Legalized price gouging

It’s bad enough we have a system of legalized bribery (huge political “donations” — more like investments from the super wealthy and corporations) in this country backed up by the courts (led by the Supremes), but this decision affirms legalized price gouging of consumers. Nice going Ohio Supreme Court in giving the A-OK to First Energy Corporation — responsible for the 20013 Northeast United States blackout — for overcharging ratepayers for the purchase of electricity generated by renewable technologies. And from where did some of First Energy Corporation’s overly expensive (which were passed on to consumers) electricity purchases come from? Why, of course, from one of its own affiliates — First Energy Solutions corporation. It’s all legal of course — legitimized now by the Ohio Supreme Court.

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2018/01/43_million_in_firstenergy_over.html#incart_target2box_default_#incart_target2box_targeted_

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NEOhio AFSC March 25, 2016 Podcast

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Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week and interview Nathan Rutz, Organizer for the Communities United for Responsible Energy, a project of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, on proposal of First Energy Corporation before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to increase fees to pay for their obsolute and polluting power plants (length: 38:43).

Response to PD article, “Lobbyist-tilted playing field favors FirstEnergy and AEP in Columbus”

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Lobbyist-tilted playing field favors FirstEnergy and AEP in Columbus: Thomas Suddes
http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/12/lobbyist-tilted_playing_field.html#incart_river_home

My comment to this article (posted at end):

In a real democratic world, Mr. Suddes, citizens would win — every time. But that’s not our current “real world.” Sadly, that world is one where the Constitution has defined corporations as “legal persons” with inalienable Bill or Rights and other protections (including 1st Amendment “free speech” rights) and money is defined as equal to “free speech.” Both constitutional doctrines have permitted corporate entities and the super wealthy to hijack politics and government — including regulatory agencies which do a stellar job of regulating, though, not abolishing harms, regulating citizen input and activism, and shielding like a football offensive line We the People from those entities which have captured the regulatory agencies.

It’s an identical story on just about every issue that the corporate crowd cares about — identical regarding lobbyists with unequal political access, corporate campaign contributions (actually investments) drowning out the voices of the majority of citizens, a captured regulatory agency. Identical. No need to write another story from scratch. Just substitute corporations, # of lobbyists, amount of campaign money, and regulatory agency and voila — new story on a new issue which conveys the same exact story — that out country is broken because the system is fixed, which will remain so for ever and ever until we end the insanity via constitutional amendment of corporate “personhood” and money equaling “free speech.”

Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment, https://movetoamend.org/wethepeopleamendment, does just this. Citizens across the country, including Ohio, are working to put pressure on Congress to pass this amendment by building a grassroots movement. Ten Ohio communities have already passed council resolutions and 7 communities have passed ballot initiatives calling for this amendment. Many Ohio communities (including Cleveland, Newark, S. Euclid) are working for a November 2016 ballot measure.

This nonsense will never change by simply changing elected officials or laws. We have to change constitutional ground rules.

If interested in working on this fundamental form of change, email ohio@movetoamend.org.

 

NEO AFSC December 18, 2015 Podcast

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Listen to podcast here

We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week; and comment on the Public Utility Commission of Ohio’s settlement proposal to bail out 2 FirstEnergy Corporation dirty plants, the “ lobbyist-wrapped Christmas present for our nation’s biggest corporations” federal spending bill, Walmart corporation destroying jobs, the proposed merger between DuPont and Dow chemical corporations, and the good news that the TransPacific Partnership deal may not be voted on in 2016.

What corporations get away with

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Letter to the Editor
Akron Beacon Journal, February 25, 2015
http://www.ohio.com/editorial/vop/letters-to-the-editor-testing-students-and-corporate-power-feb-25-1.569531

Corporate officials have used the same strategies to escape democratic control from the public and its elected representatives for more than a century.

One strategy is to shift decision making from one level of government to a “higher” level. Supported by mega corporations, the Obama administration is aggressively pushing for passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These so-called “trade agreements” are less about trade, be it free or fair, than they are about sovereignty and democracy.

Both contain investor-state dispute resolution provisions permitting corporations to directly sue and trump national governments over what corporations consider “trade barriers” — what citizens would call protective labor, consumer and environmental laws.

FirstEnergy’s proposal to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to raise its rates to subsidize archaic nuclear and coal plants is an example of shifting decision making from legislatures to regulatory agencies. Regulatory agencies can be more easily captured by corporate entities than legislatures, and serve as effective shields to absorb citizen time, energy and resources.

Another strategy is to shift decision making from legislatures to the courts. The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in favor of oil and gas drilling corporations to frack in home rule communities supersedes local councils and zoning boards that wish to protect citizens’ health and safety. Because judges are either appointed or, where elected, are fewer in number than legislators, they are easier to influence through campaign donations.
As Justice William O’Neill said in his dissent: “What the drilling industry has bought and paid for in campaign contributions they shall receive.”

Corporations will continue to use the same strategies until we remove their bogus constitutional rights. That needs to be the people’s strategy

Greg Coleridge
Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee
Cuyahoga Falls

Testimony at Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Public Hearing on First Energy’s “Electric Security Plan” Proposal

Greg Coleridge / Monday, January 20, 2015 / Cleveland City Hall

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[Note: First Energy corporations wants PUCO guarantees on prices to subsidize it nuclear and coal power plants. Several hearings by the PUCO regulatory agency to receive public testimony are being held across Ohio]

I testify this evening not only as a consumer, but also as a citizen.

As a consumer, I’m concerned about the rising prices of energy that seem unwarranted and little more than a corporate bail out.

But as a citizen, I’m even more concerned — concerned about decision-making, power and democracy – as they relate to not only First Energy corporation but also the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

Former Cleveland Mayor Tom Johnson’s warning a century ago is still relevant today: “I believe in municipal ownership of all public service monopolies… because if you do not own them, they will in time own you, they will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”

First Energy corporation has certainly come to rule our politics and corrupt our legislative institution with their hot shot lobbyists and piles of campaign investments, I mean “contributions,” to many of the same Ohio legislators who voted to delay green energy standards.

photoBut it’s not just First Energy corporation that is a threat to our democracy. Regulatory agencies like PUCO, which shield corporate utilities serve to effectively absorb our time, energy and resources and to distract our attention from demanding statewide legislation, citizen initiatives and public hearings on the more fundamental issue of ending corporate owned utilities.

Past and more recent history demonstrates that public owned utilities provide more democratically accountable and cheaper energy. Samuel Insull was right a century ago about electricity being a “natural monopoly.” His belief, though, that regulation would protect utility monopolies from both private competition and outright public ownership was anti-democratic. Milwaukee Mayor Daniel Hoan in 1907 said it best about electric regulatory commissions: “No shrewder piece of political humbuggery and downright fraud has ever been placed upon the statute books. It’s supposed to be legislation for the people. In fact, it’s legislation for the power oligarchy.”

No matter the outcome of these hearings, the core problem is that We the People are not directly in control of our energy. Corporate utilities, using PUCO as a shield, are in charge. First Energy corporation’s market monopoly socialism in which “heads, they win, tails, we lose” both politically and in our pocketbooks doesn’t have to happen. It wasn’t always like it is now. It doesn’t have to continue.

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These hearings are akin to a democracy “theme park” that looks real and legit on the surface but distracts and distorts from the real issues.

Regulatory agencies regulate us. They regulate our ability to think outside the regulatory box – to imagine what real definition, power, control, and democracy could be.

Yes, the answer here tonight is to oppose the corporate bailout of First Energy. But the answer to the fundamental problem of private monopolies is more democracy through public control – the likes of which would make Tom Johnson proud.

We need to think and act not just like consumers, but also as citizens.

Senate Bill 310 proves politicians are more responsive to big money than to the public: Letter to the Editor

http://blog.cleveland.com/letters/2014/06/letter_to_the_editor_1049.html

Passage of SB 310 by the Ohio Legislature and Governor Kasich not only freezes renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for two years, it freezes democracy.

Citizens want cleaner air and water. Ratepayers want to save money paying for electricity. The existing energy standards accomplished both, but corporations want more profits.

Utility corporations lobbied state legislators hard, including FirstEnergy Corporation. And rather than invest in wind, solar and other cleaner and cheaper long-term renewable energy alternatives, utility corporations decided it was easier and more profitable to “invest” in politicians via campaign cash. Utility corporations invested reportedly $694,000 in Ohio legislators. The six-co-sponsors of SB 310 received $141,200 alone in campaign cash from FirstEnergy. Who can blame them? Utility corporations wanted to change the law.  Compliant politicians were more than willing to take the cash since ever-growing sums of money are needed from corporations and wealthy individuals to be “viable” candidates.

The issues, corporations and politicians change but the narrative remains exactly the same: Public representatives are more responsive to the special interests of corporations and wealthy corporations than to the general public thanks to big money pouring in to their campaign treasuries – directly and/or indirectly.

Only by amending our Constitution to end the bizarre doctrines that corporations are “persons” and money equals speech can we hope to bring what’s little left of our democracy out of the deep freeze.

Greg Coleridge,
Cleveland Heights
Coleridge is director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee.