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Lawmaker Accuses Utility Commision Chair Of Having Personal Interest In Nuclear Bailout

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The Ohio House committee holding meetings on a potential repeal of HB6, a sweeping energy law, heard testimony from the leader of Ohio's utility regulatory commission. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chair was accused of having his own conflict of interest when it comes to the bailout.

PUCO chair Sam Randazzo says he is not taking a position one way or the other on the potential repeal HB6, which bails out nuclear power plants among several other things.

Randazzo was asked if he ever did business with companies that would create a conflict when it comes to the bill.

"I'm old school on clients, and will not disclose clients I may have had in the past," Randazzo said, adding that there are public records and court documents that could provide more detail.

Randazzo says, before becoming chair of the PUCO, he never represented as a lawyer or lobbyist a utility that's regulated by the commission.

However, state Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) pointed to public records that he says connects a company owned by Randazzo as a creditor for the former FirstEnergy subsidiary, previously known as FirstEnergy Solutions.

HB6 bails out two nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, now called Energy Harbor.

Weinstein claims Randazzo has "personal skin in the game."

"I don't have any other questions, because I don't want to give him an opportunity to shill for his former bosses anymore and I think Ohioans are sick of it," Weinstein said, before being gaveled down by the chair of the House committee.

FirstEnergy is accused of playing a role in an alleged bribery scheme that helped HB6 become law. They allegedly funneled more than $60 million into a 501(c)(4) called Generation Now. That dark money group, according to federal investigators, was controlled by fomer Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) who allegedly used the money for personal and political gain.

PUCO has opened a case to review the political expenditures of FirstEnergy and its branch organizations to determine if the costs that went into supporting HB6 are directly or indirectly connected to charges ratepayers pay on their electric bills.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.