Connect with us

Published

on


This text is offered by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Heart for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please be part of the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps present extra public service reporting.


Newly disclosed texts from a former head of the Public Utilities Fee of Ohio counsel he knew a grid modernization cost that value ratepayers practically half a billion {dollars} was “more likely to be discovered unlawful and couldn’t be refunded.”

Former PUCO Chair Asim Haque and former FirstEnergy Vice President Michael Dowling exchanged text messages on the identical day the Supreme Court docket of Ohio held the cost unlawful. Challengers within the case had argued that the fee’s order imposing the cost mainly had no strings attached to make FirstEnergy take any particular actions to modernize the grid.

On the identical time, the court ruled in opposition to refunding the cost. By that point in 2019, Ohio ratepayers had spent roughly $456 million.

“And figuring out that it could seemingly be discovered unlawful and couldn’t be refunded, I knew you’d maintain onto the funds,” Haque wrote. 

The textual content suggests the ruling wasn’t a shock to him and that the failure to offer for any refund within the 2016 order was deliberate.

A transcript of the textual content dialog between Asim Haque and Michael Dowling on June 19, 2019.

The courtroom ruling and textual content message trade have been in June 2019, greater than two months after Haque’s resignation. Haque is now a vp at grid operator PJM.

In an electronic mail response to Eye on Ohio and the Energy Information Community, Haque maintains the trade was a joke. However advocates for Ohio ratepayers aren’t laughing.

“That is simply flawed and improper on its face,” mentioned Howard Learner, govt director of the Environmental Legislation & Coverage Heart, which has challenged FirstEnergy bailout efforts since 2014. “The previous PUCO chair, whose job was to guard customers by guaranteeing honest utility charges, is cozying as much as a FirstEnergy senior govt and suggesting that he deliberately did favors for the utility.”

“As soon as once more, this undermines public confidence within the equity and integrity of PUCO’s ratemaking course of,” Learner added.

“If you break this down, the very first thing that [Haque] says is that he knew that his ruling was more likely to be discovered unlawful. And he made the ruling anyway,” mentioned legal professional Rob Kelter, additionally on the Environmental Legislation & Coverage Heart.

“The second a part of it’s that he knew the cash couldn’t be refunded, and that a part of his pondering was that he knew FirstEnergy would have the ability to maintain onto the cash due to the longstanding prohibition in opposition to retroactive ratemaking,” Kelter mentioned.

“It speaks volumes about his integrity as chairman,” Kelter added.

A transcript of the texts was amongst 1000’s of pages FirstEnergy offered to the Workplace of the Ohio Customers’ Counsel as a part of an ongoing and protracted effort by the state’s client advocate to get supplies referring to the continuing Home Invoice 6 corruption scandal. The Energy Information Community and Eye on Ohio acquired the doc in response to a data request.

Cash wasn’t tracked

Audits by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and by Daymark Energy Advisors launched earlier this 12 months discovered that FirstEnergy’s regulated utilities put the rider cash right into a cash pool managed by an unregulated affiliate. After that, FirstEnergy failed to trace how the funds have been spent.

“[G]iven the shortcoming to hint how Rider DMR funds have been spent, we can not rule out with certainty use of Rider DMR funds in assist of the passage of H.B. 6,” Daymark wrote. DMR stands for “distributed modernization rider.”House Bill 6 is the 2019 regulation on the coronary heart of Ohio’s ongoing corruption scandal. FirstEnergy has admitted that it and its associates paid roughly $59 million to darkish cash teams to profit former Ohio Home Speaker Larry Householder and others. In return, lawmakers handed the nuclear and coal bailout regulation that additionally gutted Ohio’s clear energy requirements. Extra actions by the darkish cash teams thwarted a referendum voters would have been entitled to beneath Ohio’s structure.

The nuclear bailout and utility recession-proofing provisions have been repealed, however the remainder of the regulation stays in place.

Sustain on protection of Ohio’s utility scandal

Subscribe to Eye on Ohio and Energy Information Community’s month-to-month Eye on Utilities newsletter to maintain observe of the myriad shareholder actions, felony circumstances, and regulatory investigations surrounding the HB 6 scandal.

Dowling and former FirstEnergy Chair and CEO Chuck Jones have been recognized in March as having licensed funds to the darkish cash organizations and to former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo in response to U.S. District Court docket Decide John Adams’ query, “Who paid the bribes?”

As a result of FirstEnergy’s actions have thwarted auditors’ efforts to trace the spending, the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group have requested the PUCO to order restitution and impose penalties on FirstEnergy as much as $1.4 billion dollars. The customers’ counsel referenced the texts in its Might 4 reply comments on the Daymark audit.

“Distressingly, we realized from FirstEnergy’s discovery responses that it apparently was recognized throughout the PUCO that the DMR fees would seemingly be discovered unlawful and that, even so, FirstEnergy would get to carry onto the funds,” the submitting mentioned.

“Now the PUCO can proper a few of this flawed for 2 million Ohio customers” by ordering substantial forfeitures and damages of $456 million tripled, per Ohio regulation, it concluded. That request is distinct from the refund request that the courtroom dominated on three years in the past.

Different questions

“It’s as much as Chair Randazzo now to discover a path for you,” Haque additionally texted in 2019.

Haque might not have recognized in regards to the $4.3 million FirstEnergy admitted paying to an organization linked to Randazzo shortly earlier than DeWine named him as PUCO chair in 2019. Haque likewise might not have recognized in regards to the further $18 million FirstEnergy paid to that firm whereas Randazzo was representing a gaggle of huge industrial energy customers in a number of circumstances earlier than the PUCO, together with the one which led to the illegal rider.

Nonetheless, Haque’s remark raises a query about whether or not he thought a part of his job on the PUCO had been to “discover a path” for FirstEnergy. 

The PUCO’s acknowledged mission is “to guarantee all residential and enterprise customers entry to satisfactory, protected and dependable utility providers at honest costs, whereas facilitating an atmosphere that gives aggressive decisions.”

“Keep in mind me fondly, my pal,” Haque additionally texted Dowling. “It was the regulator that aggravated you essentially the most, that concurrently gave you essentially the most: DMR and grid modernization spend. I ought to have a small image in memoriam in these hallowed halls in Akron,” seemingly a reference to FirstEnergy’s headquarters.

Dowling’s responses to that preliminary remark included a frowning emoji. “Are you speaking about your simply discovered to be unlawful DMR?” Dowling requested.

That remark suggests the idea for the rider came from the PUCO. Help for that concept additionally comes from a 2016 FirstEnergy filing. It mentioned the corporate appreciated the PUCO’s thought of a distribution modernization rider, however wished $558 million per 12 months as an alternative of the $131 million the PUCO prompt.

Haque’s final textual content on June 19, 2019, acknowledged, “I’m kidding round with you albeit my timing might be dangerous.” Nonetheless, he added, the DMR rider “was lots of work so I really feel dangerous it was overturned.”

“My textual content trade with Mike Dowling was tongue-in-cheek primarily based on my earlier contentious interactions with him and the corporate,” Haque mentioned in an emailed comment to the Energy Information Community and Eye on Ohio. “You will note on the backside of the textual content message that I say that I’m kidding. FirstEnergy was not a fan of mine, and the notion of my image within the halls of their Akron headquarters would have been particularly absurd.”

“Whereas I’m unable to touch upon the textual content trade itself, there usually are not pictures of regulators hanging in our places of work,” mentioned FirstEnergy spokesperson Jennifer Younger.

Haque additionally mentioned his “response to Dowling about figuring out, three years prior, how a 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court docket resolution would end up is only sarcastic.” The rider was “infinitely smaller than what the company wanted, and so they demanded. FirstEnergy was not happy,” he added. 

“I’m pleased with my work as a regulator in Ohio,” Haque concluded. “I’ve by no means been a topic of this investigation and I stand on my report in defending the pursuits of Ohio ratepayers.”

“I simply assume his phrases converse for themselves,” Kelter mentioned.



Source link

Continue Reading

Energy Efficiency

To avoid blackouts, California may tap fossil fuel plants

Published

on

To avoid blackouts, California may tap fossil fuel plants




To keep away from blackouts, California could faucet fossil gas vegetation





















Home AP News To keep away from blackouts, California could faucet fossil gas vegetation






Source link

Continue Reading

Energy Efficiency

DOE launches $500 million effort to turn mines into clean energy hubs

Published

on

DOE launches $500 million effort to turn mines into clean energy hubs




DOE launches $500 million effort to show mines into clear energy hubs


























Source link

Continue Reading

Energy Efficiency

DOE amends criteria for program to preserve nation’s nuclear fleet

Published

on

Study ordered on impact of Diablo Canyon nuclear shut down




DOE amends standards for program to protect nation’s nuclear fleet





















Home News DOE amends standards for program geared toward saving nation’s nuclear fleet








Source link

Continue Reading

Trending