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'What Else Don't We Know?' Consumer Group Wants Deeper Audit Of FirstEnergy

Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau

The PUCO discovered $24.5 million was collected from ratepayers and other entities, and used for payments that were deemed "improperly classified, misallocated, or lacked documentation."

According to an audit for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, FirstEnergy should refund ratepayers millions of dollars. This is money collected through customers over the course of 10 years. Now consumer advocates want a deeper investigation.

The audit found payments from FirstEnergy to vendors connected to the nuclear bailout bribery scandal, including Generation Now which pleaded guilty in that case.

But the report only looked into 17 payments specifically flagged by FirstEnergy.

Rachael Belz with Ohio Citizen Action, an environmental and consumer organization, says there's more to discover.

"You have to wonder, what else don't we know? And it just seems like this scheme, all around, all the way, top-to-bottom, you know Householder, HB6, Sam Randazzo, PUCO, FirstEnergy, the whole thing it's overwhelming," Belz says.

The audit by a third-party discovered $6.6 million was collected from ratepayers and paid to vendors with connections to Tony George, a Cleveland businessman. While other payments were made to Generation Now, and two entities connected to former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo.

FirstEnergy says it paid Randazzo a bribe of $4.3 million in exchange for help with its billion dollar nuclear power plant bailout, which came in the form of HB6 in 2019. Randazzo, who resigned as PUCO chair in November 2020, has not been charged with a crime.

In a February SEC filing, FirstEnergy said these payments were "improperly classified, misallocated, or lacked documentation." But the audit says there's no further explanation into how that's the case.

FirstEnergy has said it's committed to working with the PUCO to address the issue and refund customers.

A PUCO administrative law judge is expected to determine the next step in response to the audit.

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