Editorial roundup: Ohio | Ohio News

Cleveland Plain dealership. January 23, 2022.

Editorial: More Evidence from FirstEnergy That Ohio Utility Regulations Are Being Violated

In the latest development in Ohio’s utility regulatory mess, an audit commissioned by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission found that even though FirstEnergy Corp. raised about $500 million from Ohio power customers to upgrade the utility’s power grid, he used all the money for that purpose.

Auditors found no evidence that the taxpayer money Akron raised (at least $168 million a year from 2017 to 2019) drove FirstEnergy — which owns Illuminating, Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison — to spend more to modernize its network, cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer reported.

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In fact, the “distribution modernization addendum” was proposed by PUCO staff themselves, according to the audit, not so much to modernize FirstEnergy’s power grid, but rather to strengthen FirstEnergy’s finances to that it can borrow money for modernization.

The audit also could not determine whether or not some of the modernization money was spent to push for passage of House Bill 6, the bailout legislation. scandal-ridden nuclear bomb that prompted federal indictments of five Statehouse figures, including then-Speaker of the House Larry Householder. , who is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Federal prosecutors have alleged that FirstEnergy and an affiliate secretly donated tens of millions of dollars to a nonprofit organization controlled by Householder, cleveland.com’s John Caniglia reported.

Last summer, FirstEnergy signed a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors, agreeing to pay a $230 million fine and cooperate with the investigation.

The company at the time “admitted to paying $4.3 million” to an official whose description matches former PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo “to further FirstEnergy Corp.’s interests related to the adoption of nuclear legislation and other corporate priorities,” the Justice Department said. . Randazzo has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

In their recent PUCO-commissioned grid modernization audit, Daymark Energy Advisors also found that while the charges were in effect, FirstEnergy’s three Ohio utility companies increased the amount of dividends they paid to FirstEnergy, their parent company. Auditors said there was no documented evidence to prove or disprove a link between the charges and the dividend increases.

The no-strings-attached network upgrade fee proved too high even for the usually dovish Ohio Supreme Court, which in a June 2019 4-3 decision killed the upgrade fee in a majority opinion. written by Judge Michael Donnelly.

Undoubtedly, if properly funded and designed, grid modernization should be on Ohio’s agenda. The August 2003 Northeast blackout that left 45 million Americans and 10 million Canadians without power originated in FirstEnergy territory in Ohio, according to a US-Canadian study: A Line FirstEnergy at Walton Hills came into contact with trees and FirstEnergy’s computers did not respond adequately.

A FirstEnergy spokesperson told Pelzer it respectfully disagrees with Daymark’s audit and will file comments with PUCO expressing its concerns.

While it’s there, FirstEnergy is expected to turn over other relevant documents relating to how it spent taxpayer dollars earmarked for grid upgrades and whether it helped kill an earlier PUCO audit on the subject.

In October, Pelzer uncovered documents that suggest an earlier version of the distribution modernization pilot audit, by Oxford Advisors, was killed during Randazzo’s tenure at PUCO. The documents raise important questions about the content of the previous audit and whether it painted a more damning picture of FirstEnergy’s use of taxpayer funds. A March 2020 text message from FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones refers to someone who appears to be Randazzo “burning” the audit and reversing the decision of PUCO staff and other commissioners on this and other matters. pro-FirstEnergy measures.

To clear things up, PUCO should release the previous audit and challenge FirstEnergy’s attempts to keep other relevant documents secret.

The network modernization charge was itself an example of how PUCO sometimes seems to forget that the word “public” is part of its name and its main reason for existence. The commission is supposed to be an arbiter on behalf of the public interest, not a cheerleader for one side or the other.

Daymark’s audit strongly suggests that PUCO members and staff overlooked this fact by strengthening FirstEnergy’s financial position at the expense of consumers without demanding a specific consumer benefit.

Additionally, citing an arcana of the law, when it struck down the retrofit jumper, the Ohio Supreme Court did not order the return of the money FirstEnergy had already collected.

Ultimately, Pelzer reports, FirstEnergy last November “agreed to pay more than $300 million in customer refunds to settle claims that it violated Ohio’s ban on making ‘significantly excessive’ profits. “, since the company’s calculations “did not include the money it took from the distribution modernization endorsement.

The PUCO showed his toothlessness. But the PUCO does not designate itself. Governors choose commissioners, though they bear the fig leaf of a 1982 law that is supposed to make appointments based on merit. In fact, this law was designed to checkmate a voting problem that would have allowed voters to select the PUCO.

A vacancy at PUCO is looming. In completing it, Governor DeWine will indicate what he learned – or did not learn – from the FirstEnergy/House Bill 6 mess. And he will be graded accordingly.

Blade of Toledo. January 23, 2022.

Editorial: Ohio is a Milestone on the Information Highway

Good news on the information highway for Ohio.

Ohio landed a major project that secures the state’s presence in the tech industry. Ohio is not Silicon Valley. Ohio is the hub, and often the hub is overlooked or simply doesn’t have the logistics to support certain high-tech manufacturers.

Intel, however, has found Ohio to its liking and plans to build two chip factories near Columbus – part of the company’s goal to increase its semiconductor production.

This isn’t just good news for Columbus, it’s good news for the entire state. The factories represent a $20 billion investment from Intel and this investment will create many jobs. It is estimated that up to 3,000 people could work in the factories. This is without counting the jobs created by construction and related activities. The long-term future may contain expansion plans, company officials said. The company also said it would work with educational institutions to prepare workers for factories.

Ohio and Intel should work hard to prepare pandemic-displaced employees and those who have lost their jobs in basic industries for those jobs.

A combination of fortuitous circumstances, not always based on happy realities, prompted Intel to increase production.

Anyone who has tried to buy a computer in the last few months knows about the shortage of chips. Many of these chips are made overseas. Well, the supply chain broke, like many other supply chains. All over the world, a shortage of crisps has resulted – and we’re not talking about snack foods. Added to the coronavirus-induced shortages was a national and economic security concern. With more and more chips produced in Asia, what happens to the US if we rely on foreign manufacturers?

It is quite easy to find the answer because the tensions between the countries of the

the region is growing and US-China relations are unraveling.

Much of people’s work these days depends on chips and semiconductors. The industry is in a strong position for growth as the global economy continues to grow despite temporary setbacks. Even basic industries like steel and auto manufacturing rely heavily on computers – and computers and robots need chips. No chips means downtime and no work.

Ohio won the case over dozens of competitors. Yes, the state offered tax benefits, as did most other competing states. Ohio has earned and will earn billions in revenue generated by the plant and its employees.

Success breeds success, and Ohio can move forward in the quest for additional high-tech industry.

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