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
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
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
In what they have referred to as an effort to restore trust and confidence, the members of the Ohio House of Representatives have selected Representative Bob Cupp as their new Speaker.
Rep. Cupp voted in favor of House Bill 6 on two separate occasions and received campaign money from FirstEnergy, including an ethically questionable donation from the corporation while serving as a justice on the Supreme Court of Ohio.
This decision has done nothing to instill trust with the public, and Speaker Cupp now has a lot to prove.
His first act as Speaker should be to call for an immediate and clean repeal of HB 6. He must show Ohioans that he is not simply Householder 2.0. Ohioans have lost confidence in their elected officials. It is time for legislators to listen to their constituents and not their big utility donors.
It’s time to fully repeal HB 6.
- Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance
"According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, Ohio’s two nuclear power plants account for 87% of the state’s zero emission electricity.
That’s not exactly something to write home about. Considering that the cost of renewable energy is continuing to drop with no end in sight, this would be a bad time to double down on expensive nuclear energy.
Nevertheless, Ohio Citizen Action estimates that the HB6 nuclear bailout will sock ratepayers with $200 million in increased costs.
HB6 was signed into law last year, saddling Ohio ratepayers with two aging nuclear power plants and two old coal power plants, to boot.
'Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 6 (HB 6) into law on July 23, 2019, approving bailouts for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, which are owned by FirstEnergy’s former subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), and were previously scheduled to close in 2020 and 2021, respectively, after FES announced its bankruptcy,' explains Ohio Citizen Action. 'The final version of the bill extends the bailout to two old and dirty coal plants—Kyger Creek in southern Ohio and Clifty Creek in Indiana.'"
-- Tina Casey, CleanTechnica
COLUMBUS — "Gov. Mike DeWine reversed himself and called for the repeal of the House Bill 6 on Thursday, saying Speaker Larry Householder’s alleged bribery scheme “forever tainted” the $1.3 billion nuclear bailout law.
DeWine, who signed HB6 a year ago Thursday, reiterated that he supports the policy laid out in the bailout, saying it’s needed to preserve jobs at the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants and keep carbon-free sources of energy.
'While the policy in my opinion is good, the process by which it was created stinks. It’s terrible, it’s not acceptable,' DeWine said during his televised coronavirus briefing.
The governor’s announcement marks a reversal from just the day before, when he stood by HB6 despite the federal charges against Householder and four allies regarding their acceptance of more than $60 million from FirstEnergy Corp. to get HB6 passed and thwart an anti-HB6 referendum effort."
— Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com
"Now that it’s clear that Ohio’s draconian energy policy was passed based on bribery and corruption, legislators should act immediately to repeal the law.
While Gov. Mike DeWine has called for Householder’s resignation, he has not called for the repeal of the corrupt coal bailout. That’s perhaps not surprising, since DeWine has himself taken money from FirstEnergy. DeWine’s staff even made plans to fly legislators on a taxpayer-funded plane to make Householder’s last-minute vote for the bailout. The day after DeWine signed the law, he attended a Trump fundraiser hosted by coal baron Bob Murray. He seems quite cozy with the fossil fuel industry.
If DeWine is not in bed with FirstEnergy, then he should be calling for HB 6 to be reversed immediately. This law was passed by corrupt politicians. The effort to overturn it by popular will was thwarted by a corrupt utility. If DeWine can’t see this invalidates Ohio’s energy law, then perhaps he has a bigger problem.
We cannot allow utility corruption to continue to stall clean energy progress. This FBI affidavit is a wake-up call to all politicians: Stop taking electric utilities’ money."
-- Leah Stokes, Vox
With Ohio bailout law secured, FirstEnergy Solutions successor moves to increase share buybacks by $300 million
COLUMBUS -- "Leaders of a former FirstEnergy subsidiary, which Ohio electricity customers will soon begin paying $150 million annually to subsidize under a nuclear bailout law Ohio officials passed last year, have moved to spend an extra $300 million on repurchasing the company’s own stock.
The stock buybacks, meant to benefit corporate shareholders, come less than a year after an aggressive multi-year lobbying effort by FirstEnergy that culminated in Gov. Mike DeWine and state lawmakers approving $1 billion in bailout money funded by surcharges on Ohioans’ electric bills. The company and elected officials who backed the bailout argued without state money, the power plants and their parent company would become insolvent.
The board of directors for the company now known as Energy Harbor on Friday voted to increase authorization for its stock buyback program from $500 million to $800 million, according to an investor presentation the company posted to its website. Energy Harbor can buy back the stock any time until Aug. 27., under the terms of a company plan, approved as the Akron company spun off from FirstEnergy as it emerged from bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year."
-- Andrew Tobias, cleveland.com
A mailer sent to thousands of Ohio residents falsely linked the Chinese government to anti-bailout activists.
"The raw political and economic power of the industry was on display even after the bill was passed. Having been defeated within the legislature, grassroots organizations such as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts and Ohio Consumers Power Alliance took to the streets and tried to collect signatures on a petition calling for a referendum question about HB6 to be included in the 2020 elections. It was a tough task, since those opposing the bailout had less than two months to gather over a quarter of a million valid signatures.
FirstEnergy tried to stop them with a two-pronged approach. The first was a legal trick. It went to the state’s supreme court and argued that the monthly charges on customers 'should be considered tax increases, which cannot be challenged by a referendum.' But the court dismissed the case, saying there was 'no ‘justiciable controversy’ for it to decide.' For the main part, though, the response from FirstEnergy and other beneficiaries was more of the same: dark money–backed organizations spending millions to undo the grassroots efforts by urging voters to refuse signing the petition.
Among these organizations was one called Ohioans for Energy Security, which sponsored television advertisements that falsely claimed that China is 'intertwining themselves financially in our energy infrastructure,' threatening 'national security,' and implying that not going through with the bailout campaign would lead to Chinese control of Ohio’s power grid. The watchdog organization Energy and Policy Institute quickly identified that some of the people featured in the TV advertisement were in fact FirstEnergy employees. In other words, there was reason to suspect that FirstEnergy was behind the advertisement. Ohioans for Energy Security also mailed thousands of letters to state residents with bold lettering behind a Chinese flag imploring, 'Don’t give the Chinese government your personal information.' The hyperbolic allegations about China apparently are connected to natural gas-fired power plants in Ohio that were partially financed by a Chinese government-owned bank, although FirstEnergy has itself borrowed money from the same bank."
Capacity power is electricity the grid keeps on reserve to meet its maximum load requirements. It's tapped into when the grid exceeds its base load and needs more juice. Power companies bid to provide that power at a set price. When the grid needs it, PJM begins buying the lowest-priced power and keeps buying more expensive power from other bidders until it has enough. Then, all of the capacity power providers get that last and highest price for all of the capacity power they provided.
FERC says allowing nuclear plants supported by state subsidies to bid into these auctions at lower prices than other nuclear plants could support is not fair. So, it's ordered PJM to set a minimum price at which Davis-Besse, Perry and other subsidized plants can bid in."
-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business