A protective order issued by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) in its audit of the scandal-plagued HB6 law redacts publicly available information that can be found on federal websites and the annual reports of the utility bailed out by HB6.

The order issued July 7, 2023, said information contained in the audit conducted by London Economics International deserved to be kept from the public because “it derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other person who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, (2), It is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.”

Details covered by the order were the seller of coal to the two power plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corp. (OVEC), the prices OVEC paid for the coal and the amount of OVEC’s net income for 2020.

Section of LEI audit that redacts the identity of a coal supplier to OVEC’s Clifty Creek plant. That information is contained in publicly available documents.

Checks & Balances Project reported Nov. 13 that HB6 enabled coal supplier Resource Fuels to continue to overcharge OVEC for the coal it provided during 2020. The name of Resource Fuels was redacted from the audit because of the protective order, but the company was identified in expert testimony to PUCO submitted in October and in annual reports filed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Campaign finance records and court documents show that Resource Fuels’ owner, Wayne Boich, and his wife Cynthia were among the first donors to Generation Now after its creation in February 2017. They gave $25,000 on Feb. 13, 2017. The Generation Now bank records were obtained by federal prosecutors for their successful trial of Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges earlier this year.

Resource Fuels then donated $250,000 to Generation Now on April 5, 2018, one month before the Ohio primary election. Householder used the money in the Generation Now account to back candidates in Republican state House primaries who would later support his campaign to become House speaker after the 2018 general election. Householder, however, spent more than $500,000 of the money to pay off credit card balances, repair his Florida home and settle a business lawsuit.

Audit linked to OVEC annual report

Records show that in 2020, Resource Fuels was paid $12.6 million more for the coal it supplied OVEC than another coal supplier, Alliance Coal, was paid. The overpayments are 50.4 times more than its $250,000 donation to Generation Now, the fund used to bribe former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder, who pushed HB6 through the Ohio legislature in 2019.

The section of the LEI audit that describes Component D. It redacts OVEC’s 2020 net income, which is publicly available.

The amount of OVEC’s net income for 2020 — $2.8 million — was also redacted from the LEI audit, but that information is available online from the OVEC website.

LEI auditors identified a payment called “Component D” or a “payment per common share (similar to a dividend),” which is not allowed to be reimbursed by ratepayers. “Component D,” the audit said, amounted to nearly all OVEC’s [redacted] million of net income in 2020.”

The audit included a footnote to the OVEC annual report as the source of the information about Component D. The annual report contained the unredacted amount of OVEC’s net income for 2020.

PUCO staff requested protective order

The request for the protective order was filed Dec. 17, 2021, by the PUCO staff on behalf of three utility companies connected to OVEC – Dayton Power and Light (AES Ohio), Ohio Power (AEP Ohio), and Duke Energy Ohio.

OVEC’s 2020 net income as it is listed in its annual report. The PUCO protective order required it to be redacted from the audit.

“There is financial information contained in the Audit Reports that is highly sensitive in nature,” the PUCO motion said. “Keeping this material confidential is consistent with the Commission’s actions in prior auction matters as disclosure of this information to the public could be prejudicial.”

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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