Electric bills hundreds of dollars higher than usual. Four or five months of estimated bills in a row. Threats of having electricity cut off: These are just a few of the problems with their Potomac Edison electric bills that many residents in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties have been facing over the past several months. And they are not alone; West Virginia residents being served by Mon Power have experienced the same headaches.
The Jefferson County branch of the NAACP is joining with the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club and the Coalition for Reliable Power, a grassroots citizens' alliance, to hold a "Citizens' Public Hearing" to gather information, share customer experiences and provide feedback to the WV Public Service Commission, elected officials, and the company.
While representatives of the utilities have been quick to offer a number of reasons for the recurring problems, they have not yet fixed them - and the PSC has so far declined to open an investigation into parent company FirstEnergy Corp.'s billing and meter-reading practices.
At the same time, the PSC is scheduled to hold a hearing at the end of May on FirstEnergy's application to "sell" the Harrison Power Plant to itself, transferring ownership from its competitive-generation subsidiary to its West Virginia operation for $1.1 billion - at least twice what the plant is worth - to be paid for by WV ratepayers.
This public gathering is a chance for citizens to make their voices heard. Members of the Eastern Panhandle's state legislative delegation, the county commissioners for the three counties, state and federal officials, and representatives of Potomac Edison have been invited to attend.
The meeting will take place at Wright Denny Intermediate School, 209 W. Congress St. in Charles Town at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 (doors open at 6:30 p.m.).
Brief presentation on FirstEnergy's Harrison plant application and problems with billing and
meter-reading, open microphone for public input (sign up to speak for three minutes)
Citizens are asked to bring a COPY of their utility bills. A questionnaire to gather information on common problems residents are facing will be distributed. If those who speak during the open-mic period bring a copy of their statements, they will be submitted to the PSC.