FERC allows industrial group to drop complaint about AEP transmission charges

FERC on Jan. 28 said an industrial customer group in Ohio can withdraw its complaint against American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) Ohio utility (AEP-Ohio) about transmission charges, despite the request by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) that the industrial group continue to pursue the complaint.

In its Nov. 6, 2015, complaint, the Industrial Energy Users-Ohio (IEU-Ohio) claimed that AEP-Ohio was unlawfully charging customers for transmission service and hindering Ohio’s retail choice market.

As TransmissionHub reported, IEU-Ohio asked FERC to order the utility to refund amounts AEP-Ohio has collected since June 1, when it began collecting for PJM Interconnection (PJM) transmission services under a basic transmission cost recovery rider approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The rider is in violation of the PJM tariff and results in double-billing of transmission service for customers in Ohio’s competitive retail market who sign power supply contracts with retail suppliers at a fixed price that includes the cost of transmission service or who arrange for transmission service through PJM on their own, IEU-Ohio said in the complaint (Docket No. EL16-10).

Subsequently, IEU-Ohio in December filed a notice of intent to withdraw its complaint, citing changed circumstances that did not warrant proceeding with the complaint. IEU-Ohio asked FERC to allow it to withdraw the complaint without prejudice, leaving the door open for a new complaint if the group deemed it necessary.

A complicating factor was the Jan. 6 request by the OCC, the residential consumer advocate in the state, which said IEU-Ohio should not be allowed to withdraw its complaint because the industrial group failed to show that its claims were satisfied. OCC also asserted that residential customers would be harmed by paying for the transmission charges in question, and that FERC should provide relief to customers other than members of IEU-Ohio.

IEU-Ohio responded that the OCC request is not a legitimate basis for denying its motion to dismiss the complaint, especially since residential customers are not billed for the same type of service that was the subject of the complaint and no other party objected to withdrawing the complaint.

IEU-Ohio also said that it does not have to show that its claims were satisfied in order to withdraw the complaint.

“We will not compel IEU-Ohio, the complainant, to pursue a complaint it no longer wishes to pursue,” FERC said in the Jan. 28 order.

The industrial group explained that, due to changed circumstances, a FERC ruling on the complaint is not needed at this time, and that is sufficient reasoning, FERC said.

“While the OCC opposes dismissal, we note the OCC is free to file its own complaint regarding the issues raised in IEU-Ohio’s complaint if the OCC wishes to prosecute such a complaint,” FERC added.

The commission dismissed the complaint without prejudice, as requested by IEU-Ohio, and terminated the proceeding.