Gorilla to go back to Cincy


Staff & Wire Reports



FILE - In this 2016 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden,  Ndume stands in The Gorilla Foundation's preserve in California's Santa Cruz mountains.  A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled the male silverback gorilla loaned to a California group in 1991 as a possible mate for Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language, must be returned to a Cincinnati zoo. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s ruling Friday, Feb. 1, 2019,  says a 2015 agreement between the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Gorilla Foundation to return Ndume after Koko’s death must be enforced. Koko died in June at age 46.  (Ron Evans/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via AP)

FILE - In this 2016 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Ndume stands in The Gorilla Foundation's preserve in California's Santa Cruz mountains. A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled the male silverback gorilla loaned to a California group in 1991 as a possible mate for Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language, must be returned to a Cincinnati zoo. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s ruling Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, says a 2015 agreement between the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Gorilla Foundation to return Ndume after Koko’s death must be enforced. Koko died in June at age 46. (Ron Evans/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via AP)


Judge: Companion of late gorilla Koko must go back to zoo

Saturday, February 2

CINCINNATI (AP) — A male silverback gorilla loaned to a California group in 1991 as a possible mate for Koko, the gorilla who astounded the world by learning sign language, must be returned to a zoo in Cincinnati, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled Friday.

Judge Richard Seeborg’s ruling said the 2015 agreement between the Gorilla Foundation and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden to return the 37-year-old Ndume (nuh-DOO’-mee) to Ohio after Koko’s death must be enforced despite the foundation’s claims that he would be harmed by the move. Koko died in June at age 46.

Seeborg wrote there’s no legal basis to negate the agreement and that the two sides are expected to cooperate in arranging Ndume’s return to Cincinnati.

“The Cincinnati Zoo is pleased that the court is enforcing the loan agreement as it is written,” Cincinnati Zoo spokeswoman Michelle Curley said in a statement. “We look forward to working with The Gorilla Foundation to transfer Ndume to Cincinnati safely as soon as possible, so that he can once again live with other gorillas.”

Ndume has lived alone since Koko’s death. A male gorilla named Michael who lived with Ndume and Koko at the northern California sanctuary died in 2000.

Messages seeking comment were left Saturday with the Gorilla Foundation and its attorneys.

PETA, which filed an amicus brief in the case, praised the ruling and the “official court declaration that an intelligent, sensitive gorilla is not ‘ordinary chattel.’”

After Koko died, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla Species Survival Plan recommended that Ndume move back to the zoo where he was born. The Cincinnati Zoo’s lawsuit alleged the foundation violated the contract when they refused to coordinate his return.

Zoo officials claimed Ndume has lived in isolation for months to his detriment and want to integrate him into a family of gorillas. Ron Evans, the Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of primates at the Cincinnati Zoo, said being with other gorillas is an “unarguably basic need.”

The foundation said a transfer would pose unnecessary risks. Francine Patterson, an animal psychologist who cared for Koko and is co-founder of The Gorilla Foundation, wrote in a letter addressed to zoo officials in September that a move would hurt Ndume by causing undue stress and exacerbate an “ongoing suffering after the loss of Koko.”

COLUMBUS ZOO ANNOUNCES FIRST BIRTHS OF NEW YEAR

Powell, OH – The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is proud to announce the first two births of the 2019 calendar year— a dama gazelle and a silvered leaf langur. Both are considered at-risk species in their native ranges, and these births are important to helping to sustain their populations.

The female dama gazelle calf was born on January 7, 2019 to mom, Layla, and dad, Zultan, making the calf the first birth of the new year at the Columbus Zoo. The calf has not yet been named and continues to bond with her mother and her one-year-old sister, Raisin, in a behind-the-scenes area of the Heart of Africa region at the Zoo. This region is currently closed for the winter months, but is scheduled to reopen in late April or early May, weather permitting.

The breeding recommendation of the dama gazelles is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a highly-managed program designed to ensure that populations of threatened and endangered species in human care are sustainable and genetically healthy to help protect these species’ future. Dama gazelles are critically endangered (which means they face a very high risk of extinction in their native ranges) and are considered the rarest of all gazelles, so every birth is special and important to the survival of the species.

Currently, there are fewer than 300 dama gazelles left in their native range. This species’ population has been declining rapidly as their habitats in areas, including Chad, Mali and Niger, are devastated by livestock overgrazing, land development and uncontrolled hunting. The Columbus Zoo assists in efforts to save this species by providing support to the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF), which monitors the dama gazelle population and their distribution in their native range.

The dama is the largest of all gazelles, with adults weighing up to 165 pounds. Dama gazelles typically give birth to only one calf at a time, after a gestation of five and half to six months. In as little as a week after birth, calves can run as fast as the adults in the herd.

Just a few weeks after the birth of the dama gazelle calf, on January 23, the Zoo celebrated the birth of another threatened species— a silvered leaf langur. The currently unnamed baby was born to mother, Daria, and father, Thai. The sex of the baby is currently unknown but will be determined in the coming weeks.

The pairing of Daria and Thai was also based on a SSP recommendation, and the birth of the baby langur will play an important role in helping manage this at-risk species. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™, silvered leaf langurs are listed as “near threatened” due to population declines caused by habitat loss. The arrival of this langur baby at the Columbus Zoo is an important part of sustaining the langur population among AZA-accredited zoos, certified related facilities and conservation partners.

In their native ranges, silvered leaf langurs (Trachypithecus cristatus) can be found in areas, including Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The species’ populations in these countries are decreasing due to habitat loss, hunting and the pet trade.

Daria, Thai and the newest langur arrival are currently able to be viewed in the Columbus Zoo’s Asia Quest region. The baby is very active and easy to spot, as langurs are born bright orange, unlike their black and silver adult counterparts. This difference in coat color is believed to encourage other female langurs to assist in raising the young, a practice called allomothering.

“We are pleased to welcome these new babies at the Columbus Zoo as both of these births are tremendously important to the future of these at-risk species,” said Columbus Zoo president and CEO, Tom Stalf. “It’s important that we continue the conversation about conservation and sustainability, and we are proud of the multiple ways we are working to make a positive impact for wildlife and wild places.”

For updates on these new arrivals and more, be sure to follow the Zoo’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also manages The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing more than $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.

GM plant closings will hit parts suppliers far and wide

By JOHN SEEWER

Associated Press

Saturday, February 2

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The sting from a major restructuring at General Motors and its planned closings of five North American factories in the coming months is putting thousands of jobs at auto parts suppliers at stake, as well.

While GM expects nearly all its U.S. blue-collar workers whose jobs are being eliminated to have an opportunity at relocating to factories that are adding jobs, that won’t be the case for many in the supply chain who make parts, drive trucks, work in warehouses and keep GM’s plants operating.

For most of them, there is no safety net.

“There’s nowhere to transfer. They’ve got nowhere to go. They’re just out of work,” said Dave Green, a union leader near Youngstown where GM in early March plans to shut down its factory that makes the Chevrolet Cruze compact car.

GM’s labor agreements guarantee its workers transfer rights and relocation money, but that’s not true for the wide majority of suppliers, even where the workers are represented by unions.

“We’ve been lost in the shuffle,” said Brian Shina, who lost his supplier plant job when GM cut a shift at its Lordstown factory in May, months before announcing plans to close it. “We don’t have any leverage here.”

The dominoes already are starting to fall. A plant that makes seats for the Cruze and another business that does logistics and warehousing work for GM in Ohio will close in March, too. Just three years ago, those two had a combined 800 workers.

Green has compiled a list of more than 50 other businesses whose work is tied to the Ohio assembly plant. But it’s difficult to know how many could be forced to cut jobs because many do work for other auto plants and industries.

Despite varying estimates, some economists project that for every auto plant job that is lost, three or four additional positions are eliminated. Research shows that auto plants, and manufacturing in general, create more spinoff jobs than other industries.

“That’s the bigger part of this,” said Green, who plans on attending President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday at the invitation of Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, whose district includes the plant.

Trump, who has promised to revive manufacturing in the Midwest, has been highly critical of GM’s announcement, threatening that his administration was looking at cutting GM subsidies, including for electric cars. It’s an especially thorny issue for the president, who won over a surprising number of Democratic-leaning union workers during his first campaign.

There’s still a chance some of the factories targeted by GM could be revived during upcoming contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers union, which has promised to fight the closures. Those include assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.

Suppliers closest to factories that end up shutting down tend to be hit hardest because they’re usually more reliant on those plants than those farther removed with a broader customer base, said Albert J. Sumell, an economics professor at Youngstown State University.

Workers at a parts plant in Whitby, Ontario, walked off the job in January to protest GM’s decision to shutter its Canadian plant while another nearby supplier plant announced it will be forced to close.

Many of the parts that flow into the transmission plant near Baltimore come from other states, including South Carolina and Tennessee, and some are delivered from Mexico and Canada, said Guy White, a UAW shop chairman in Maryland.

“There’s all sorts of suppliers. It’s huge,” he said. “We get stuff from all over the world.”

Other jobs that are directly tied to the plant are more likely to be in jeopardy, including those who supply its machines or sort parts, White said.

Those who study the auto supply industry say it’s too early to know the full impact of GM’s transformation away from cars to focus on trucks, SUVs, and electric and autonomous vehicles.

Some suppliers expect to withstand the potential losses from GM because they have made moves to diversify their customer base in the years since the Great Recession rocked the auto industry.

Jamestown Industries, a small operation that supplies front and rear bumper covers for the Cruze, hopes its efforts to secure new business will allow its Youngstown plant to keep going.

The idea is to add work in warehousing, logistics, and packaging outside of the automotive industry, said Lawrence Long, the company’s vice president of development.

But the plant is down from three shifts to one and now is poised to lose its biggest customer. Melissa Green, who has worked there 14 years, isn’t optimistic and making plans to switch to a career in nursing.

She’ll be able to go to school for free through a state program that assists laid-off workers but still will need another job once her unemployment benefits run out.

What also worries her is what will happen to the older workers who are just shy of retirement age.

“A lot of them don’t know what they’re going to do,” she said. “Hopefully they can find something because they have to survive.”

$10M bond set for man accused of shooting Ohio deputies

By Associated Press

Monday, February 4

BATAVIA, Ohio (AP) — A man accused of luring authorities with threats of killing himself and then fatally shooting a sheriff’s deputy and wounding another deputy who tried to help him during a 12-hour standoff in Ohio had his bond set at $10 million Monday.

A shackled Wade Edward Winn, who appeared to have injuries on his face, was in Clermont County Municipal Court for his initial hearing on charges of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder in the weekend shooting in Pierce Township, roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Cincinnati.

Authorities say Detective Bill Brewer died from his wounds. The other deputy, Nick DeRose, was shot in the ankle. He was in court for Monday’s hearing along with several other members of the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office.

Prosecutors said in court Monday that Winn had faked killing himself and the two deputies were shot through a wall when they tried to enter the apartment to assist him. Prosecutors also said that they will seek the death penalty.

“Deputy Brewer gave his life attempting to help a person who was admittedly suicidal,” Sheriff Steve Leahy said in a press release Sunday. “This will forever change the atmosphere of the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office.”

Messages seeking comment were left Monday for Winn’s attorney, Jay Clark. Messages seeking additional comment also were left for county prosecutors.

Authorities have said that officers responded about 7 p.m. Saturday to the Royal Oaks Apartments following a 911 call from a man who said he believed someone was inside his residence. The caller then said that he was armed and eventually told the dispatcher he was suicidal, according to a release from the sheriff’s office.

David O’Neil, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, has confirmed that the caller was determined to be Winn.

Police agencies came under a “barrage” of gunfire from Winn before he was taken into custody early Sunday morning, according to the sheriff’s office.

Ohio State offers counseling to alumni alleging abuse by doc

By KANTELE FRANKO

Associated Press

Friday, February 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State is offering to help provide free counseling services through outside providers for the 150-plus alumni who say they experienced sexual misconduct by a university team doctor decades ago.

Praesidium, a company that has experience in responding to incidents of sexual abuse, will help alumni access counseling that is needed because of the conduct of the late Dr. Richard Strauss, and no contact with the university is required, according to a letter the university said was sent Friday to over 115,000 alumni from Strauss’ era. Those who already pursued such counseling because of encounters with Strauss can seek further resources through Praesidium, the letter from President Michael Drake said.

Dozens of plaintiffs in two related lawsuits allege Ohio State ignored or failed to stop sexual misconduct by the late Dr. Richard Strauss. Attorneys for those men said the offer of counseling is a positive step but decades late.

“These guys had to live the last few decades with the harm that was done by Strauss,” said Stephen Estey, one of the lawyers handling a class-action complaint against OSU.

Scott Elliot Smith, an attorney in the other lawsuit, called it “disingenuous” that Ohio State “is just now acknowledging the impact and long term effect of the trauma its indifference has caused to so many men.”

He also questioned the timing, noting that OSU offered counseling after a federal judge pointed the cases toward mediation .

The university said in a statement that its guiding principle since a survivor first came forward last spring has been “to lift up and support our community while we pursue the truth,” and that as the law firm investigating the allegations for OSU nears the end of that work, Ohio State felt it was important to offer counseling services.

Strauss’ accusers say they were unnecessarily groped during exams or experienced other sexual misconduct by the physician between 1979 and 1997, nearly his whole tenure at the school. The allegations involve male athletes from at least 16 sports, plus Strauss’ off-campus medical office and work at the student health center.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is reviewing whether OSU responded appropriately to concerns about Strauss.

Meanwhile, the school and the plaintiffs in the lawsuits are at odds over who might guide the process toward potential settlement.

The plaintiffs recommended mediation teams led by former federal judge Layn Phillips, who mediated recent sexual misconduct cases involving Michigan State University and the University of Southern California, or Kenneth Feinberg, who worked on Penn State cases and mediating sexual abuse claims involving the Catholic church .

But Ohio State said in a court filing Thursday that it won’t agree to those mediators because the handling of the Michigan State and Penn State matters led to controversy. The university instead recommended former federal Judge James Holderman or Paul Calico, the chief mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, saying both have expertise in mediation.

Strauss killed himself in 2005. Although his family expressed shock, no one has publicly defended him since the allegations were raised last spring.

Employment records released by the university reflect no major concerns about Strauss, but alumni have said they complained about him as far back as the late 1970s. Ohio State has at least one documented complaint from 1995.

Some Strauss accusers have questioned the independence of that investigation. Ohio State says it’s committed to uncovering the truth and will publicly share the findings.

The State Medical Board said it never disciplined Strauss, but it has acknowledged having confidential records about the investigation of a complaint involving him. It won’t disclose details.

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Popp wins Farm Bureau Discussion Meet

COLUMBUS, Ohio (OFBF) – Victoria Popp of Cincinnati is the winner of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Ag Professionals Discussion Meet competition. She won the contest final round held Feb. 1 during the YAP Winter Leadership Experience in Columbus.

The Discussion Meet tests participants’ subject knowledge, problem solving abilities and personal and small group communications skills. It’s designed for young ag professionals to work together find solutions around issues facing agriculture today.

Popp is a Clermont County Farm Bureau member, is a current participant in Farm Bureau’s AgriPOWER Class X leadership development program and is active in Young Ag Professionals. She manages the young, small and beginning farmer program for Farm Credit Mid-America.

She receives a $1,000 cash award from Nationwide Insurance, an expense-paid trip to OFBF Annual Meeting in December 2019 and an expense-paid trip to represent Ohio at the national competition during the American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Austin, Texas, in January 2020.

The three other Discussion Meet finalists were Andrew “Dewey” Mann of Ashville, Jeremy Trester of Bethel and Michaela Wright of Arcanum.

The Young Ag Professionals program provides leadership development and professional growth opportunities for Farm Bureau members who are age 18-35. The program hosts the Winter Leadership Conference, a Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience and conducts the Outstanding Young Farmer, Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet contests. Learn more about the program at experienceyap.com.

Ohio Farm Bureau’s mission is working together for Ohio Farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.

Ohio EMA Now Accepting Safe Room Applications

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program is once again accepting applications. The program provides a rebate for the purchase and construction/installation of tornado safe rooms for Ohio homeowners selected for the program.

“The entire state of Ohio is at risk of an EF5 tornado, which produces 250 mile per hour winds capable of destroying most structures,” said Steve Ferryman, Ohio EMA mitigation branch chief. “A safe room is built to withstand these winds and resulting airborne debris and provides near absolute protection for occupants.”

A safe room is an extreme-wind shelter or space that provides protection to people during a tornado. It can be constructed/installed in one of several places in the home: in the basement, beneath a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor, or in an interior room on the first floor. A safe room may also be buried in the yard or be a stand-alone structure near your home.

Residents selected for the program could be eligible for a rebate up to 75 percent of the cost to install or construct a safe room – up to a maximum of $4,875. To apply for the Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program, homeowners have until 5 p.m. April 1st to register on the Ohio EMA website:

https://ema.ohio.gov/ema_saferoom/saferoom-concept.aspx

The Ohio Safe Room Rebate Program will use a computerized random selection process to select applicants. A priority list of applicants will be created from the selected applicants. Chosen homeowners will be notified by e-mail of their position on the priority list on or after April 5th. Ohio EMA anticipates grant funding will become available this year and having a list of participants who meet program requirements will expedite the rebate process.

Funding for the rebate program is through a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grant programs. Safe rooms must meet FEMA requirements in FEMA publications 320 and 361, and cannot be constructed/installed prior to the rebate drawing and notification from Ohio EMA to proceed with construction. Ohio EMA plans to offer this rebate program on an annual basis. When and if HMA funding becomes available, the amount of funding will determine the number of rebates.

If, after visiting the Ohio EMA website, interested people have questions, they should call Dan Clevidence at 614.799.3533.

Light Opera Returns to the Southern with The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players in THE MIKADO

March 9 & 10

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ all-new, critically acclaimed production of The Mikado sets the real-life characters of Victorian London’s D’Oyly Carte Opera Company within the imagined Japanese town of Titipu. Audiences will meet Messrs. Gilbert, Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte themselves, and join them on a fantastic voyage to a land where the timeless libretto, beautiful music, and a fantastical cast of characters await. There are the three little maids from school, a wandering minstrel, a hilariously corrupt public official, and a Lord High Executioner with a list of offenders deserving of his services, including himself—for flirting!

CAPA presents The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players in The Mikado at the Southern Theatre (21 E. Main St.) on Saturday, March 9, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, March 10, at 2 pm. Tickets are $40-$70 and can be purchased in-person at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), online at www.capa.com, or by phone at (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000.

About The Mikado

The Mikado was first performed in 1885 at the Savoy Theatre in London, and its initial engagement ran longer than any other Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Since then, it has been filmed twice and performed in every possible style. NYGASP’s production plays to the more traditional mold, combining a modern playfulness with a respect for the creators’ original intent. Gilbert’s wit and barbs aimed at the foibles of human nature receive full attention.

About the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players

Now in its fourth decade, NYGASP is America’s preeminent professional Gilbert and Sullivan repertory ensemble. Under the dynamic leadership of Artistic Director Albert Bergeret, NYGASP has created its own special niche in the cultural mosaic of New York City and the nation. Since its founding in 1974, the company has presented more than 2,000 performances of G&S masterpieces throughout the eastern US and Canada, captivating audiences of all ages. www.nygasp.org

www.capa.com

CALENDAR LISTING

CAPA presents The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players in THE MIKADO

Saturday, March 9, 7:30 pm

Sunday, March 10, 2 pm

Southern Theatre (21 E. Main St.)

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players’ all-new, critically acclaimed production of The Mikado sets the real-life characters of Victorian London’s D’Oyly Carte Opera Company within the imagined Japanese town of Titipu. Audiences will meet Messrs. Gilbert, Sullivan, and D’Oyly Carte themselves, and join them on a fantastic voyage to a land where the timeless libretto, beautiful music, and a fantastical cast of characters await. Tickets are $40-$70 and can be purchased in-person at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), online at www.capa.com, or by phone at (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. www.capa.com

The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this program with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, education excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. CAPA also appreciates the generous support of the Barbara B. Coons and Robert Bartels Funds of The Columbus Foundation and the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

About CAPA

Owner/operator of downtown Columbus’ magnificent historic theatres (Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre, Southern Theatre) and manager of the Riffe Center Theatre Complex, Lincoln Theatre, Drexel Theatre, Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (New Albany, OH), and the Shubert Theater (New Haven, CT), CAPA is a non-profit, award-winning presenter of national and international performing arts and entertainment. For more information, visit www.capa.com.

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.

FILE – In this 2016 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Ndume stands in The Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled the male silverback gorilla loaned to a California group in 1991 as a possible mate for Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language, must be returned to a Cincinnati zoo. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s ruling Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, says a 2015 agreement between the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Gorilla Foundation to return Ndume after Koko’s death must be enforced. Koko died in June at age 46. (Ron Evans/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122255622-26ba5a47e13f4724b82d3698d52764c1.jpgFILE – In this 2016 photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Ndume stands in The Gorilla Foundation’s preserve in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled the male silverback gorilla loaned to a California group in 1991 as a possible mate for Koko, the gorilla who learned sign language, must be returned to a Cincinnati zoo. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s ruling Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, says a 2015 agreement between the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Gorilla Foundation to return Ndume after Koko’s death must be enforced. Koko died in June at age 46. (Ron Evans/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports