Statement from PUCO Chairman Asim Haque
COLUMBUS, OHIO (Feb. 4, 2019) – The following statement can be attributed to Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Asim Z. Haque:
Today, I submitted a letter to Governor DeWine, resigning my post as Chairman/Commissioner at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), effective March 1, 2019. I would not be doing this experience, nor my feelings about public service to this state any justice by expressing the common refrain of being “honored” to have served. It is of course true that I am deeply honored to have served. I think, however, it is more revealing, more personal for me to say that this experience has been an absolute dream.
I never expected that such an opportunity would ever come my way. I am a political independent, for which I joke means that I am a political nobody/nothing. I am a first generation American born son of (very brilliant professional) parents of Indian descent. I was born in Ohio, and I’ve never resided anywhere else. I’ve lived in Columbus, Cleveland, Springfield and Dayton. My mood is swung by the score of the Buckeye game, and the Cavs gave me the greatest sports moment of my life a few years ago. I love Ohio, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that, in my early thirties, I’d be given an opportunity to serve in this capacity.
I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here at the PUCO. Ohioans may not realize it, but from an energy/utility perspective, the rest of the country looks to us for leadership. I first realized this when, as PUCO Vice-Chairman, I led the agency’s efforts in analyzing and attempting to chart a path for Ohio’s compliance with the USEPA’s Clean Power Plan. The entire country was interested in our position and our public statements. There was no shortage of attention provided to the state when I took over as PUCO Chairman in 2016, either.
My first major task as Chairman was resolving extremely contentious coal/nuclear power plant cases. In hindsight, these cases will prove to be some of the most important cases in the history of state energy/utility regulation. After this, we started to peel away at our hefty case backlog, tackling major issues along the way through the decisions we were making. The list of cases, likely numbering in the hundreds, is very, very long. They included:
- Electric Security Plans Through the Mid 2020s: Customer electric bills are largely comprised of charges that are approved via electric security plan cases. These are highly contentious cases with dozens of parties that can take months, if not years to resolve. Our Commission successfully navigated the approval of electric security plan cases in all four of the state’s distribution service territories, and these cases/plans will be in place through the mid 2020s. This creates a very stable environment for customer bills and economic development in the state.
- Corporate Tax Reductions Reflected in Bills: When the federal government reduced the federal corporate income tax rate in 2018, the savings realized by our utilities should have been reflected in customer bills. Some of our utilities, however, were hesitant to return this money. Our Commission was adamant that every dollar be returned to Ohioans, and we have secured commitments from our four electric utilities and provided guidance to our other regulated utilities to ensure the return of hundreds of millions of dollars to Ohioans.
- Submetering Price-Gouging Prevention: We acted within our jurisdictional bounds to prevent the price-gouging of submetered residential customers.
- Distressed Utility Intervention: We intervened with two very distressed utilities - Ohio Rural Natural Gas and Youngstown Thermal - to ensure safe, cost-effective continuity of service for their customers. We initiated the transfer of pipeline assets for the Ohio Rural Natural Gas utility, and we placed Youngstown Thermal in receivership so that it could be managed more effectively by an independent third party. As we are economic regulators, much of what we do surrounds the approval of rates. Here, we went above and beyond those duties with “boots on the ground,” working with these local communities and their customers to ensure continuity of service.
- Data Center Tariff Development: We worked to design suitable tariffs for these large users, which very well could represent a new chapter of economic development in the state.
- PUCO/Ohio Power Siting Board Rules Compliance: We worked to ensure that the bulk of our administrative rules were brought into review compliance, tackling major policy matters along the way associated with net metering, renewables/energy efficiency, wind siting/safety, and a host of other matters.
- PowerForward (Grid Modernization): We launched a multi-year initiative, PowerForward, to try and tie the concept of innovation to an enhanced customer electricity experience. Unbeknownst to us, this initiative would garner national attention and our final product, PowerForward: A Roadmap to Ohio’s Electricity Future, would be met with great praise. This Roadmap provides baseline guidance to our utilities and stakeholders about the future grid, and the Roadmap can be followed to truly try and create an environment where innovation will completely change how Ohioans experience power delivery going forward.
There is so much more than this. Our Commission collectively put its head down and worked tirelessly to get the PUCO to where it is today. We are on-track with our work, have an eye towards the future, and we have made the agency a place of true independent thought, mindful that each day in service of Ohioans is a privilege. I am forever grateful to my fellow Commissioners and the Staff of the PUCO for their hard work and for being partners with me in this venture. I am also thankful to our utility community for working collaboratively to piece Ohio back together after some challenging years.
Thanks are due of course to Governor John R. Kasich and his team for providing me with the opportunity to serve, and my sincere best wishes to Governor Mike DeWine and his team going forward.
As for what’s next for me, I have accepted a job with PJM Interconnection in suburban Philadelphia. It is the regional transmission organization and wholesale market operator for thirteen states (including Ohio) and the District of Columbia. Its mission is similar to that of the PUCO’s, as PJM is tasked with providing reliable power at least cost to a large footprint in this country. I am excited to lead their state team, try my hand at persuasion in Washington D.C., and continue to have a platform in the national energy policy discussion.
Again, this has been an absolute dream. I will miss all of my friends and colleagues, and I thank the people and businesses of the state of Ohio for letting me serve you over these past six years. My heart will always be here with all of you.
Very truly yours,
Asim Z. Haque
Chairman, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is the sole agency charged with regulating public utility service. The role of the PUCO is to assure all residential, business and industrial consumers have access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices. Consumers with utility-related questions or concerns can call the PUCO Call Center at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) and speak with a representative.
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