Michael Morris

“I think it's essential, however, that everyone understands it has never been American Electric Power's desire, nor anyone else in the utility space, to undo the Clean Air Act.” -Michael Morris
Position: 
Non-executive Chairman
Biography: 

Michael Morris is the non-executive Chairman of American Electric Power, the largest electricity generating utility in the nation. Morris served as AEP's CEO from 2004-2011.

Morris graduated Eastern Michigan University in 1969 with a Master’s degree in Biology and got his Law degree from Detroit College of Law in 1980. At 63 years old, he has been acting CEO of American Electric Power since 2004. In the past five years, Morris made $50.20 million as AEP’s CEO.

Morris was chairman, president and CEO of Northeast Utilities System (NUS) from 1997 to 2003. He was the founder and acting president of ANR Gathering Co, one of the first gas marketing companies in the US. He also served as Executive Vice President of Marketing, Transportation and Gas Supply for ANR Pipeline Co, an interstate pipeline system. Morris is past chairman of the Edison Electric Institute and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. He also serves on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Board, the National Governors Association’s Task Force on Electricity Infrastructure, Business Roundtable (chairing the Business Roundtable's Sustainable Growth Initiative).

Source: American Electric Power

Quotes: 

"House Speaker Pelosi thinks [meeting the nation's energy needs] can be done magically and by efficiency and other things.”
Grist.org
, August 11, 2008

On Renewable Energy after BP Oil Spill:
 “I think by 2020 which is, in our world, a very near cycle, you’ll see more natural gas taking the place of some of the older less efficient non clean-air act retrofitted coal-fired power plants.”
CNBC news
, June 29, 2010

On Obama’s clean-energy push:
“You have to consider clean coal, you have to consider ‘natural gas’ as a cleaner fuel even though it’s a carbon based fuel.”
-Fox Business, February 21, 2011

“I think it's essential, however, that everyone understands it has never been American Electric Power's desire, nor anyone else in the utility space, to undo the Clean Air Act.”
-Seeking Alpha, January 28, 2011

"If I were running a coal company and I looked at what's happening on Capitol Hill and the states, I'd be very inclined to send my marketing team overseas… that's where it appears the growth market is going to be, not here domestically."
-Grist.org, December 26, 2008

“Business Roundtable respectfully urges a favorable vote on legislation that would delay the effective date of EPA regulatory action with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.”
-Public Utilities Blog, September 15, 2010
 

Evidence: 

Political Contributions and lobbying

American Electric Power spent over $3.9 million in political expenditures from 2005-2010.

Michael Morris called former Representative Rick Boucher (D-Va.) “the most informed member of the House.” Morris has led AEP as one of Boucher’s top five contributors in the 2009-2010 campaign cycle, contributing $34,800. While in office, Boucher was known as a key player in getting incentives for the coal industry into energy bills in Virginia.

In the 2010 election cycle Morris supplied $400,000 to American Solutions for Winning the Future , a tax-exempt 527 organization set up by representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) which opposes mandatory limits on greenhouse gas pollution. Morris was ranked among the top 25 Individual Contributors to Federally Focused 527 Organizations in the 2010 Election Cycle.

From 2006-2010, AEP spent $31,029,379 in total lobbying expenditures under Morris' leadership.

Energy and the Environment

Michael Morris has said that a cap-and-trade plan limited to utilities was "ridiculous" because it would place an unfair burden on coal-based utilities. He said that "cap-and-dividend would be equally inappropriate," and that it would take money from "Mom in the Midwest and dividend it to Paris Hilton."

American Electric Power may have to shut down about two dozen coal-fired power plants due to new stricter air quality rules put out by the EPA. AEP has asked for a delay up to five years, saying this timeline is “unrealistic” and may result in massive lay-offs, yet Morris said in a June, 2010 meeting with investors that the closings were “the appropriate way to go” for customers and shareholders.

Morris has been accused of “double speak” when it comes to AEP’s future choices in energy sourcing. He has emphasized a future in Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC): "There is no question we continue to believe that is the most cost efficient, environmentally responsible way to build a new coal power plant. After making claims of cost-efficiency, Morris and AEP asked that the Virginia State Corporation Commission require AEP customers to share in the construction costs of the company’s IGCC plant. The commission turned AEP down, saying the $2.23 billion cost estimate dates back to 2006 and was not credible. That same day, AEP said “it must raise electricity rates 45 percent for its nearly 1.5 million customers in Ohio… to cover soaring coal prices and the cost of modernizing its systems to keep them reliable.”

In 2008, after meeting with the West Virginia Coal Association's directors, Michael Morris said that “coal has to play in the message for cost-effective electricity necessary to fuel economic growth.” In contrast, AEP Ohio President Joe Hamrock says that AEP must raise electricity rates 45% over 3 years to cover soaring coal prices and the cost of modernizing its systems to keep them reliable.

After the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, Morris appeared on Fox Business to talk about how nuclear plants will avoid a disaster like Japan saw. One such way he mentions is the utilization of a self-evaluating industry-based organization called the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO). The organization tries to “build in whatever assurances they could to protect [themselves].” INPO, created after the Three-Mile Island catastrophe, has been scrutinized as a system of self-policing, “encouraging the industry to police itself and head off tighter federal regulations.” In the same interview, Morris discussed post-9/11 safety precautions taken by the nuclear industry. He claimed AEP had “taken a very serious look at their reactor vessels and containment buildings,” yet 96% of US nuclear plants were not designed to withstand an air-born attack or crash.