Update: This article was updated on January 31, 2019, with information from the cover letter and resume Samuel Randazzo filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the latest financial disclosure statement he submitted to the Ohio Ethics Commission, as well as other sources related to that information.
Samuel Randazzo, an attorney
Randazzo is one of nine candidates who will be interviewed by the PUCO Nominating Council on Thursday. The 12-member council will then select four candidates to recommend to Governor Mike DeWine for further consideration at the same meeting.
A professional profile of Randazzo had been removed from the website of his former law firm McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC by Monday afternoon. Randazzo retired from the firm on December 31, 2018, one month before his interview with the PUCO Nominating Council.
According to a bio found on the PUCO website, Randazzo has “worked on public utility matters addressing issues affecting the price and availability of communications, natural gas, electricity
As an attorney and lobbyist for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio (IEU-Ohio), Randazzo helped to draft controversial legislation aimed at rolling back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.
Randazzo informed the members of the PUCO Nominating Council in his cover letter – dated January 17, 2019 – that he continues to hold the position of general counsel with IEU-Ohio, an industry group he helped form in 1992.
“Should I be selected to serve as a PUCO Commissioner, I will resign my General Counsel position and discontinue any involvement with the trade association,’ Randazzo said in a footnote on his resume.
He has represented individual IEU-Ohio member companies like Marathon Petroleum Company before the PUCO as they seek approval for so-called “reasonable arrangements” with utilities. These deals allow some industrial ratepayers to pay lower rates for energy, at the expense of residential consumers.
Randazzo has also fought the development of wind power in Ohio as a lobbyist and attorney for Greenwich Neighbors United, an anti-wind group that refers to climate change as a “hoax” on its website. The cover letter and resume he submitted to the PUCO Nominating Council included no specific mention of Greenwich Neighbors United or wind power.
His job application also included no mention of the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio, Inc., a shadowy for-profit corporation which Randazzo has listed among his sources of income and businesses in financial disclosure statements filed with the Ohio Ethic Commission. A company called the “Sustainability Funding Alliance” has popped up in filings in FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy case.
Clean energy advocates in Ohio question Randazzo’s ability to be impartial in cases involving renewable energy and energy efficiency. If approved to the commission, Randazzo may face calls to recuse himself from many cases involving his former clients and law firm.
In the introduction to a 2018 IEU-Ohio report, Randazzo attacked what he called “intermittent” renewable energy sources that “don’t show up to work” and celebrated what he viewed as “fierce local opposition” to
Grounds for recusal
Prior to applying for the job of commissioner, Randazzo served on the PUCO Nominating Council.
“Mr. Randazzo most recently served on nominating council on January 25, 2018,” Matt Schilling, a PUCO spokesperson told the Energy & Policy Institute via email.
Randazzo listed a different end date on his resume: “Speakers Appointee/PUCO Nominating Council 2008-2019 (Secretary)”
“I received continuous appointments to the PUCO Nominating Council from Ohio Speakers of the House affiliated with both the Democrat and Republican parties,” Randazzo said on his resume.
Emails sent by Randazzo in 2016, when he was a member of the PUCO Nominating Council, show how he opposed two earlier candidates for the commission on the grounds that they would have to recuse themselves from cases due to possible conflicts of interest involving their former clients and law firms.
In the emails, Randazzo targeted then-PUCO candidate Howard Petricoff over Petricoff’s past work for wind farm developers, as well as tech companies like Amazon that are known for supporting renewable energy. Randazzo argued that Petricoff would have to “recuse himself from many cases” before the PUCO.
“… once you do that kind of stuff, you can’t then vote on the issues for the commission in cases in which he participated,” Randazzo later told Columbus Business First.
Randazzo could face similar recusal concerns as he seeks appointment to PUCO, given his long record of work for IEU-Ohio and other clients before the commission.
Randazzo retired from McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC on December 31, 2018, according to documents filed with PUCO less than two weeks ago by his former law firm. One filing listed more than two dozen PUCO proceedings where Randazzo
IEU-Ohio reported the bulk of its revenue came from nearly $2.5 million in “electric restructuring income” and over $160,000 in “IEU/FES Pool (2009) Income” on its latest Form 990 filing with the IRS, which Randazzo signed.
IEU-Ohio also counts a number of companies regularly involved in PUCO cases among its members and vendor affiliates, including Marathon Petroleum Company, Columbia Gas of Ohio and FirstEnergy Solutions (FES).
“IEU-Ohio is currently involved in activities… including participation in the electric utilities’ electric security plan (ESP) and market rate option (MRO) proceedings, rulemakings, tariff filings, rate increase proceedings, capacity price filings, energy efficiency mandate issues and other issues that impact the establishment of a dynamic, effective marketplace,” IEU-Ohio said in a February 2018 document that named Randazzo as their general counsel.
As recently as 2016, Randazzo was also a lobbyist for the Ohio Gas Company. His name also appeared on financial records for NWO Resources, which acquired the Ohio Gas Company in 1985, from the 1990s and 2000s that are still on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Scott Elisar, another attorney for Randazzo’s former law firm, is a now a member of the PUCO Nominating Council, where he is representing the Ohio House speaker. Elisar is also a lobbyist for IEU-Ohio and the Ohio Gas Company, and he has joined Randazzo in representing the anti-wind group Greenwich Neighbors United before the Ohio Power Siting Board.
What is the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio?
On his latest financial disclosure statement covering the year 2017 and in earlier filings with the Ohio Ethics Commission, Randazzo listed the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio among his sources of income and business interests, alongside McNees Wallace & Nurick and the IEU-Ohio Administration Company.
IEU-Ohio has been registered in Ohio as a non-profit corporation in Ohio since 1992.
The IEU-Ohio Administration Company has been registered as a for-profit Limited Liability Corporation in Ohio since 2003. It was listed as a creditor with a claim of $43,166.07 in a May 2018 bankruptcy filing by FirstEnergy Solutions.
Randazzo did not list the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio on the resume he submitted to the PUCO Nominating Council.
The website for the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio currently consists of a single page with the group’s name and an email address, but an archived version of the site shows it backed efforts to roll back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The name also appeared on a list of companies that endorsed SB 58, a 2013 bill aimed at rolling back the clean energy standards, that was circulated by then state Senator Bill Seitz.
A for profit corporation with the same name was formed in 2010, with the purpose to “receive and administer funds for cooperative purposes, to reduce the energy intensity of Ohio’s economy, and other purposes as may be permitted by law.”
Randazzo’s name appeared on paperwork associated with both entities.
The name “Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio” also appeared in relation to case before the Columbus Department of Development involving Randazzo’s application to build a garage at an existing home.
Little other information is publicly available about the Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio.
A top opponent of Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards
IEU-Ohio promotes itself as an “active partner in shaping” SB 310, the 2014 bill that established a two-year freeze on Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Randazzo then worked to influence the Energy Mandates Study Committee created by the same bill, which ultimately issued a one-sided report that recommended an indefinite extension of the clean energy standards freeze.
In one email sent while the committee’s “study” was underway in 2015, Randazzo dismissed a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy that demonstrated the savings generated by energy efficiency programs in Ohio as “Garbage!”
The month before the Energy Mandates Study Committee report was released, Randazzo was BCCed on an email sent to an inner circle of state legislators and lobbyists by
“… we should really be meeting as a small group to start figuring out what that report is going to say,” Seitz said in the email.
Randazzo also later lobbied on a series of unsuccessful bills that attempted to roll back the clean energy standards after the freeze ended, including HB 114 from the last legislative session.
Fighting wind and solar projects
Randazzo has for years represented the anti-wind power group Greenwich Neighbors United as an attorney and lobbyist.
He spoke last year at a meeting organized by the Seneca Anti-Wind Union, where he was joined by Kevon Martis, a fellow with the coal-backed Energy & Environment Legal Institute. Other anti-renewable energy events Randazzo has spoken at in the past have featured Robert Murray, the CEO of coal producer Murray Energy, and Tom Stacy, an Ohio-based anti-wind activist turned consultant for think tanks and industry groups funded by the fossil fuel industry.
Emails revealed the role that Randazzo played in blocking a 2017 legislative effort to ease restrictive setback rules that have stifled new wind farm development in Ohio.
In 2013, Randazzo, IEU-Ohio and FirstEnergy played a role in killing the Turning Point solar project in a case before the PUCO. IEU-Ohio is currently questioning the need for another major new solar project proposed by AEP as an intervenor in an ongoing case before the PUCO.
“Happy” to have undue influence over Ohio’s energy policy
Randazzo placed #4 in a 2011 Ohio Citizen Action report that ranked Ohio lobbyists based on the total amount of money they contributed to state legislative candidates in 2009-2010.
He more recently contributed more than $40,000 to candidates for state office in 2017-2018, including $1,000 to Mike DeWine’s campaign for governor in December 2017. He also contributed thousands of dollars to the Republican Senate Campaign Committee and Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee.
Asked in 2017 about his outsized influence over energy policy in Ohio, Randazzo responded that he was “happy to hear that I have undue influence.”