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$235 Million in Infrastructure Projects Planned in West Penn Power Area During 2017 to Enhance Electric System

GREENSBURG, Pa., March 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen the durability and flexibility of its electric transmission and distribution systems, FirstEnergy Corp. (FE) plans to invest about $235 million during 2017 on infrastructure upgrades to enhance service reliability in West Penn Power's 24-county service area. 

Major projects scheduled include: transmission enhancements to reinforce the electric system and support economic growth, including the shale gas industry; constructing new circuits and replacing utility poles; and installing enhanced protective devices on wires and poles.

"Our goal is to pursue transmission and distribution projects that not only enhance service to our existing customers, but also prepare our system to accommodate future economic growth," said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power.  "Proactive upgrades to our distribution system include the installation of automated and remote control devices designed to reduce the number and duration of service disruptions our customers might experience."

FirstEnergy projects planned in West Penn Power's service area in 2017 include:

  • Completing a new transmission substation in Washington County to support two new midstream gas processing facilities near Burgettstown, Pa., that require large amounts of electricity. The project also includes specialized voltage-regulating equipment engineered to respond to real-time electrical conditions, which is expected to benefit more than 40,000 West Penn Power customers in Washington and Allegheny counties. About $11 million of the $40 million project will be spent this year. The new substation is scheduled to be completed and fully operational in mid-2017.
  • Rebuilding a 7.5-mile, 69-kilovolt (kV) line connecting a substation near Grove City in Mercer County to a substation near Slippery Rock in Butler County, to enhance service reliability for about 25,000 West Penn Power customers. Pending regulatory approval, the line will be reconstructed using 120 new wood pole structures, with about four miles located in West Penn Power's service area and the rest in neighboring Penn Power's service area. The substation near Slippery Rock will be upgraded with four new breakers and a reconfigured transformer to accommodate higher voltage. The project has a total cost of about $14.8 million. Construction would begin after regulatory approval is received, perhaps as early as fall 2017.
  • Replacing protective relay equipment in a transmission substation near Butler, Pa., at a cost of about $450,000. The controls monitor conditions on a transmission line connecting the substation with a substation near Zelienople, Pa., and, if a fault occurs, quickly operate breakers to stop the flow of electricity to protect vital substation equipment from damage.
  • Providing underground electrical service to support the initial phase of a new 2 million square-foot commercial development in South Fayette Township near Interstate 79 and Route 50 in Allegheny County.
  • Building a transmission line to provide electric service to a new section of a coal mine near Mt. Morris in Greene County at a cost of about $1 million. The new line will interconnect with an existing transmission line and is scheduled to be in service in fall 2017.
  • Building a 1.3-mile transmission line at a cost of about $4 million to provide electrical service to a natural gas processing facility under development in Smith Township, Washington County, near Burgettstown, Pa.
  • Investing about $21 million on various reliability projects throughout West Penn Power's 24-county service area.
  • Installing new switches and automating other equipment throughout the West Penn Power area at a cost of nearly $5 million to help speed service restoration to customers following a service interruption.
  • Upgrading distribution substations across West Penn Power's service area with more than $3 million in fault-monitoring equipment to detect and locate problems on lines to help crews more quickly restore power when service is interrupted.
  • Inspecting about 36,000 utility poles and replacing or reinforcing about 240 poles at a cost of more than $1.2 million. This inspection process is conducted on a 12-year cycle in Pennsylvania, and replacement work is scheduled to be conducted throughout the year.
  • Upgrading equipment on 134 distribution circuits throughout the service territory to help enhance service reliability at a cost of about $2 million. These improvements – including installing cross arms, hardware, and other equipment – are expected to enhance the electrical system and reliability of service for more than 95,000 West Penn Power customers.
  • Replacing underground cable throughout the distribution system for $450,000. Locations include Quail Acres in Washington County and Saybrook Village in Westmoreland County.

About $23 million of the budgeted total will be for transmission-related projects owned by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo), a FirstEnergy transmission affiliate.  

In 2016, FirstEnergy spent about $200 million in the West Penn Power area on hundreds of large and small transmission and distribution projects, including building new substations and transmission lines, adding equipment to existing locations, installing voltage-regulating equipment and automated controls, and replacing poles. 

West Penn Power serves about 720,000 customers in 24 Pennsylvania counties.  Connect with West Penn Power on Twitter @W_Penn_Power and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WestPennPower.

FirstEnergy is dedicated to safety, reliability and operational excellence.  Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation's largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York.  The company's transmission subsidiaries operate more than 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.  Follow FirstEnergy on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp or online at www.firstenergycorp.com.

Forward-Looking Statements: This news release includes forward-looking statements based on information currently available to management. Such statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties. These statements include declarations regarding management's intents, beliefs and current expectations. These statements typically contain, but are not limited to, the terms "anticipate," "potential," "expect," "forecast," "target," "will," "intend," "believe," "project," "estimate," "plan" and similar words. Forward-looking statements involve estimates, assumptions, known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements, which may include the following: the ability to experience growth in the Regulated Distribution and Regulated Transmission segments; the accomplishment of our regulatory and operational goals in connection with our transmission investment plan, including, but not limited to, our planned forward-looking formula rates and the effectiveness of our strategy to reflect a more regulated business profile; changes in assumptions regarding economic conditions within our territories, assessment of the reliability of our transmission system, or the availability of capital or other resources supporting identified transmission investment opportunities; the ability to accomplish or realize anticipated benefits from strategic and financial goals, including, but not limited to, the ability to continue to reduce costs and to successfully execute our financial plans designed to improve our credit metrics and strengthen our balance sheet through, among other actions, our cash flow improvement plan and other proposed capital raising initiatives; the risks and uncertainties associated with the lack of viable alternative strategies regarding the Competitive Energy Services (CES) segment, thereby causing FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. (FES), and possibly FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC), to restructure its debt and other financial obligations with its creditors or seek protection under United States bankruptcy laws and the losses, liabilities and claims arising from such bankruptcy proceeding, including any obligations at FirstEnergy; the risks and uncertainties at the CES segment, including FES and its subsidiaries and FENOC, related to continued depressed wholesale energy and capacity markets, and the viability and/or success of strategic business alternatives, such as potential CES generating unit asset sales, the potential conversion of the remaining generation fleet from competitive operations to a regulated or regulated-like construct or the potential need to deactivate additional generating units; the substantial uncertainty as to FES' ability to continue as a going concern and substantial risk that it may be necessary for FES, and possibly FENOC, to seek protection under United States bankruptcy laws; the risks and uncertainties associated with litigation, arbitration, mediation and like proceedings, including, but not limited to, any such proceedings related to vendor commitments, such as long-term fuel and transportation agreements; the uncertainties associated with the deactivation of older regulated and competitive units, including the impact on vendor commitments, such as long-term fuel and transportation agreements, and as it relates to the reliability of the transmission grid, the timing thereof; the impact of other future changes to the operational status or availability of our generating units and any capacity performance charges associated with unit unavailability; changing energy, capacity and commodity market prices including, but not limited to, coal, natural gas and oil prices, and their availability and impact on margins; costs being higher than anticipated and the success of our policies to control costs and to mitigate low energy, capacity and market prices; replacement power costs being higher than anticipated or not fully hedged; our ability to improve electric commodity margins and the impact of, among other factors, the increased cost of fuel and fuel transportation on such margins; the speed and nature of increased competition in the electric utility industry, in general, and the retail sales market in particular; the uncertainty of the timing and amounts of the capital expenditures that may arise in connection with any litigation, including New Source Review litigation, or potential regulatory initiatives or rulemakings (including that such initiatives or rulemakings could result in our decision to deactivate or idle certain generating units); changes in customers' demand for power, including, but not limited to, changes resulting from the implementation of state and federal energy efficiency and peak demand reduction mandates; economic or weather conditions affecting future sales and margins such as a polar vortex or other significant weather events, and all associated regulatory events or actions; changes in national and regional economic conditions affecting us, our subsidiaries and/or our major industrial and commercial customers, and other counterparties with which we do business, including fuel suppliers; the impact of labor disruptions by our unionized workforce; the risks associated with cyber-attacks and other disruptions to our information technology system that may compromise our generation, transmission and/or distribution services and data security breaches of sensitive data, intellectual property and proprietary or personally identifiable information regarding our business, employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers, business partners and other individuals in our data centers and on our networks; the impact of the regulatory process and resulting outcomes on the matters at the federal level and in the various states in which we do business including, but not limited to, matters related to rates and the Ohio Distribution Modernization Rider; the impact of the federal regulatory process on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulated entities and transactions, in particular FERC regulation of wholesale energy and capacity markets, including PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (PJM) markets and FERC-jurisdictional wholesale transactions; FERC regulation of cost-of-service rates; and FERC's compliance and enforcement activity, including compliance and enforcement activity related to North American Electric Reliability Corporation's mandatory reliability standards; the uncertainties of various cost recovery and cost allocation issues resulting from American Transmission Systems, Incorporated's realignment into PJM; the ability to comply with applicable state and federal reliability standards and energy efficiency and peak demand reduction mandates; other legislative and regulatory changes, and revised environmental requirements, including, but not limited to, the effects of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, Coal Combustion Residuals regulations, Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards programs, including our estimated costs of compliance, Clean Water Act (CWA) waste water effluent limitations for power plants, and CWA 316(b) water intake regulation; adverse regulatory or legal decisions and outcomes with respect to our nuclear operations (including, but not limited to, the revocation or non-renewal of necessary licenses, approvals or operating permits by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or as a result of the incident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant); issues arising from the indications of cracking in the shield building at Davis-Besse; changing market conditions that could affect the measurement of certain liabilities and the value of assets held in our Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts, pension trusts and other trust funds, and cause us and/or our subsidiaries to make additional contributions sooner, or in amounts that are larger than currently anticipated; the impact of changes to significant accounting policies; the impact of any changes in tax laws or regulations or adverse tax audit results or rulings; the ability to access the public securities and other capital and credit markets in accordance with our financial plans, the cost of such capital and overall condition of the capital and credit markets affecting us and our subsidiaries; further actions that may be taken by credit rating agencies that could negatively affect us and/or our subsidiaries' access to financing, increase the costs thereof, increase requirements to post additional collateral to support, or accelerate payments under outstanding commodity positions, letters of credit and other financial guarantees, and the impact of these events on the financial condition and liquidity of FirstEnergy and/or its subsidiaries, specifically the subsidiaries within the CES segment; issues concerning the stability of domestic and foreign financial institutions and counterparties with which we do business; and the risks and other factors discussed from time to time in our United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, and other similar factors. A security rating is not a recommendation to buy or hold securities and is subject to revision or withdrawal at any time by the assigning rating agency. Each rating should be evaluated independently of any other rating. The foregoing factors should not be construed as exhaustive and should be read in conjunction with the other cautionary statements and risks that are included in our filings with the SEC, including but not limited to the most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q. The foregoing review of factors also should not be construed as exhaustive. New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all such factors, nor assess the impact of any such factor on FirstEnergy Corp.'s business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. The registrants expressly disclaim any current intention to update, except as required by law, any forward-looking statements contained herein as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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