This article is from Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list, as this helps provide more public service reporting. At the Academy Tavern in Cleveland last week, Missy and Wilson Heller shared a table but not a comfort level. “I’m freaked out,” Missy said about eating out during the pandemic. “It’s all overblown,” Wilson said about the danger.
One year into his first term, Ohio’s top utility regulator, Samuel Randazzo, has signaled that winning approval to build and operate wind and solar projects in the state could be even more difficult in the future. At the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Ohio Power Siting Board, which Randazzo also chairs, recent decisions have blocked a new solar development and imposed new restrictions on wind energy — moves consistent with Randazzo’s longtime criticism of renewables as a registered lobbyist and lawyer representing heavy industry before the utilities commission. Also, the commission is now defending Ohio’s decision to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants in a filing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — an about-face from its stance in 2017 opposing a federal bailout of old coal and nuclear plants.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s 2019 appointment of Randazzo, a veteran energy lawyer and lobbyist, followed a rapid and opaque approval process that overlooked two of Randazzo’s ongoing small consulting companies, both of which have done business with FirstEnergy subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions, (now Energy Harbor) federal bankruptcy records show.
Randazzo declined an interview request to comment on the companies or to elucidate what he sees as the PUCO’s mission.
Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston, the state’s voice for residential utility consumers, has been pushing to reform the nomination process for the PUCO, noting that the majority of commission members are either former employees of power companies or have represented them.
And while Randazzo has not always been at odds with consumer advocates, his long opposition to renewable energy is making its mark in Ohio regulatory decisions. Sam Randazzo (Photo Credit: the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio)
A long hostility to clean energy
Randazzo told state lawmakers during his 2019 confirmation hearing that as a commissioner he would have no view for or against any particular technology — despite a pattern of publicly criticizing renewable energy.
As chair of the Public Utilities Commission, he testified before lawmakers last year on Ohio House Bill 6, which authorized subsidies for nuclear and coal generation but basically gutted the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. His comments stressed the cost of the standards but not their benefits.
Bipartisan Group of Representatives Introduce Bill After Eye on Ohio Investigation into Property Tax Loophole
This story was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.
Ohio lawmakers reached across the aisle to introduce a new bill that would close a property tax loophole on commercial property sales in the state.
Reps. Mike Skindell (D-13) and Doug Green (R-66) co-sponsored HB449 in late December. The proposed law would not allow businesses to avoid conveyance taxes by spinning off commercial properties into shell companies.
“We have been seeing a loss of revenue because of companies being placed in these LLCs. So when the property is transferred, it’s in the LLC and that [conveyance] fee is avoided. So what you have is a situation where the counties have less revenue on these, then they have to raise it on other people,” Skindell said.
PARKERSBURG, W. Va. – Tommy Joyce is no cinephile. The last movie he saw in a theater was the remake of “True Grit” nearly a decade ago. “I’d rather watch squirrels run in the woods” than sit through most of what appears on the big screen, he said. But there’s a film that opened Dec.
Cincinnati Councilmember Introduces Motion to Study Racial Disparity in Traffic Stops in Response to Eye on Ohio/Enquirer Story
On Friday, Cincinnati City Councilmember Jeff Pastor introduced a motion to examine police practices after an investigation by the Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and Stanford University's Big Local News program found that blacks and black neighborhoods were more likely to be traffic stop targets. Read the full story on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website. Investigation: Blacks, black neighborhoods most likely to be traffic stop targets in Ohio’s 3 biggest cities Sidebar: Can an officer's perception of you alter your ticket? Biracial man's 'white' tickets dismissed, 'black' tickets sustained Sidebar: Beleaguered Cincinnati agency probing stop complaints rarely faults cops Methodology and Caveats: See step by step how we calculated the results. Access the data: Stanford's Big Local News Project
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This calculator provides cost and/or savings estimates of how much money you may have paid (or saved) each month following retail electric deregulation. It’s based on data shared with Eye on Ohio and the Energy News Network from a study that looked at how extra fees and more competition have impacted utility bills. (Note, however, that it doesn’t account for the expected costs of House Bill 6, passed in July 2019.)
What’s a cross-subsidy effect? A cross-subsidy exists when one group pays a higher cost in order to allow another group to pay less.
Two types of cross subsidies appear on Ohio electric bills. The first type (Type I) is when residential or commercial customers pay a higher rate (cents/KWh) than industrial customers (e.g., Amazon or Honda).
The second type (Type II) of cross-subsidy is when non-regulated utility costs are passed through to regulated customers.
Sidebar: Can an officer's perception of you alter your ticket? Biracial man's 'white' tickets dismissed, 'black' tickets sustained
Reporters from the nonprofit newsroom Eye on Ohio, The Cincinnati Enquirer and researchers from Stanford University’s Big Local News program examined police stops to assess how the three largest communities in Ohio use public safety resources and to identify possible bias in policing. Jermiah Miller, a biracial man with self-described pale skin, said he feels like he has a foot in two worlds: one in which cops view him as white, the other as black. He believes he’s treated better when he’s perceived to be white. Miller, 26, was ticketed for driving with a suspended license and other charges four times last year. Twice cops listed his race as white, and twice as black.
In the two instances in which he was listed as white, Miller’s charges were ultimately dismissed, according to court records.
A look at how affiliate arrangements, subsidies and riders led to higher electric bills in Ohio — even as power prices declined
In a residential neighborhood south of downtown Cleveland, a decorative lamppost provides a stark illustration of what critics say is an abusive system of surcharges that have created billions of dollars in subsidies for the state’s utilities. The 150-watt light in a tiny residential park is the only thing for which the South Hills Neighborhood Association used electricity in July. Yet the electric bill was nearly $70 — only 38 cents of which was for the actual electricity consumed. The bill for that single lamppost is now nearly 750% higher than it was just 11 years ago. In July 2008, the charge for the same light totaled $8.28, with $2.69 going toward electricity.
For one Ohio trafficking victim, the opening of the accredited rape crisis center at the YWCA Dayton last year proved crucial to quelling her inner demons, which lingered long after the physical pain subsided. For years, her abuser raped and beat her daily. She must never tell anyone, he threatened, because it would “open Pandora’s box.” Discussing her ordeal in counseling made her feel like it would open that box of monsters and shadows. Her counselor, however, reminded her that the bottom or Pandora’s box held the light of hope. In her private sessions, he taught her to visualize walking down a hallway and opening doors to seek that light and the letters to spell the word “hope” in each room she imagined.
Surprise Supreme Court Reaction to Ohio Controversy Prompts More Campaign Disclosures Nationally Right Before the Election
A look at the 12 groups who haven't disclosed their donors in state elections; The 501(c)(4) with no trace
The identities of many political donors can no longer be hidden behind a nonprofit shield, a D.C. Circuit judge recently ruled, in a case that started in Ohio. The Supreme Court’s decision not to issue an emergency stay on that ruling sent election groups around the country scrambling to comply with new disclosure rules just weeks before Nov. 6. After Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown faced a $6 million attack campaign funded by anonymous donors in 2012, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington complained to the FEC that Crossroads GPS, an major conservative nonprofit, should have to disclose their donors. When the FEC dismissed their complaint, they sued in 2016.
Federal regulators are watching the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants in Ohio more closely after problems with backup systems surfaced at both sites within the last year. Speaking at a meeting about the Davis-Besse plant last month, Nuclear Regulatory Commission representatives seemed satisfied that appropriate measures had been taken and said oversight would continue while FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries are in bankruptcy. However, some critics worry about the plants’ ongoing attitudes towards safety. “The years-long uncertainty and financial pressure on reactor operations have already had a powerful impact, and the bankruptcy proceeding has only amplified that,” said Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a Maryland-based anti-nuclear group. Other watchdog groups agreed that safety issues should not be dismissed lightly but had more confidence in regulators to manage the risks.