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Cleveland Public Power accused of shortchanging customers and taxpayers with a new solar plant

FirstEnergy has filed a lawsuit to stop the solar plant project, partly because it says CPP is illegally encroaching on its customer base

Cleveland — Sunday's rain and wind knocked out power to thousands of FirstEnergy customers.

But it's Cleveland Public Power that's in the spotlight for allegedly investing in what critics call 'risky projects,' instead of making sure its current residents get the services they pay for.

The allegations come out of a lawsuit filed by First Energy against the city and Cleveland Public Power, accusing them of breaking the law by trying to steal customers from FirstEnergy that are outside its jurisdiction.

But FirstEnergy also claims CPP customers are getting the short end of a recent deal to get new subscribers instead of using that money to help its current customers.

Think about it: From an explosion last December at one of CPP’s hubs that knocked out power to 40,000 residents, to another 40,000 customers in the dark last month, because of a faulty back up line that hasn't worked since December 2016.

Cleveland Public Power has been playing catch up on its infrastructure for a long time.

MORE | Tired of Cleveland Public Power outages? There’s another option out there

At a news conference after last month’s power outage, CPP Director Ivan Henderson explained it this way, "Utility infrastructure is expensive to build. You've got to build it right the first time, and that's what we're working on now."

CPP claims it’s investing up to $30 million dollars to do so.

What most customers don't know, is that the county has committed nearly $8 million on a solar plant in Brooklyn to power government buildings there, and in Cuyahoga County.

The county could save up to $120,000 dollars a year, but residential customers may end up paying for it.

According to FirstEnergy Spokesperson Todd Snyder, "That money could be better spent serving its own customers and maybe helping to prevent those power outages."

FirstEnergy has filed a lawsuit to stop the project, partly because it says CPP is illegally encroaching on its customer base, although it denies this is about competition.

"We've been competing with CPP for years. Our system is much larger. What it's about is protecting taxpayers' money," says Snyder

And that's valid, given CPP's financial state.

According to another lawsuit filed against CPP over charges on customers' bills, their long term debt has increased by nearly $356 million dollars over the past 30 years.

That's troubling, considering customers lost power again over the hot holiday weekend because CPP couldn't handle demand. And the back up line that caused the August outage still isn't fixed.

The city declined to comment on the FirstEnergy lawsuit citing pending litigation.

As for the other lawsuit over CPP billing, it’s over an “Environmental Charge” that attorneys say the utility won’t explain, but believe is allegedly charging simply to boost its bottom line.

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