Among the rulings handed down by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1984, the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) earned legal victories for residential utility customers. The OCC’s advocacy helped get more than $20 million refunded to customers of Cincinnati Bell Telephone Co. and Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Co.
A rate increase granted in 1983 by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that allowed Cincinnati Bell to increase its rates by 19.6 percent had the OCC looking to re-examine the ruling. The OCC won issues on rehearing at the PUCO related to depreciation, customer premise equipment, bill itemization and exchange network facilities for interstate access This reduced the initial rate increase by more than half from $22.5 million to $10.6 million.
When Cincinnati Bell appealed the case to the Ohio Supreme Court, the rate reduction was put on hold pending a decision. The court decided in 1984 to uphold the PUCO ruling and reversed another issue resulting in further rate reductions for customers.
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In 1984, the Ohio Supreme Court also ordered Columbus & Southern Ohio Electric Co. (now known as Columbus Southern Power) to return $11.85 million, plus interest, to its customers for construction costs related to the Zimmer nuclear power plant.
The PUCO initially allowed Columbus & Southern to collect construction costs while work was in progress but the OCC asked the PUCO to reconsider after a shutdown of safety-related construction was ordered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1982. The Commission agreed with the OCC that the company could not collect the construction costs as a result of the shutdown.
Columbus & Southern appealed the PUCO decision with the Ohio Supreme Court and was allowed to continue collecting construction costs pending the court’s final ruling. The OCC intervened in the Supreme Court case on behalf of residential customers to secure the refunds the PUCO had already granted when agreeing with the OCC’s request for reconsideration.
The Supreme Court agreed with the PUCO ruling that increasing construction delays at the power plant were a cause for concern and customers should be refunded the construction costs paid between March and December 1983.
Immediately after this Supreme Court ruling, the OCC asked the PUCO to also order the refund of Zimmer construction costs for the period November 1982 through March 1983, which the PUCO had previously allowed to be collected. The PUCO ordered Columbus & Southern to refund to customers $4.5 million, plus interest, for these construction costs. The advocacy of the OCC resulted in direct savings totaling $50.5 million in these cases.
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