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PUCO Looking Into FirstEnergy Stadium Naming Rights Deal

 FirstEnergy Stadium
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
FirstEnergy Stadium

Some Ohio lawmakers are calling for an investigation into FirstEnergy Stadium, the home of the Cleveland Browns. House Democrats want to know if the utility company is breaking any rules with their naming rights agreement for the stadium.

FirstEnergy has been in the middle of a scandal, admitting to bribing public officials to get a nuclear power plant bailout.

Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) sent a letter to Jennifer French, chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, asking that the PUCO investigate "if any ratepayer dollars were used for the ongoing promotional expense of renaming Cleveland Browns Stadium."

Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) said if the stadium naming rights deal isn't illegal, it's at least inappropriate.

"Why would a company that's going into bankruptcy spend $6 million a year to keep their name on a stadium and at the same time they're turning around asking taxpayers for additional funds to operate their company," he said.

Promotional advertising is not allowed to be part of utility rates.

Matt Schilling, PUCO public affairs director, said "I do expect the PUCO to initiate efforts consistent with Rep. Smith's request."

Jennifer Young, FirstEnergy spokesperson responded with a written statement which said, "Naming rights costs for the Browns stadium are incurred by the parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., and none of the costs are allocated to or incurred by any of our regulated utilities."

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.