergy sold it on the regional grid.

Low-price natural gas has changed that. Coal-fired power plants now are more expensive to run and can’t compete on price with natural gas. FirstEnergy argues that natural gas prices won’t always be so low, which is why it wants to keep the coal and nuclear plants operating, so that they will still be available when natural gas prices go up. And its promise of consumer savings is predicated on coal-fired power being cheaper than natural gas down the line.

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The Columbus Dispatch: ELPC Blows the Whistle on FirstEnergy Power Plant Deal

A newly disclosed settlement proposal in a long-running FirstEnergy case says the company would receive an eight-year profit guarantee for certain Ohio power plants and would restore some of the clean-energy programs that the company had eliminated.

The Akron-based utility reached the agreement with the Public Utilities of Ohio staff and more than a dozen other parties, including the consumer group Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, but was unable to get support from other key parties such as the Sierra Club, the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and others.

The next step is a new round of litigation in which sides will present cases for and against the proposal.

Meanwhile, many of the same participants are working on a potential plan with American Electric Power that deals with similar issues. The sides are meeting this morning and there is no update on a potential timetable for an AEP deal.

“The proposed settlement is expected to deliver significant benefits to customers, protect thousands of family-sustaining jobs and vital tax revenues in Ohio communities, and provide for a cleaner energy future,” said Chuck Jones, FirstEnergy’s president and CEO in a statement.

The company says consumers will see an initial increase in electricity bills of a few dollars per month, followed by a net savings in bills in the later years of the agreement, leading to a net decrease of $560 million over the eight-year term. Opponents say these numbers are incorrect and that there are no financial benefits for consumers.

“This is one of the worst backroom deals in the history of utility regulation,” said Rob Kelter, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, in an e-mail. “The PUCO staff has cut a deal with FirstEnergy that will prop up uneconomic coal and nuclear plants that can’t compete in the competitive market, the very market that FirstEnergy itself touted when competition benefitted the company.”

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