Not only did the Michigan regulators go beyond the timid Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in pulling back higher electricity prices charged by the Ohio Valley Electric Corp., they limited the amount of information covered by protective orders.

Checks & Balances Project has revealed how PUCO staffers gave the utilities that share ownership of OVEC a blank check to conceal information in the ongoing PUCO audit of the effects of Ohio’s HB 6 law. PUCO’s July 2023 protective order allowed the utilities to redact from the audit information that was already publicly available.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, however, granted a much tighter protective order in the case in which they disallowed $1,025,628 in excess charges for electricity from OVEC’s coal-fired power plants.

The Michigan order explicitly didn’t cover information that was already publicly available, data received from a third party not required to keep the information confidential or information that is legally required to be disclosed. In Ohio, regulators allowed utilities to claim trade secrecy for data they were legally required to submit to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Michigan’s order meant the public could learn far more details about the rates charged by OVEC for electricity used by Michigan consumers than those in Ohio.

It was only after C&BP’s reporting and objections raised by consumer and industry groups in Ohio that PUCO loosened the protective order and allowed the disclosure of information that had been concealed in the original audit.

Utilities allowed to redact details

Ohio regulators have routinely allowed utility officials to redact information from audits on their own, C&BP reported in January. Emails obtained by consumer and industry groups and submitted in the audit docket show that PUCO staffers allowed officials of utility company AEP to redact parts of an audit into OVEC’s operations.

In a previous audit case, PUCO staff members urged auditors to tone down language that said OVEC was overcharging customers for electricity produced by Clifty Creek and Kyger Creek coal-fired power plants.

C&BP has sought the identities of the PUCO staff members who recommended the July 2023 protective order but were denied the information, even after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

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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