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Will Ohio Utility Tax Savings Trickle Down To Customers?

Sammis Power Plant First Energy

Corporations are seeing big savings as the effects of the large federal tax cut take place. Now state energy regulators want to see if Ohio’s major utilities are going to pass those savings on to the ratepayers. It’s unknown whether the corporation tax cuts will result in lower electric bills.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has opened up hearings to find out if utilities should decrease electric bills based on the money they’re getting from the big corporate tax cut. PUCO ordered the utilities to begin tracking how much they're over-collecting under the old 35-percent federal tax rate, rather than using the new 21-percent tax rate.

PUCO chair Asim Haque won’t say what he thinks should be done, but he notes there was a similar tax cut in 1986.

“The commission dealt with it and we are actually following a similar rubric through the issuance of requests for comments. We are dealing with it in a similar fashion that we did in the '80s," Haque says.

The four major utilities - American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy and FirstEnergy - were all hesitant to jump into reduced distribution rates in their PUCO findings. They pushed back against the order in an unusual joint filing on February 9, arguing that PUCO's order lacks specifics, potentially violates a rule against retroactive utility refunds and falls outside the normal rate-making process.

FirstEnergy was the most vocal, saying their base distribution rates must stay frozen until their next rate case in 2024.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.