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Poll: Most Ohioans Say "No" to Coal Plant Bailouts

PHOTO: A new poll finds a majority of Ohio electricity customers favor renewable-energy sources and don't want to have to pay to bail out aging coal plants. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/morguefile.
September 11. 2014
PHOTO: A new poll finds a majority of Ohio electricity customers favor renewable-energy sources and don't want to have to pay to bail out aging coal plants. Photo credit: Kenn W. Kiser/morguefile.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new poll indicates Ohioans want a cleaner energy future not powered by coal. American Electric Power, Duke, and First Energy are asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to allow them to increase rates to pay for extra costs associated with continuing to generate power from existing power plants.

But according to Public Policy Polling, most Ohio electricity customers said the request should be denied.

Allison Fisher, outreach director with Public Citizen's Energy Program, says the utilities originally wanted to use the free market to sell energy, but the plants are not competitive with today's market prices for electricity.

"They're losing money in the market," Fisher says. "As a result these corporations are asking that their oldest, dirtiest and most uneconomical coal and nuclear power plants make a profit and they are doing this basically by asking consumers to bail them out."

The utility companies say the proposal would stabilize rates for customers, but Fisher and others argue it would keep electric bills higher than they should be and prevent Ohio from reducing dangerous emissions of carbon, soot, smog and mercury pollution.

As they conduct door-to-door canvases educating Ohioans about the issue, the executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, Rachael Belz, says they're finding most people aren't interested in keeping aging coal plants running.

"We've been hearing from people that they don't want to pay for the bad business mistakes of First Energy, Duke and AEP," Belz says. "Most feel we shouldn't be captive to their business decisions and the fact they did not make these investments."

The survey also found, across different demographic groups, Ohio electricity customers are concerned about rising costs, are favorable toward renewable energy, and expect the state to transition to cleaner fuels and more energy efficiency measures. PUCO is currently taking comments on all three proposals.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH