While serving as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Sam Randazzo suggested revisions to legislation at the center of a federal corruption probe, a Cleveland newspaper reported.
Recently released emails show Randazzo played a role in amending House Bill 6, including language that would add more restrictions to wind energy setback rules, in order to help a former legal client for the private attorney, The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com reported.
The emails were part of a public records request. Energy News US is believed to be the first news outlet to report that the emails showed Randazzo's input on H.B. 6.
Randazzo resigned from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, or PUCO, on Nov. 20, 2020, following a disclosure by Akron-headquartered FirstEnergy Corp. that it had made a $4 million payment to a person who fit the regulator's description. The resignation came days after FBI agents were seen searching Randazzo's home.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Randazzo chairman of the PUCO in early 2019. Previously, Randazzo served as a PUCO staff member and as assistant attorney general. He was also a lobbyist for energy companies and general counsel for the advocacy group Industrial Energy Users-Ohio.
Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio Inc., a company reportedly owned by Randazzo, is listed in a December 2018 court document as providing professional services for former bankrupt FirstEnergy subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions, which is now named Energy Harbor Corp.
H.B. 6, signed into law in July 2019, establishes a $9/MWh credit for clean air resources in order to provide $150 million in annual financial support for two Ohio nuclear plants owned by Energy Harbor. The Ohio Supreme Court has paused collection of the subsidies.
The newspaper, however, reports that records show Randazzo sent emails to staff at the Ohio House of Representatives suggesting revisions to an early version of H.B. 6, along with other minor changes to the legislation's language while serving as the state's top regulator.
An amendment that would make wind energy setback rules more restrictive, as sought by property owners once represented by Randazzo in a case filed with the Ohio Supreme Court, did not make it into the final version of H.B. 6, the newspaper reported.
Randazzo reportedly used a private email tied to the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio to suggest the proposed setback changes.
The changes were included in House Bill 401, which did not make it out of committee.
H.B. 6, meanwhile, lowers and freezes the state's renewable energy mandate at 8.5% in 2026. The House initially voted to repeal this mandate, which initially called for utilities to generate at least 12.5% of their power from wind, solar and other renewable resources beginning in 2026.
The law also terminated the state's mandated energy efficiency programs on Dec. 31, 2020.