Gov. DeWine to name new commissioner to powerful utility board

Gov. Mike DeWine will soon name a new member of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, a powerful board whose decisions impact the pocketbooks of all Ohioans.

The 12-member PUCO nominating council interviewed eight candidates and sent a list of four names — Bryce McKenney, Dennis Deters, Eugene Krebs and Samuel Randazzo — to the governor on Thursday.

Krebs, a Preble County farmer and a former Republican lawmaker, served on the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel board from 2005 to 2017, representing the interest of residential utility customers. Krebs has also served in public policy roles with think tanks, including Greater Ohio and the Center for Community Solutions.

Related: Farmer, former state rep seeks PUCO seat

Deters, a Republican, is a judge on the First District Court of Appeals and brother to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. He also served as a Hamilton County commissioner and local township trustee.

McKenney, a Republican from Columbus, has worked as an attorney examiner and administrative judge over cases for the PUCO and the Ohio Power Siting Board. He also worked as an attorney for the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel.

Perhaps the best known of the four is Randazzo, an attorney who has been heavily involved in Ohio energy policy for the past four decades. He has represented Industrial Energy Users - Ohio since 1992, spent nearly a decade on the nominating council and been an outspoken critic of Ohio’s renewable energy mandates put in place in 2008. Scott Elisar, an attorney in Randazzo’s former law firm, is on the nominating council that put Randazzo on the list of four candidates for DeWine to consider.

Two years ago, while on the nominating council, Randazzo argued against Howard Pettricoff being considered for the PUCO because of Pettricoff’s work history would force him to recuse himself from many cases before the commission.

By law, DeWine has 30 days to pick someone off the list of four or ask the nominating council for a new list. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Ohio Senate. The job, which pays between $73,700 and $190,500 a year, involves regulating utilities, including natural gas, electricity, telephones, railroad crossings and transport trucks. The five commissioners serve rotating five-year terms.

The PUCO is the regulator at the center of decisions that impact the utility bills paid by customers.

Over the past two decades, Ohio moved to deregulate electricity generation in 1999; put the brakes on deregulation in 2008; and set renewable energy benchmarks in 2008 and pulled back from the benchmarks in 2014.

This year more energy policy changes could be in the offing. First Energy in Akron is pushing lawmakers to allow the company to collect extra money to deal with aging nuclear power plants. AEP Ohio in Columbus is seeking approval to build solar farm in Highland and Clinton counties. Dayton Power & Light is asking the PUCO to approve a two-year extension on a charge that costs the typical residential customer about $8.65 a month.

Related: PUCO: New DP&L plan raises rates

Meanwhile, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, created a new committee to focus on energy policy.

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