Relive all the surprises, changes and accomplishments of the last year in our 2020 year in review report. Ohio Citizen Action Executive Director Rachael Belz puts it all into context, from the organization's response to COVID-19, moving both offices and developments in our energy and consumer campaigns. Metzenbaum Society members can expect their hard copies in the mail soon.
CLEVELAND – "Over the past year, the pandemic and social protests have only highlighted the disparities. Policies such as House Bill 6 disproportionately affect communities of color, already negatively impacted by pollution, climate change, and lack of access to quality greenspace. These policies rob communities of opportunities to forge their own paths forward in terms of clean energy, generating jobs, stimulating local economies, and creating healthy and safe places to live.
We need to demand action and do so with one voice. House Bill 6 must be replaced with 'just' policies that care for and support communities while transitioning from the old way of doing business. We need policies that are built around an energy economy that empowers rather than exploits, and harms, communities.
It’s time for our state lawmakers to listen to the will of the people. It’s time to restore trust in the legislative process."
–- SeMia Bray, Jacquie Gillon, David Wilson, The Real Deal Press
Generation Now, the 501(c)(4) at the center of the HB6 scandal, is pleading guilty to the federal Racketeering charge
Generation Now admits there was a quid pro quo, that they funneled money to Larry Householder for direct support and passage of House Bill 6. It was a direct bribe.
Generation Now received tens of millions of dollars that Larry Householder and others used to pay bribes, fund Householder's political activities and run a public campaign supporting House Bill 6.
Governor DeWine’s botched search for a new PUCO commissioner continues and is gathering some scathing editorials:
The Columbus Dispatch : "...That’s another reason for DeWine to go out of his way to make a consumer-friendly appointment: The PUCO’s recent history has been one of favoring utilities over consumers. Lawmakers and other public officeholders are supported by FirstEnergy and other utility campaign with contributions large enough to raise questions about the influence wielded by those donors." -
The Plain Dealer: "Episodes like Randazzo’s crusade against a wind-energy project while he was PUCO chairman demonstrate Ohio’s backward-looking energy policies. The legislature and at times the PUCO have mulishly resisted wind- and solar-energy projects. While the rest of the world moves forward, supporting clean energy, Ohio seems like a livery stable buying more and more horses just as Henry Ford gins up production of the Model T. Any wonder Ohio keeps slipping?"
More could be revealed about the PUCO's role in passing HB6
The Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Ohio Environmental Council last week filed a motion with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio asking that its multiple investigations related to the House Bill 6 scandal be consolidated into one.
One issue they want investigated is what role former PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo played in the passage of House Bill 6 and whether he corrupted the regulatory process. Sam Randazzo resigned soon after the FBI searched his Columbus townhome and FirstEnergy revealed that former top executives had paid a utility regulator matching his description.
The corruption runs deep and it is time to start digging it out.
FirstEnergy agrees to end 'decoupling' provision
FirstEnergy has agreed to an out-of-court settlement to end a guaranteed profit rider which would have been in addition to the $150 million nuclear bailout in House Bill 6. The agreement calls for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office to stop seeking evidence in a civil lawsuit until after the conclusion of the FBI's criminal investigation.
Meanwhile, Larry Householder continues to serve in the legislature...
"There isn’t any timetable. We’re still consulting with members. I’d just reiterate that my personal position is the honorable thing for him to do would be resign," Speaker Cupp said on Wednesday.
As one of our members said on facebook, "I won't hold my breath."
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has announced Ohio's largest electric utility has agreed in a settlement to forgo collection of a guaranteed profit subsidy provision in a now-tainted energy bill
CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Monday that his office had reached an agreement with FirstEnergy Corp. to stop the collection of a guaranteed profit subsidy included in a tainted energy bill that would have allowed the Akron-based company to collect $102 million from customers this year.
As part of the settlement, FirstEnergy will file a request with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on Monday to say it will forgo collection of what is known as the conservation support rider or decoupling charge.
...Preventing the decoupling charge and the nuclear plant subsidies from being collected could ultimately save Ohio customers $2 billion, Yost said.
Monday's agreement calls for the attorney general's office to stop seeking evidence in the decoupling lawsuit until after the conclusion of a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio into an alleged $60 million bribery scheme secretly funded by FirstEnergy to obtain passage of HB6."
-- Mark Gillispie, Associated Press
The power plant bailout law included what experts call a distorted version of decoupling that guaranteed utility’s revenue regardless of a downturn in electricity demand.
COLUMBUS -- "In Ohio, FirstEnergy and other utilities had less to worry about, though, thanks to a measure in the state’s controversial power plant bailout law that cut the link between revenues and the amount of electricity sold.
The concept is known as decoupling, and it’s usually used as a tool to overcome utilities’ financial disincentive to invest in energy efficiency and conservation. Utilities that help customers conserve energy still collect the money they need to cover costs and a reasonable return for investors.
In Ohio, however, lawmakers didn’t use decoupling to offset losses due to energy conservation. Instead, HB 6, the law at the heart of an alleged corruption conspiracy, gave utilities that spoonful of sugar without any medicine. In fact, HB 6 eliminated energy efficiency standards for Ohio utilities.
The end result: Amid a pandemic that saw the state’s economy falter, FirstEnergy’s utilities were guaranteed steady revenues — at the expense of ratepayers struggling to make ends meet."
-- Kathiann M Kowalski, Energy News Network
Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton.
DAYTON -- "FirstEnergy and other utility companies allegedly spent tens of millions of dollars in bribes and dark-money GOP campaign contributions in exchange for a billion-dollar bailout paid for by fees tacked onto your monthly electric bill. These fees apply to every family and business in Ohio, even if, like me, you don’t get your electricity from FirstEnergy. As part of this alleged plot, Republican politicians got millions of dollars, and you’re supposed to foot the bill.
None of that is being disputed by Gov. Mike DeWine or the Republicans in the legislature. And yet they’ve done essentially nothing to hold the perpetrators accountable or change this awful policy. Even now, their loyalty to FirstEnergy is playing out in real time.
Despite knowing how HB 6 came to be, the GOP legislature has left it in place, all but ignoring a bipartisan effort to repeal this awful law. They know FirstEnergy, identified as “Company A” in federal charging documents, is alleged to have bribed its way into a massive bailout, but they’re willing to let the energy companies get away with it. Even wilder, they haven’t even expelled Householder, who is charged with helping orchestrate the whole thing, from the Ohio House. Their inaction makes clear where their allegiance lies."
--Nan Whaley, guest columnist, cleveland.com
Mailings linked to FirstEnergy sought to erode residents’ confidence in Cleveland Public Power, city officials sayJan 27, 2021 12:12 PM
CLEVELAND -- "At the bottom of each [flier] was the name of the group criticizing the city-owned utility, a nonprofit called Consumers Against Deceptive Fees. This month, city officials discussed the fliers and mailings and those behind the nonprofit during a hearing of Cleveland City Council’s Finance Committee. They stressed that the goal of the leaflets was clear: to erode the confidence of residents in CPP.
Today, Consumers Against Deceptive Fees, its fliers and the push to help CPP customers are gone. The only reminder of the nonprofit is its link to the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history, the tainted passage of House Bill 6.
Records obtained last month show that $200,000 from FirstEnergy flowed to Consumers Against Deceptive Fees in 2019 through another nonprofit that acted as a pass-through, Partners for Progress. The latter group was mentioned in an FBI affidavit filed in July that detailed a $60-million bribery scheme to pass a $1 billion legislative bailout of two nuclear plants once owned by a FirstEnergy subsidiary."
-- John Caniglia, cleveland.com
TOLEDO -- "The city of Toledo has asked to join a lawsuit that claims the subsidies that were set to be added to every Ohioans’ electric bills on Jan. 1 are unconstitutional and the result of “a scheme to corrupt the legislative process.”
It’s the latest reaction to a $1 billion nuclear bailout law, House Bill 6, at the center of a $60 million bribery probe. The suit was filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in October by the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati, and now both Toledo and Dayton are asking to join as well.
...'Toledo is joining a coalition of cities that are banding together to hold first energy and others accountable for H.B. 6,' said Ari Scharg, an attorney with Chicago-based Edelson, which is representing all four cities in the lawsuit."
-- Toledo Blade
Four names were submitted to DeWine in December by the council as potential replacements for former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo
COLUMBUS (AP) — "Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine faced swift criticism from consumer advocates Wednesday after he rejected the entire slate of candidates nominated to replace a former top state utility regulator tainted by a $60 million federal bribery investigation and requested a new list...
Four names were submitted to DeWine in December by the council as potential replacements for former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo, who resigned Nov. 20.
Randazzo stepped down days after an FBI search of his Columbus townhome and a revelation by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., the utility at the center of the bribery scandal, that it had paid the firm of a state official meeting Randazzo’s description $4 million in early 2019 to terminate a long-term consulting relationship.
'Why would Gov. DeWine turn away professionals with extensive utility market experience and consumer advocacy expertise who could have brought a fresh start and much-needed perspective to a PUCO that is currently in the shadows of scandal?' asked Rachael Belz, director of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, in a statement.
'Unless Gov. DeWine is willing to provide us with his reasons for rejecting these candidates,' she added, 'it begs the question as to who exactly is steering the ship in Ohio — Gov. DeWine or the utilities?'"
— JULIE CARR SMYTH and MARK GILLISPIE, The Associated Press
FBI investigation revealed vast FirstEnergy-backed political network hidden through lax state disclosure rulesJan 19, 2021 11:33 PM
COLUMBUS – "Legal filings and media reports over the past six months gradually have peeled back the layers of a dark-money political network funded by FirstEnergy, the Akron-based utility company.
But because state and federal law don’t require political nonprofits to disclose their donors, the only reason the public knows about anything about the utility’s ties to the expansive constellation of Ohio political causes is the federal investigation into House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout law which prosecutors say passed due to a $61 million bribery scheme, funded by FirstEnergy and its affiliates through secret or difficult to trace political donations.
The U.S. attorney overseeing the case, David DeVillers, said anonymous political spending played a key role in the scandal. 'Dark money is a breeding ground for corruption,' he said in a statement shortly after then-House Speaker Larry Householder and others were arrested last July, revealing the investigation."
– Andrew Tobias, cleveland.com