The Sierra Club submitted this letter to the WV PSC regarding the Commission's scrutiny of FirstEnergy's decision to close the Albright, Rivesville and Willow Island coal-fired generation plants in West Virginia on September 1, 2012. Regular readers will remember an earlier post about the meeting Sierra Club mentions in their letter.
So, what's Sierra Club's purpose here? A successful transition from economic dependence on coal-fired power plants to a cleaner, more prosperous future for the affected West Virginia communities. Read Sierra Club's success story about closure of a coal-fired plant in Centralia, Washington, that gave new hope to the community, instead of leaving them high and dry, as FirstEnergy intends to do to the West Virginia communities. A similar story is playing out in other states affected by FirstEnergy's plant closure plans.
FirstEnergy's abandonment of these communities that have supported their highly profitable coal-fired generation plants over the years raises the larger question of corporate social responsibility. Some of these plants date back to the 1920s -- nearly 100 years of profits for FirstEnergy and its predecessors! It also means nearly 100 years of these communities depending on the economic livelihood these plants have provided. Now FirstEnergy has made the decision to close these plants during difficult economic times without giving anything back to the communities that have supported them and stoically accepted the pollution of their local environment by these plants in exchange for the good-paying jobs they provided. To add insult to injury, FirstEnergy points the finger of blame at the EPA, when the reality is that FirstEnergy's closure decision is in their own pecuniary interest.
What social responsibility does FirstEnergy have to these communities? Sierra Club tried nicely to get FirstEnergy to the table to talk about their responsibility, but was unsuccessful. Now the WV PSC is dragging them to the table, kicking and screaming all the way.
FirstEnergy talks a big game about their "community involvement"
"Public service is a privilege and our obligation to serve goes beyond providing energy services to our neighbors. In partnership with other businesses, government and the nonprofit sector, we've pledged our resources and the FirstEnergy Foundation to help make our neighborhoods and communities attractive places to live, work and do business."
but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, FirstEnergy doesn't deliver.
Perhaps that's because, in reality, FirstEnergy's "corporate stewardship" consists of payments (subsequently recovered from electric ratepayers) to entities like the Maryland Chamber of Commerce ($20,000) for the self-serving purposes of: "Sponsorship related to corporate stewardship and the education of business leaders about PATH (proposed high-voltage transmission line). The Maryland Chamber of Commerce provides PATH with the opportunity to provide educational materials along with personal discussions of the PATH project and issues relating to the project to municipal, county and state elected officials and staff as well as the general public. Corporate monitoring of organizations activities."
Another example is their $20,000 "membership" in the Westmoreland (PA) Museum, where former Allegheny Energy CEO Paul Evanson sits on the Board of Trustees. (see Attachment A of this publicly filed document for compete listing of some of FirstEnergy's self-serving "corporate stewardship" in 2010).
FirstEnergy seems to have plenty of money for "corporate stewardship" when it furthers their own interests, but not when it's truly about corporate social responsibility and paying it forward. How about it, FirstEnergy, can you walk your talk and do the right thing for the communities affected by your plant closures? According to this article, you're soon going to have an extra $216M to play with as a direct result of these plant closures. Helping communities affected by your business decision would be a step toward true corporate social responsibility.