AEP Ohio does not want independent audit; prefers state commission probe

Ohio’s largest utility company does not want the Public Utility Commission of Ohio to conduct an independent, outside investigation into summer power outages, despite calls from consumer groups.

AEP Ohio, which serves about 1.5 million residential and commercial customers in central, southeast and northwest Ohio, said in a response filed to a recent motion that an independent investigation would be an expensive, time-consuming litigious process while the PUCO is conducting its investigation.

“(T)he Commission should not (in response to a transparent attempt by subjective advocates to upstage the Commission’s independent efforts as the regulator) be micromanaged and bullied into opening an unnecessarily expensive, time-consuming, and litigious process when the Commission has already proactively engaged in a stakeholder process and Staff-led investigation involving the June 2022 Power Outages,” an AEP filing with the PUCO read.

Gov. Mike DeWine, along with several lawmakers and consumer groups, demanded answers after violent storms in June led to power outages across the state. AEP immediately followed the outages with a series of planned blackouts during a record-setting heat wave that left hundreds of thousands warm and in the dark.

PUCO announced it would conduct a review of all Ohio electric utilities related to the power outages, but the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, Pro Seniors, Inc. and the Ohio Poverty Law Center filed a motion that asked for an independent auditor to conduct the investigation to determine if AEP was negligent and is liable to consumers for damages during the outages.

It also asked for local public hearings and online comments.

“The PUCO announced that it is making what it characterized as a ‘review’ of AEP’s outages,” the motion reads. “‘Review’ is an interesting choice of words by the PUCO. The word is not a regulatory term of art with a more formalized defined meaning such as the word ‘investigation.’ For example, to date the PUCO’s review does not have a case number which would enable stakeholder interventions and a process. We are concerned that the review may largely be conducted by AEP and other utilities reviewing themselves. Such self-regulation is not a substitute for government regulation of monopolies utilities in the public interest.”

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