FBI raid brings scrutiny on obscure but powerful Ohio energy regulator
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine soon will consider a replacement for the state’s most powerful utility regulator, a man whose share of public attention increased dramatically after the FBI searched his home last month.
Sam Randazzo, a longtime fixture on Ohio’s energy law scene, quit as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio the same week as the raid, amid questions over his ties to a federal corruption investigation into a sweeping energy bill – House Bill 6. The feds say their probe uncovered the largest bribery scheme in Ohio history – a scheme in which they say FirstEnergy Corp. money was used to get the nuclear plant bailout bill passed and protect it from being repealed.
Randazzo’s departure also came just after a regulatory filing suggested that he may have received a $4 million payment from FirstEnergy shortly before Gov. Mike DeWine named him as PUCO chair in February 2019.
Those circumstances have brought unusual scrutiny to the typically obscure process of state energy regulations. Critics are sure to question any decision DeWine makes to replace Randazzo, given the ties between FirstEnergy, senior officials in the DeWine administration and a screening committee that nominates PUCO commissioner candidates. Advocates have called for tougher disclosure requirements for PUCO members, as well as for the PUCO to throw out and reconsider decisions Randazzo made as chairman that affected FirstEnergy.
Rob Kelter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, an advocacy group, called the $4 million payment described in the FirstEnergy filing “staggeringly corrupt.” …