COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) is in need of a new chairman following the abrupt resignation Friday of Samuel Randazzo, whose Columbus home was searched four days earlier by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The OPSB is the state board that ultimately makes decisions on whether to approve or reject energy projects such as the solar farm that Lightsource bp is looking to build in southwest Allen County and parts of Auglaize County.
Randazzo was the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. In that role, his duties also included chairing the power siting board.
His resignation came less than a day after FirstEnergy revealed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it paid $4 million in early 2019 to end a six-year contract with a consulting company believed to be linked to Randazzo.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Randazzo did a good job as chairman of the PUCO, according to the Associated Press. Randazzo’s resignation letter said he was resigning to stave off suspicion and controversy about any future PUCO decisions.
The FBI is investigating the House Bill 6 bribery scandal. Larry Householder, then speaker of the Ohio House, was implicated in that scandal and is currently under indictment.
Because Randazzo resigned, PUCO Vice Chair M. Beth Trombold assumes Randazzo’s duties until Governor Mike DeWine selects a new chair.
So who is on the Ohio Power Siting Board and what does the board do?
According to their website, the OPSB is made up of 11 members, seven who vote and four who are non-voting members. The chairman of the Public Utilities Commission serves as its chairman of the board.
DeWine selects a member of the public from a list of nominees provided by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. That person must be an engineer.
The seven voting members of the Ohio Power Siting Board are:
• Dorothy Pelanda, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
• Gregory Murphy (public member).
• Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
• Stephani McCloud, director of health the Ohio Department of Health.
• Laurie Stevenson, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
• Former Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik, who runs the Ohio Development Services Agency.
• Acting Chair M. Beth Trombold of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
The four non-voting members are legislators, two from the Ohio House and two from the Ohio Senate. They are state Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana; state Rep. Jeffrey Crussman, D-Parma; state Sen. Sandra Williams, D-Cuyahoga County; and state Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, in southwest Ohio.
Lightsource bp has yet to file a formal application to operate its proposed solar farm. The informational meetings it held Friday and Monday were the first steps toward that end.
The OPSB’s website said the purpose of such meetings “is for company representatives to inform stakeholders about plans to file an application with the OPSB. The meeting also serves as an opportunity to gather public input and hear the public’s concerns, which the company considers in developing its application.”
It said once a company submits an application for a new facility, “The OPSB staff scrutinizes the plan, makes a formal request for comments from other agencies and parties, and then makes a recommendation to the full Board. After the OPSB staff makes its recommendation, formal public hearings are held. These hearings enable citizens, interest groups and governmental entities to present testimony.”
Once a case has been officially filed with the board, members are, by law, precluded from discussing the substance of the case with any party until the board issues its decision,” according to the OPSB website.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.