Recent news

Ohio PUC Chairman Samuel Randazzo abruptly resigns four days after FBI searched his home

Nov 23, 2020 9:51 AM

COLUMBUS -- "Randazzo's resignation as well as the new revelations in FirstEnergy's 10-Q come four months after the FBI searched the homes of former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, R, and four associates, and the subsequent indictment of all of them on racketeering and public corruption charges in connection with the passage of legislation authorizing state-wide utility bill increases to bail out two nuclear power plants owned by a former FirstEnergy subsidiary as well as bail out two 65-year-old coal-fired plants owned by all of the state's power companies. Two of the four Householder associates have pled guilty, while Householder and the others await trial. 

FirstEnergy was implicated in the federal investigation as one of the companies that contributed nearly $61 million to bankroll Householder's efforts to pass the bailout legislation, known as House Bill 6. Efforts to repeal H.B. 6 since the indictments have stalled. The company has been served federal subpoenas and is also under investigation by the SEC.

FirstEnergy's revelation in its SEC 10-Q filing on Thursday evening that 'certain former members of senior management' violated company ethics policies when they paid nearly $4 million to close out a six-year consulting contract did not name Randazzo or his consulting company, but instead described a person associated with a consulting company who subsequently became a state utility regulator."

-- John Funk, Utility Dive

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Response to resignation of PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo

Nov 20, 2020 12:30 PM

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, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action


FirstEnergy: Ohio regulator’s firm got $4M consulting fee

Nov 19, 2020 8:00 PM

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio — "Fired former FirstEnergy executives improperly paid a firm tied to a future Ohio utility regulator about $4 million early last year to terminate “a purported consulting agreement” that had been in place since 2013, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities told federal regulators on Thursday.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo was not mentioned by name in the company’s tardy quarterly report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. However, Randazzo fits the description of someone who 'subsequently was appointed to a full-time role as an Ohio government official directly involved in regulating' FirstEnergy. Randazzo was appointed chairman by Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Feb. 4, 2019."

Julie Carr Smyth and Mark Gillispie, Associated Press

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Ohio governor deflect questions on public utility official

Nov 17, 2020 5:00 PM

PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo

 

COLUMBUS - "A coalition of consumer and environmental groups on Tuesday called on DeWine to immediately remove Randazzo from the PUCO, citing his 'well-known' ties to FirstEnergy. The governor has the sole authority to remove PUCO commission members.

'We have adamantly opposed Randazzo’s appointment since February 2019. He does not hold an elected position, so the power to remove him rest squarely on the shoulders of the governor,' the coalition said in a joint statement.

The groups, including Ohio Citizen Action, Black Environmental Leaders, Evangelical Environmental Network and Moms Clean Air Force, said Randazzo can’t oversee utilities in a fair and ethical way if he is being investigated by the FBI."

-- Julie Carr Smyth and Mark Gillispie, Associated Press

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Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance endorse SB 346

Nov 16, 2020 8:48 PM

Ohio Citizen Action (OCA) and the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance (OCPA) are proud to endorse the bipartisan SB 346, which would enact a full, clean repeal of HB 6.

Last year, we fought hard to stop HB 6 because we knew it would be a disaster for our climate and our economy. The revelation that it took $61 million for this bill to pass (and then only passed with one vote to spare) confirmed what we knew all along—HB 6 is rotten to its core.

Since former Speaker of the House Larry Householder was arrested on charges of racketeering, we’ve been pressuring our state’s elected leaders to repeal the product of his alleged corruption, HB 6. Nearly four months later and with only a month and half before the end of this General Assembly’s legislative session, we saw the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee finally hold a hearing for proponent testimony on SB 346.

In her written testimony to the committee on behalf of OCPA, OCA Executive Director Rachael Belz stated, “The bigger question is – during a pandemic that currently has no end, and with all of the economic uncertainty in Ohioans lives – why should we continue to pay for FirstEnergy and Larry Householders’ bribes and greed? Where does the buck ACTUALLY stop here in Ohio? It could stop with the legislature – who initially passed this at the end of the nasty HB 6 fight by only ONE VOTE.”

Deputy Director Melissa English and Cleveland Program Director Anastazia Vanisko also submitted testimony to the committee as individuals, highlighting their own reasons for wanting to repeal HB 6. English emphasized that it’s in the best interest of legislators to repeal this bill, both for their wallets, their health and their reputations. Vanisko noted that if legislators had listened to the public from the beginning, they never would have passed HB 6.

Both as an organization and as individuals, we believe that SB 346 will provide a complete—and necessary—repeal of HB 6. Our legislature must pass this bill by the end of the year.

To read the testimonies mentioned here, as well as the other 75 testimonies submitted in support of this bill, go to http://www.ohiosenate.gov/committees/energy-and-public-utilities/document-archive


FBI conducts search at house of PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo

Nov 16, 2020 12:49 PM

PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo

 

COLUMBUS - "FBI agents were seen outside the home of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo Monday morning. 

Agents were going in and out of 645 S. Grant Ave. in German Village, which is owned by Randazzo, according to Franklin County auditor records. 

'FBI agents are conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity in that area in relation to a sealed federal search warrant,' FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren told The Enquirer, adding no arrests have been made and none are planned at this time."

--Jessie Balmert, The Enquirer

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Editorial: Plenty of work for legislators before the year ends, but will they do it?

Nov 15, 2020 1:01 PM

State task force recommends schools educate all grade ...

 

COLUMBUS - "Ohio lawmakers could do a lot to restore an election-weary public’s faith in government by getting some important work done before the term ends on Dec. 31.

The so-called lame duck session typically is crowded with last-gasp attempts to get bills passed, including those that for one reason or another got little attention over the previous two years.  It could be especially busy this time around because the coronavirus pandemic interfered with legislative work for much of the spring and summer. 

We’re glad to note that legislative leaders seem focused, among other priorities, on a capital works budget, school funding, criminal sentencing reform and repeal of the House Bill 6 nuclear plant bailout. We’re disappointed, yet again, that they’re unlikely to take any meaningful action to curb gun violence.

The simplest item of business should be repealing HB 6. It’s simple because it clearly is the product of unprecedented corruption: a U.S. District Attorney in July revealed an investigation that charged then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates with bribery and racketeering. Since then two defendants have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation."

--Editorial Board, The Columbus Dispatch

Link to full article.


Meeting Our Energy Needs: Today and Tomorrow Webinar

Nov 10, 2020 12:16 PM

On Thursday, October 1, Ohio Citizen Action Cleveland Program Director Anastazia Vanisko moderated the first stop on the Ohio Equity Team’s Virtual Equitable Energy Tour, a panel titled, “Meeting Our Energy Needs: Today and Tomorrow.” The panel features SeMia Bray of Black Environmental Leaders (BEL), Kim Foreman of Environmental Health Watch (EHW), and Achilles Morales of the Ohio Equity Team (OET). OET, sponsor of the event, works to ensure that clean, healthy, safe, and sustainable air and water are available to all communities, specifically historically marginalized communities.

Discussion begins with a question to all attendees: “How does energy policy affect your life?” Many people respond by acknowledging the Ohio Legislature’s failure to develop any sort of comprehensive energy policy. Instead, Ohio continues to fund outdated and harmful forms of energy, such as coal. As a result, we the consumers are forced to pay for the inefficiencies of outdated energies on our surcharged electric bills.

SeMia Bray is the first to speak after the initial discussion question to attendees. She is a consultant within the renewable energy space, including with BEL, an organization that advocates for environmental justice. Bray starts her presentation mindfully, acknowledging our Native brothers and sisters who have traditionally cared for the land we live on here in Ohio. She reminds us that our relationships with the trees and plants are symbiotic; they take care of us by cleaning our air and giving us oxygen to breathe, and we ought to take care of them. Though we all know we have a long way to go in Ohio in terms of renewable energy development, we can look to many places in the world for inspiration and hope. SeMia acknowledges that, as a planet, we are adding more capacity to renewable energy each year than coal, oil, and natural gas combined. And thankfully, wonderful resources exist in Ohio to help us get the ball rolling on renewable energy, including Power a Clean Future Ohio and Black Environmental Leaders.

Next, Kim Foreman speaks on her work as the Executive Director of EHW, a group that focuses on the health of the indoor environment, as well as tangible approaches to connecting folks to the policy efforts of issues that affect them. Foreman shares that often the people who are most affected by climate change issues are the least connected to the conversation on how to mitigate those effects. EHW has done deep energy retrofitting of houses, with affordability as the core goal. They found that there were amazing savings of $680 per year for those living in the retrofitted, newly insulated homes! Additionally, Foreman discusses a few other projects EHW works on, including a food co-op project, which emphasizes locally-sourced food and economic justice strategies. These on-the-ground programs help marginalized communities in Cleveland to push for effective policy change.

Morales, Co-chair of the Ohio Equity Team and Co-creator of the Ohio Equity Team’s Voting Ambassador Program, gives crucial updates regarding voting in the upcoming election.

To end, the guest speakers answer questions from the attendees, including some that lead to discussion of the repeal of House Bill 6.

To answer the first discussion question of the panel, when I think of how energy policy affects my life, I think of the missed opportunities the Ohio Legislature has had to provide options for cleaner, safer, and cheaper forms of energy to me and my fellow Ohioans. Unfortunately, we do not have the true opportunity to choose where our energy comes from. Ohio legislators continue to put many roadblocks in front of potential renewable energy development in our state. I want to be able to choose to turn my lights on and heat the water I use with Ohio-generated solar and wind energy. That is, until Ohio can guarantee that all of my energy comes from wind and solar powered plants! Maybe I’m a dreamer.

The Ohio Equity Team hosted a crucial conversation about meeting Ohio’s energy needs, presently and going forward. When it comes to working for tangible energy policy change in Ohio and centering marginalized communities in such conversations, we certainly have the right minds at work.

Watch the full conversation here: https://youtu.be/LSElA6oqrq0

-- Tatiana Rodzos, OCA Senior Field Manager


First Energy terminates 2 more executives as HB 6 repeal languishes in legislature

Nov 09, 2020 4:37 PM

"Akron-based FirstEnergy is at the center of a scandal that has rocked Ohio politics as well as the company’s front office.

In late October, FirstEnergy fired its CEO and two other executives for violating company policy. In a filing Monday (see below), it announced two more executives-- including the chief legal officer and chief ethics officer--have been dismissed.

It all centers around House Bill 6, an energy bill approved last year by the Ohio Legislature that dramatically altered the state’s energy policy."

-- Sarah Taylor, WKSU

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Ohio’s head-in-the-sand legislature needs to act to remove the HB 6 stain

Nov 08, 2020 6:30 AM

 

"Let’s examine the scorecard for House Bill 6 amid federal allegations it was the tainted fruit of the largest racketeering corruption case the Ohio Statehouse has ever seen.

It makes for discouraging reading -- even moreso, since Ohio voters on Nov. 3 failed to repudiate the alleged corruption and or show any displeasure with lawmakers' failure to move quickly to repeal or replace the nuclear bailout bill.

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