CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- FirstEnergy and several smaller utilities have apparently reached a deal with state regulators on West Virginia's first electrical reliability standards.
The standards, mandated by the state Public Service Commission, would basically set targets for how utilities should minimize power outages and quickly get electricity back on for their customers.
PSC hearings had been scheduled to start today to consider utility proposals for the targets. PSC staff and consumer advocates had said the utility's proposals were far too lax and would do little to improve the reliability of West Virginia's electrical system.
On Monday, the commission issued an order revealing that a "joint stipulation" had been reached among all of the parties, except for one of West Virginia's major electrical utilities, American Electric Power.
Commissioners called off today's hearing and ordered copies of the settlement to be provided to the PSC by Friday. Commissioners said they would schedule a later hearing to review the settlement and hear testimony about why AEP isn't a party to it.
Jeri Matheney, a spokeswoman for AEP's Appalachian Power unit, said parties in the case were "still working on some of the details of the settlement. We intend to file something later this week."
Asked if that means AEP is likely to eventually sign on to the settlement, Matheney said, "This was not the final stipulation. We're still working on the stipulation."
Todd Meyers, a spokesman for FirstEnergy companies Monongahela Power and Potomac Edison, said that terms of the settlement "are still being negotiated."
Byron Harris, chief of the PSC consumer advocate division, said commission rules prohibit the parties from discussing settlement negotiations and said details of the deal would be made public with the stipulation is filed with the commission later this week.
Since January, utilities, PSC staff and other parties have been debating in commission filings proposals for power companies to comply with new agency rules aimed at setting electrical system reliability targets.