For the next month, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is fielding applications for two open positions on the five-person board.
Commissioner Lynn Slaby – a former Summit County Prosecutor – will end his term in April, and Columbus lawyer Howard Petricoff resigned – effective December 31-- after a senate nominating committee declined to recommend him for the post.
Steve Brooks, a political scientist at the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute, says all of that could impact the PUCO’s decision-making abilities.
“If they are dealing with the issues – which tend to be the most important ones, that are highly contentious – my sense is things will stay pretty much the same. And so we have this feeling of gridlock, but also no movement or decisions on important issues.”
One of those could include the proposed re-regulation of utilities such as Akron-based FirstEnergy.
Senate President Keith Faber cited potential conflicts of interest when rejecting Petricoff, who has spent time advocating for different energy groups in the past. Faber said the rejection was not politically motivated.
But the Bliss Institute's Steve Brooks says it could be a mix of both of those reasons.
“In a situation like this, is there are other factors involved, such as concern about a conflict of interest, it makes it easier for the senators to say ‘well, we are not interested.’ If the real issue is a political one, it is convenient for the senate to have some of these things swirling around him.”
The PUCO is a five-person board which regulates investor-owned utilities in the state. Commissioner applications will be accepted until January 12.