Recent news

Energy Companies Have Spent Billions on Projects That Go Nowhere

Aug 10, 2020 11:27 AM

NEW YORK, NY -- "Federal agents arrested Ohio State House Speaker Larry Householder last month on racketeering and bribery charges in a $60 million scheme involving a utility-funded political slush fund and a $1.3 billion bailout of two state nuclear power plants. Householder was charged, along with four others, in relation to controlling the slush fund and using it to fund campaigns for himself and his preferred candidates in return for passing the bailout bill, in what federal prosecutors called a quid pro quo. It’s the biggest corruption scandal in Ohio history.

Similar scenarios have played out in at least six other states with major utility monopolies. Energy companies with strangleholds on state legislatures in South Carolina, New Mexico, West Virginia, Georgia, and Pennsylvania have pushed billions of dollars in bills onto ratepayers for coal and nuclear projects that have failed or fallen out of competition as public support for renewable energy investment continues to grow. In another energy-related case, the largest electric utility in Illinois was fined for trading contracts and payoffs in exchange for legislation that made it easier to increase electricity rates.

The thrust for nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels in the U.S. has stopped and stalled for decades, losing most of its steam after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. But investment picked back up after 2002, when President George W. Bush launched the “Nuclear Power 2010” program, which provided a government cost-sharing program and subsidies to help identify and develop new sites for nuclear development to meet projected energy needs by 2010. Investment and operating costs for nuclear run much higher than those of other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. That, plus the immense amount of water required to produce nuclear power, make it less efficient than other available sources of carbon-neutral energy. Most of the flagship nuclear plans introduced around that time have since stalled or been abandoned completely, a result of cost overruns and yearslong delays."

-- Akela Lacy, The Intercept

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Congress under pressure as states lift electricity shut-off bans during coronavirus crisis

Aug 08, 2020 10:35 AM

As disconnections loom, lawmakers are at odds about what to do next

WASHINGTON, DC -- "The decision by dozens of states to ban utilities from cutting off electricity as the novel coronavirus gripped the nation was a crucial lifeline to keeping the lights on for many Americans. Tens of millions of people lost their jobs and income while being asked to stay home to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Even in states without restrictions, many utilities promised to keep the power going for those unable to pay during the unprecedented health and economic crisis.

But those governors’ orders are starting to expire. Already, some utilities are resuming shut-offs for those behind on their bills during the sweltering summer months when air conditioning is most needed.

Calls from advocates and congressional Democrats are growing louder for the federal government to step in and issue a nationwide ban on shut-offs. They are eyeing another coronavirus relief package as their best chance to pass a moratorium, though negotiations for a new bill have collapsed."

--Dino Grandoni, Washington Post

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After the pipeline's death, will Duke switch from gas to renewables?

Aug 07, 2020 6:18 PM


The Duke Energy Accountability Coalition, of which Ohio Citizen Action is a member, is closely monitoring Duke’s schemes to suppress renewable energy options in its six-state service area (includes parts of southern Ohio), Duke’s deplorable environmental record as one of the nation’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases and producers of toxic coal ash, and its history of ignoring affordability issues for low-income customers.

By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4565752

"Next week, reporters, investors and industry analysts can ask the nation’s largest investor-owned electric utility for answers.

On Monday, Aug. 10, Duke will release its second-quarter financial results in a conference call with investors and analysts. Journalists are barred but can direct questions to Duke’s PR staff in Charlotte, N.C.

Grant Smith, senior energy policy advisor at EWG, said Duke must answer 'the $8 billion questions':

  • Will you follow Dominion and other forward-looking utilities in turning away from additional financially foolish and environmentally harmful gas capacity and invest in clean, safe, efficient renewables and storage batteries?
  • Do you see Duke’s plans to spend billions on new gas pipelines and power plants as an acceptable risk for your investors, and if so, how will you deal with the huge stranded costs of gas infrastructure that could be obsolete before they’re completed?"

-- Alex Formuzis, Environmental Working Group

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How a utility undermined climate policy — then got caught

Aug 07, 2020 2:42 PM

"The climate consequences can be serious.

In Ohio, FirstEnergy Solutions made the decision to keep open W.H. Sammis, the second-largest coal plant in the state, after the bailout law passed.

Sammis emitted 12.3 million tons of CO2 in 2013, according to EPA data. But the plant has run less and less in recent years. It ran only 20% in 2019, down from 61% in 2014.

Last year, it reported CO2 emissions of 4.6 million tons, or what 900,000 cars emit annually.

The result is a one-two punch to climate and consumers, forcing them to pay for polluting plants that are no longer economic, said Leah Stokes, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has written extensively about Ohio's bailout law. She said FirstEnergy represents one of the most egregious cases of utility corruption, but is part of a larger pattern of power companies' approach to climate policy."

-- Benjamin Storrow, E&E News

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Companies urge repeal of Ohio nuclear bailout due to bribery allegations

Aug 05, 2020 8:55 PM

COLUMBUS -- "Facebook, General Mills and Nestle are among about 50 companies that have written a letter to Ohio leaders urging the repeal of House Bill 6, the 2019 nuclear-bailout law that has become the target of federal investigators.

'As businesses, investors, trade associations and employers, we urge the repeal of House Bill 6 in light of the disturbing and shocking allegations made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,' said the letter, which was sent to Gov. Mike DeWine and the leaders of the state House and Senate.

Repeal of the legislation, which the legislature passed and DeWine signed a year ago, 'will help restore public confidence and ensure continued growth of Ohio’s clean energy economy,' the letter said."

-- Mark Williams, Columbus Dispatch

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Map: Where the Householder, FirstEnergy money went

Aug 01, 2020 11:02 PM

Larry Householder is surrounded by press as he is detained by FBI agents.

"Through Householder’s campaign, Growth & Opportunity PAC and Hardworking Ohioans, Inc. (both of which federal investigators say the former speaker controlled) and FirstEnergy PAC, candidates in all but 15 of Ohio’s 99 House districts got help, either in donations or attack ads against their opponents.

Friends of Householder doled out $417,922 to 34 Republican members or candidates.

Growth & Opportunity PAC spent $2.6 million, including $1.4 million that can be traced to political ads and mailers in 25 House districts.

FirstEnergy PAC has donated nearly $500,000 to both parties since 2017, sometimes backing multiple candidates in 83 House districts. Some lawmakers are now donating the FirstEnergy money to charity."

Click here to see the interactive map


Ohio Citizens react to selection of Speaker Cupp

Jul 31, 2020 11:15 PM

In what they have referred to as an effort to restore trust and confidence, the members of the Ohio House of Representatives have selected Representative Bob Cupp as their new Speaker.

Rep. Cupp voted in favor of House Bill 6 on two separate occasions and received campaign money from FirstEnergy, including an ethically questionable donation from the corporation while serving as a justice on the Supreme Court of Ohio.

This decision has done nothing to instill trust with the public, and Speaker Cupp now has a lot to prove.

His first act as Speaker should be to call for an immediate and clean repeal of HB 6. He must show Ohioans that he is not simply Householder 2.0. Ohioans have lost confidence in their elected officials. It is time for legislators to listen to their constituents and not their big utility donors.

It’s time to fully repeal HB 6.

Rachael Belz, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action

 


Energy is a basic need, and many Americans are struggling to afford it in the COVID-19 recession

Jul 31, 2020 10:37 PM

https://youtu.be/MWYoEuJ1z50
Some cities and states are working with utilities to help customers struggling to pay their bills.

"The combination of rising energy use and falling incomes is likely to increase low-income households’ energy burdens – the proportion of their incomes they spend on energy. We expect that this trend will move a whole new population of households into energy insecurity. Some may try to cope without important energy uses, such as air conditioning, fans and refrigeration.

Federal and state governments can help. For example, Congress could pass legislation imposing a universal moratorium on utility shutoffs. And state regulators could prevent utilities from charging late and reconnection fees while the pandemic persists and people remain unemployed. Following a moratorium, regulators could also consider debt forgiveness as households recover.

Governments and organizations – public, private and nonprofit – can also offer bill assistance to vulnerable households and financial assistance to small businesses. One way would be to expand the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, or other financial assistance programs, such as unemployment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, provided $900 million in supplemental funding for LIHEAP, but this only scratches the surface of what is needed."

-- Sanya Carly & David Konisky, Ohio Capital Journal 

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Ohio lawmakers want 'puzzling' offshore wind ruling revisited

Jul 30, 2020 4:52 PM

Erik Droust / Creative Commons

Environmental studies so far have found little potential impact from a proposed offshore wind farm in Lake Erie near Cleveland.

“'Ohio is sending a very clear message: ‘We do not want innovation,’' State Senator Matt Dolan (R) said. 'Ohio will not be seen as fertile ground for investment in any new invention, innovation or technology. That is my point.

'I support [the lake wind farm] but if they had not worked their way through and had failed, that is what can happen. But they did, though. And that is what is disturbing. Why would anyone spend millions of dollars for at the last minute to have a poison pill inserted? And it stands. And no one says anything.

'It will be a wet blanket on all innovation, all new technology. People just won’t feel comfortable coming to Ohio. We cannot let this stand because of the long-term implications that it will have.' 

LEEDCo has previously estimated the project’s construction would be worth $250 million to the local economy. If built, the project would be the first freshwater wind farm in North America."

-- John Funk, Energy News Network

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press release

joint letter from lawmakers


Bribery! Corruption! Renewable Energy! (Whelp, 2 Of 3 Ain’t Bad)

Jul 24, 2020 4:42 PM

"According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, Ohio’s two nuclear power plants account for 87% of the state’s zero emission electricity.

That’s not exactly something to write home about. Considering that the cost of renewable energy is continuing to drop with no end in sight, this would be a bad time to double down on expensive nuclear energy.

Nevertheless, Ohio Citizen Action estimates that the HB6 nuclear bailout will sock ratepayers with $200 million in increased costs.

HB6 was signed into law last year, saddling Ohio ratepayers with two aging nuclear power plants and two old coal power plants, to boot.

'Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 6 (HB 6) into law on July 23, 2019, approving bailouts for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, which are owned by FirstEnergy’s former subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), and were previously scheduled to close in 2020 and 2021, respectively, after FES announced its bankruptcy,' explains Ohio Citizen Action. 'The final version of the bill extends the bailout to two old and dirty coal plants—Kyger Creek in southern Ohio and Clifty Creek in Indiana.'"

-- Tina Casey, CleanTechnica 

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