Is your gas bill too high? Gov. Kasich thinks it should be even higher.

Buried in his latest budget bill is a plan to saddle homeowners and businesses with clean-up costs utilities could face for abandoned manufactured-gas plants, according to an editorial in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

Some background from the PD:

“Before natural gas became widely distributed, utilities manufactured gas. They heated coal or coke, then sold the resulting gas, initially to provide lighting….

“In a 3-2 decision last fall, now under appeal to the state Supreme Court, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio agreed to let North Carolina-based Duke Energy saddle Duke’s Ohio ratepayers with $56 million in cleanup costs for two old manufactured-gas plants in Cincinnati. One of the Cincinnati plants last produced gas in 1928. Calvin Coolidge was president. The other plant last produced gas in 1963. John F. Kennedy was alive.

“For decades, though, Ohio ratemaking has required utility property and equipment to be “used and useful” before their costs may be figured in setting rates. It now appears, at least as to the two old Cincinnati plants, that a PUCO majority is willing to overlook that requirement. Among those appealing the ruling are the Office of Consumers’ Counsel, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and the Kroger Co.”

The Consumers’ Counsel is the agency tasked with representing consumers’ interests in utility rate cases.

Kasich signaled is disdain for consumers, and love of utilities, when he used his first state budget to whack the Consumers’ Counsel funding.  The governor’s office marketed the cut as a belt-tightening move – even though the Counsel’s funding is paid by utilities, not taxpayers.

The PD’s Tom Suddes summed it up nicely:

“On phony grounds of “economy,” Republican Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget would gut the Office of Consumers’ Counsel, which defends Ohio’s 4.5 million residential utility customers against the Statehouse’s insatiable public utility lobby. “

Suddes also noted that “some of the best-connected lobbyists at the Statehouse (including Kasich confidants) lobby for utilities. “

In fact, one of those lobbyists, Don Thibaut, has admitted he was the one who suggested cutting the Consumers’ Counsel’s budget.