When the Ohio legislature passed a bill that created the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) in 1976, it next needed an attorney experienced in utility regulation to be the chief advocate for Ohio consumers. A nine-member board representing residential customers, organized labor and family farmers, that would empower the Consumers’ Counsel to act in the best interests of utility consumers, had the task of selecting the state’s first consumer champion. After considering more than 60 candidates from around the country, the OCC Governing Board chose Bill Spratley on Feb. 23, 1977 as Ohio’s first Consumers’ Counsel.
Spratley served as Consumers’ Counsel for the next 17 years. Under his leadership, the OCC was involved in more than 1,200 legal battles against utilities that set many precedents that are still referred to today.
By giving consumers a voice in the utility world, Spratley and the OCC were able to gain many benefits in the early years of advocacy. Among them was a 1985 settlement with Columbia Gas Transmission which led to savings of $600 million for Ohio natural gas consumers. Another was a case which resulted in refunds of $568 million for Northeast Ohio residents because of utility mismanagement and cost overruns at the Perry nuclear power plant.
From the start, the first consumers’ watchdog held the utility companies to a standard of accountability that residents still experience 30 years after the creation of the state residential utility consumer advocate.
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