More Clarity on the Harrison Deal in the Pending PSC Base Rate Case

While a lot of what I write on The Power Line is very critical of power company behavior, I also will give them credit where credit is due.  Back in early May, I posted this about the 50 new positions that FirstEnergy said they would create in WV if the PSC gave them the settlement they wanted in the Harrison case.  I made the point that the settlement, which the PSC approved, did not specify what kinds of jobs would actually be created, despite the claims of the Utility Workers Union of America testimony in the case that many of these jobs would be workforce additions at the Harrison Power Station, where they are clearly needed after cutbacks and reductions since FirstEnergy took over the plant from Allegheny Energy.

I have read the testimony filed by FirstEnergy’s Director of Rates and Regulatory Affairs Kevin Wise in the pending base rate case that FirstEnergy has filed.  Part of the 17% rate increase that FirstEnergy wants will  go to paying for all of these 50 new positions.  Here is the testimony presented by Mr. Wise:

The thirty-two new ED positions are anticipated 1 to be strategically located throughout the Companies’ West Virginia service territory in order to support this goal.  Lineworkers (18) are the most obvious position needed and thus makes up the majority of
the hires. Substations workers (5), engineering (2) and meter equipment technicians (1) are all positions that are involved in connecting new customers. Supervisors (3) will be added to help manage the additional lineworkers and the workflow. Garage mechanics (3) are required due to the necessary increase in fleet. Twenty-four of the positions are expected to be at Mon Power locations while the remaining eight are expected to be at Potomac Edison.

For the generation segment, the fifteen new positions at Harrison Power Station and the three new positions at Fort Martin Power Station were identified after a review of the staffing models at other FirstEnergy power stations. Specifically at Harrison in the Production department, five additional Control Room Operators (“CRO”) were added, one to each production crew to enhance continuity of the power generation process.  These five CROs came from promotions of existing plant floor operators. Subsequently,  five new plant floor operators were hired to fill the five vacancies resulting from the promotions. Five additional plant floor operators were added to each of the five Production crews to increase the frequency of equipment checks. Additionally, three SO2/solid waste processing operators were added to ensure adequate coverage for absences. A plant production supervisor position was added as a result of the additional operators and, through the staffing review, it was also determined that a position for drafting and document control was needed to support the engineering staff. Specifically Monongahela Power Company and The Potomac Edison Company
at Fort Martin, three additional plant floor operators 1 were added to crews in the Production department to increase the frequency of equipment checks, to allow time for additional staff training, and to ensure adequate coverage for absences.

So 15 of the 50 new hires will be at the Harrison Power Station.  It appears that my fears concerning the added positions turned out to be groundless.  Good for FirstEnergy.

But here is another part of Mr. Wise’s testimony that confirms my earlier points.  Remember my post about “the old switcheroo”?  At the time, FirstEnergy was putting out a lot of smoke about how the Harrison dump was lowering our rates.  Turns out, I was right about the flimflam.  Here is what Mr. Wise said in the current base rate case:

The temporary surcharge approved in the Harrison Transfer Case was designed to return the entire gain on the sale of Pleasants Power Station to customers over the life of the surcharge. When the surcharge expires on the first day of new rates from this case, so will the approximate $19 million annual credit to rates reflecting the return to customers of the gain on the sale of Pleasants. The resulting increase in rates is approximately $3 million more than the $16 million annual reduction in rates that resulted from the Harrison Transfer Case effective October 9, 2013.

The credit for the Pleasants plant is gone and the full cost of the Harrison mess is on our electric bills for the next 25 years or so.

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