FirstEnergy, Enron Of The East

FirstEnergy, Enron Of The East

Millions for baseball, little for maintenance

From reader Timothy Perch of Mentor, Ohio (emphasis mine)

“On Thursday August 14, 2003, fifty million people lost electricity in the largest blackout in North American history.  New York City, Cleveland, Detroit, and Toronto all lost power.  The cause of the outage was not immediately known.  After further investigation, blame has been placed on the FirstEnergy Corporation of Akron, Ohio.

The investigation centers on three transmission lines south of Cleveland and a coal power plant east of Cleveland.  FirstEnergy, the 4th largest private energy conglomerate in the country, owns the lines and the power plant.  According to the Ohio News-Herald, the FirstEnergy coal plant located in Eastlake, Ohio, belched out massive amounts of black ash that covered surrounding property. 

Shortly thereafter, the transmission lines south of Cleveland failed.  FirstEnergy’s warning system that is supposed to detect such failures was not operational (August 16,17, 2003).  The power failure spread rapidly across the eastern portion of the United States and Canada.  This is not the first time that FirstEnergy has been in the nation’s spotlight.

The company owns the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Toledo, Ohio. The federal government has shut down this plant because FirstEnergy misled the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  First Energy became aware of a football-sized hole in the lid of the Davis-Besse reactor in 2000.  For two years, the company hid this fact from the NRC in order to keep the power and the profits flowing.  According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “the unprecedented hole […] jeopardized the plant’s safety, rocked the nuclear industry, and is expected to cost the company nearly $400 million in repairs and replacement power purchases” (12/1/02).

Author’s Viewpoint

I live 15 minutes east of the Eastlake coal plant and within the 10-mile Emergency Zone surrounding the Perry Nuclear Power Plant.  As a response to September 11 and the Davis-Besse crisis, all residents living within 10 miles of the Perry plant have received coupons for free potassium iodide pills. In the event of a radiation leak from the Perry plant, residents will take a pill of potassium iodide to prevent thyroid cancer. The local county government and the State of Ohio footed the $30,000 bill for the pills. In the author’s opinion this is an incident of corporate welfare. FirstEnergy’s Perry plant is the source of the radiation threat, and FirstEnergy therefore, should be forced to foot the bill.

Out of all of this, what amazes me most is that FirstEnergy can afford to spend millions for advertisements on local media outlets and can sponsor the Cleveland Indians, yet they cannot afford proper maintenance at their power plants. After the fallout from the blackout and the $400 million dollar bill from Davis-Besse, the Indians might need to find a new sponsor because we might as well stick a fork in this Enron of the East.”