Ohio Coal/Nuclear Bailout at Heart of $60 M Bribery Case

July 21, 2020

Perry Nuclear Power Plant. Credit: FirstEnergy/CC-BY-ND-2.0

Fast developing story, I’ll know more tomorrow when I have a chance to catch up.
Takeaway: The worst energy bill in the country turns out to be tainted with bribery. Fossil and nuclear industry involved.

Allegedly.

NPR:

FBI agents arrested Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder on Tuesday morning at his rural farm. Householder was taken into custody in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly involving state officials and associates.

Four others were also arrested: former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes.

The charges are linked to a controversial law passed last year that bailed out two nuclear power plants in the state while gutting subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The federal complaint describes a years-long bribery campaign to build support for Householder’s bid to become House speaker and then pass the nuclear bailout law with his help. Householder won the speakership in January 2019, and the bailout passed in July 2019. It went into effect in October.

Householder, a Republican, represents a district east of Columbus. He first began serving in the Ohio House in 1997 and was speaker from 2001 to 2004, when he stepped down because of term limits. He then worked as Perry County auditor before returning to the House in 2017.

More on the disputed law from Inside Climate News:

In a year when several states have taken big steps to embrace a future that runs on renewable energy, Ohio is taking a leap in the opposite direction.

The Ohio legislature passed a measure Tuesday that cuts renewable energy and energy efficiency programs while adding subsidies for nuclear and coal-fired power plants—a policy cocktail that opponents say is backward-looking and harmful to the economy, consumers and the environment.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed the bill into law within hours.

Opponents were unable to match the political power of FirstEnergy Solutions, the owner of the state’s two nuclear plants, and its allies.

While much of the debate was about nuclear power, the law may end up functioning as more of a coal bailout.

On Friday, FirstEnergy Solutions said it had decided to cancel plans to close the W.H. Sammis coal-fired power plant, an eastern Ohio plant that has been described as a “super-polluter.” The plant, previously scheduled to shut down in 2022, is not covered by the bailout law, but the windfall from the bailout money is improving the company’s finances enough to make moves unrelated to the nuclear plants.

The new law is in line with Ohio’s recent history of hostility to renewable energy, while also making the state an outlier as several other states have increased their support for renewable energy, including plans to move to 100 percent carbon-free or renewable electricity, most recently in Maine and New York.

“This is one of the worst pieces of energy related legislation we’ve seen,” said Dan Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Statenews.org:

Nuclear

The new law bails out nuclear power in Ohio. Everyone paying for electricity in their homes will see a new $0.85 charge on their monthly bills. That, along with new charges for commercial and industrial users, will pump $150 million into two nuclear plants, Davis-Besse and Perry.

FirstEnergy Solutions, which is currently filing for bankruptcy, said it would shut the plants if they did not receive a significant subsidy.

Gov. Mike DeWine said this plan saves jobs and protects the environment.

“It’s important for the state of Ohio to be able to have a significant amount of energy that is created to be carbon free having nuclear plants today is the only way we’re going to achieve that,” says DeWine.

Several conservative lawmakers are against this major policy shift saying it’s the government picking winners and losers.

The Public Utilities Commission reports nuclear accounts for about 15% of the state’s energy generation.

Coal

Utilities will charge ratepayers up to $1.50 a month to subsidize the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation’s two struggling coal plants, both built in the 50’s, one in southeast Ohio, the other in Indiana.

This provision has outraged environmental advocates like Dan Sawmiller with the Natural Resources Defense Council who says the market is already phasing out coal.

“And so the price tag for these bailouts for these coal plants just went significantly higher and it’s going to stay in place until 2030, these will be the oldest coal plants operating in the entire country,” says Sawmiller.

Customers of AEP, Duke Energy, and Dayton Power & Light are already paying fees on their electric bills to subsidize OVEC. (Ohio Valley Electric Corporation) The provision in HB6 strengthens the ability to attach that fee and requires FirstEnergy Corp to also pass a rider on to their ratepayers.

2 Responses to “Ohio Coal/Nuclear Bailout at Heart of $60 M Bribery Case”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    “It’s important for the state of Ohio to be able to have a significant amount of energy that is created to be carbon free having nuclear plants today is the only way we’re going to achieve that in terms of Christmas mothers need big and the only way out seems odder for make energy last year after forty Dayton rutabaga. I had a dream. But we done have got red greased handedly palms caught” says DeWine.

    I’m experiencing a moment of Schadenfreude. Not least because of DeWine’s incomprehensiblosity. And some surprise; not that it was done but that they were actually caught…and then ARRESTED for it!

  2. Gingerbaker Says:

    There are evidently several other bailouts around the country that look suspiciously like this one. Remains to be seen if they will be investigated.


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