Where did ~$250 million go? Rate hike funds still unaccounted for in FirstEnergy Bankruptcy

Ohio ratepayers have paid FirstEnergy’s utilities roughly a quarter of a billion dollars since January 2017 under a distribution modernization rider. Now, critics say FirstEnergy is stalling on saying just what it’s doing with that money, which regulators approved without any requirements that it pay for specific projects. The mandate for consumers to pay the rider is currently on appeal before the Supreme Court of Ohio. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy’s utilities have been collecting the $168 million per year, and regulators could renew the charge for another two years after 2019. “To date, FirstEnergy has stymied the efforts of the state-designated advocate of its consumers to discover information about its subsidy charges,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston and assistant counsel Zachary Woltz said in a July 13 brief.

Ohio nuclear plants get stricter scrutiny after safety system problems

Federal regulators are watching the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants in Ohio more closely after problems with backup systems surfaced at both sites within the last year. Speaking at a meeting about the Davis-Besse plant last month, Nuclear Regulatory Commission representatives seemed satisfied that appropriate measures had been taken and said oversight would continue while FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries are in bankruptcy. However, some critics worry about the plants’ ongoing attitudes towards safety. “The years-long uncertainty and financial pressure on reactor operations have already had a powerful impact, and the bankruptcy proceeding has only amplified that,” said Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a Maryland-based anti-nuclear group. Other watchdog groups agreed that safety issues should not be dismissed lightly but had more confidence in regulators to manage the risks.