The Ohio Farmers Union is urging members to take action this week and contact members of the Ohio General Assembly regarding funding cuts for the Office of the Ohio Consumers Counsel (OCC).
Established in 1976, the OCC was formed to represent residential customer interests in matters regarding their public utility services including, water, natural gas, electric and telephone services.
The OCC serves as the residential consumers’ lawyer in rate cases and other actions which come before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. When the large utility corporations propose rate changes for instance, the OCC is the statutorily authorized representative of homeowners and family farmers before the PUCO. OCC also provides educational and policy services and operates a residential utility customer call center serving as a problem solver and go-between for citizen consumers and the utility companies.
According to a recent op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch by OCC leader Janine Migden-Ostrander, the OCC has established a solid track record of representing the public’s interest:
During the current budget period, the Consumers’ Counsel, through its direct efforts, has saved customers $54.8 million in potential rate increases. Through its collaboration with other stakeholders, including advocacy organizations for business, senior citizens, low-income residents and others, the Consumers’ Counsel has produced shared savings of $1.9 billion. Often, we have participated in negotiated agreements that have provided benefits that helped keep people connected to their electric or natural-gas service or produced energy-efficiency programs aimed at lowering their utility costs.
Further, when we succeed in reducing rate increases, the benefits flow not only to residential customers but to business and industrial customers, as well. For example, if we negotiate a revenue savings of $10 million in an electric-rate case, 60 percent of those savings go to businesses, small and large. Our work helps to keep energy costs down for all utility customers and, therefore, contributes to job retention and economic development.
So, what’s the problem?