What to do about HB 6 and FirstEnergy? The ball is in Gov. DeWine's court.

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"Thanks to the House Bill 6 scandal, Ohioans know that FirstEnergy Corp.’s political intrigues pervade the Statehouse. Now they’ve learned the Akron utility, using a 'dark money' group, aimed to undercut a competitor, city-owned Cleveland Public Power.

Tax filings and court documents indicate that $200,000 in FirstEnergy money went to Consumers Against Deceptive Fees, which seemingly advocated for Public Power customers by questioning rates, cleveland.com’s John Caniglia reported Thursday. The documents reveal that the 'consumer' group was bankrolled by $200,000 from FirstEnergy and aimed at Public Power."

--Editorial Board, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer

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Ohio lawmakers to end session without addressing scandal-drenched House Bill 6


COLUMBUS, Ohio—"In the wake of what federal authorities say is the largest bribery scheme in Ohio history, state lawmakers vowed to repeal, or at least reform, the law at the center of the scandal: the House Bill 6 nuclear bailout law.

But after months of hearings and negotiations, state lawmakers will end their legislative session without passing a single measure addressing HB6 in any way, displaying a stunning inability to do anything about a law that has become an embarrassment to the state.

The reason is that legislative Republicans, who dominate both the Ohio House and Senate, are split about what to do with HB6: some want to fully repeal it, some want a partial repeal, and others argue it should be kept in place. Most legislative Democrats, for their part, have insisted on fully repealing HB6 and have generally opposed any reform efforts short of that."

—Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com

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Outgoing Supreme Court Justice French, 3 others picked as finalists for PUCO job


COLUMBUS, Ohio--"Outgoing Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French was picked as one of four finalists for a seat on a powerful panel that regulates the state's utilities.

The 12-member nominating council for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio submitted the name of French and three others — Angela Amos, Anne Vogel and Greg Poulos — to Gov. Mike DeWine to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo for a term that ends April 10, 2024."

--Mark Williams, The Columbus Dispatch

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FirstEnergy probe needed to restore public trust, 3 ex-regulators say


COLUMBUS, Ohio – "Three former utility regulators want an extensive investigation into Akron-based FirstEnergy to restore the public's trust after a federal bribery probe and prominent resignations

Since July, federal investigators have arrested five people, including the former Ohio House leader, in connection with a bribery scheme to pass a $1 billion bailout of two nuclear plants in northern Ohio then-owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. Several FirstEnergy executives, including CEO Chuck Jones, have resigned – though none have been charged.

Top utility regulator, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chairman Sam Randazzo, also resigned after FirstEnergy disclosed they paid $4 million to end a contract with someone who later became a regulator."

--Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

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Ex-PUCO members want FirstEnergy rates, actions revisited

File:David Besse NPP-2.jpg

Cooling tower at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.


COLUMBUS, Ohio—"Three ex-commissioners spanning eras and political affiliations appealed to Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday to support bold steps to protect the integrity of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio after a former chairman hand-picked by DeWine resigned amid a $60 million federal bribery scandal.

The letter from Ashley Brown, J. Michael Biddison and Todd Snitchler — a Democrat, independent and Republican, respectively — came the same day candidates to be ex-Chairman Sam Randazzo’s successor were being interviewed. The selections of the PUCO Nominating Council were expected to be sent to DeWine later Monday."

The Toledo Blade via The Associated Press

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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 cleveland.com 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, Cleveland.com

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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, Cleveland.com

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