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An FBI investigation shows Ohio's abysmal energy law was fueled by corruption

Jul 23, 2020 2:59 PM

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio gives his victory speech on November 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. While DeWine has called for Larry Householder’s resignation, he has not called for the repeal of the coal bailout. 

Justin Merriman/Getty Images

"Now that it’s clear that Ohio’s draconian energy policy was passed based on bribery and corruption, legislators should act immediately to repeal the law.

While Gov. Mike DeWine has called for Householder’s resignation, he has not called for the repeal of the corrupt coal bailout. That’s perhaps not surprising, since DeWine has himself taken money from FirstEnergy. DeWine’s staff even made plans to fly legislators on a taxpayer-funded plane to make Householder’s last-minute vote for the bailout. The day after DeWine signed the law, he attended a Trump fundraiser hosted by coal baron Bob Murray. He seems quite cozy with the fossil fuel industry.

If DeWine is not in bed with FirstEnergy, then he should be calling for HB 6 to be reversed immediately. This law was passed by corrupt politicians. The effort to overturn it by popular will was thwarted by a corrupt utility. If DeWine can’t see this invalidates Ohio’s energy law, then perhaps he has a bigger problem.

We cannot allow utility corruption to continue to stall clean energy progress. This FBI affidavit is a wake-up call to all politicians: Stop taking electric utilities’ money."

-- Leah Stokes, Vox

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Cleveland Council’s myopia adds to burden of consumers suffering through pandemic

Jul 23, 2020 11:31 AM

CLEVELAND - - No one can see a disaster coming 12 years in the future. However, Cleveland’s City Council should have heeded warnings in 2008 that an ill-conceived contract could endanger the future viability of municipally-owned utility Cleveland Public Power (CPP). Now, as CPP struggles to keep the customers it needs to stay afloat and faces a $188 million lawsuit for overcharging 80,000 commercial and residential customers, the decision to sign a 50-year “take or pay” contract with American Municipal Power- Ohio (AMP- Ohio) returns to haunt them and hurt consumers.

Back in 2008, Ohio Citizen Action joined a chorus of voices urging Council to reject the deal to buy electricity to be generated by two coal plants. These included a new coal plant in Meigs County – the first to be built in Ohio in 20 years- and the Prairie State coal plant in Illinois that had been plagued with serious cost overruns during construction. At the time, we argued that investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy would better serve the utility and local residents, especially in light of expected federal regulations on carbon and falling costs for renewable energy generation. We also pointed out the risk that if the new plant should not be built, CPP customers would still be on the hook for 50 years paying to cover costs of the abandoned project.

Despite objections from the consultant the city hired to evaluate plans for the Meigs County coal plant, the city signed the contract, claiming it “fits with the city’s strategic plan to keep the municipal system alive.” ION Consulting warned that the timing of building the plant was difficult due to uncertainty in the energy market. They further predicted that if higher rates drove away CPP customers, rates would run even higher for the smaller customer base, causing a chain reaction of lost business, or as they pointedly put it, a “death spiral”.


Will FirstEnergy Corp. be charged next?

Jul 22, 2020 5:48 PM

Three big things we learned from the FBI’s criminal complaint against Householder

1. FirstEnergy Corp. bankrolled the alleged criminal conspiracy

The indictment does not name as defendants FirstEnergy Corp, its subsidiary FirstEnergy Service Company, or FirstEnergy Solutions (now known as Energy Harbor), the company which owned the nuclear assets that HB 6 bailed out, and which FirstEnergy spun off in bankruptcy restructuring. 

However, it makes clear that these companies provided nearly all of the $60 million to fund the operation, most of which it routed through a 501(c)(4) dark money organization called Generation Now. 

2. Exactly how Householder and his associates spent FirstEnergy Corp’s $60 million

The criminal complaint describes how the Householder-run operation then spent FirstEnergy Corp.’s money in four key ways...

3. FirstEnergy Corp. not only funded, but was intimately involved in the operation

While the FBI has not yet charged FirstEnergy with wrongdoing, it describes in detail how close the company and its executives were to the alleged racketeering operation. 

Householder spoke with FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones 30 times during the first half of 2019, and 84 times from early 2017 through July 2019. He spoke with First Energy’s Vice President of External Affairs Michael J. Dowling 14 times during that time period, and with its Ohio Director of State Affairs 188 times during that period. 

-- David Pomerantz, Energy & Policy Institute

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Nuclear Power Plant Bailout At The Center Of Federal Corruption Case

Jul 21, 2020 8:56 PM

US Attorney David M. DeVillers outlines the case against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R - Glenford) at a press conference in Columbus, Ohio USA on July 21, 2020.

COLUMBUS -- "House Bill 6 is the sweeping energy bill that not only created a ten-year, $1.5 billion subsidy for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants by increasing everyone’s electric bills. It also created subsidies for struggling coal plants, rolled back pro-renewable energy policies, and eliminated energy efficiency standards.

"We are not commenting on the wisdom of House Bill 6," DeVillers says. "It's clear from the affidavit that House Bill 6 was passed with millions of dollars, tens of millions dollars that were hidden from the people of the state of Ohio."

But the bill was hotly contested in 2019.

Two of the defendants, Borges and Cespedes, were both registered lobbyists for FirstEnergy Solutions, the energy generation company that owns Ohio's two nuclear power plants, Davis-Besse (Oak Harbor) and Perry (Perry). FirstEnergy Solutions was renamed Energy Harbor when it came out of bankruptcy earlier this year splitting from FirstEnergy Corporation.

Cespedes pushed for the bill, while Borges' consulting company helped fight back against a petition to repeal the law after it was passed."

-- Jo Ingles and Andy Chow, Ohio Statehouse News Bureau

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Connections between climate crisis, COVID-19, and systemic racism

Jul 20, 2020 2:43 PM

Dr. Marie O'Neill, professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. 

CREDIT UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH / SPH.UMICH.EDU

"Overview:
  • Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate how globally connected we are.  Actions taken by one community or country to address these crises affect everyone else on the planet, and taking individual responsibility is an act of generosity and selflessness that can benefit many other people.
  • While many uncertainties exist, there is good news in that preventive actions can be taken that reduce the health toll of both.  For example, social distancing and other societal actions can clearly 'flatten the curve' of the incidence of COVID-19 cases.  Similarly, although climate change is already occurring, efforts to reduce energy use can result in less extreme changes in future temperatures and weather events than would otherwise be the case.   
  • Failure to heed early warnings from epidemiologists about COVID-19 led to an exponentially greater public health emergency, and scientists have been calling out warnings about the potential for climate change to alter the global environment in ways that are even more devastating.  
  • Dr. Marie O’Neill, U-M Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Epidemiology, says, 'I see the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change as both being phenomena of tremendous importance to global public health.'  She says, 'COVID-19 and climate change both magnify the inequalities in our society and the continuing disadvantage experienced by many communities of color as a result of structural racism.  Evidence that climate change most affects the health of those who live in communities with the fewest resources abound.  Solutions to enhance the resilience of such communities can be developed in equal partnership with members of such communities."

-- David Fair interviews Dr. Marie O'Neill, WEMU

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Pro-life organization calls for 100% renewable energy by 2030

Jul 15, 2020 6:08 PM

The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), a new member of our coalition in Ohio, recently completed a petition which resulted in 53,000 pro-life Ohio Christians calling for the state to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. They held a virtual press conference on Thursday, July 16 to discuss their positive results in both large metropolitan areas and smaller communities, such as New Philadelphia, Lima, Findley, and Marietta. 

After the press conference, EEN did a Facebook Live dropping the 53,000 signatures in the mail to Governor DeWine. We are going to share social media posts after the press conference to help amplify this message, and we encourage others to do the same! You can find them here:
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/creationcare/
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/CreationCare

 

A message from Ohio Citizen Action:
This is a really important event and a strong message for our coalition to promote. We need your help in actively sharing, posting content and attending future events. I hope you will check out the Facebook Live event and help us boost EEN’s results!


Ohio Secretary of State issues "Ready for November" directive to county election boards

Jul 15, 2020 5:26 PM

May 5, 2015 (Instagram) - I Ohio Voting

Image: I Ohio Voting" by h20series on Creative Commons

"Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has issued his 'Ready for November' plan to each of the state’s 88 county boards of election detailing how they must use federal funding received through the CARES Act for the Nov. 3 general election.

The state received nearly $13 million in federal funds to help with November's election expenses and 87 percent of that money goes directly to county elections boards. According to the office, money spent by the county boards must be related — or made necessary — by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

'Over the past several months, we’ve been working with bipartisan election officials across Ohio as well as election experts & advocates to make our state ready for November,' LaRose said in a statement. 'While we certainly have many challenges ahead of us, this plan puts us on a path to ensure Ohio voters will be confident that their voice was heard on Nov. 3.'"

-- Andrew Cass, The News-Herald

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Local victory on utility shut offs

Jul 14, 2020 2:42 PM

CLEVELAND -- Ohio's water shut off moratorium ended July 10, putting thousands of Ohioans at risk of losing access to their water.

In recognition of the vital role that access to water and power plays in fighting this pandemic and keeping our community healthy, the City of Cleveland has announced that the shutoff moratorium for Cleveland Public Power and Cleveland Water will last through the end of the city's State of Emergency, or July 31. We're encouraged that the city has committed to preserving these protections through the declared emergency, but the city must go further to ensure that residents are able to stay connected to power and water for the length of the pandemic.

Without water, how will residents wash their hands to stay healthy? Without power, how will our vulnerable neighbors power lifesaving medical equipment or stay cool during these heatwaves? Without electricity, how will our children use the internet to attend school in the fall?

Access to utilities is a basic human right, and our leaders must treat it as such. It's never OK to be without access to utilities. We need guaranteed statewide access for utilities for the length of the pandemic and beyond. 

 


A pandemic and surging summer heat leave thousands struggling to pay utility bills

Jul 14, 2020 2:00 PM

Protesters in Cleveland gathered for a caravan for energy justice on April 29, 2020

"While mandatory and voluntary moratoriums aim to prevent waves of shut-offs during the pandemic, many states do not have debt forgiveness for mounting energy bills after the crisis passes. 

Not all utility companies have adequately communicated changes to their disconnection policies to customers, said Kaiba White, energy policy and outreach specialist for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. Her office reached out to Texas' electric cooperatives and municipal utilities and found that many companies' policies were often difficult to find or not publicly posted. 

'It's ultimately up to the customer to call,' said White, who found that often when people did call and ask about their utility company's policy on shut-offs, the initial response would be to pressure the customer to pay outstanding bills, instead of informing them about available relief."

-- Maddie Kornfeld, Inside Climate News

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Good Columbus Progress Report on Cheaper Utilities

Jul 10, 2020 2:19 PM

Wind and wuthering.

"Wind and wuthering." by stuant63 on Creative Commons

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced in mid-February that he would pursue a community-choice energy-aggregation program to reach 100% green power by 2022, a move applauded by Ohio Citizen Action and the Ohio Consumers’ Power Alliance. This program would allow the city to negotiate bulk electricity purchases to get lower rates and cleaner power generation for all -- both smart ideas -- and it continues to move forward after Tuesday’s City Council hearing. Thanks so much to all the Columbus City residents who are members of OCA for sending in their testimony for this week’s hearing!

Now, the Columbus City Council is set for a July 20 vote on a decision to file the paperwork needed to get the community energy utility aggregation initiative on the November ballot, a move that would “fundamentally change the way that the community addresses energy and climate change,” said Councilman Rob Dorans. Then, when voters approve the measure, details of the plan will be submitted to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for its approval. The entire project is on a tight timeline, with a goal of having a new supply in place by the summer of 2022.

-- Rachael Belz, Executive Director Ohio Citizen Action 

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