Information removed from the audit into Ohio’s HB6 law by a protective order granted by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) is still unavailable although some of the details were ostensibly unredacted during a Nov. 2 hearing on the case.

Those details include the identity of the company that has been overcharging for coal supplied to one of the coal plants at the heart of HB6 – Resource Fuels of Columbus – and the net income for the Ohio Valley Electric Corp. (OVEC), the company bailed out by HB6.

Matt Schilling, the PUCO spokesman, said those redactions on that information were declared invalid during the Nov. 2 hearing, but the audit still remains on the PUCO website with that data blacked out to the public.

Nov. 2 PUCO hearing transcript in which the name of coal supplier Resource Fuels is determined to be available to the public.

Only a close examination of the Nov. 2 hearing transcript on the PUCO website would provide the name of Resource Fuels, which identified in the LEI audit as overcharging for the coal it supplied OVEC’s Clifty Creek power plant in 2020. But its name was redacted from the audit, because of the protective order granted on July 7.

C&BP has reported that testimony submitted in October to PUCO indicated that Resource Fuels was paid $12.6 million more for the coal it supplied Clifty Creek in 2020 than another company, Alliance Coal, that was supplying Clifty Creek from the same coal mine. Details of the two companies’ coal contracts are available in data reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

C&BP also reported that the PUCO staff agreed to the protective orders requested by three of the utilities that are part owners of OVEC, even though the information that was declared secret was already available to the public either through the Energy Information Administration or OVEC’s own website.

PUCO denied C&BP request for staffers’ identities

C&BP requested PUCO supply the identities of the staff members who recommended granting the protective order and accepted the rationale that the details of the audit that were already available to the public were somehow “trade secrets.”

The publicly available audit into HB6 still contains the redactions of the name of coal supplier Resource Fuels.

Schilling said the request for the staffers’ names was a “request for information,” not a public records request and there were no public records that included the information sought by C&BP. “Therefore, your request is denied.”

The history of the audit into the surcharges required by HB6 is marked by delays and attempts by utility representatives to limit the disclosure of information.

As Kathiann Kowalski of the Energy News Network reported in June: “London Economics International completed its audit reports on the 2020 costs in late 2021. More than a year passed before the commission set a schedule for accepting comments in the case.”

No set date for when public audits will be unredacted

When asked by C&BP when the public audit would reflect the unredactions apparently agreed to during the Nov. 2 hearing, Schilling replied with a copy of a transcript from Nov. 6 in which Attorney Examiner Megan Addison said parties in the audit case could discuss “possibly reducing the confidential treatment of certain exhibits as referenced throughout this transcript in order to limit the number — the amounts of redacted information contained in the public domain.”

Addison set Jan. 8, 2024, as the date by which the parties must briefs about the details from the audit and Jan. 29, 2024, as the date when reply briefs are due.

Schilling said Wednesday morning that “briefs and reply briefs are due on those dates in January. Otherwise the parties indicated at hearing they will be making future filings to unredact certain information.”

Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks & Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

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