Ohio regulators decline to force FirstEnergy to hire an independent auditor

COLUMBUS -- "The PUCO’s order is 'a baby step towards the direction of what the Consumers’ Counsel is suggesting,' but it’s certainly not the same, said former PUCO member Ashley Brown, who now heads the Harvard Electricity Policy Group. Ohio regulators have wide leeway in investigating utilities’ activities, he noted, and the order doesn’t foreclose additional inquiries beyond whatever FirstEnergy files in response.

...Even if the rate of return looks OK on paper, one might ask if personnel at the parent and affiliates charged for time related to lobbying efforts, Brown said. Likewise, the utilities’ electric security plans include some cross-subsidies for unregulated activities.

Additionally, from 2017 through mid-2019, FirstEnergy’s utilities collected roughly $440 million from ratepayers for a credit support rider that wasn’t tied to any services for ratepayers. Critics have questioned what the company did with those funds. The Ohio Supreme Court subsequently held the charge unlawful but didn’t require a refund.

'To do this audit correctly, you can’t just look at the accounts' from the utilities, Brown said. 'You have to look at what’s behind the reporting. … It really requires a professional auditing firm that has financial skills and management skills and forensics skills.' And, he added, if improprieties show up, the bigger question is how the corporation and its directors and officers might have allowed them to happen.'"

-- Kathianne M Kowalski, Energy News Network

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  • Ohio Citizen Action
    published this page in News 2020-09-21 12:25:22 -0400
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