The Kasich administration’s pro-utility, anti-consumer crusade is nearly complete with the announcement that Cheryl Roberto will depart from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio by year’s end.
Roberto is best known for promoting energy efficiency and the environment – two casualties of the administration.
Her announcement came as FirstEnergy lobbies state legislators to freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency benchmarks at current levels. Without changes to the law, energy efficiency benchmarks will gradually increase until 2025, when utilities must reduce customers’ electricity consumption by 22% of the baseline level established a few years ago.
According to Gongwer News Service:
“We’re concerned that, as these mandates become more aggressive, the price tag for consumers, particularly large energy users, could potentially become a drain on the economy,” FirstEnergy spokesman Doug Colafella said. “The state’s invested a lot of money in changing customers’ energy use habits. If we looked at maintaining the current levels – that’s something we’ve been talking about.”
Environmental groups, fearful that scaling back the energy efficiency standard will be among the mischief in the lame duck session, are urging legislators to tell FirstEnergy “No.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council issued a paper titled “Reject FirstEnergy’s Attempt to Gut Ohio’s Energy Efficiency/Combined Heat And Power Standard.’’ Among its arguments:
- The standard is reducing Ohio’s energy bill by producing power more efficiently
- It has launched Ohio’s energy efficiency industry that now counts 400 companies and nearly 10,000 workers in research and development, manufacturing, engineering, installation and other fields.
- By providing incentives for efficient technologies, the standard is increasing the efficient appliance, equipment, and product offerings available to Ohio customers.
Long before Roberto’s announcement, Kasich has quietly turned the PUCO over to utilities. PUCO Chairman Todd Snitchler is a former FirstEnergy intern. Kasich’s latest appointee, Lyn Slaby, 73, has zero background in utility regulation. He is a former Summit County prosecutor and 9th District Court of Appeals judge.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal:
“He (Slaby) admitted that he doesn’t know much about utility operations in the state, but that he’s fascinated by the challenge and will employ the same skills he used as a judge to analyze facts in issues brought before the commission.”
The same skills? The five PUCO commissioners help regulate utilities, telephone companies, water and wastewater companies, and rail and trucking firms. With all due respect to the former judge, utility regulation is technical stuff which is why commissioners make over $119,000 a year.
If you thought Slaby was an “interesting” appointee, just wait to you hear is rumored to be in line to succeed Roberto:
State Rep. Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat. Like Slaby, her background is mainly in criminal justice. Her official bio says:
Before starting her career in the Statehouse, Rep. Williams worked in the field of criminal justice for more than a decade. She worked in several different positions, including as a corrections officer, probation officer, parole officer and mediator. Rep. Williams also served our country as a member of the United States Army Reserve from 1987 to 1995.
One more thing: She serves as ranking member of the House Public Utilities Committee.