In Columbus, citizens stand up against bailout for a dirty energy monopoly, causing a stir downtown

On Monday (June 15), organizers and volunteers from the Ohio Sierra Club, Ohio Beyond Coal, Ohio Citizen Action, Public Citizen, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and others, gathered in front of the Continental Plaza in Columbus to rally First Energy’s hearing with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

FirstEnergy is an electric utility company that services a large portion of northeastern Ohio, including parts of Akron, Toledo, and Cleveland. Ohio service providers owned by FirstEnergy include Ohio Edison, Toledo Edison, and the Illuminating Company.

The power giant is currently in some financial trouble. In its claim before the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO), FirstEnergy is asking for a bailout worth hundreds of millions of dollars, a proposition that would transfer over to its ratepayers the cost of maintaining some of the country’s oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient coal power plants.

Rather than investing in environmentally-friendly sources of energy, like wind and solar power, FirstEnergy has chosen over and over again to re-invest in inefficient, or even failing plants. Now, the company is trying to recoup the losses from its poor investments by placing the financial burden on the backs of its ratepayers.

It’s no secret that some of PUCO’s board members may have some conflicts of interest at stake in this claim (like being the former recipient of campaign contributions, or being married to an Ohio House member who voted to freeze clean energy standards in Ohio after FirstEnergy lobbied her). That’s partly why it was so important for Ohioans to show up in full force outside this hearing, to make it known to both PUCO and FirstEnergy that Ohio citizens will not sit idly by while they’re made to foot the bill for outdated energy investment strategies.

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Citizen groups from across Ohio came to stand up for the environment and the ratepayer against FirstEnergy’s irresponsible bailout proposal:

 

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Ohio citizen Vilvi Vannak said this rally was important to her because she thinks the environment should be important to everyone. Despite the humidity, she came out to support the rally yesterday in the hope that it will raise awareness of the issue to people who previously didn’t know the PUCO proceedings were happening.

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Adrienne Michelson, a community organizer with Ohio Citizen Action, and Michael Lakomy, president of OSU College Democrats, came to show their support for the environment and stand up for the Ohio ratepayer.

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On the opposition’s side, the Grim Reaper was there because he just really loves coal. Frightening man, he was.

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Javi Alvarez, Rachael Collyer, and Alli Rigel rallied on behalf of the Ohio Student Association. They joined the rally to remind decision-makers that young people have a say about what goes down in government. Collyer thinks it’s ridiculous that FirstEnergy can get a bailout, yet students cannot. It’s true–there’s no bailout for crippling student loan debt, yet dirty energy providers have a whole ready-made system set up for getting theirs.

 

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We don’t know when the Public Utilities Commission will reach a decision on this matter, or when that decision will be announced. However, it was made perfectly clear that Ohioans are ready to hold FirstEnergy and PUCO accountable for their decisions. For our part, we agree that the time has come to invest in Ohio’s future, and that means clean energy–not shifting bad investments onto the backs of Ohioans.