That's how Delegate Stephen Skinner characterized last night's Citizens' Public Hearing in Charles Town. Customer after customer came forward to share their own personal horror stories about recent experiences with Potomac Edison. And at least two of those who spoke went home to face another night without electric service because they were unable to pay inaccurate and outrageous bills amounting to more than $1000 each. Potomac Edison disconnected their service without warning.More than 100 people came out to the meeting, in spite of a torrential downpour,
and five state legislators, three county commissioners and a representative from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin's office came to listen. Conspicuously absent from the gathering were Potomac Edison and the West Virginia Public Service Commission.After listening for nearly two hours, the panel showed real anger during their remarks, and most importantly, promised
action. We will continue to work with our legislators to ensure that it happens. I've seen a whole lot of dubious and unethical actions on the part of FirstEnergy, Potomac Edison's corporate parent, over the past several years. But even those dirty, underhanded schemes paled in comparison to what I heard last night.FirstEnergy, you are truly despicable.Media links:
Potomac Edison customers shocked in W.Va. PanhandleLocal Residents Speaking to Officials About Electric Bills ChargesTake WHAG's newest viewer poll:Have you been overcharged on an electric bill?
Power issues voiced by residents in Charles Town
We have caused a huge stink at FirstEnergy.
Remember Mr. Haney, the swindling neighborhood peddler from the 1960s TV show Green Acres?
Haney, portrayed by veteran character actor and longtime Western film sidekick Pat Buttram with the distinctive, warbling voice, sold his family's ancient, dilapidated farm to Oliver when he and Lisa Douglas left New York City for rural Hooterville and their new life as farmers. In the process of the sale, Haney stripped the farm of everything of value down to the plumbing.
Haney had cheated the Douglases by charging them several times what the property was worth and saddling them with a dysfunctional farm. He continued to cheat them by initially selling the movable property associated with the farm to them one piece at a time. Douglas bought Haney's cow, tractor and plow, all of which were as useless as the farm.
He continued to come back with his farm truck converted into a peddler's truck stocked with worthless versions of items that Oliver had need of. He almost invariably succeeded in unloading the items on Oliver at inflated prices despite his past shady dealings with them. He often took a piece of junk and called it by some outlandish name, suggesting that it has some use that it clearly does not and that it's in some way valuable.
Haney would often turn up in his truck at the Douglas farm, minutes after they've realized they needed something, selling exactly that (even if it were very odd), complete with a pull-down sign on his truck advertising it. If turned down by Douglas, Haney would offer a variety of equally useless alternatives. Oliver once said "How come you always show up with exactly what I need?" And Haney turned it on him by saying "Well let me put it to you another way...how come you always need what I show up with?"
Well, deja vu, dear readers. A new age Mr. Haney was peddling his wares to reporters at a "media event" in Fairmont
yesterday. The media event was staged to draw attention away from all FirstEnergy's other problems and hopefully convince the public to support the company's flaccid proposal to sell the Harrison power station to itself for ONE BILLION DOLLARS
!However, FirstEnergy's Mr. Haney is, shall we say, less than convincing? It looks like Mr. Haney doesn't even believe himself when he tells the few reporters in the audience that he can "control the future." Is that sort of like Todd's Magic Math? And speaking of our friend Todd... he's so boring and inconsequential that the reporter talks right over him
. Even Mr. Haney smirks and makes faces when Todd talks. And the camera man found film of a reporter's digital recorder the most interesting thing at FirstEnergy's media event. Right.
Another entity has joined the litany of complaints against FirstEnergy subsidiary Potomac Edison. The Jefferson County Commission unanimously and enthusiastically voted last Thursday to send a letter to the West Virginia Public Service Commission asking the regulator to open an investigation of the company's billing and meter reading practices.The Commission heard from WV Delegate Stephen Skinner during the meeting, as well as public comments from three different citizens, regarding the outrageous, unjust, and unreasonable Potomac Edison business practices customers had been subject to over the past year or so.Delegate Skinner has been a vocal advocate for his constituents, many of whom have been hit hard by bills up to 1000% more than usual that are the product of the company's failure to read meters every other month as required by law
, as well as both human and computer error on the part of the company. As a regulated monopoly, Potomac Edison has obligations to its customers, and Delegate Skinner intends to do all he can to ensure Potomac Edison meets those obligations.Since he began questioning Potomac Edison's practices, Skinner has been contacted by the company's government affairs person, who made all sorts of excuses, and promises that have failed to materialize. The complaints continue.Commissioner Widmyer expressed her disappointment with the company's "robo-call" method of attempting to connect with and mollify angry "real people" customers.Meanwhile, the WV Attorney General pretends he is looking out for consumers by making a "hotline" number available for angry customers to call the company. There's already a customer service number on your bill, little consumer. The Attorney General recommends you call it. Personally, I'd rather call Delegate Skinner or the Jefferson County Commission for some real help. The parade of perturbed Potomac Edison patrons persists.
Potomac Edison is also renumbering work routes; meaning meter-readers will work in close proximity.
"That way if I finish my route, I can come over and help you finish your route. That should help prevent some estimates on the back-end of your route, where we couldn't get to a customer," says Todd Meyers, Potomac Edison spokesperson.
Well, color me steamed! I invited Todd to come read my meter last year
, and he still hasn't "finished his route" and arrived to do his job.If you haven't seen Todd at your house either, be sure to contact him and let him know you need him to finish his route:
Maryland – Potomac Edison
West Virginia – Mon Power, Potomac Edison
Pennsylvania – West Penn Power
(724) 838-6650email: firstname.lastname@example.orgWhat does Todd mean "help me finish my route?" I don't have a route! Is Todd insinuating that I should be reading my own meter from now on, aka "my route?" But that's what I'm paying you to do, Todd!I'm also paying you to trim trees and maintain your equipment. That's not news. And sadly, yesterday's little drama was just that -- a play staged for the media. Oh, look at us working today!
Big stinkin' deal! This hole is much, much deeper than Potomac Edison thinks.So, what has Todd been doing with the money we've been paying him for years? Todd has a lot to answer for. This is all Todd's fault!
Go ahead, give him a call!
Ut-oh, FirstEnergy. UT-OHHHHHHH!If I wasn't buried under a mound of your paper, I might have more to say right now, but I did NOT say the quote attributed to me in the article.The big, uncaring, faceless corporation really ought to be ashamed of itself for the effect it is having on ordinary people who have been surprised with outrageous, inaccurate bills over the past year.More to come...
The Jefferson County NAACP will sponsor a public meeting concerning the recent outrageous increase in electric bills, and a proposal to further increase electric rates to purchase a 40-year old coal fired power plant. This meeting will also present information on the potential of energy efficiency to save money on electric bills and create thousands of West Virginia jobs.
The meeting will be held on Thursday, April 18, 7:00pm at the Fishermen Hall located at 300 South West Street in Charles Town. Daniel Chiotos of the Sierra Club and Patience Wait of Stop PATH will be speaking and answering questions.
The local state legislators have been invited to attend and hear the public concerns. If you are unhappy and concerned about your electric and want to prevent another unnecessary rate hike, please come to this meeting so that a message can be sent to the WV Public Service Commission. There will be opportunities to take action at this event.
On April 9, 2013, the Maryland Public Service Commission opened an official investigation
into FirstEnergy subsidiary Potomac Edison's meter reading, usage estimation and billing practices.
The Commission hereby initiates an investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff, and delegates this matter to the Public Utility Law Judge Division (“PULJD”) for appropriate proceedings.
The investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff is not limited to the Tufts and Sugarloaf Conservancy Complaints; the PULJD shall determine the full scope of the investigation, and designate additional issues as appropriate. The PULJD shall notify the parties, including the Office of People’s Counsel, of the date and time of a scheduling conference at which deadlines are to be set for, inter alia, PE’s production of documents. The Commission hereby initiates an investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff, and delegates this matter to the Public Utility Law Judge Division (“PULJD”) for appropriate proceedings.
The investigation into PE’s meter reading frequency, estimation of bills, and compliance with its Tariff is not limited to the Tufts and Sugarloaf Conservancy Complaints; the PULJD shall determine the full scope of the investigation, and designate additional issues as appropriate. The PULJD shall notify the parties, including the Office of People’s Counsel, of the date and time of a scheduling conference at which deadlines are to be set for, inter alia, PE’s production of documents.
For more than thirty years, Potomac Edison's Maryland tariffs have provided that the
Company will read most meters every two months. This practice saves customers money, because fewer meter readers need to be used. For example, in Potomac Edison's last rate case in 1994, the expense filed for meter reading was just under $1.3 million for meter reading; if meters were going to be read every month, that requirement would have had to be significantly higher.
Footnote: In fact, even with reading every two months instead of monthly, the Company was spending $2.0 million on meter reading (even without taking into consideration the new hires and other recent measures discussed elsewhere in this response), substantially more than is collected in rates for this function.
Potomac Edison has been losing money on its meter reading function to the tune of $700,000 per year. This could be easily remedied by filing a new rate case with the Maryland PSC to collect this difference. However, the filing of a new rate case could also cause Potomac Edison to lose substantially more than $700,000 per year by setting a new rate of return for the company. The rate of return that the company is allowed to earn on fixed costs in Maryland is currently set at 11.9%, and is the second highest ROE in FirstEnergy's distribution affiliate stable
. If Potomac Edison filed a new rate case, the ROE would be updated and adjusted to today's financial realities. It is in FirstEnergy's financial interest to continue to collect rates set in the 1993/1994 settlement. If it were not, the company would file a new rate case. It has not done so.The annual loss on meter reading expense compared to the risk to ROE stemming from a new rate case was a loss Allegheny Energy was willing to accept. But when Allegheny Energy merged with FirstEnergy, apparently that was no longer true. FirstEnergy wanted the best of both worlds -- collection of the full amount of meter reading costs AND the 1993/94 rate case ROE. But because FirstEnergy couldn't collect more for meter reading AND maintain an 11.9% ROE, FirstEnergy opted to simply cut the cost of meter reading by slimming down their meter reading staff and not performing scheduled meter readings required by law. If Potomac Edison cut their meter reading expense to match the amount they were collecting, the loss would stop and the company could keep its 11.9% ROE, having its cake and eating it too!But now it appears the game is up. If I were the Maryland PSC, I would
require Potomac Edison to issue a refund to customers amounting to the difference between what Potomac Edison spent and what it would have cost to perform meter readings as required by law (around $700K per year, according to Potomac Edison.) And then, as a punitive measure, I would make them file a new rate case. :-) How about it, FirstEnergy?
FirstEnergy has also been pulling the same stunt in other states in which it operates. West Virginia's ROE is 10.5% and was set in 2007. Pennsylvania's ROE is 11.5% set in 1994. These jurisdictions are where FirstEnergy affiliates have also been failing to read meters. Coincidence? I think not.West Virginia legislators are not happy with Potomac Edison's excuses
. Could an investigation by the West Virginia PSC also be on the horizon?
Today we're going to learn how to talk like a toolbag
. Our friends at "Mon Power" (really FirstEnergy) have been so kind as to demonstrate the art of toolbaggery for our edification.The word "spend" is a verb. It means
to pay out (money) in buying or hiring goods or services : the firm will spend $100,000 on hardware and software
.Only a toolbag who thinks he sounds cool uses "spend" as a noun : Mon Power Spend of $60 Million in 2013 Designed to Enhance Electric System and Reliability
.Since FirstEnergy's "news" was so boring, perhaps one of their toolbags thought he was spicing it up (and I say "he" because only men talk like toolbags)
by using such a cool noun as "spend." That makes it all better, right?Wrong. When Mon Power customers see the word "spend," they immediately associate it with the word "pay" : Mon Power spends, customers pay.
Customers don't like to pay. It annoys them.For the edification of the FirstEnergy toolbag responsible for this, a better word might have been "invest" : Mon Power Invests $60 Million to Enhance Electric System Reliability in 2013.
Don't let me catch you using stupid words like "spend" again, okay? Next lesson won't be free, like this one.
And while we're at it, there's really nothing newsworthy about FirstEnergy performing routine maintenance and upgrades, no matter how much they spend
doing their job. Let's just say the public was underwhelmed by FirstEnergy's "news."In fact, one West Virginia consumer was so unimpressed with FirstEnergy's "news" that she remarked, "
Awesome! I'm glad they're so focused on improving reliability while concocting a plan that would have their customers getting 90% of their electricity from 2 forty-year-old coal plants!"Another immediately made a resolution to send out a press release
every time he brushes his teeth from now on, because his own personal, routine maintenance is about as newsworthy as FirstEnergy performing routine maintenance on its own system.And another just found herself laughing hysterically at the "news."