Recent news

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

Dec 10, 2020 9:36 PM

"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 — "Gov. Mike DeWine disregarded cries of alarm in early 2019 from consumer and environmental advocates, concerns echoed in a previously undisclosed last-minute plea from GOP insiders, when he was selecting the state’s top utility regulator — a man now under scrutiny as a wide-ranging bribery and corruption investigation roils Ohio.

Nearly two years later, the Republican governor continues to defend his choice of Samuel Randazzo as the powerful chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and many of those early critics insist it was a mistake to disregard their concerns.

'We understood that he had worked for manufacturing companies; we also understood that he had done work for FirstEnergy,' DeWine said this week in an interview with Associated Press reporters. 'Those were all things that we knew. He was picked because of his expertise and vast knowledge in this area. So that’s pretty much what we knew, so there was no secret.'

Randazzo, 71, had deep business ties with the state’s largest electric utility and had long been hostile to the development of wind and solar power, making him unsuitable for the role, critics warned early on."

— Mark Gillipsie and Julie Carr Smyth, AP News

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Lawmaker calls for repeal of nuclear surcharges

Dec 08, 2020 9:18 PM

COLUMBUS — "A Richland County lawmaker on Tuesday argued that the General Assembly should pass his bill to outright repeal consumer surcharges to bail out two struggling nuclear power plants instead of embracing a temporary delay 'kicking the can down the road.'

'Are these charges needed to simply keep the lights on? Absolutely not...' Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R., Ontario) said during a tele-town hall hosted by AARP Ohio, an opponent of the bailout law, House Bill 6.

'The fact is these plants are no longer needed,' he said. 'They're very old. They've run their useful life, and this is simply money that is being charged on people's electric bills to benefit the owners of these plants.'"

— Jim Provance, The Toledo Blade

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Chairman of panel nominating regulator’s replacement also has ties to FirstEnergy, nuclear bailout

Dec 07, 2020 8:17 PM

Photo from Getty Images.

"The connections between a power company at the center of a massive scandal involving a nuclear bailout and the Ohio agency that’s supposed to regulate it increasingly appear to be deep. Consider:

On Jan. 31, 2019, Michael Koren chaired a meeting of the Public Utility Commission of Ohio’s Nominating Council, which recommends people for posts on the utility commission. Koren voted for Sam Randazzo, who with 11 votes from the 12-member council easily became one of four names the council recommended to incoming Gov. Mike DeWine. 

DeWine not only chose Randazzo to be a member of the commission, which has power over billions of dollars that Ohio ratepayers have to pay utilities, DeWine made Randazzo the chairman.

At the same time that he was recommending Randazzo, Koren was registered as a lobbyist for a large Ohio utility, Akron-based FirstEnergy, a firm Randazzo previously had consulting deals with. Specifically, in the first quarter of 2019, Koren had registered to lobby on behalf of House Bill 6, a $1.3 billion nuclear bailout that FirstEnergy was pushing, according to documents he filed with state regulators."

-- Marty Schladen, Ohio Capitol Journal

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Crain's Editorial: Start leading

Dec 06, 2020 6:58 PM

Crain's Cleveland Business Logo - Economic Innovation Group

"Fortunately, and finally, there are some signs of progress on the HB 6 front in the Legislature's lame duck session. Lawmakers in both chambers are discussing bills that would either repeal or make significant changes to HB 6, which, as it stands now, would fund $1.6 billion in utility subsidies starting Jan. 1 through a new customer surcharge, offset by the elimination of some charges that pay for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs.

One piece of legislation, House Bill 798, would delay the subsidies for a year. Importantly, Cleveland.com reported, it would end a provision of the bill known as 'decoupling,' which 'ensures a guaranteed level of income for FirstEnergy and (theoretically) other utilities.' That provision, according to Cleveland.com, 'allows FirstEnergy to charge ratepayers a total of $355 million more through 2024 to guarantee the company a yearly revenue of $978 million.' This bill may have the juice to make it, since it was introduced by the chair of the Ohio House's special HB 6 study committee and has the support of Bob Cupp, the new House Speaker.

An alternative, Senate Bill 346, is a full-on repeal, which might be more satisfying, but at this late hour in the legislative session is considerably dicier.

We're in better-late-than-never territory now, and a delay of the subsidies would give the Legislature another chance to get things right. But it's still a pretty dispiriting statement on leadership in the state that we're cutting it so close in trying to right an obvious wrong."

-- Editorial, Cleveland Crain's Business

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Ohio lawmaker proposes delaying House Bill 6 subsidies for nuclear power plants

Dec 02, 2020 10:07 PM

Rep. Jim Hoops
Rep. Jim Hoops

"Hoops, [chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight] doesn't support a full repeal of House Bill 6.

'There were some good things I feel that were in the bill,' Hoops said. 'I think we want to keep the nuclear plants here in Ohio.'

Ohio Citizen Action responded to the filing of House Bill 798.

'Delaying the collection of nuclear and solar subsidies for a year does little more than kick the can down the road for Ohio consumers,' Rachael Belz, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, said.

'If the Legislature can acknowledge that House Bill 6 is so flawed that implementation should be on hold for a year, they should finally demonstrate the leadership we are all waiting for and repeal House Bill 6 outright before the end of session.'"

Highland County Press 

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Bills to Repeal or Alter House Bill 6 Resurface in Ohio's Lame-Duck Session

Dec 02, 2020 10:01 PM

ADOBESTOCK                                                                                                            AdobeStock

COLUMBUS, Ohio - "Ohio's controversial energy-bailout legislation at the center of a bribery scandal is getting some new attention in Columbus this week.

Lawmakers in both chambers are discussing bills that would either repeal or alter House Bill 6 - which would fund $1.6 billion in utility subsidies through a new customer surcharge.

The 2019 legislation is at the heart of an alleged $60 million bribery scheme, which Rachel Belz - executive director with Ohio Citizen Action - noted came to light over four months ago.

'People are just so mad that they can't seem to do anything about this,' said Belz. 'It's sort of a rudderless ship in Columbus. And if they don't repeal House Bill 6, then FirstEnergy starts to collect our money January 1st. It's an impending deadline that they don't seem to be taking seriously.'"

- Mary Kuhlman, Ohio News Connection

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Environmental group wants PUCO to reconsider cases after chair resigned

Nov 24, 2020 6:10 PM

Sam Randazzo, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio--"An environmental group is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to throw out and re-do proceedings that involve Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. during the nearly two years that Sam Randazzo led the PUCO.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center filed a motion Tuesday with the PUCO, just five days after Randazzo resigned as PUCO chairman.

Last week, FBI agents executed a search warrant at a Columbus condo owned by Randazzo and hauled away boxes of material."

--Laura Bischoff, Dayton Daily News

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PUCO asked to vacate FirstEnergy actions under Randazzo's leadership

Nov 24, 2020 10:29 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio--"The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is being asked to vacate actions it took related to FirstEnergy Corp. while former chairman Sam Randazzo was in charge and to hold new hearings.

The request was filed late Tuesday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center."

--The Toledo Blade

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Continued House Bill 6 fallout has Ohio lawmakers scrambling

Nov 23, 2020 6:00 PM

 

COLUMBUS, Ohio--"Several different pieces of legislation have been introduced to fully or partially repeal HB6, but no action has been taken yet. Legislators have until session ends Dec. 31 to do something before Ohioians start to pay for the energy industry subsidies through a $2.35 fee tacked onto their electric bills on Jan. 1.

Attorney General Dave Yost filed suit Nov. 13 to stop the collection of those charges, saying the 'people of Ohio are about to be shaken down for money they should not have to pay based on how HB 6 was enacted.'

Randazzo’s resignation has more people and groups, including State Rep. David Leland, Ohio Consumer Power Alliance and Ohio Citizen Action, calling for a repeal of HB 6."

--Rachel Wagoner, Farm and Dairy

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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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