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Audit: FirstEnergy didn’t track spending of customer charges

January 14, 2022 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — FirstEnergy Corp. collected nearly $460 million from its customers to pay for modernizing its electric grid, but an outside audit ordered by state regulators could not determine how the money was spent, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio said Friday.

The audit found FirstEnergy put the money into a general fund and did not track how it was used, according to the report. It also found no evidence that the charges to customers went toward grid upgrades.

The Akron-based company said it disagreed with much of the audit.

FirstEnergy customers were charged between 2017 and 2019 to pay for distribution system upgrades. The Ohio Supreme Court blocked the charges in 2019 because the state’s utilities commission did not require the company to ensure the money would go toward the grid.

The commission ordered the audit after former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates were charged in 2020 with using $60 million from FirstEnergy in a alleged an bribery scheme to secure a nuclear plant bailout.

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said in a statement that the company followed the rules set by the utilities commission and that the audit did not reflect how the process worked.