Todd Snitchler to join API, will head gas marketing program

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Todd Snitchler, the former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, is leaving the Buckeye State for a job with the American Petroleum Institute.

Snitchler will head the API’s Market Development department. His responsibility will be to work with industry, governments and regulatory agencies to promote natural gas development and increased demand for the clean-burning fuel.

The Market Development’s overall mission, said Jack Gerard, API’s president and CEO, in a statement accompanying the announcement, is to promote natural gas in power generation, manufacturing and the export of liquefied natural gas into world markets.

API has been a strong opponent of FirstEnergy’s efforts to convince Ohio lawmakers to create unprecedented special customer charges to subsidize its nuclear power plant fleet.

API Chief Economist Erica Bowman has testified against FirstEnergy’s proposal before both Ohio Senate and House committees.

And Gerard, in a interview earlier this year said markets, not government, should decide whether the nuclear plants survive.

Asked twice whether FirstEnergy should just close the plants rather than seek an extra subsidy from customers, Gerard invoked market competition as the final arbiter.

“Our position is we ought to follow free market principles, with the focus being on the consumer. As society continues to demand more and cleaner sources of energy, watch what the companies are doing and how they react to that. They are all focused on the consumer. They will do it in the most cost effective way,” he said.

FirstEnergy has said it wants out of competitive markets, one way or another, prompting opponents to say the company needs the new fees in order to sell the nuclear plants.

Snitchler has in the last several years headed an alliance of independent power producers opposing state-mandated extra funding for FirstEnergy and Ohio’s other traditional utilities whose old nuclear and coal plants are unable to compete with independent power producers, especially producers that have built gas turbines.

In a formal statement, Snitchler said, “Our team . . . will continue to highlight the role of U.S. natural gas in strengthening our economy, improving our environment and benefiting consumers.

“We all rely on this affordable and clean burning fuel to heat our homes, cook our food, produce our favorite consumer products, and provide electricity. It’s important to embrace this abundant energy resource for the continued benefit of consumers, workers, and the environment.”

Snitchler, a lawyer, served three years as chairman of the PUCO.  Gov. John Kasich appointed him in 2011 to complete the last three years of former Chairman Alan Schriber’s last term in office.

In a surprise announcement in January 2014, Snitchler said he would not seek a full five-year term. Kasich said he would have preferred that Snitchler stay in the job.

Snitchler had launched an investigation a year before into whether the state’s electric utilities had a true separation between their regulated and unregulated sides.

In November 2015, Snitchler joined Vorys Advisors, an affiliate of the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. He has dealt with issues involving  energy, utilities and regulatory affairs.

Snitchler, a Republican from Uniontown in Stark County, was a state representative from 2009 to 2011.