Rep. Stern urges public to attend PUC hearing April 15

Small businesses and residents affected by power outages are being encouraged by Representative Jerry Stern to attend a public input hearing in Altoona on April 15 by the Public Utility Commission.
“I would like to encourage small business and residents who have experienced power problems to attend this important meeting,” said Stern. “The PUC is eager to hear from the public concerning FirstEnergy’s record of service.
“The PUC has started a formal investigation into the reliability of service provided to customers by FirstEnergy,” Stern told The Daily Herald.
Three of FirstEnergy’s companies are being investigated included Penelec in Stern’s 80th Legislative District.
A release from Stern’s office indicated the investigation was launched after numerous complaints to the PUC about various power problems. The investigation is focusing on determining whether FirstEnergy and its companies have met with reliability standards in delivery of power.
Also being investigated is the issue of whether the companies participated in cost-cutting measures that negatively affected power delivery. Efforts are also being made to determine what measures can be taken to improve power reliability.
Stern was asked why he thought this was an important issue and he explained this is not something that’s just occurred recently and without remedy could be a problem in the future.
“I think its a long-term issue and we should make sure questions from residents or businesses should be answered in regard to the reliably of service,” said Stern. “I also think we need to take a look at the policies of those companies.”
According to a press release on its web site, the PUC voted in January to formally investigate the reliability of FirstEnergy companies Metropolitan Edison (Met-Ed), Pennsylvania Electric Company (Penelec) and Pennsylvania Power Company (Penn Power). The PUC said a review of reliability data, including the number and duration of outages, shows that the companies may not be meeting the standards established by the Commission.
Administration Law Judge Larry Gesoff is holding a series of hearings, in addition to the one in Altoona, to collect evidence in order to determine the level of service reliability along with the root causes for any deficiencies and to determine what corrective actions, if any, should be taken.
Other hearings are expected to take place in Dillsburg, York, Lebanon, Reading, Easton, Erie, Sharpsville and Dubois before concluding in Altoona on April 15. The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Blair County Convention Center.
Gesoff is expected to issue a ruling by Sept. 30, 2004. The full Commission is expected to render a final order before Dec. 16, 2004.
“The PUC strives to ensure safe, reliable and reasonably priced service to the people of Pennsylvania,” said Stern. “If that isn’t happening, and your a customer of FirstEnergy, the PUC wants to hear from you.”
A press relations spokesperson from the PUC offered a general reminder about these types of public hearings.
“There is no need to pre-register for this event,” said Eric Levis of the PUC press office. “All a consumer has to do is show up, they will need to sign in and can offer comments either pro or con to the judge.”
On Friday afternoon, Stern told The Daily Herald that he met with Beverly Green of Penelec who said the company is already proactively dealing with these issues.
The Public Utility Commission can be reached for more information on the public input hearings by contacting 717-787-5722. Representative Stern’s Hollidaysburg office is also offering more information and interested parties may call 814-695-2398.