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DeWine Rejects List Of Nominees For PUCO Chair

The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie.
Ron Schwane
Associated Press
The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie is scheduled to shut down in 2020.

Gov. Mike DeWine is asking for a new list of candidates to potentially chair the state's utilities regulatory agency. Sam Randazzo, the former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio resigned after the FBI raided his home.

DeWine rejected the four candidates named by the PUCO Nominating Council, although he did pick one of them, former Supreme Court Justice Judith French, as director of the Ohio Department of Insurance.

The other names listed with French included Angela Amos, Anne Vogel and Greg Poulos.

"I reject the first list and request you reconvene the PUCO Nominating Council to provide me with a second list," DeWine said in his letter to the council. "The second list may include candidates that have previously applied, along with new applicants."

Ratepayer and environmental advocacy groups criticized DeWine's call for new nominees, saying he was turning his back on two qualified candidates with no connections to big energy companies.

"While there were names on the original list of four who had prior and present financial ties to Ohio’s regulated utilities, there were also qualified individuals on the list for consideration," Rachael Belz, director of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, said in a written statement. "Why would Governor DeWine turn away professionals with extensive utility market experience and consumer advocacy expertise who could have brought a fresh start and much-needed perspective to a PUCO that is currently in the shadows of scandal?"

Randazzo, who has long been opposed by environmental groups, resigned as PUCO chair in November after the FBI searched his home and reports surfaced suggesting a possible conflict between him and Ohio's large utility company, FirstEnergy. That company is believed be at the center of a $61 million federal bribery investigation, and is currently being audited by PUCO.

"Regardless of disclosures of prior business relationships to you and your team," Randazzo wrote in his resignation letter to DeWine, "the impression left by an FBI raid on our home, the statement included in FirstEnergy Corp.'s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday and the accompanying publicity will, right or wrong, fuel suspicions about and controversy over decisions I may render in my current capacity."

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.