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Ohio regulators set to officially pause nuclear bailout fees created through tainted energy bill

Jan 14, 2021 1:50 PM

"Perry Nuclear Power Plant Marks 30 Years of Safe and Reliable Operation by FirstEnergy Corp. is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0"

COLUMBUS — "Ohio’s top lawyer asked a court Thursday to block FirstEnergy Corp. from collecting special fees from customers that were set up under a now-tainted nuclear bailout bill to allow the company to maintain record-high profits even if electricity sales dip.

Republican Attorney General Dave Yost filed his request in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, where a judge already has blocked fees that House Bill 6 established for bailing out two nuclear power plants operated by a former FirstEnergy subsidiary, Energy Harbor.

The bill is at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe that alleges Larry Householder, the state House speaker at the time, used the money to politically position and succeed at passing the bailout bill. Householder and four others charged have pleaded not guilty.

Yost said customers also should not have to pay the $102 million that FirstEnergy is set to collect in 2021 through a 'perverse form a decoupling' that not only unlinked how much the company makes from how much electricity it sells but guaranteed it maintain the level of profits at record-high 2018 levels."

— Associated Press, The Toledo Blade

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600+ groups urge Biden to halt water, electricity, and broadband shutoffs through emergency Executive Order on day 1

Jan 13, 2021 4:49 PM

WASHINGTON, DC - "More than 600 utility-justice, environmental, racial justice, labor, and faith groups delivered a letter today to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris urging their administration to halt utility shutoffs nationwide to protect public health. 

The No Shutoffs Coalition, which has advocated for a federal moratorium on utility shutoffs since the COVID-19 crisis began, presented Biden with a draft Executive Order that would instruct the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use her authority under the Public Health Service Act to enact a national moratorium on residential disconnections of all water, electricity, broadband, heat and other necessary utility services for nonpayment. 

The proposed order, which would also mandate safe restoration to previously disconnected homes, would last the full duration of the COVID national emergency and at least 12 months following its end. 

'No American—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their income—should ever have to choose between heating their homes, keeping the lights on, the broadband they need to work or learn remotely, and putting food on the table. That’s especially true in the middle of a global pandemic, where public health experts are emphasizing how important it is that each of us stay home to stay safe,' said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. 'While many states and utility companies have stepped up to do the right thing, many families are still just a missed payment away from losing critical utilities in the middle of this public health and economic emergency. For all of us to get through this together we need to have a national disconnection moratorium that ensures that no family is left behind in the patchwork of policies.'" 

- Press Release by: Food & Water Watch, Free Press Action, Center for Biological Diversity, Corporate Accountability, The Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE), and The Democracy Collaborative

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Citizens' Utility Board pushes for more protections for Cleveland residents

Jan 12, 2021 4:47 PM

A closeup of an energy meter

The Citizens' Utility Board of Ohio called on Cleveland City Council members to investigate the high rates for electricity at Cleveland Public Power. [JWPhotoworks / Shutterstock]

CLEVELAND -- "A consumer protection group is calling on Cleveland City Council to do more to protect residents from rising utility costs.

The Citizens Utility Board of Ohio (CUB) told council members on Tuesday that Clevelanders are the ones who end up paying, literally, for Cleveland Public Power’s (CPP) bad contracts.

CPP rates are now higher than FirstEnergy’s, said Sandy Buchanan CUB member and executive director at the Institute for Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis. CPP contracts with the American Municipal Power (AMP) group to purchase its power, Buchanan said, and those contracts are costing Cleveland residents far more than they should.

'Our organization estimates that these two contracts alone have cost CPP ratepayers $106 million more for power than customers would have paid if CPP had bought the electricity from regional wholesale markets,' Buchanan said."

-- Taylor Haggerty, NPR's Ideastream

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Cleveland City Council members might subpoena FirstEnergy, citing efforts to undermine CPP

Jan 11, 2021 3:57 PM

CLEVELAND – "Cleveland City Council might subpoena leaders of FirstEnergy to testify about so-called dark money that investigators have linked to the utility and that ended up in a campaign against Cleveland Public Power.

During a briefing Monday, some council members called for the unusual step of issuing a subpoena because court filings identify FirstEnergy as “Company A” that bankrolled the effort to undermine city-owned CPP.

'The player that I want to focus on is Company A,' Councilman Blaine Griffin said. 'Company A clearly is trying to influence Cleveland. … We need to, in addition to looking at this dark money, we really need to illuminate Company A.'

Council launched an investigation in August to determine whether any parties accused in a statehouse corruption scandal related to legislative bailouts for two nuclear plants and two coal plants also sought to harm CPP."

– Robert Higgs, cleveland.com

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FirstEnergy to answer questions about whether ratepayer money funded HB 6 effort

Jan 08, 2021 4:40 PM

COLUMBUS – "Did FirstEnergy companies spend Ohio ratepayers’ money on their bid to pass a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants? An executive will soon answer questions about that. 

Santino Fanelli, director of rates and regulatory affairs for Akron-based FirstEnergy Service Company, said the companies 'have not included, directly or indirectly, any House Bill 6 costs in any rates or charges paid by ratepayers in Ohio,' according to a sworn affidavit filed in late September. 

Now, consumer advocates can challenge that assertion and ask questions about whether FirstEnergy's political spending hit Ohioans' electric bills, administrative judges for the state's energy regulators ruled Thursday.

"We think it's only fair that the statements in the affidavit be subject to cross-examination under oath," said Greg Price, an administrative law judge for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio or PUCO." 

– Jessie Balmert, The Cincinnati Enquirer

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House Speaker’s office requests resolution be drafted to expel member

Jan 08, 2021 4:09 PM

Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, is seen in top right being sworn-in to a new term as a state legislator on Monday, Jan. 4, as House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, looks on. Screenshot courtesy the Ohio Channel.

COLUMBUS -- "The office of Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp has sought a resolution be drafted to expel a member of the state legislature.

Though the request does not identify the member in question, this may mark the first step taken to remove from office Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, the former House speaker who was arrested last year on corruption charges for his alleged involvement in the nuclear bailout bill scandal. 

Sheila Willamowski Boehner, the deputy chief of staff and executive counsel for Speaker Cupp, sent an internal request to the Legislative Service Commission asking for two resolutions to be drafted. The request, made Thursday and obtained by the OCJ, asks for a floor resolution to expel a member and a separate floor resolution to “create a committee to investigate.” Both are asked to be drafted within the next week."

-- Tyler Buchanan, Ohio Capital Journal 

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Ohio clean energy foe at forefront of key points in bailout law, ratification efforts

Jan 06, 2021 2:19 PM

Rep. Seitz at House Session on June 10, 2020Rep. Seitz at House Session on June 10, 2020

"Documents made available last week show how House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, championed gutting Ohio’s clean energy standards in the state’s 2019 coal and nuclear bailout law. He has since served as a force against repeal.

Claims in a federal complaint released in July indicate that the law was at the heart of an alleged corruption scheme involving roughly $60 million. Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, and others were arrested last summer.

Failure to repeal the law in 2020 was 'an astounding failure by Republican leadership,' said Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, as the legislature adjourned last month.

'Repealing the bill would be the dumbest thing ever done,' Seitz said in an Aug. 28 email to Ohio Energy Association lobbyist Michael Kurtz. 'All we need to do is to strengthen the audit standards and possibly revisit the FE [FirstEnergy] decoupling provision. The herd of sheeple are all in a panic over what I consider the best energy bill we ever passed in my 20 years.'"

- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

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Funding challenges limit minority-owned businesses’ access to energy efficiency

Jan 04, 2021 1:53 PM

"Securing capital is a big challenge for many Black- and other minority-owned businesses. Whether through outright discrimination or more subtle bias, many companies face a disadvantage in a financial world where personal relationships can make or break a deal. 

It’s a particularly vexing problem when it comes to energy efficiency improvements, which can save money and in many cases more than pay for themselves. That dilemma becomes even more pressing as the pandemic continues.

'Capital has become an issue for almost every Black-owned business, small and midsize businesses especially,' said Carla Walker-Miller, founder and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services in Detroit.  

In large part, the dilemma’s roots stem from ongoing inequities that stack the deck against people of color."

-- Kathiann Kowalsi, Energy News Network

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FirstEnergy just can’t let go of CEI’s old battle against Cleveland Public Power: Brent Larkin

Jan 03, 2021 2:06 PM

Chuck Jones, former CEO of FirstEnergy Corp., in an undated photo when he was still running the firm.

Chuck Jones, the former CEO of FirstEnergy Corp. FirstEnergy fired Jones and two senior vice presidents Oct. 29 amid federal investigations of an alleged $60 million conspiracy to pass House Bill 6 involving "Company A," whose depiction in federal documents matches that of FirstEnergy.

 

"In Cleveland, FirstEnergy -- parent company of the old Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. (CEI), currently known as the Illuminating Co.; Ohio Edison Co.; and Toledo Edison Co. -- has added to what’s now more than a half-century of predatory conduct originally pursued by CEI.

Its aim? To drive the city’s municipal electric system -- Cleveland Public Power -- out of business.

A Dec. 24 story by Plain Dealer and cleveland.com reporter John Caniglia exposed how a dark money group funded in part by a $200,000 contribution from FirstEnergy in 2019 tried to erode customer confidence in Cleveland Public Power by criticizing its rates and service.

Ironically, FirstEnergy’s latest efforts to ruin Cleveland Public Power came at a time when evidence suggested mismanagement by the administration of Mayor Frank Jackson was lending FirstEnergy a helping hand."

- Brent Larkin, cleveland.com

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Documents offer rare view of pressure Larry Householder exerted in House Bill 6 scandal

Dec 31, 2020 2:01 PM

CLEVELAND – "In the days before the vote on House Bill 6, the legislative bailout of two nuclear power plants, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s political strategist reached out to Dave Greenspan, the Republican state representative from Westlake, with a not-so subtle message about the vote.

Jeff Longstreth texted Greenspan and urged him to side with Householder. Greenspan balked, and Longstreth pushed several reasons why the representative should vote for the measure.

'I also know that if 4,000 jobs are lost in an election year, you are going to get the blame,' Longstreth said in the text. 'Everyone in office will get the blame.'"

-- John Caniglia, cleveland.com

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