It's NOT Over

The back story

Despite the best efforts of CARE members in opposition, the Ohio Power Siting Board on Nov. 24, 2008 granted the application of FirstEnergy Corp. to construct a new 138 kV power line along the corporation’s preferred path east of and roughly paralleling Rt. 528 in Thompson, Montville, and Huntsburg Townships. Throughout the previous months, CARE had argued that FirstEnergy's preferred path near Route 528 and its alternate choice along Clay Street were unacceptable because they create new corridors across private properties when suitable corridors already exist elsewhere.

Rehearing refused

Through its legal representatives CARE filed a rehearing application seeking to have the board reconsider its Nov. 24, 2008 decision. On January 26 the board refused the application, disputing CARE's claims that the board improperly delegated its authority to an administrative law judge, relied on information outside the record in reaching its decision and relied on the board's staff report, thus violating CARE's right to due process. At this point CARE's only recourse was an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

CARE appeals

March 13, through its attorneys, CARE turned to the court for justice claiming the OPSB's order and entry were “unlawful, unjust and unreasonable.”

Reporting the appeal, the Geauga County Maple Leaf said, “It asks the court to reverse the siting board's prior rulings and remand the matter to the OPSB with instructions to correct six ‘errors.’ Those errors include CARE's contentions the OPSB:

  • Improperly delegated its authority to render an opinion to its administrative law judge.
  • Relied on information outside of the record in reaching its decision.
  • Relied heavily on an agency staff report, thereby violating CARE’s right to due process.
  • Ignored its decision in a 1995 case in which it granted Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. permission to build a transmission line elsewhere in Geauga County. That project was designed to satisfy the same power supply needs as the new FirstEnergy project. The electric company later abandoned the construction permit.
  • Failed to consider the obstructionist tactics of American Transmission Systems Inc. and the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, both FirstEnergy companies. This prevented CARE from “fully and adequately preparing” for the Nov. 24 adjudicatory hearing before the board.
  • Ignored its own administrative law judge's decision to shield key documents and key witness testimony from the public in violation of Ohio Sunshine Law.”

Where are we now?

Under the law, FirstEnergy representatives are permitted to enter properties along the approved route to conduct survey operations, but, even should the Ohio Supreme Court rule against CARE, no actual construction work can proceed until the company has acquired easements from individual property owners.

Jim Galm, CARE’s president, is reminding members and residents along the OPSB-approved route: “It's very important to keep our eyes on the ball at this point. FE will be trying to persuade us that the process is over and that signing the easement contract is our only option. Bullroar. The certificate of environmental compatibility and public need that PUCO granted to FE is presently under litigation in the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio, thanks to the undying perseverance of CARE members and the incomparable professional service and support that we have received from our legal team and their law firm, Taft, Stettinius and Hollister.

Make no mistake friends and neighbors. It's not over.”

Meanwhile, CARE members are focusing on the main task at hand, raising funds to strengthen the Defense Fund and cover the considerable legal expense of last year’s efforts to defeat the OPSB application as well as the cost of the current appeal to Ohio’s high court.