Businesses urge DeWine to restore confidence in PUCO

"Last month, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) chairman Sam Randazzo resigned from his position as Ohio's chief utility regulator following an FBI search of his home and disclosure that FirstEnergy paid $4 million to end a contract with a consulting company that in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing fit the description of one linked to Randazzo.

This is why Gov. Mike DeWine should act immediately to nominate a new utility commissioner who will lead with integrity and transparency and represent all Ohio energy consumers fairly. Furthermore, the new chair should ideally have no current or past connections to the utilities the commission regulates. Ohio consumers, already strapped by a difficult economy, need someone who can restore the public's confidence and trust in the PUCO, and put the state back on track to an affordable, equitable, clean energy future."

--Ellen Zuckerman, Guest Blogger for Crain's Cleveland Business

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says he’s begun reviewing PUCO candidates


"DeWine said he understands public concern over appointing PUCO commissioners who might be seen as being too close to the entities they’re supposed to regulate. DeWine’s decision in January 2019 to hire Randazzo, a lawyer who represented large industrial electricity users, drew criticism from others in Ohio’s energy scene because of Randazzo’s past work for FirstEnergy.

'We’re starting to think about who to appoint, and who to name as chairman, and we’re starting to go through that process,' he said. 'I think you want someone who has some knowledge in that area. Sometimes the challenge is the people who have the best knowledge have been an advocate.'

DeWine spoke about the PUCO hiring process on Wednesday during an interview with reporters and editors from and The Plain Dealer. He also addressed the general prospects of House Bill 6, which state lawmakers are considering whether to repeal, given the law’s ties to the federal corruption probe.

The governor reiterated his belief that HB6 should be repealed. But he said House Bill 798, a bill lawmakers have presented as an alternative to a repeal, seems to be better than nothing."

-- Andrew J. Tobias,

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Governor was warned of would-be regulator's ties to utility

"This undated photo provided by the Ohio Governor's Office shows Sam Randazzo, of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine disregarded warnings from consumer and environmental advocates and a last-minute plea from Republican insiders in selecting the powerful top Ohio utility regulator now under legal and financial scrutiny. Randazzo, who DeWine picked to lead the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, had deep ties with the state's largest electric utility and proven hostility to wind and solar power development that made him unsuitable for the role, critics warned. Nearly two years later, after an FBI search of Randazzo's home and revelations the utility, FirstEnergy Corp., paid him millions for consulting, DeWine seems unfazed by the selection. (Courtesy of Ohio Governor's Office via AP, File)"

COLUMBUS — "In mid-November, FBI agents searched Randazzo’s home in Columbus. The utility, FirstEnergy Corp., revealed several days later in a quarterly report that it was investigating a payment of about $4 million that top executives made to the consulting firm of an Ohio government official meeting Randazzo’s description.

DeWine said this week that Randazzo did not disclose, and the governor did not know of, the FirstEnergy consulting payment until the company reported it to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. FirstEnergy’s quarterly report said it had not determined if the funds 'were for the purposes represented within the consulting agreement.'

The first-term governor’s latest comments are largely in line with his initial reaction to FBI interest in Randazzo. A day after federal agents searched Randazzo’s home Nov. 16, DeWine told reporters: 'I hired him. I think he’s a good person. If there’s evidence to the contrary, we’ll act accordingly.'"

— Mark Gillipsie and Julie Carr Smyth, AP News

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Opponents of HB 6 say nuclear bailout freeze is not enough

"Perry Nuclear Power Plant Marks 30 Years of Safe and Reliable Operation" by FirstEnergy Corp. is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

"House leadership is signaling a freeze to the bailout, HB798, will be the vehicle used to address the energy laws created through HB6. The energy law allows for new charges of up to $2.35 a month on electric bills for nuclear, coal, and solar subsidies.

Rachael Belz with Ohio Consumers Power Alliance says a freeze on the new charges doesn't truly help the ratepayers.

'It's more like pushing something off that you never intend to get back to,' says Belz.

Talk of an HB6 repeal began after House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested about 5 months ago accused of a bribery scheme that helped him rise to leadership and HB6 become law."

-- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau 

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FBI raid brings scrutiny on obscure but powerful Ohio energy regulator

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- "Gov. Mike DeWine soon will consider a replacement for the state’s most powerful utility regulator, a man whose share of public attention increased dramatically after the FBI searched his home last month.

Sam Randazzo, a longtime fixture on Ohio’s energy law scene, quit as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio the same week as the raid, amid questions over his ties to a federal corruption investigation into a sweeping energy bill – House Bill 6. The feds say their probe uncovered the largest bribery scheme in Ohio history – a scheme in which they say FirstEnergy Corp. money was used to get the nuclear plant bailout bill passed and protect it from being repealed.

Randazzo’s departure also came just after a regulatory filing suggested that he may have received a $4 million payment from FirstEnergy shortly before Gov. Mike DeWine named him as PUCO chair in February 2019.

Those circumstances have brought unusual scrutiny to the typically obscure process of state energy regulations. Critics are sure to question any decision DeWine makes to replace Randazzo, given the ties between FirstEnergy, senior officials in the DeWine administration and a screening committee that nominates PUCO commissioner candidates. Advocates have called for tougher disclosure requirements for PUCO members, as well as for the PUCO to throw out and reconsider decisions Randazzo made as chairman that affected FirstEnergy."

-- Andrew J. Tobias,

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Ohio utility poised to keep scandal-tainted bailout money even if it’s repealed

Photo from Getty Images.

"When it comes to billions of ratepayer dollars for bailouts and other add-ons, Ohio utilities are in a no-lose situation. 

In the case of the scandal-plagued, billion-dollar bailout of two Northern Ohio nuclear reactors, their owner is poised to keep any money they collect even if the legislature repeals the bailout. 

State Rep. Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, said that would only continue what already is a disturbing trend in the Buckeye State.

'Do you know that there’s been over a billion dollars — that’s with a ‘B’ for boy — collected from ratepayers over the years that have later been ruled unlawful by the Ohio Supreme Court and that money was never returned to the ratepayers?' he asked."

- Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal

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Ohio utilities commission moves to replace regulator who resigned after FBI search

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (@PUCOhio) | Twitter


COLUMBUS, Ohio--"The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has begun the process of replacing its former chairman who resigned earlier this month after his home was searched by the FBI.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Nominating Council announced Monday it is seeking applications for the empty commission spot, vacant since former PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo resigned on Nov. 20."

--Andrew Tobias,

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Ohio’s Top Utility Regulator Resigns After FBI Raid Linked to Bribery Scandal

Sam Randazzo resigns after FBI agents search his home and FirstEnergy reveals $4 million payment to a former consultant-turned-regulator

COLUMBUS -- "Federal prosecutors have made it clear that the utility and its affiliates are believed to be the source of $61 million funneled through a nonprofit group to maintain the alleged criminal conspiracy by Householder and four associates. 

In his Friday resignation letter to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, the Republican who appointed Randazzo as PUCO chair in 2019, Randazzo wrote that these allegations and 'the accompanying publicity will, right or wrong, fuel suspicions about and controversy over decisions I may render in my current capacity.'  

FirstEnergy’s 10-Q filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cited the $4 million payment as evidence that 'certain former members of senior management violated certain FirstEnergy policies and its code of conduct.' FirstEnergy’s board of directors fired CEO Charles Jones and two other senior executives in late October on the same grounds of violating policies and codes of conduct." 

--Jeff St. John, Green Tech Media

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Ohio's top utility regulator resigns

PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo


COLUMBUS, Ohio--"Consumer groups Ohio Consumers Power Alliance and Ohio Citizen Action said they hoped Randazzo’s resignation and 'the cloud of corruption' that surrounded this week’s events would push legislators to repeal the nuclear plant bailout legislation known as House Bill 6.

'Sam Randazzo’s ties to FirstEnergy influenced decision after decision at the PUCO and sabotaged the growth of Ohio’s clean energy future,' Rachael Belz, who directs both organizations, said in a statement."

--Associated Press

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Response to resignation of PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo

Today, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo resigned following a week that included an early morning FBI raid on his Columbus home and the disclosure by FirstEnergy that its CEO and others were fired for issuing a $4 million payment to an unnamed individual who was subsequently appointed to serve as a state public utility regulator. 

Our organizations opposed the appointment of Randazzo from the beginning of the nomination process. His decades-long career as an anti-clean energy lobbyist and lawyer made him the wrong choice to oversee regulation of Ohio’s utilities and protect Ohio consumers.

Throughout the last several months, Randazzo claimed he had no ties to FirstEnergy, the corporation at the center of a $61 million bribery and corruption scandal that rocked Ohio in July. But bankruptcy filings told a different story, directly tying two companies owned by Randazzo, Sustainable Funding Alliance of Ohio and IEU Administration Company, to FirstEnergy Solutions.

Sam Randazzo’s ties to FirstEnergy influenced decision after decision at the PUCO and sabotaged the growth of Ohio’s clean energy future. He was out of touch with what Ohioans want and did a great disservice to our state’s energy consumers. We deserve better. We deserve an energy policy that creates Ohio jobs, builds our economy at a time when we need it most, and reduces the pollution that impacts health. We deserve an energy policy that is not clouded by corruption and lies. And we deserve a PUCO Chairman that is free from these utility ties.

As the Ohio legislature continues to stall in repealing House Bill 6, it is our sincere hope that the resignation and cloud of corruption surrounding former Chairman Randazzo will be the push they need to finally end this cycle of deceit and erosion of confidence. We urge them to adopt a full repeal of House Bill 6 now and demonstrate the leadership this state so desperately needs.

Rachael Belz, Director of Ohio Consumers Power Alliance