Ohio clean energy groups will seek recusals from PUCO nominee

Members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio meet in March 2018. photo: PUCO

COLUMBUS — “Randazzo himself raised the question of recusals when he opposed Democrat Howard Petricoff for a seat on the PUCO in 2016. Petricoff had represented wind industry clients, as well as some companies that favor a shift to renewable energy.

…The issue is broader in Randazzo’s case. As PUCO chair, he would have both a vote and a leadership role in setting the commission’s agenda. Ohio law would also make Randazzo chair of the Ohio Power Siting Board, giving him a say in which renewable energy projects can be built.

Now notices filed last month with the PUCO list more than four dozen matters in which Randazzo has withdrawn as counsel of record for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio.

Similar notices in additional cases reflect recent representation of companies such as U.S. Steel, Timken, Cleveland Thermal and more. Some of those cases are “reasonable arrangement” cases that seek regulators’ blessing for special deals for large industrial customers. Such deals can shift more utility costs to consumers.”

— Kathiann M Kowalski, Midwest Energy News

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Environmental groups oppose DeWine's pick for PUCO Chair

Wind and wuthering.

"Wind and wuthering." by stuant63 on Creative Commons

"Randazzo, who recently retired from representing Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, is one of four nominees selected by a nominating council. The environmental groups are specifically targeting Randazzo for his past opposition to renewable energy projects.

'We need someone who’s a visionary, someone who really understands not just what Ohio’s like today but what Ohio needs to be in the future to stay competitive,' says Heather Taylor-Miesle with the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund.

Industrial Energy Users-Ohio represents large energy ratepayers, with members such as Marathon Gas and McDonald’s franchises.

On behalf of the group, Randazzo consistently opposed proposals that resulted in increases on electric bills. That meant opposing renewable energy standards, but it included opposing a cost recovery plan for coal plants."

-- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau 

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Candidates for Ohio regulatory board vary widely on clean energy issues

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"Sam Randazzo has spent more than 25 years as general counsel for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, an organization that has lobbied to scale back or eliminate clean energy standards in the state.

The organization’s website has characterized the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards as a hidden energy mandate tax on electric bills. Randazzo provided input to the office of Ohio Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, for drafting a 2016 bill to push any additional enforceable requirements under the state’s clean energy standards out for another two or three years. IEU-Ohio has also provided legislative testimony aimed at supporting bills to restrict the state’s clean energy standards. Randazzo has criticized wind and solar energy for 'obvious reliability-related problems.' They 'don’t show up for work' and 'can’t be made to show up for work,' he wrote in a 2018 IEU-Ohio report.

Outside his work for IEU-Ohio, Randazzo has represented opponents to wind farm turbines before the Ohio Power Siting Board. One case dealt with a specific wind farm. In another proceeding, he urged adoption of rule language that could have applied the state’s current strict setback requirements even more harshly.

Randazzo is not formally affiliated with a political party. Over a 17-year period, however, he gave about two-thirds of roughly $194,000 in campaign donations to Republican candidates, according to FollowTheMoney.org. He did not respond to an email seeking comment on why he wants to be a commissioner and what he hopes to bring to the commission."

-- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

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Statement of Response as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts Files to Dismiss its Appeal to Save House Bill 6 Referendum

CINCINNATI — Nearly one year ago, House Bill 6 was introduced with the intent of providing a consumer-funded bailout of two inefficient nuclear power plants and weakening the state’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. As the legislation moved through the House and Senate, changes were accepted that added subsidies for two of the region’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants and essentially gutted the clean energy standards that have been so successful since their passage in 2008. Following a quick signature on HB 6 from Governor Mike DeWine, Ohioans for Corporate Bailouts began moving forward with an attempted referendum to put the issue before Ohio voters in November 2020.

Yesterday, that movement toward a public vote on this issue came to an end. After running one of the most expensive and divisive campaigns of intimidation and confusion, FirstEnergy Solutions and the unlimited cash they poured into securing this bailout could not be matched by the resources of Ohioans for Corporate Bailouts. As a result, referendum supporters were forced to file a motion to dismiss its appeal before the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals and end its pursuit of additional time to collect signatures and place the issue on the ballot.

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance opposed House Bill 6 since the day it was introduced in 2019. Now after a long and brutal battle, the end result is that Ohioans will not have the final say on whether they support state investment in clean energy innovation and economic growth. Those same Ohioans, however, will now be saddled with a charge on their bills every month to bail out two nuclear plants and two old, dirty coal plants.

FirstEnergy Solutions left a dark stain on democracy in Ohio in their fight to win at all costs. A majority of Ohio lawmakers also chose to put corporate profits over the best interests of Ohio consumers by passing House Bill 6 back in July. No new technology, no job growth. Lawmakers chose only to reward the bad business decisions of a bankrupt corporation. We will remember their votes on this critical bill.

— Rachael Belz Project Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance

How market power gives electric utilities political power

"In the pathway to 100% renewable energy lie electric utilities. Since the time of electrification until the 1990s, every electric utility was a monopoly––it owned everything to deliver electricity from the power plants (and sometimes even the coal mines) to the transmission lines to the substations to the distribution lines to the meter on your home or business). With a market monopoly, utilities have enormous political power to promote or avoid change.

Utilities operate under three legal structures: investor-owned, public, or cooperative. Investor-owned utilities were the first, and they focused on serving urban areas with the highest concentrations of customers. Municipal, city-owned utilities followed soon after, serving cities without private utilities or taking over private utilities that didn’t provide high quality, affordable service. Supported by the federal government, member-owned rural electric cooperatives filled in the gaps left by the first two (as shown in the map below).

Monopoly defined all three ownership structures. For private utilities, the early captains of the electric industry realized it would be more profitable if they didn’t have competition. An early industry leader, Samuel Insull, cut a political deal with state policy makers––protection from competition in exchange for public oversight via regulatory commissions, often called Public Utilities Commissions. The first of these was formed around 1905. For public and cooperative utilities, they also retained a monopoly, but with oversight of municipal utilities provided by a city’s voters and elected officials and oversight of cooperatives provided by a board of member-owners elected by customers."

-- John Farrell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

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Ohioans tell State Representative Upchurch that they have not forgotten his vote on House Bill 6

Consumer group running radio ads with a reminder of Upchurch’s support of coal bailout

Rep. Terrence Upchurch

CINCINNATI – Four months after the passage of controversial House Bill 6, the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance has launched a radio campaign reminding voters in Ohio House District 10 that State Representative Terrence Upchurch voted against their best interest when he voted in support of the legislation in July 2019.

House Bill 6 bailed out two failing nuclear power plants and two of the region’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, while gutting the state’s successful renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The bill imposes a monthly fee on every electric ratepayer across the state to subsidize FirstEnergy Solutions to the tune of $150 million each year to keep their nuclear power plants operational. In addition, $50 million each year will be used to subsidize two coal plants, one of which is located in Indiana. At the same time, the reversal of the energy efficiency standards is estimated to cost Ohioans $4 billion in cost savings that will no longer happen.

Voices on the radio spot currently airing on WMJI and WTAM in Cleveland tell Representative Upchurch, “We will remember. We will remember your yes vote on HB 6. We will remember that you voted for Wall Street investors over hardworking Ohioans…Your vote on HB 6 bailed out two outdated nuclear power plants and two coal plants – one that’s in Indiana. Your vote killed Ohio’s renewable energy standards and energy efficiency efforts. We will remember.”

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It's deadline day for anti-nuclear bailout referendum

Groups opposed to House Bill 6 need more than 265,000 signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in 2020. (distell2610/Pixabay)

Groups opposed to House Bill 6 need more than 265,000 signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in 2020. (distell2610/Pixabay)

COLUMBUS — "Ohioans who want voters to decide the future of a new clean-energy law soon will know if their efforts are fruitful. Today is the deadline for opponents of House Bill 6 to submit the signatures needed to get a referendum on the November 2020 ballot.

The controversial bill was signed into law in July, and includes new fees on electric bills that would keep two First Energy nuclear plants open. Melissa English, director of the opposition group Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, said petitioners spent the weekend in an all-out blitz to reach as many voters as possible.

'Informed and engaged citizens are the best possible hedges against the abuses of government and corporate power. That's what this is about,' English said. 'This has been a long, ugly fight. Pro-bailout forces understand that if Ohioans get a chance to vote on this they're going to vote it down.'"

— Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service

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Dark money is pouring in to protect the “worst energy policy in the country”

Mother Jones illustration; Getty

"It all started back in July, when the Ohio state legislature passed a law—called HB6—that, starting next year, will charge consumers new fees to rescue four struggling power plants. Those charges will eventually add up to a $1 billion bailout for the utility FirstEnergy Solutions’ two nuclear plants, while handing a lifeline to two 1950s-era coal plants owned by another utility, the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation.

Because of the law, Ohio is the first state to reverse its renewable energy standards and efficiency targets, all while funneling more money to coal—a move that has clean energy advocates fuming. Leah Stokes, an environmental political science professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, called it the 'worst energy policy in the country.'

But this it isn’t your typical environmentalists-vs.-fossil-fuel-industry fight. The side opposing the bailout has clean-energy advocates working alongside the natural gas industry. And though the supporters of the bailout include some of the usual suspects—FirstEnergy, coal-reliant American Electric Power and Duke Energy, and the coal baron and Trump donor Robert Murray—they have also marshaled a mysterious string of deep-pocketed advocacy groups."

-- Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones

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Actual CO2 emissions from EPA show “Ohio Clean Air Program” in HB 6 legislation lies to Ohio voters

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Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts' promotional material

COLUMBUS - "Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts today released data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showing that carbon dioxide emissions from the three coal plants that benefit from HB 6 exceed by more than two times the carbon offset from the two nuclear plants that ratepayers are being forced to subsidize under the law.

'This information from the EPA shows once again how HB 6 supporters lied to Ohioans by claiming the bill was about clean air when it’s really just a bailout for a bankrupt company that doesn’t reduce carbon emissions,' said Gene Pierce, spokesman for the coalition.

From the moment that HB 6 was filed last spring, supporters of the ratepayer bailout for the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions stated the plants must be subsidized and saved because they don’t emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

However, under HB 6, two money losing coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp, Clifty Creek in Indiana and Kyger Creek in Ohio, were added to also receive direct subsidies. A third coal plant set for retirement, the W.H. Sammis plant in Ohio, indirectly got a boost from HB 6 when owner FirstEnergy Solutions announced that with the subsides approved for its nuclear plants, it would keep Sammis open, too."

-- Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts

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In Ohio, shady front groups fight dirty to attack grassroots campaign against $1 billion nuke/coal bailout

"An ugly political war is raging in Ohio, pitting consumer and environmental advocates against big utilities and dark-money front groups that want to make electricity customers pay more than $1 billion to bail out failing nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The bad guys are fighting dirty, using deceitful scare tactics and alleged cash payoffs that are now under investigation by the state attorney general, to derail the anti-bailout campaign.

It’s a fight for the future of energy that could erupt in other states as utilities seek public subsidies to prop up their outdated, inefficient, dirty and dangerous power plants against competition from cheaper and cleaner solar and wind power. Figures compiled by EWG show that in the past three years, five states have handed utilities more than $15 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts of failing nuclear plants.

This summer, Ohio utility interests spent almost $10 million to push through legislation to slap a surcharge on ratepayers’ monthly electricity bills in a move to subsidize two nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions and two coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp. Not only are the plants not needed to provide a secure supply of electricity but the bill would also effectively stop state renewable energy and efficiency mandates for utilities.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill. But a grassroots group, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, wants to let voters decide whether to overturn the law."

-- Grant Smith and Bill Walker, Environmental Working Group (EWG)

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