by J.D. Davidson
FirstEnergy customers in Ohio will see nearly $30 million in refunds on their electric bills after the Public Utilities of Commission of Ohio ordered the money returned.
The PUCO ordered implementation of the recently passed and signed House Bill 128, which was one of the many bills introduced this year in the Ohio General Assembly aimed at tackling the House Bill 6 scandal that led to the indictment and eventual removal from office of former House Speaker Larry Householder.
The bill, which became effective June 30, dealt with “decoupling,” which Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has referred to as designed to allow FirstEnergy to overcharge customers.
Wednesday’s PUCO order directs Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison to return about $27.5 million to customers in the form of a credit to bills over a single billing cycle. A bill insert explaining the refund also must be included.
The three FirstEnergy utilities collected the decoupling charge from customers from Jan. 1, 2020, through Feb. 2, 2021, according to the PUCO. The commission also said no other Ohio electric distribution utilities had this type of decoupling charges.
The Ohio House voted to expel Householder in late June, while the former lawmaker denied he took bribes or engaged in a conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty to federal bribery and racketeering charges.
It was the first time an Ohio lawmaker had been expelled since 1857, when a member was removed for punching another member.
Along with four co-conspirators, Householder was charged a year ago in what federal prosecutors called the most expansive political corruption case in state history. Three have pleaded guilty.
Also charged were former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, lobbyist Neil Clark, the Oxley Group co-founder Juan Cespedes and strategist John Longstreth.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.