(OH-August 27, 2020) Today, the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) once again delayed the expected reconsideration of the Lake Erie Icebreaker Wind demonstration project. This move postponed the discussion of the project even further, despite the call of 32 Northeast Ohio legislators who support the 500 jobs and $253 million the project would bring to the local economy.
This comes on the heels of yesterday’s Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's (PUCO) decision to approve the ironically named House Bill 6 Clean Air Fund charge that will provide FirstEnergy and its dark money campaign with an annual reward of $150 million to bailout its two failing nuclear plants. While this bailout was bought and paid for by $61 million in FirstEnergy bribes, the policy itself will be paid for by hard-working Ohio consumers. The PUCO decision comes almost immediately following the Ohio Senate President’s announcement that members would return to Columbus early next week to repeal House Bill 6.
The order resulting from this PUCO decision further states that the Commission will not conduct a bill impact analysis beyond the staff recommendation because the “simplicity of the math” should allow parties to identify impacts for themselves. This dismissive move ensures that the Ohioans footing the bill for FirstEnergy’s bad decisions can expect no oversight or accountability from the state. Essentially, they have invited Ohio consumers to pull out a calculator and figure it out for themselves.
Both the PUCO and the Ohio Power Siting Board are run by Commission Chair Sam Randazzo. Randazzo is Governor Mike DeWine’s hand-picked Chair, despite the fact that he spent decades as an anti-clean energy lobbyist. He has led both entities to recent decisions that fly squarely in the face of Governor DeWine’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, and has hung a reputation on Ohio as a backward state not interested in the economic development and job growth that results from clean energy investment.
Sam Randazzo’s ties to FirstEnergy are quickly coming to light. Randazzo’s company, Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio, is on FirstEnergy’s payroll and turned up in First Energy Solutions’ bankruptcy filings as a company used by them for professional services. Former Speaker Larry Householder, now indicted in the $61 million bribery scandal involving FirstEnergy, put Sam Randazzo’s long-time business partner on the PUCO Nominating Council just before Randazzo was nominated. Then, Randazzo gave that business partner a job at the PUCO. Further, the chair of the PUCO Nominating Council was a FirstEnergy lobbyist.
Randazzo appears to be checking the boxes for his friends at FirstEnergy. Ensuring the adoption of the House Bill 6 charge just days before the Senate plans to return to Columbus to repeal the legislation, and hamstringing reconsideration efforts of a precedent-setting renewable energy project for the state are not the actions of a public official who is carrying out an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. He appears to be carrying out a FirstEnergy political agenda. For Sam Randazzo, it is business as usual.
Ohio Citizen Action and the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance call on Governor Mike DeWine to change the way we do business. Replace Sam Randazzo now. Learn more about Randazzo’s anti-clean energy history at www.samrandazzo.com.
-- Rachael Belz, press release, Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance
CLEVELAND -- "The ruling should be revisited, Kelley said, especially as state legislators are being investigated for an alleged racketeering scheme tied to a nuclear bailout bill.
'This action was taken basically to stop an emerging renewable technology, and the reason I think that is, who has an interest in this not succeeding, and why?' Kelley said. 'This is no time to be making decisions that are not fully transparent, not fully justified. This decision is not supported by the record, plain and simple.'
City council is expected to vote on a resolution in connection with the Icebreaker decision Aug. 26. A bipartisan coalition in the Ohio General Assembly requested a rehearing on the decision, and the Ohio Power Siting Board is expected to review an application from the project developers to reconsider the restrictions."
--Taylor Haggerty, WCPN
-- Curtis Jackson, Capitol Letter, cleveland.com
COLUMBUS -- "I have been watching the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio appointments for quite some time and threw up my hands in disbelief at the appointment of Sam Randazzo as chairman in February 2019. He is a veteran lawyer and lobbyist on behalf of heavy industry.
For a tutorial on how some politicians operate, see “How a longtime critic of clean energy became Ohio’s top utility regulator” by John Funk on the Energy News Network. As it turns out, the Householder network of corruption involving FirstEnergy has ties to Randazzo’s company, Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio.
Citizens such as the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance are now asking for Gov. Mike DeWine to remove him from the PUCO."
-- Susan B. West, letter to the editor, Columbus Dispatch
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.
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
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
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.
- Sam Randazzo’s company was on the payroll at FirstEnergy Solutions. He owns Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio which turned up as a company used by FirstEnergy Solutions for professional services in their bankruptcy filings.
- Former Speaker Larry Householder, now indicted in a $61 million bribery scandal involving FirstEnergy, put Sam Randazzo’s colleague on the PUCO Nominating Council just before Randazzo was nominated. Then, Randazzo gave his business partner a job at the PUCO.
- The chair of the PUCO Nominating Council who appointed Randazzo, Michael Koren, was a FirstEnergy and Boich Companies lobbyist.
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.
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
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