Recent news

Despite scandal, DeWine says he takes corruption seriously

Dec 14, 2020 9:23 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio--"Despite a massive bribery scandal related to a lobbying effort involving his appointees and members of his administration, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says his administration takes corruption seriously.

'We always take things seriously,' he said.

DeWine made those comments last Tuesday, less than three weeks after his appointee to chair the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio resigned. The commissioner, Sam Randazzo, left the post after the FBI raided his house and the utility at the center of the scandal, FirstEnergy, disclosed that it gave $4 million to a regulatory official shortly before he assumed his post in early 2019."

--Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal

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Ohio Citizen Action announces support for Ellis Jacobs for PUCO Commissioner

Dec 14, 2020 3:55 PM

Ohio Citizen Action and our members are proud to support Ellis Jacobs in his application to replace Sam Randazzo on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Jacobs brings decades of experience as an attorney committed to public interest work, including service with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and providing community support on a variety of environmental, housing, health and utility cases. As a native Daytonian, he has spearheaded neighborhood campaigns to protect the region from potential air and chemical pollution sources. Jacobs is also a member of the Universal Service Administrative Company board of directors, helping to administer telephone universal service funds nationally. 

“In addition to his extensive resume, Jacobs would bring to the PUCO a perspective that has been lacking in recent years—a focus on protecting the consumer rather than protecting the profits of Ohio utilities,” said Rachael Belz, Executive Director of Ohio Citizen Action. “His career-long dedication to increasing equity, fairness, and access to services at the community level would offer a unique benefit to the Commission at a time when corruption has been winning the day.”

Jacobs and his family live in Yellow Springs, and he has served as both a member and president of the Ohio Citizen Action board.

- press release, Rachael Belz, executive director, Ohio Citizen Action



Here’s a revolutionary idea - utility regulators should represent all Ohioans, not just the utilities: editorial

Dec 13, 2020 12:03 PM

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CLEVELAND--"One lesson from the House Bill 6 scandal at the Ohio Statehouse is already evident: The General Assembly must end the chokehold that utilities have on state energy policy and state utility regulation. That needs to start with reforming how Public Utilities Commission of Ohio members are selected and how the PUCO operates."

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

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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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