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PUCO orders utilities to cut rates after tax cut

The Ohio body regulating utilities is directing those utilities to lower rates in light of last year’s federal corporate income tax cut — a process several utilities have already started.

“The PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) warned of penalties for utilities that fail to initiate the process for rate reductions,” an Ohio Consumers’ Counsel spokesman said in an email on the order.

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“Today the PUCO chairman announced that utilities must give Ohioans back ‘every dime’ the utilities over-collected for federal taxes,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston said in a statement. “I applaud this tough stance for consumer protection. And I appreciate the few utilities that have reached out to (the Office of Consumers’ Counsel) to settle-up for the benefit of their customers. We’ve been advocating that all utilities should reduce customers’ monthly bills to match the utilities’ reduced taxes.”

  

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A spokesman for the counsel’s office said Dayton Power & Light already took into account new federal taxes in that company’s recently approved distribution rates.

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In addition, the PUCO order says FirstEnergy, American Electric Power Ohio, Duke, Vectren and other Ohio utilities “have already begun voluntarily adjusting or have committed to adjusting in the future their applicable rider tariffs.”

A PUCO spokesman confirmed that several utilities are already on the path to rate reduction.

Earlier this year, Ohio utilities questioned a PUCO order calling for an exploration of whether the utilities should lower rates after the tax cut passed in late 2017.

One objection the utilities — DP&L, FirstEnergy, American Electric Power and Duke Energy — had at the time was that lowering rates then would amount to “retroactive rate-making.”

A spokesman for Duke Energy said the company has already worked through regulatory proceedings “to ensure that our customers receive benefits from the new law.”

 “We voluntarily began passing along a significant portion of the tax act savings to our electric and natural gas customers across southwest Ohio earlier this year,” Duke Energy spokesman Lee Freeman said in an email. “Our Ohio electric customers are now receiving more than $26 million on an annual basis.”

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