Recent news

There’s a lot of important stuff in Ohio House Bill 6 besides the nuclear bailout

Sep 15, 2020 12:36 PM

COLUMBUS — "...there are a lot of other things HB 6 does in addition to the nuclear bailout, including offer subsidies to specific coal and solar plants around the state, dismantle the state’s green-energy standards for utilities, and allow FirstEnergy Corp. and other utilities to lock in a guaranteed level of ratepayer revenue for years to come.

HB6 has a grab-bag of other measures as well. It allows county fairs to halve their yearly electric bills, makes more mid-sized wind farms exempt from property taxes and puts them under local control, and requires Ohio to spend a larger portion of federal grant money for low-income heating assistance on home weatherization work instead of bill assistance.

Lawmakers will have to decide the fate of all of these elements.

Here’s more on the lesser-known parts of House Bill 6, including how the controversial law is already affecting you (and your bank account)"

— Jeremy Pelzer,

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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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