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Sam Randazzo’s Tragic Death Mirrors That Of Nuclear Power



-by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman


Columbus, Ohio— This week's tragic, sudden death of Sam Randazzo, former chair of Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission, makes him the second defendant to perish in the midst of one of the  biggest government scandals in Ohio history.

 

Randazzo made a great living lobbying for the fossil/nuclear industry while we were demanding Ohio get its energy from far less expensive, risk free carbon free renewables, wind and solar.

 

But now, at 74, he’s dead by apparent suicide.


So is the “Nuclear Renaissance” for which he lobbied. 


For many years we we often encountered Sam at energy hearings in Columbus. He was always personable and friendly as we exchanged handshakes and smiles. 


That we were totally on opposite sides of the issues was like an inside joke between us.


But he was there to lobby for the fossil/nuclear industry while we were demanding Ohio get its energy from wind and solar—which it could be doing today except for Sam and his corporate bankrollers’ highly effective back channel arm twisting.


Randazzo was always highly paid…TOO well paid, which is what led to his death in a Columbus warehouse owned by a shell company he controlled.


Apparently it was a suicide, though one can never be entirely sure when there are millions of bucks flying around in bribes. 


Because unbeknownst to us and even some of those paying him, Sam played both sides of the fence. You could trace exactly how by following this timeline as published by the Cincinnati Enquirer.


According to the Ohio Capital Journal, Sam apparently "secretly skimmed millions from settlements FirstEnergy paid the big users to get them to go along with rate hikes for everybody else.” Meaning that while Sam was on the payroll of the big industrial electrical consumers, he was also taking payoffs from the Akron-based FirstEnergy, with which they were negotiating for price breaks. 


The Journal says the "shady dealings between Randazzo and FirstEnergy... include secretly being a paid consultant for FirstEnergy while also serving as general counsel to industrial energy users who were trying to get a better deal from FirstEnergy.” Randazzo was also indicted by state and federal authorities for his role in the biggest bribery scandal in Ohio history. That would be the $61 million FirstEnergy slipped to former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder. Householder has been convicted of corruption and is now beginning a 20-year-sentence in federal prison. Neil Clark, another lobbyist involved in that flood of illicit money, is also dead by apparent suicide. Former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones is among those indicted. 


Last year the FBI raided Randazzo’s Columbus home and walked off with boxes of documents. At primary issue was $4.3 million allegedly paid to Randazzo by FirstEnergy to help draft a bill— infamously known as HB6— meant to hand FirstEnergy more than $1 billion in bailouts for FirstEnergy’s Perry and Davis-Besse nukes.


The two reactors sit on Lake Erie...the first east of Cleveland, the second near Toledo...the pair a part of the failing US fleet of 94, all but two of which average 42 years of age. In 2019, just after he apparently took that $4.3 million from FirstEnergy, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine made Randazzo Chair of the Public Utilities Commission (PUCO). DeWine was widely warned that Sam might not be entirely “clean.” But once at the helm of the PUC, Randazzo made no secret of his well-known, well-paid enthusiasm for nuclear power and fossil fuels.


When citizen activists attempted to gather signatures for a referendum to overturn HB6, they were physically assaulted by paid toughs supporting atomic power. The referendum never made it to the ballot. But when FirstEnergy’s $61 million bribe became public, the bailout was put in abeyance. Ohio’s energy efficiency standards were still killed.


In 2014 the legislature had already killed $4 billion in confirmed private investments aiming to build wind farms across the state’s flat, windy, well-connected North Coast. The region by now could have been producing a substantial chunk of the state’s electricity at a fraction of the cost coming from the two nukes. Still more could have been coming from off-shore turbines strung across Lake Erie, one of the world’s most powerful wind resources.


But with intense opposition from Governor DeWine and lobbyist/regulators like Randazzo, the state’s energy supply has remained at the expensive, planet-killing mercies of its two dangerously deteriorated nukes and Ohio’s dinosaur fossil fuel industry. Randazzo’s death accompanies that of new large atomic reactors in the US.


In the 21st century, two new reactors have opened at Vogtle, Georgia. Their cost has approached $40 billion, far more than double the original estimate. Neither will ever generate electricity anywhere near as cheap as wind or solar. Likewise two more errant nukes at VC Summer in South Carolina, which sucked up $9 billion before being entirely abandoned, never to fire up at all. The four Vogtle/Summer mega-disasters combined to drive Westinghouse into bankruptcy. 


So while zealots hype a so-called “Nuclear Renaissance”, there are in fact ZERO new large atomic reactors being built in this country, and ZERO more on order. In fact, the “Peaceful Atom” born in 1954 when construction began in Pennsylvania on what became a fleet of reactors promising electricity “too cheap to meter,” has come to an ignominious end.


So now the technology’s screamers are promising Small Modular Reactors, to allegedly be mass produced whenever. In reality, nobody expects a working SMR before 2030. Projected costs are already far in excess of renewables. Though the hype is thick, stock prices of NuScale, the most advanced of the SMR producers, have been plummeting as the company’s first major deal has collapsed. While other freebooters (including one from Bill Gates) line up at the federal pork trough, the industry’s delivery promises are essentially mythological. 


Thus for at least the next six years, when the need to cut carbon emissions from the energy picture is most desperate, the atomic industry has ZERO new reactors— big or small— to tangibly offer. Instead, we all must watch in terror as the nuclear industry demands less regulation and more handouts for ill-managed, uninsured, dangerously decrepit reactors that average 42 years of age. Demands are now flying to extend licenses for 60-80 years. But the only real question is which of these kamikaze nukes will blow up first.


And thus the tragic legacy of Sam Randazzo and his push to keep Perry and Davis-Besse corruptly on line comes full circle. The biggest bribery scandal in Ohio history skates along the edge of an apocalypse made virtually certain by prolonging operations at two incredibly dangerous money sucking dinosaur nukes, and their 92 dying siblings around the US, 400+ worldwide.


We mourn Sam’s passing. We pray his corrupt atomic legacy does not kill the rest of us.




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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored numerous books on election protection and other issues. Bob's Fitrakis Files and Harvey’s The People’s Spiral Of Us History are at freepress.org and solartopia.org. Most Mondays 5-7 pm ET they join the Green Grassroots Election Protection zoom via www.electionprotection2024.org.

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