After objections from Ohio’s consumer advocate agency about a failure to provide required public notice, regulators have scheduled a fifth public hearing in American Electric Power’s pending rate case for February 12. The case will set rates through May 2024 and will address issues ranging from subsidies for coal plants to a proposed electric program.
Although most parties in the case have agreed on a settlement, the utility failed to arrange for local newspapers to publish public notice of hearings held last April. AEP brought the issue to light in December, stating that the error was inadvertent. The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel opposed AEP’s motion, noting that Ohio law places a primary duty on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to provide that notice.
Hearing examiner Greta See acknowledged that many consumers were aware of the case and prior hearings, but she still found it “necessary to conduct another public hearing to ensure the public is notified of these proceedings and afforded an opportunity to provide testimony.”
The extra hearing might cause a slight delay before AEP can start collecting rates and riders under its plan. On the other hand, the extra hearing could remove a possible basis upon which the Ohio Supreme Court might reverse the PUCO — perhaps making things easier for the utility and settling parties in the long run.
“We are pleased that the Commission established an additional opportunity for our customers to provide feedback about the agreement we have reached with more than a dozen parties to ensure AEP Ohio customers have access to advanced services like electric vehicle charging, a more reliable, modernized grid and energy from renewable sources,” AEP spokesperson Scott Blake said.
“We are considering any next steps regarding preserving the public’s right to know about utility hearings under Ohio law,” said Dan Doron, spokesperson for the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel.
The hearing will take place at the Ohio History Center in Columbus at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 12.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to correct the name of the attorney hearing examiner at the PUCO.