Energy

Politically connected utilities have outsized influence in Ohio: Thomas Suddes

puco

COLUMBUS — “Utilities and other corporate giants will argue, and they’re correct, that they’re big employers – “job-creators,” and all that. But they’re also big political players – and not just out of civic-mindedness.

Four-term Republican Gov. James A. Rhodes is credited with the slogan, “Profit isn’t a dirty word in Ohio.” Today, those words might as well be chiseled on the outer walls of the Statehouse. (And given what goes on inside, ‘chiseled’ is the perfect word, in more ways than one.)

A looming PUCO vacancy means Republican Gov. John Kasich will soon appoint a new PUCO member. True, given the five-member commission’s seeming … deference … to FirstEnergy Corp. (the Illuminating, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison companies) and American Electric Power Co. (the Ohio Power Co.), a new PUCO member likely wouldn’t re-orient the panel, at least not much. Besides, anybody who might rock the boat wouldn’t be picked.

…PUCO appointments matter, because the commission is supposed to work out compromises between the competing interests of Ohio consumers and giant, politically connected utilities. If you don’t know whether today’s PUCO is doing that fairly, look at your next electric bill. That’ll suggest an answer.”

— Thomas Suddes commentary, Cleveland Plain Dealer

link to full column

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