"The Randazzo-led utility commission’s timing in stopping the audit might seem strange. It came just after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in January 2020 that the charge FirstEnergy had been collecting was unlawful — seemingly a time when a regulator would want to know more about what happened with the funds.
A big reason why the court struck down the distribution-modernization charge: Despite allowing FirstEnergy to collect almost a half-billion extra dollars from ratepayers, the PUCO didn’t implement effective rules to ensure that FirstEnergy used the money to update the utility grid.
'Utility companies can be expected to respond to financial motivations, but not if the commission awards them money up front with no meaningful conditions attached,' the decision said. 'The PUCO staff’s wishful thinking cannot take the place of real requirements, restrictions, or conditions imposed by the commission for the use of (distribution-modernization) funds.'
Not only did the PUCO call off the audit just as the charge was declared illegal, it did so as the auditors were making some interesting findings. For example, it found that instead of using all the funds to improve its Ohio distribution system, FirstEnergy was placing some in a 'Regulated Utility Money Pool,' from which out-of-state utilities could borrow."
- Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal