Energy Companies Have Spent Billions on Projects That Go Nowhere

August 10, 2020 at 11:27 AM

NEW YORK, NY -- "Federal agents arrested Ohio State House Speaker Larry Householder last month on racketeering and bribery charges in a $60 million scheme involving a utility-funded political slush fund and a $1.3 billion bailout of two state nuclear power plants. Householder was charged, along with four others, in relation to controlling the slush fund and using it to fund campaigns for himself and his preferred candidates in return for passing the bailout bill, in what federal prosecutors called a quid pro quo. It’s the biggest corruption scandal in Ohio history.

Similar scenarios have played out in at least six other states with major utility monopolies. Energy companies with strangleholds on state legislatures in South Carolina, New Mexico, West Virginia, Georgia, and Pennsylvania have pushed billions of dollars in bills onto ratepayers for coal and nuclear projects that have failed or fallen out of competition as public support for renewable energy investment continues to grow. In another energy-related case, the largest electric utility in Illinois was fined for trading contracts and payoffs in exchange for legislation that made it easier to increase electricity rates.

The thrust for nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels in the U.S. has stopped and stalled for decades, losing most of its steam after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. But investment picked back up after 2002, when President George W. Bush launched the “Nuclear Power 2010” program, which provided a government cost-sharing program and subsidies to help identify and develop new sites for nuclear development to meet projected energy needs by 2010. Investment and operating costs for nuclear run much higher than those of other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. That, plus the immense amount of water required to produce nuclear power, make it less efficient than other available sources of carbon-neutral energy. Most of the flagship nuclear plans introduced around that time have since stalled or been abandoned completely, a result of cost overruns and yearslong delays."

-- Akela Lacy, The Intercept

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