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Government/Politics

Democratic candidate for governor says he'd fire Ohio utility regulators

Cranley in front of Statehouse - Kasler.JPG
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Cincinnati mayor John Cranley, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, talks to reporters across the street from the Statehouse on Thursday, November 4, 2021. The sign next to him features a quote from a text from FirstEnergy's then-CEO Chuck Jones discussing then-PUCO chair Sam Randazzo's work involving FirstEnergy with senior vice president Dennis Chack in March 2020. The text was released by Ohio Consumers' Counsel Bruce Watson last month.

One of the Democrats running for governor next year said he'd fire the members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio over the House Bill 6 scandal.

The corruption scandal involving the nuclear plant bailout law known as House Bill 6 is likely to be a centerpiece of Democratic campaigns in Ohio next year.

The governor selects members of the state’s utility regulator, so one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates running against incumbent Republican Mike DeWine is zeroing in on that early.

Nearly 40 years ago, newly elected Democratic Gov. Dick Celeste demanded the resignations of the state’s Public Utilities Commissioners after campaigning that they’d allowed too many rate increases.

Cincinnati mayor John Cranley said he’ll do the same, noting the nuclear plants' former owner, FirstEnergy, has admitted to bribing former PUCO chair Sam Randazzo, who was appointed by DeWine and Republican ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, who pushed House Bill 6 through.

"We need to fire the utility commissioners that are really private utility commissioners appointed by Mike DeWine, and I will appoint public utility commissioners that’ll put the public first," Cranley said at a press conference across the street from the Statehouse.

Randazzo hasn’t been charged, and Householder is awaiting federal trial but has maintained his innocence.

Cranley also wants to revamp how PUCO commissioners are nominated and fully fund the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, the state’s utility watchdog agency.

But those changes would need approval from the legislature, which is still likely to be dominated by Republicans after next year’s election.

DeWine said in response to Cranley's comments about the Public Utilities Commissioners that he's "not going to fire them" and that "I guess the political season has started".

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