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

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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Ohio Consumers Power Alliance endorses the National Economic Transition Platform

Local leaders in coal communities are developing solutions that tackle the climate crisis and create equitable and sustainable economic growth from the ground up

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance is pleased to announce that we have endorsed the National Economic Transition Platform. Launched June 30, 2020, this platform provides national leaders a path forward to developing the community-powered, national economic transition program that American coal communities need and deserve.

From Appalachia to the Navajo Nation, the people hit hardest by the changing coal economy are facing a profound crisis. As these challenges continue to mount, local leaders in coal communities are working to tackle the climate crisis and create equitable and sustainable economic growth. The National Economic Transition Platform is crafted by these leaders, to give national policymakers a framework for a comprehensive national economic transition program that will create and support vibrant, inclusive communities.

This platform empowers workers and communities—in rural, urban, and tribal settings— as the nation adapts to the realities of climate change while confronting economic and public health crises. These solutions are built by and for communities to create resilient economies that can withstand shocks like economic recessions and worldwide pandemics. Together with more than 80 other organizations, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance has endorsed this platform as a way to work toward a future where the communities hit hardest by the decline of the coal industry have equitable economies, thriving local businesses, and family-sustaining jobs.

The framework for this platform is built on seven pillars of integrated federal policy solutions. Fully addressing the challenges of the energy transition requires a substantial local, state, and federal-level investment, as well as investment from the private sector and philanthropy. Together, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance and our co-signatories call upon national policymakers to advance the platform’s framework; it is the best way to serve and assist the people and places most affected by past and future coal transitions. The time for equitable and lasting change is now.


Inside clean energy: The racial inequity in clean energy and how to fight it

Solar Worker Demographics

"It doesn't take much of a leap to see a connection between underrepresentation in the solar work force and the lower use of solar in some neighborhoods. Whole communities are much less likely to have job contacts in the industry, and are also less likely to know someone who has rooftop solar and can talk about its benefits.

These discrepancies touch on a larger environmental justice issue: Majority black neighborhoods also have higher levels of air pollution from industry and fossil fuel electricity than majority white neighborhoods, according to a large body of research.

The inequities in solar power are a major concern because the solar industry is likely to be an increasingly important part of our economy.

If the benefits of this industry are mostly limited to people who already are in a position of privilege, this leads to justified resentment. And that resentment can be exploited by industries that want to slow down the transition to clean energy. For example, some utilities have sought help from NAACP chapters to oppose rooftop solar, based on the idea that the benefits of solar are going to mainly white and affluent households, shifting costs to everyone else. The utilities' argument is shaky at best, with little evidence that solar cost-shifting is anything more than a minor issue, but there is no escaping that black communities have not gotten a proportionate share of the benefits of solar."

-- Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News

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With Ohio bailout law secured, FirstEnergy Solutions successor moves to increase share buybacks by $300 million

COLUMBUS -- "Leaders of a former FirstEnergy subsidiary, which Ohio electricity customers will soon begin paying $150 million annually to subsidize under a nuclear bailout law Ohio officials passed last year, have moved to spend an extra $300 million on repurchasing the company’s own stock.

The stock buybacks, meant to benefit corporate shareholders, come less than a year after an aggressive multi-year lobbying effort by FirstEnergy that culminated in Gov. Mike DeWine and state lawmakers approving $1 billion in bailout money funded by surcharges on Ohioans’ electric bills. The company and elected officials who backed the bailout argued without state money, the power plants and their parent company would become insolvent.

The board of directors for the company now known as Energy Harbor on Friday voted to increase authorization for its stock buyback program from $500 million to $800 million, according to an investor presentation the company posted to its website. Energy Harbor can buy back the stock any time until Aug. 27., under the terms of a company plan, approved as the Akron company spun off from FirstEnergy as it emerged from bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year."

-- Andrew Tobias, cleveland.com

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A dirty battle for a nuclear bailout in Ohio

A mailer sent to thousands of Ohio residents falsely linked the Chinese government to anti-bailout activists.

"The raw political and economic power of the industry was on display even after the bill was passed. Having been defeated within the legislature, grassroots organizations such as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts and Ohio Consumers Power Alliance took to the streets and tried to collect signatures on a petition calling for a referendum question about HB6 to be included in the 2020 elections. It was a tough task, since those opposing the bailout had less than two months to gather over a quarter of a million valid signatures.

FirstEnergy tried to stop them with a two-pronged approach. The first was a legal trick. It went to the state’s supreme court and argued that the monthly charges on customers 'should be considered tax increases, which cannot be challenged by a referendum.' But the court dismissed the case, saying there was 'no ‘justiciable controversy’ for it to decide.' For the main part, though, the response from FirstEnergy and other beneficiaries was more of the same: dark money–backed organizations spending millions to undo the grassroots efforts by urging voters to refuse signing the petition.

Among these organizations was one called Ohioans for Energy Security, which sponsored television advertisements that falsely claimed that China is 'intertwining themselves financially in our energy infrastructure,' threatening 'national security,' and implying that not going through with the bailout campaign would lead to Chinese control of Ohio’s power grid. The watchdog organization Energy and Policy Institute quickly identified that some of the people featured in the TV advertisement were in fact FirstEnergy employees. In other words, there was reason to suspect that FirstEnergy was behind the advertisement. Ohioans for Energy Security also mailed thousands of letters to state residents with bold lettering behind a Chinese flag imploring, 'Don’t give the Chinese government your personal information.' The hyperbolic allegations about China apparently are connected to natural gas-fired power plants in Ohio that were partially financed by a Chinese government-owned bank, although FirstEnergy has itself borrowed money from the same bank."

-- Shakiba Fadaie and M. V. RamanaBulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Citizens groups demand aggressive Cleveland utility reconnections

End Poverty Now is a coalition of 22 groups in Cleveland that works to address and combat issues of poverty in Cleveland communities. The above photo lists the coalition's demands concerning the utility shutoffs during the COVID-19 outbreak.

CLEVELAND — "Rachael Belz, Executive Director for Ohio Citizen Action told News 5 the coalition has started a petition drive, calling on the city to more aggressively let citizens know they can have service temporarily restored.

Belz said the growing financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis is going to have even more residents get behind on paying their utility bills.

'How do they even find out that’s what they’re supposed to do,' Belz said.

'Even sending a postcard or making a phone call or at least try to make a phone call and leave a message.'

— Joe Pagonakis, News 5 Cleveland

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Power struggle: Federal ruling calls into question Ohio's nuclear plant subsidies

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

"'FERC's order is a direct response to a trend of state subsidization of uneconomical power plants, including those benefiting from the recently passed Ohio House Bill 6 (HB6),' the report reads. 'The FERC order is a giant stick against state subsidies, and tips HB6 on its head: Rather than improve the economic position of select Ohio (and Indiana) power plants, the HB6 subsidies now jeopardize these same power plants from competitively earned revenue in the wholesale electric capacity market. ... About $190 million in annual capacity revenue for these same generators is now at risk,' it adds.

While it says it's not telling Ohio or any other state whether to subsidize their power plants, FERC wants to make sure auctions for capacity power are fair and competitive. It's instructed the regional grid operator PJM to institute a minimum offer price rule (MOPR) for its capacity auctions, setting prices at which subsidized plants could bid in.

Capacity power is electricity the grid keeps on reserve to meet its maximum load requirements. It's tapped into when the grid exceeds its base load and needs more juice. Power companies bid to provide that power at a set price. When the grid needs it, PJM begins buying the lowest-priced power and keeps buying more expensive power from other bidders until it has enough. Then, all of the capacity power providers get that last and highest price for all of the capacity power they provided.

FERC says allowing nuclear plants supported by state subsidies to bid into these auctions at lower prices than other nuclear plants could support is not fair. So, it's ordered PJM to set a minimum price at which Davis-Besse, Perry and other subsidized plants can bid in."

-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business 

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Ohio green-energy groups increasingly look to locals in fight against global warming

COLUMBUS — "Environmental advocates have been working on the local level for years, finding success in getting cities to commit to getting 100 percent of their energy from renewable sourcesreplacing gas-powered city vehicles with electric cars, and even building their own solar arrays, among other things.

But now, such efforts are becoming more organized with the creation of Power A Clean Future Ohio, which will work to help municipal leaders implement carbon-reduction plans. The new group is backed by organizations such as the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio Mayors Alliance, and the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter.

'Regardless of what the state is doing, there’s just a lot of opportunity for local governments to step in here, and to take a kind of leadership role,' said Joe Flarida, executive director of Power A Clean Future Ohio. 'There’s just kind of a natural fit there and a lot of authority that they have to do things right away, so we’re taking advantage.'"

— Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com

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Ohio clean energy groups will seek recusals from PUCO nominee

Members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio meet in March 2018. photo: PUCO

COLUMBUS — “Randazzo himself raised the question of recusals when he opposed Democrat Howard Petricoff for a seat on the PUCO in 2016. Petricoff had represented wind industry clients, as well as some companies that favor a shift to renewable energy.

…The issue is broader in Randazzo’s case. As PUCO chair, he would have both a vote and a leadership role in setting the commission’s agenda. Ohio law would also make Randazzo chair of the Ohio Power Siting Board, giving him a say in which renewable energy projects can be built.

Now notices filed last month with the PUCO list more than four dozen matters in which Randazzo has withdrawn as counsel of record for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio.

Similar notices in additional cases reflect recent representation of companies such as U.S. Steel, Timken, Cleveland Thermal and more. Some of those cases are “reasonable arrangement” cases that seek regulators’ blessing for special deals for large industrial customers. Such deals can shift more utility costs to consumers.”

— Kathiann M Kowalski, Midwest Energy News

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Environmental groups oppose DeWine's pick for PUCO Chair

Wind and wuthering.

"Wind and wuthering." by stuant63 on Creative Commons

"Randazzo, who recently retired from representing Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, is one of four nominees selected by a nominating council. The environmental groups are specifically targeting Randazzo for his past opposition to renewable energy projects.

'We need someone who’s a visionary, someone who really understands not just what Ohio’s like today but what Ohio needs to be in the future to stay competitive,' says Heather Taylor-Miesle with the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund.

Industrial Energy Users-Ohio represents large energy ratepayers, with members such as Marathon Gas and McDonald’s franchises.

On behalf of the group, Randazzo consistently opposed proposals that resulted in increases on electric bills. That meant opposing renewable energy standards, but it included opposing a cost recovery plan for coal plants."

-- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau 

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