Finalists for the position of Chair of the Public Utilities Commission
On January 20, Governor Mike DeWine sent a letter to the Public Utilities of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council requesting a list of additional candidates to consider to fill the position created by the abrupt departure of Sam Randazzo as chair of the panel that regulates Ohio utilities.
On February 19, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council sent Gov. DeWine a list of four finalists they deem qualified to fill the vacancy. DeWine has 30 days to nominate one of them or select from a prior list of recommendations.
Clearly, selecting a new PUCO member outside the influence of FirstEnergy or others that are regulated by the PUCO is of the highest priority. The PUCO chair must be someone who will, first and foremost, represent the interests of Ohio consumers.
Finalists sent to Gov. DeWine on February 19:
French, a Republican, is a former Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge, whose cover letter states, “Although I claim no expertise in public utility matters, throughout my professional career I have been able to make thoughtful, conscientious decision on complex and difficult matters after carefully listening to all sides.”
She also volunteered that she does not “hold any stocks or bonds in any regulated utility’’ – a disclosure that follows reports that Randazzo received a questionable $4 million payment from First Energy shortly before Gov. DeWine appointed him PUCO chair.
In 2020, French received a “highly recommended’’ rating from the Columbus Bar Association Judicial Screening Committee. Before becoming a judge, she was a lawyer in private practice, served on Westerville City Council from 2011-2015, and was Vice Mayor of Westerville from 2013-2015.
She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from The Ohio State University and a law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
King is a Republican who is assistant general counsel at Marathon Petroleum. She is the Refining Sustaining Manager responsible for developing engineering and business strategies to lower the carbon footprint of Marathon’s products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Her cover letter touts her experience in both chemical engineering and the law, coupled with what she calls “35 years of industry experience.’’
She has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a law degree, both from the University of Toledo.
Melissa Shilling is a Republican who currently chairs the three-member Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC). The Commission hears and resolves appeals resulting from technical and legal decisions taken by the Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the State Fire Marshal, the State Emergency Response Commission, and county and local boards of health.
Members are appointed by the governor for staggered six-year terms and are required to have experience in pollution control and abatement technology, ecology, public health, environmental law, and the economics of natural resource development.
She compared her experience on the commission to the PUCO’s mission to assure all residential and business consumers have access to adequate, safe, and reliable utility services at fair prices saying, “ERAC strives to establish a reliable environmental scaffold to support Ohio’s growth for years to come.’’
Her resume notes that her prior legal experience includes ethics and employment counsel at the OEPA and assistant law director for the City of Newark, and her political credentials include stints on the Licking County GOP’s executive and central committees and two terms on her local school board.
She has a bachelor’s degree from Ashland University and a law degree from Capital University.
Shields is a political independent who brings much-needed consumer credentials with his current job as director of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel’s analytical department.
In his cover letter, Shields states that he has “nearly seven years experience at the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) and over 30 years of experience at the PUCO. ‘’ The OCC is the state agency responsible for representing residential utility customers before the PUCO.
He has been in his current position since 2014 and is responsible for formulating and administering the agency’s accounting, economic, and financial analyses associated with utility rate filings and other matters that affect Ohio’s residential utility consumers.
He is a former PUCO’s liaison to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and he has led teams at the PUCO to implement federal laws and policies that include the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
“My experience and leadership at the OCC and the PUCO to protect Ohio’s utility consumers at the state and federal level will result in extensive contributions as a Commissioner to PUCO’s work to regulate Ohio’s public utilities and to realize its mission,’’ he said in his cover letter.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University and an MBA from Ashland University.
The prior list of finalists sent to the PUCO on December 21 includes:
Amos is a policy adviser at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the independent government agency regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. She joined FERC as a financial analyst in the Office of Energy Market Regulation and now serves as policy adviser to FERC’s West Division, in the Office of Energy Market Regulation. Her duties include providing technical and legal advice to FERC Staff and Commissioner offices.
She is the only Democrat to have made either list of recommended candidates, and her background includes 15 years in the finance and energy industries.
Before joining FERC, her jobs included managing a Lehman Brothers energy trading desk and writing research reports on global coal and uranium markets. In her application, she noted past work for international firms where she analyzed how to apply business strategies to different (and sometimes conflicting) energy regulatory frameworks.
In doing her work, Amos says she often refers to the framework of ethics, economics, and the law that she studied in Leadership & Corporate Accountability as a first-year student at the Harvard Business School. “Ethically, we have to be mindful when considering the right thing to do. From the legal perspective, FERC has to ensure our regulations will hold up in court—but those regulations also have to protect the markets, which brings in the economic lens. At the end of the day, the businesses that provide energy have to make money to survive. And customers need to pay, but the rate must be just and reasonable—provisions exist so citizens can get the energy they need to live,” she wrote in information provided with her application.
She has an undergraduate degree in Afro-American Studies and Government at Harvard, and an MBA from Harvard.
Poulos – a political Independent – is the only finalist for the PUCO opening with a history of working both for the state agency that advocates for residential utility customers and for a company that helps businesses access clean energy solutions.
He was recommended to fill the vacancy by Common Cause Ohio and the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the state agency that advocates for residential utility customers before the PUCO.
Since 2017, he has been Executive Director of the Consumer Advocates of the PJM States (CAPS), a non-profit organization whose members represent over 61-million consumers in the 13 PJM states and the District of Columbia. CAPS boasts that regulatory rules vary greatly across the state jurisdictions, but notes that “Engagement by CAPS at PJM is necessary to ensure that consumers’ voices are heard.’’
He previously served as Director of Regulatory affairs for EnerNOC. Rebranded as Enel X, the company says it helps companies “provide integrated, sustainable energy solutions to optimize and monetize their energy use. ‘’
From 2007-2012, Poulos was the assistant Consumers’ Counsel where he served as the lead for comprehensive retail utility litigation before the PUCO. He oversaw everything from complex policy issues to settlement negotiations. The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) is the statewide agency that advocates for consumers in proceedings before the PUCO. From 1999-2007, he worked in various capacities for the Ohio Attorney General, including stints in the charitable and environmental enforcement sections.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and a law degree from The Ohio State University.
Vogel, a Republican, served as assistant policy director for energy and natural resources for Gov. Mike DeWine, and her PUCO application lists her policy areas as including both natural resources and energy. In her application she wrote, “I work closely with the many stakeholders across the state of Ohio and nationally on energy policy matters.’’
She does not list her views on the nuclear bailout law at the center of the FBI probe, but she served as DeWine’s energy adviser at the time that he appointed Randazzo to serve as PUCO chair and as the bailout bill (House Bill 6) was debated and signed into law by the governor.
Prior to joining DeWine’s staff, she worked for American Electric Power, the Columbus-based electric utility that stands to benefit from the bailout. Her resume shows that she held a variety of legal and regulatory roles for AEP, ending her tenure as Managing Director, Federal Government Affairs.
On her financial disclosure statements, she shows investments of over $1,000 in common stock for several electric utilities, including AEP, Exelon, and FirstEnergy Corp.
After joining DeWine as his energy adviser, Vogel lobbied on several energy-related bills including Bill 6, which provided millions in coal plant subsidies that benefit AEP.
Judith French is no longer under consideration. Gov. DeWine appointed French to serve as the director of the Ohio Department of Insurance.
Gov. DeWine has 30 days to select someone from the list announced Feb. 19 or select from a prior list of finalists. The candidates are vying for a partial term expiring in April 2024 – a seat that opened after Randazzo’s November resignation.
The appointment is subject to Senate approval and comes with a salary range of $73,715-$195,728 to be set by the governor.
Sam Randazzo’s departure came days after an FBI raid on his home and disclosure of the $4 million from FirstEnergy to an unnamed regulator that fits Randazzo’s description. Since then the company has reported to the Security and Exchange Commission that the contract “may have been for purposes other than those represented within the consulting agreement.