It is no surprise that the $60 million scandal that resulted in the passage of HB 6, the nuclear bailout bill continues to grow. In this case, it is the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), Sam Randazzo, who has been snared in the web. Randazzo resigned last Friday.
The Chairman’s resignation follows the firing of five senior FirstEnergy executives, including the CEO Chuck Jones for what a statement termed as violations of corporate ethics rules. Among those fired was the FirstEnergy Ethics Officer.
According to a filing at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, “[t]he counter-party to such agreement was an entity associated with an individual who subsequently was appointed to a full-time role as an Ohio government official directly involved in regulating the Ohio companies, including with respect to distribution rates. At this time, it has not been determined if the payments were for the purposes represented within the consulting agreement,” FirstEnergy says. “The matter is a subject of the ongoing internal investigation related to the government investigations.”
According to press reports, the $4 million payment was made to a consulting firm owned by Randazzo in early 2019 as he was closing his businesses and leaving his law firm in preparation for a run at PUCO chair. The firm had worked for FirstEnergy since 2013, and the ownership was disclosed by Randazzo as a part of his application. Randazzo is a long-time energy lawyer in Columbus.
Randazzo’s period as chairman has been a mixed bag for consumers. It is well known that he supported nuclear power and actively campaigned for the repeal of Ohio’s Advanced Energy and Energy Efficiency Standards. However, he was sensitive to the situation faced by low-income families served by OPAE members, pushing the utilities to issue moratoriums and ensuring the utility plans adequately protected the newly unemployed along with the traditional clients.
Most recently, Randazzo and the Commission supported the issuance of revised Credit and Disconnection regulations that will, among other things, reduce the percentage of income paid by natural gas PIPP customers to five percent.