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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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A 'Tidal Wave' of Power Cuts May Be Coming as Electric Companies Resume Shutoffs

Sep 02, 2020 1:11 PM

WASHINGTON, DC -- "Now, the beginning of September looms as yet another deadline as utility companies resume cutting power to customers who have fallen behind on their bills. In some states, moratoriums preventing them from doing so are ending, and in other states, utility company pledges to keep customers connected are winding down. Residents in Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Indiana, and Illinois are all at risk of shutoffs in early September; shutoffs can resume in late September or October in North Carolina,Tennessee and Texas.

“We’re facing a tidal wave of terminations,” says Charlie Harak, senior attorney for energy and utilities issues at the National Consumer Law Center.

There is no national account of how many customers could lose power, but there are certainly millions of people who risk disconnection at a time when people need their utilities the most. Kids need electricity to attend online classes, which will be the norm for hundreds of thousands of them as schools reopen. They need light in the evening to do homework. And in large swaths of the country facing extreme heat, life without power means no fans or air conditioning. Additionally, cutoffs can increase risks of COVID-19 infection by forcing some people to leave their homes and squeeze into cramped quarters with friends or relatives who have electrcity."

-- Alana Semuels, Time Magazine

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Larry Householder appears in Statehouse, plans to defend himself against corruption charges

Sep 01, 2020 2:03 PM

COLUMBUS -- "State Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who is charged with racketeering in a federal public corruption case, returned to the Ohio House on Tuesday for its session and declared that he is innocent.

...The U.S. District Court released him on bond under conditions, including no contact with potential witnesses in the case. An 81-page criminal complaint filed in the case uses pseudonyms to refer to several state representatives and others.

Householder said attending the session — where potential witnesses might be — doesn’t violate those bond conditions. 'I’m just here to do my job,' he told reporters before the House session began."

-- Laura Bischoff, Dayton Daily News

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Report: Duke Energy Has Squandered Billions in Failed Natural Gas and Nuclear Projects

Sep 01, 2020 1:53 PM

WASHINGTON – "Since 2013, Duke Energy and its partners have scrapped natural gas pipelines and nuclear power plants totaling $11.6 billion, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

For most businesses, this record of blowing billions of dollars on one failed project and boondoggle after another would send finances reeling and the executives in charge packing.

But not when you are the nation’s largest investor-owned electric utility, with a captive ratepayer base of 7.7 million across six states, and state lawmakers and regulators in your pocket who let you pass those losses onto customers through new fees and rate increases."

-- Alex Formuzis, Environmental Working Group

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How bad nuclear plant bailout legislation got passed

Aug 29, 2020 1:22 PM

Jigar Shah is president of Generate Capital, a San Francisco-based finance company that builds, owns and operates renewable energy infrastructure.

CINCINNATI -- "Householder and four others stand to trade their Brooks Brothers and Rolexes for jumpsuits and bracelets. Gov. Mike DeWine, a fellow Republican, called on the speaker to resign. But plenty of others were also complicit in passing a law that, even without charges of federal corruption, stank to high heaven. And it’s a law that’s still on the books.

Just how bad is it? What was then called House Bill 6 is so toxic that it united the American Petroleum Institute and environmentalists last year to oppose it. The law is designed to prop up ailing nuclear plants, but it’s so radioactive even the nuclear industry’s main trade group declined to support it. And even as ad campaigns swamped Ohio airwaves like the height of election season, it ultimately took President Trump swooping in from Washington to convince state lawmakers, who even then knew better, to close their eyes, hold their noses and vote for it.

...But let’s not lose sight of FirstEnergy. The opaque electric utility had already long shirked accountability for its actions, cloaking itself in expendable subsidiaries and opposing virtually any measure to improve Ohio’s air and water, which the utility has long been responsible for befouling. This time, to protect its toxic nuclear and coal assets, the company apparently happily engaged in what even the scheme’s conspirators allegedly openly referred to as "pay to play," buying Ohio lawmakers for a song compared to the $1.3 billion the utility now stands to skim from Ohioans’ pockets."

-- Jigar Shah, opinion contributor, Cincinnati Enquirer

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Consumer organizations respond to Sam Randazzo conducting business as usual

Aug 28, 2020 9:16 AM

(OH-August 27, 2020) Today, the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) once again delayed the expected reconsideration of the Lake Erie Icebreaker Wind demonstration project. This move postponed the discussion of the project even further, despite the call of 32 Northeast Ohio legislators who support the 500 jobs and $253 million the project would bring to the local economy.

This comes on the heels of yesterday’s Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's (PUCO) decision to approve the ironically named House Bill 6 Clean Air Fund charge that will provide FirstEnergy and its dark money campaign with an annual reward of $150 million to bailout its two failing nuclear plants. While this bailout was bought and paid for by $61 million in FirstEnergy bribes, the policy itself will be paid for by hard-working Ohio consumers. The PUCO decision comes almost immediately following the Ohio Senate President’s announcement that members would return to Columbus early next week to repeal House Bill 6.

The order resulting from this PUCO decision further states that the Commission will not conduct a bill impact analysis beyond the staff recommendation because the “simplicity of the math” should allow parties to identify impacts for themselves. This dismissive move ensures that the Ohioans footing the bill for FirstEnergy’s bad decisions can expect no oversight or accountability from the state. Essentially, they have invited Ohio consumers to pull out a calculator and figure it out for themselves.

Both the PUCO and the Ohio Power Siting Board are run by Commission Chair Sam Randazzo. Randazzo is Governor Mike DeWine’s hand-picked Chair, despite the fact that he spent decades as an anti-clean energy lobbyist. He has led both entities to recent decisions that fly squarely in the face of Governor DeWine’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, and has hung a reputation on Ohio as a backward state not interested in the economic development and job growth that results from clean energy investment.

Sam Randazzo’s ties to FirstEnergy are quickly coming to light. Randazzo’s company, Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio, is on FirstEnergy’s payroll and turned up in First Energy Solutions’ bankruptcy filings as a company used by them for professional services. Former Speaker Larry Householder, now indicted in the $61 million bribery scandal involving FirstEnergy, put Sam Randazzo’s long-time business partner on the PUCO Nominating Council just before Randazzo was nominated. Then, Randazzo gave that business partner a job at the PUCO. Further, the chair of the PUCO Nominating Council was a FirstEnergy lobbyist.

Randazzo appears to be checking the boxes for his friends at FirstEnergy. Ensuring the adoption of the House Bill 6 charge just days before the Senate plans to return to Columbus to repeal the legislation, and hamstringing reconsideration efforts of a precedent-setting renewable energy project for the state are not the actions of a public official who is carrying out an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. He appears to be carrying out a FirstEnergy political agenda. For Sam Randazzo, it is business as usual.

Ohio Citizen Action and the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance call on Governor Mike DeWine to change the way we do business. Replace Sam Randazzo now. Learn more about Randazzo’s anti-clean energy history at

-- Rachael Belz, Ohio Citizen Action and Ohio Consumers Power Alliance