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Lawmakers clash on repeal of bailout bill as deadline looms

Sep 23, 2020 11:01 AM

COLUMBUS — "If the House does not repeal the law by Oct. 1, a fee will be added to every electricity bill in the state starting Jan. 1 — directing over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

While FirstEnergy Corp., whose former subsidiaries owned the plants, have denied wrongdoing and have not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure the $1 billion legislative bailout for the two unprofitable nuclear plants then operated by an independently controlled subsidiary called FirstEnergy Solutions.

The other option is an emergency House vote before the end of the year. As of this week, 58 of 99 House members have signed on to cosponsor bills that would repeal House Bill 6.

Republican Rep. Laura Lanese, who introduced one of the repeal bills days after the federal affidavit was released, said she would vote in favor of an emergency ruling in order to 'regain the trust of Ohioans.'"

— Farnoush Amiri, Associated Press

Plans for Lake Erie wind farm clear a major hurdle

Sep 21, 2020 11:35 AM

COLUMBUS — " Plans to build the nation’s first freshwater wind farm in Lake Erie northeast of Cleveland took a major – and unexpected – step forward Thursday, as state regulators reversed their previous decision to limit the nighttime operation of the proposed wind turbines.

But despite the Ohio Power Siting Board’s decision, there are still details that need to be worked out regarding how to mitigate the harm to animals from Icebreaker Wind, a $126 million, 20.7-megawatt pilot project that has been in the works for more than a decade.

During a virtual meeting that involved a level of discussion and debate unusual for the Power Siting Board, board members unanimously voted to rescind part of an order they issued last May that approved construction of the wind turbines only if the turbine blades didn’t move at night between March 1 and Nov. 1, on the grounds that they would harm bats and birds.

Such a limit would be a “poison pill” that would make the project financially infeasible, according to Dave Karpinski, president of Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., the non-profit developer of the wind farm."

-- Jeremy Pelzer,

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Ohio regulators launch probe into FirstEnergy's political and charitable contributions

Sep 18, 2020 10:32 AM

COLUMBUS - "...Ohio lawmakers are grappling with how to repeal the bailout legislation, House Bill 6, and whether to replace it. New customer charges related to the legislation are set to begin the first of the year. Legislative hearings have already begun on competing bills with the hope that new legislation might be approved before the Nov. 3 elections.

The outlook for the bailout to survive remains sketchy as lawmakers, already nervous over public reaction to the revelations made by federal prosecutors, have learned that a proposal by regional grid operator PJM would, in effect, nullify the impact of any state subsidies to a power plant by taking them into account when setting the minimum price acceptable from them in future capacity market auctions.

Veteran utility lawyer, Samuel Randazzo, now the chairman of the PUCO, deflected questions during a legislative hearing this week from Democratic lawmakers wanting to know why the PUCO had to be prodded by the state's consumer advocate to launch its own investigation."

-- John Funk, Utility Dive

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FirstEnergy PAC doled out to Ohio politicians just before Householder arrest

Sep 16, 2020 2:35 PM

COLUMBUS -- "The 2020 primary was over. The $1.3 billion bailout of two Ohio nuclear plants was already law. Yet, in the weeks before then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest, the energy company at the center of it all donated $158,000 to Ohio politicians.

In the days before Householder’s arrest, the PAC donated $158,000 to state lawmakers and two GOP Ohio Supreme Court justices: Judith French and Sharon Kennedy.

What’s unusual about these donations is the timing. House Bill 6 had been settled law for months. The 2020 primary finished in late April and the general election was months away.

Lawmakers in the Ohio House hadn’t met since June 11 and the Senate wasn’t talking about energy policy. The PAC had no history of large donations during July."

-- Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

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There’s a lot of important stuff in Ohio House Bill 6 besides the nuclear bailout

Sep 15, 2020 12:36 PM

COLUMBUS — "...there are a lot of other things HB 6 does in addition to the nuclear bailout, including offer subsidies to specific coal and solar plants around the state, dismantle the state’s green-energy standards for utilities, and allow FirstEnergy Corp. and other utilities to lock in a guaranteed level of ratepayer revenue for years to come.

HB6 has a grab-bag of other measures as well. It allows county fairs to halve their yearly electric bills, makes more mid-sized wind farms exempt from property taxes and puts them under local control, and requires Ohio to spend a larger portion of federal grant money for low-income heating assistance on home weatherization work instead of bill assistance.

Lawmakers will have to decide the fate of all of these elements.

Here’s more on the lesser-known parts of House Bill 6, including how the controversial law is already affecting you (and your bank account)"

— Jeremy Pelzer,

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Lawmakers on the clock to repeal controversial nuke bailout

Sep 11, 2020 10:39 AM

If you knew then what you know now, would you still support House Bill 6?' That question was asked by Republican Rep. Dave Greenspan at a hearing today for two bills to repeal the controversial law passed last year.

One would imagine that question is being asked a lot these days by state lawmakers who voted on House Bill 6, which bailed out two nuclear power plants in Ohio, and then led to federal racketeering charges against one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers.

..A House committee heard testimony on two bills, largely identical, which proposed to repeal the law that enacted a ratepayer-funded bailout of the utility. Passage of the bill last year was controversial, as was the effort to keep the law from going to a statewide referendum."

Tom Bosco, 

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State watchdog seeks probe of utility tied to bribery scheme

Sep 10, 2020 10:16 AM

CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio's consumer watchdog has asked a regulatory agency to conduct an independent investigation of the state's largest electric utility, FirstEnergy Corp., that federal authorities have tied to a $60 million bribery scheme involving one of Ohio's most powerful politicians.

The Ohio Consumers' Counsel in a motion filed late Tuesday with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has asked that outside investigators examine whether money collected from consumers "was improperly used for any activities in connection with HB6 instead of for electric utility service."

...The counsel and others filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn the grid modernization charge, which cost customers roughly $465 million by the time justices said the charges were unlawful and unreasonable and revoked them, the filing said.

The PUCO complied with the court's ruling to end the modernization charge, but did not order FirstEnergy to pay back the $465 million it had charged to customers before the Supreme Court made its ruling."

--Mark Gillespie, Associated Press

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HB 6 came from corruption; repeal should be simple

Sep 09, 2020 12:35 PM

COLUMBUS -- "[Ohio House Speaker] Cupp called the Democrat-offered amendments “reckless and hasty,” but the Republican response feels a lot like stalling. Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, chairman of the Energy & Public Utilities Committee, said Tuesday he plans a full slate of hearings on the bipartisan repeal bill in that chamber.

It needn’t be this complicated. The reason repeal is even being considered — the bill’s corrupt origins — is simple and won’t change. Lawmakers needn’t re-debate the merits of HB 6; that can be done when they revisit the issue after repeal — this time without the disinformation and political pressure that $60 million paid for the last time around.

Our view remains that the bill was supremely bad policy: a dubious bailout of two nuclear power plants and the unconscionable sabotage of Ohio’s already-weak support and incentives for clean alternative energy. It would have been a bad bill without the corruption.

As it is, lawmakers should erase it from the books. "

-- editorial, Columbus Dispatch

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Ohio’s nuclear scandal

Sep 04, 2020 4:48 PM

WASHINGTON, DC -- "A big company allegedly bribes some politicians in order to get a massive bailout for two nuclear power plants. Nope, it’s not the plot of the next Mission Impossible, it’s what the FBI says happened in Ohio in a scheme that involves the state’s largest energy company. POLITICO’s Eric Wolff, with the rest of the plot, and the fallout from the charges against former state House Speaker, Larry Householder."

Anthony Adragna and Eric Wolff, POLITICO

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Ohio lawmakers debate repealing bailout bill at center of scandal

Sep 02, 2020 6:36 PM

COLUMBUS -- "In July, the House voted to remove Householder as speaker but tabled a motion to eject him from office. Cupp said ejection can only be exercised once for the same actions and Householder is running unopposed for re-election in November.

Lawmakers are in an election season and many are facing public pressure over House Bill 6 and the scandal.

The Coalition to Restore Public Trust is running ads in key districts calling for a full repeal of HB6 and Ohio Citizen Action launch a campaign to pressure lawmakers to repeal the law.

Mike McGovern of ProgressOhio, a liberal-leaning organization, criticized House leadership for considering replacing HB6 with some other subsidies for the nuclear power plants.

“This is a matter of right and wrong. If Speaker Cupp is serious about restoring trust in the House, then he needs to repeal, not replace HB6. Any legislation that continues to bail out FirstEnergy with our money after they attempted to buy our democracy is unacceptable,” McGovern said in a written statement."

-- Laura Bischoff, Dayton Daily News

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