Coal, Fossil Fuels at Heart of Ohio Racketeering, Corruption

January 27, 2023

Ohio is the most corrupt state in the Union – and I don’t just say that because I hate their damn football team.

Above, update on the massive Racketeering Scandal that has rocked the State legislature, but is only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to locking Ohio ratepayers into subsidizing uncompetitive coal powered plants, (even one that’s in Indiana), the state has paved the way for counties to bend to pressure and intimidation tactics and ban clean energy in their boundaries, but not extended that authority to cover fossil fuel development.

The battle for clean energy deployment is taking place at the local level, as the fossil fuel industry has shrewdly identified local jurisdiction as the softest target to block solar and wind projects, by targeting local officials with disruption and intimidation that looks a lot like the attacks we have seen recently on schools, libraries, and health officials, driven by paranoid, right wing social media conspiracy theories.
I’ve been doing a number of interviews with local officials around next-door Michigan, subject to these same tactics, and will have more to reveal about my shocking findings soon. See a related post on this page.

Ohio Capitol Journal:

At least 10 Ohio counties have passed resolutions blocking the development of new utility scale wind and solar projects within all or part of their jurisdictions in the last year.

The counties’ moves come after the October 2021 enactment of a state law giving the locals the veto power over renewable energy generation sites — a veto power that doesn’t exist for fossil fuel developments.

Fox 19 Cincinnati:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) – A federal trial in what prosecutors say is likely the largest bribery and money laundering scheme in Ohio history is expected to begin Monday in Cincinnati.

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges are both accused of racketeering for allegedly running a criminal enterprise that took nearly $61 million in bribes, funneled from First Energy through the non-profit Generation Now, to position Householder as the speaker and then pass and defend House Bill 6, a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout.

Ohio lawmakers passed House Bill 6 and Gov. Mike DeWine signed it into law in 2019.

Federal officials have said Householder was a driving force of the financial rescue that tacked a new fee to every electricity bill in Ohio and directed over $150 million annually through 2026 to the plants near Toledo and Cleveland.

Midwest Energy News:

False and unsubstantiated claims about renewable energy have flourished for years, but critics say different forms of misinformation played a big role in Ohio lawmakers’ latest move to stifle the growth of wind and solar energy.

“Misinformation is the means to the end,” said Trish Demeter, chief of staff for the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund. “Misinformation, bad information, misconstrued information, partial information: All of those are tactics that are supporting the goal, which is to block and kill renewable energy from being built in Ohio.”

Senate Bill 52 would let counties keep out new solar and wind farms from all or part of their territories, holding those projects to a higher standard than fossil fuel infrastructure. 

In the case of natural gas, for example, Ohio courts have struck down local zoning laws and other restrictions. And on July 1, Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 201 into law, forbidding local governments from banning natural gas.

In contrast, SB 52 would let counties prevent or limit any particular solar or wind project within their borders. Passed in the wee hours of June 29 with some changes from earlier versions, SB 52 still gives local governments multiple chances to nix renewable energy projects or break them up. Counties and local townships also would get two votes on Ohio Power Siting Board decisions for those projects.

At a minimum, SB 52 extends project timelines and adds uncertainty that critics say will discourage developers from choosing Ohio for renewable energy projects, causing the state to lose out on thousands of jobs.

Former Ohio house speaker Larry Householder. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

Guardian:

Federal prosecutors on the first day of a historic racketeering trial in Ohioalleged that top Republicans in the state accepted bribes from the power company FirstEnergy.

The trial, which is expected to last six weeks, is the latest utility scandal following cases in the last 10 years in ArizonaLouisianaAlabama and Florida which experts say has led to higher bills for consumers, less green energy, and more CO2 emissions.

One of the defendants, the former Ohio house speaker Larry Householder, told reporters on Monday morning as he waited for opening statements in the US district court in Cincinnati that he had done nothing wrong and expected “redemption”.

Householder is charged with one count of racketeering, and if convicted, faces up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors allege that Householder and the four men indicted alongside him received over $60m in bribes from the Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy corporation and its subsidiaries.

Prosecutors argue that in exchange, Householder and his co-conspirators passed HB-6, a bill that would have delivered $1.4bn in customer funded bailouts to two ailing nuclear plants controlled by the utility. Nuclear power has struggled to compete with comparatively cheap gas plants in recent years.

“Larry Householder sold the statehouse,” assistant US attorney Emily Glatfelter told jurors in the government’s opening statement. “He ripped off the people he was elected to serve and made backroom deals to exchange his power for money.”

Householder contends that he did nothing wrong, and never took a bribe. “Larry never entered into any corrupt illicit agreement with First Energy. Larry never entered into any promise, no quid pro quo exchange,” his lead defense attorney Steven Bradley said.

At the heart of the case are the over $60m from FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries that Householder and his four co-conspirators received via several “dark money” tax-exempt entities, the most important of which was Generation Now.

Such organizations, known as 501(c)4’s, are ostensibly meant to promote “social welfare”. Federal tax and case law allows them to withhold the names of their donors. “A 501(c)4 is a perfect entity to receive a secret bribe,” prosecutor Glatfelter told the court.

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One Response to “Coal, Fossil Fuels at Heart of Ohio Racketeering, Corruption”

  1. Ron Benenati Says:

    And here I was always so proud thinking New York was the most corrupt state in the Union.
    I’m devastated.


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