Ohio Bribery Scandal Raises Questions About Clean Energy Availability In State

In Ohio, clean energy advocates say it's long been hard to get wind and solar projects approved. Now there are new questions about that after a bribery scandal linked to a controversial energy law.

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A new campaign aims to oust Ohio's top utilities regulator

Who is Sam Randazzo and how is he tied to FirstEnergy?

COLUMBUS -- "Sam Randazzo, the powerful chairman of the state commission that oversees utility regulation and rate-setting, is the target of a new campaign tying him to FirstEnergy through his previous work as a lobbyist and attorney.

The Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, which describes itself as an advocacy group pushing for more renewables that it believes will ultimately lower electricity rates, is making a case for Randazzo’s removal through a new website: https://SamRandazzo.com/.

...The Ohio Consumers Power Alliance argues that Randazzo holds the same views with the PUCO that he held in his previous career, lobbying and as an attorney for the Industrial Energy Users -- Ohio, a group representing some of the state’s largest industries, when he fought renewable standards. For years, he was out front in the opposition to the renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.

'It’s really obvious during the time that he’s been the chair that he’s not doing what he said he would do a year ago (at his confirmation hearing,) which was to represent Ohio and Ohioans,” said Rachel Belz, director of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, which is a project of the left-leaning grassroots Ohio Citizen Action. 'Instead, they’ve been picking winners and losers.'

Randazzo, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the effort to remove him."

-- Laura Hancock, cleveland.com

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Bribery and blackouts: Inside an Ohio utility's troubled past

 Erosion is visible in the 6-inch-thick carbon steel reactor head at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in this 2002 photo from a Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation.AKRON -- "For the third time in the past two decades, Ohio-based power company FirstEnergy Corp. faces official accusations of grave violations of the public trust.

Last month, the Justice Department implicated the company in funding what became a covert, $61 million lobbying and money-laundering conspiracy to win a state bailout of its money-losing nuclear plants in Ohio, according to a criminal indictment (Energywire, July 22). Ohio lawmaker Larry Householder (R) was ousted as House speaker late last month over his suspected role in the alleged "dark money" scheme paid for by FirstEnergy.

The allegations are again raising questions about FirstEnergy's ethical standards that recall the darkest chapters of the $16 billion company's history."

-- Peter Behr, E & E News

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Ohio Consumers Power Alliance launches campaign to demand the resignation of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair Sam Randazzo

Columbus – Today, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance launched a campaign encouraging Ohioans to speak out against the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chair Sam Randazzo and demand Gov. Mike DeWine remove him from the PUCO. Sam Randazzo has deep connections to FirstEnergy.  

Ohioans will be able to contact Governor Mike DeWine directly through a website to express their support of removing Randazzo.

In the past year, Randazzo has issued several decisions to hamstring the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in favor of polluting energy sources that are bad for our economy, climate and health

His recent vote has possibly dealt a fatal blow to the Icebreaker Wind project in Cleveland. This project would have been the first freshwater turbine farm in the United States. The project would inject $253 million into the local economy and create more than 500 jobs. 

“At a time when Ohio’s economy is already suffering and local governments need funding sources and jobs, Randazzo prioritized his own agenda over what's best for Ohioans,” said Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance.

Randazzo is not new to Ohio’s energy scene. Until his appointment by Governor Mike DeWine, Randazzo was an anti-clean energy lobbyist and lawyer fighting to destroy renewable energy development in Ohio. 

“When Randazzo was appointed by Governor Mike DeWine in 2019, we released a statement expressing our concerns,” said Belz. “We warned of his bias against renewable energy and his history in fighting wind development. We had hoped maybe something would change, but that clearly has not been the case. Randazzo is hurting Ohio’s economy, jobs and future. His continued bias will put Ohio further behind. While our neighboring states embrace renewable energy, he continues to close the door on development here at home. We can’t stand back and allow this to continue, especially now.”    

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance is a non-partisan, statewide consumer advocacy alliance focused on keeping rates low by diversifying Ohio’s energy portfolio.  


HB6: ‘The worst energy bill of the 21st century’ has to go

Greg Smith is the founder and President of Energy Optimizers U.S.A. and a member of the national, nonpartisan business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs).TIPP CITY -- "Lawmakers who supported HB6 claimed the bill would create jobs by doubling down on a dying industry and cutting off support to a growing one.

...HB6 pulled the rug out from under Ohio’s thousands of clean energy workers.

...Ohio lawmakers: If we’re serious about creating jobs and building a better future for Ohio, clean energy is the place to start. We need forward-thinking clean energy policies that will save Ohioans money, create jobs while also protecting our environment.

It’s time to repeal HB6 and replace it with policies that will build our state’s economy for the long-haul, support the clean energy industry, and provide the needed market certainty for new businesses to set up shop and grow here in Ohio."

-- Greg Smith, President of Energy Optimizers U.S.A., commentary, Tipp News Daily

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Ohio Energy Scandal “Vindicates” Renewables Advoactes

The Lobbyist Who Became Ohio’s Top Utility Regulator 

PITTSBURGH, PA -- "Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the left-leaning Energy and Policy Institute, points out that Sam Randazzo, chairman the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and of the Ohio Power Siting Board, has had his hand in all of this. 

'He is known as a fairly strong anti-wind zealot,' Anderson said.

Randazzo has been a well-known lobbyist for industrial energy users, gas utilities, and anti-wind groups. He also helped draft earlier legislation to freeze Ohio’s renewable energy mandates. According to Anderson, Randazzo’s appointment last year as the state’s top utility regulator is indicative of Ohio’s energy policy.   

'I think it’s all part of a bigger picture of opposition to renewable energy,' he said. 'And House Bill 6 was the ultimate get for opponents of renewables in Ohio.'

Randazzo declined repeated requests to comment for this story. A spokesman for the Ohio Power Siting Board said since the Icebreaker Wind decision is under appeal, the Chairman cannot speak on these issues."

--Julie Grant, The Allegheny Front

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After the pipeline's death, will Duke switch from gas to renewables?

The Duke Energy Accountability Coalition, of which Ohio Citizen Action is a member, is closely monitoring Duke’s schemes to suppress renewable energy options in its six-state service area (includes parts of southern Ohio), Duke’s deplorable environmental record as one of the nation’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases and producers of toxic coal ash, and its history of ignoring affordability issues for low-income customers.

By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4565752

"Next week, reporters, investors and industry analysts can ask the nation’s largest investor-owned electric utility for answers.

On Monday, Aug. 10, Duke will release its second-quarter financial results in a conference call with investors and analysts. Journalists are barred but can direct questions to Duke’s PR staff in Charlotte, N.C.

Grant Smith, senior energy policy advisor at EWG, said Duke must answer 'the $8 billion questions':

  • Will you follow Dominion and other forward-looking utilities in turning away from additional financially foolish and environmentally harmful gas capacity and invest in clean, safe, efficient renewables and storage batteries?
  • Do you see Duke’s plans to spend billions on new gas pipelines and power plants as an acceptable risk for your investors, and if so, how will you deal with the huge stranded costs of gas infrastructure that could be obsolete before they’re completed?"

-- Alex Formuzis, Environmental Working Group

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Companies urge repeal of Ohio nuclear bailout due to bribery allegations

COLUMBUS -- "Facebook, General Mills and Nestle are among about 50 companies that have written a letter to Ohio leaders urging the repeal of House Bill 6, the 2019 nuclear-bailout law that has become the target of federal investigators.

'As businesses, investors, trade associations and employers, we urge the repeal of House Bill 6 in light of the disturbing and shocking allegations made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,' said the letter, which was sent to Gov. Mike DeWine and the leaders of the state House and Senate.

Repeal of the legislation, which the legislature passed and DeWine signed a year ago, 'will help restore public confidence and ensure continued growth of Ohio’s clean energy economy,' the letter said."

-- Mark Williams, Columbus Dispatch

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DeWine might use former president of dark money group to lobby for another nuclear bailout

COLUMBUS -- "Not only does he intend to keep Dan McCarthy in his administration, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine might use McCarthy to lobby the legislature for another nuclear bailout.

McCarthy, DeWine’s legislative affairs director, is a former lobbyist for FirstEnergy who set up a dark money group that funneled millions of corporate dollars into a second dark-money group that federal prosecutors say is at the heart of the biggest bribery scandal in Ohio history.

...as president of the 501(c)(4) Partners for Progress, McCarthy was a conduit for corporate cash to flow into a scheme that resulted in one of the biggest scandals ever to rock the Ohio Capitol. 

Such organizations are called “dark-money” groups because they don’t have to disclose their donors."

-- Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal

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How a utility undermined climate policy — then got caught

"The climate consequences can be serious.

In Ohio, FirstEnergy Solutions made the decision to keep open W.H. Sammis, the second-largest coal plant in the state, after the bailout law passed.

Sammis emitted 12.3 million tons of CO2 in 2013, according to EPA data. But the plant has run less and less in recent years. It ran only 20% in 2019, down from 61% in 2014.

Last year, it reported CO2 emissions of 4.6 million tons, or what 900,000 cars emit annually.

The result is a one-two punch to climate and consumers, forcing them to pay for polluting plants that are no longer economic, said Leah Stokes, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has written extensively about Ohio's bailout law. She said FirstEnergy represents one of the most egregious cases of utility corruption, but is part of a larger pattern of power companies' approach to climate policy."

-- Benjamin Storrow, E&E News

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