CITIZEN POWER

Public Policy Research Education and Advocacy

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 9, 2004

Contact:  David Hughes 412/421-6072

               Ellis Jacobs 937/535-4419

               Joe Meissner 216/687-1900x5672

               Bill Gruber 216/371-3570

               Mike Smalz 614/221- 7201x129

               Dave Rinebolt 419/425-8860

 

                                

ADVOCATES URGE MORE BALANCED STANCE AT PUCO; DECISIONS IN RECENT YEARS CAUSE CONCERN

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 9/PRNewswire -- Consumer advocates from across Ohio are calling for the appointment of a commissioner to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio “who commits to upholding PUCO’s mandate to balance the interests of utility companies and consumers.”  In a letter to the PUC Nominating Council, the Governor, and the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, the advocates urge the selection of a candidate that specifically, “commits to open and fair hearings wherein all interested stakeholders have an opportunity to participate, where PUCO orders reflect a fully developed case record, and where decisions are fully enforced.”

 

The advocates have litigated cases before the PUCO for the past 20 years, representing numerous organizations including: the AARP, Appalachian People's Action Coalition, Citizen Power, Consumers for Fair Utility Rates, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition of Dayton, Empowerment Center of Greater Cleveland, the Consumers for Fair Utility Rates, and the Neighborhood Environmental Coalition of Cleveland.

 

The Governor will soon either reappoint or replace PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber at the same time the Consumers Counsel Governing Board is selecting a new Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. “This is a good time to renew the mandate of the PUCO to balance the interests of utility companies and consumers, especially in view of recent decisions that have been costly to consumers and could allow poor service quality in the future,” said Ellis Jacobs, attorney for the Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition.

 

Included with the letters to the Governor and the Public Utilities Committee is a sample list of 12 Commission decisions (see below) that document a disturbing, five-year trend for customers throughout Ohio. In those decisions the PUCO has:

 

 

“Reliability is a major public concern, especially after last summer’s blackout,” said Bill Gruber, attorney for AARP and Citizen Power.  “Yet, the Commission recently rejected the Consumers’ Counsel’s call for a public investigation of problems with electric service.”

 

“The PUCO needs to do a better job of setting and enforcing minimum service standards for telephone service,” remarked Mike Smalz, attorney for the Appalachian People's Action Coalition.  “For instance, the PUCO has refused to require phone companies to include county seats in their local calling area. That means the local Sheriff is a long distance call for many Ohioans.”

 

“Billions of dollars are at stake in cases relating to electric deregulation,” noted David Hughes, executive director of Citizen Power.  “The PUCO has already extended transition charges for Dayton Power & Light customers and will soon consider similar proposals by FirstEnergy, Cincinnati Gas and Electric, and American Electric Power.  The PUCO’s decisions in these cases could result in much higher electric bills than the General Assembly anticipated when it approved deregulation in 1999.”

 

“Deregulation, restructuring and mergers are fundamentally changing the utility industry,” concluded Dave Rinebolt of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy.  “These trends warrant more vigorous oversight by the PUCO, with assurances of open participation by all interested parties.  Multi-state corporations, most located in other states, now provide much of Ohio’s gas, electric, and phone services.  Ohio consumers need to know that Ohio’s utility regulators are looking out for their best interest, not just the interests of huge utility holding companies.”

 

Selected cases:

 

Case No. 01-2253-TP-ORD, Review of Extended Area Service. Awaiting Commission decision.

Case No. 04-23-EL-UNC, Investigation Into the Reliability of Wires Service,

January 21, 2004.

Case No. 01-2164-EL-ORD, Rules for Competitive Bidding for Electric Distribution Utilities Sec. 4928.14, R.C., December 17, 2003.

Case No. 02-2779-EL-ATA, Extension of the MDP for Dayton Power and Light

Company, September 5, 2003.

Case No. 03-965-TP-SLF, Application of SBC Ohio to Modify Tariff No. 20,

June 10, 2003.

Case No. 01-2708-EL-COI, Investigation into new line extensions, November 2, 2002.

Case No. 02-2117-TP-ALT, Application of United Telephone Company of Ohio dba Sprint for approval of alternative regulation pursuant to Chapter 4901:1-4, OAC. October 3, 2002.

Case No. 99-938-TP-COI, Investigation of Ameritech Ohio Compliance with Minimum Telephone Service Standards; January 31, 2002.

Case No. 00-1532-TP-COI, Telephone Elective Alternative Regulation, December 6, 2001.

Case No. 00-2469-EL-UNC, Petition of Citizen Power, Inc., Requesting Commission Assert Jurisdiction over Proposed Merger of FirstEnergy Corp. and GPU, Inc., September 5, 2001.

Case No. 99-1212-EL-ETP, Application of FirstEnergy Corp. for Approval of Transition Plans, July 19, 2000.

Case No. 99-1141-EL-COI, Rules for Electric Transition Plans; Chapter 4928, R.C., November 30, 1999.

 

For a more detailed description of these cases email: hughes@citizenpower.com or contact any one of the advocates listed above. 

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