The order agrees that spending should be open to review but first requires the company to review itself. This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy New Network as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Regulators are requiring FirstEnergy to show that its Ohio utility ratepayers didn’t foot the bill, “directly or indirectly,” for political or charitable spending in support of the state’s nuclear and coal bailout bill. Yet that order is much more lenient than the state’s official consumer advocate had sought.
Emails obtained by a utility watchdog group reveal push by Dominion Energy and allies against a local resolution. Dominion Energy’s opposition to an Ohio village’s clean energy proposal appears to be part of a larger trend nationwide in which gas utilities are becoming more active at the local government level. Unlike other cases involving bans on new gas hook-ups, however, Bratenahl’s proposed resolution stated a general goal of achieving 100% clean energy, with no specific plan or enforcement provisions. The resolution would have set a goal of fully transitioning to clean energy for village-owned facilities by 2025 and for the general community of about 1,200 people by 2035.
The proposal surfaced in November in the wake of state lawmakers gutting the state’s renewable energy standards last year.
“In response, you have local communities stepping up to make commitments to 100% clean energy,” said Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Cleveland and Cincinnati had already committed in 2018 to move to 100% renewable energy for electricity.
FirstEnergy Solutions paid nearly $2 million to at least one group, but most other data remains hidden. After-the-fact filings show that FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiary paid nearly $2 million to Generation Now, one of the special interest groups that orchestrated ads, political donations and other efforts behind Ohio’s nuclear and coal bailout. But legal loopholes make it harder to find out the total spent and who else was behind xenophobic advertising, dueling voter petitions, alleged intimidation and other claims of foul play. And none of those actions fully disclosed who was behind them. The scant public filings that are available show additional connections to FirstEnergy Solutions (now Energy Harbor), as well as the law firm of an outspoken legislator who has long fought the state’s clean energy standard, and others with high-level political influence.
Nuclear and coal bailout is the latest in a line of favorable policy actions that shield noncompetitive plants from competition. Utility, nuclear and coal interests are big players in Ohio politics, giving about $3 million to Ohio political campaigns in 2018, according to data from the National Institute on Money in Politics. The industry interests have long been active politically. But just as competitive markets began coming into their own around 2010, the pattern of campaign contributions also shifted. Donations to Ohio campaigns from the utility, nuclear and coal industries in 2010 were more than double the amount for 2008.
Utilities’ affiliate files to compete as a broker as an Ohio bill aims to reduce corporate separation requirements
FirstEnergy foray into energy brokering raises issues of fair competition
A FirstEnergy subsidiary is seeking permission from Ohio regulators to advise customers on which electricity suppliers they should choose. The company’s application to operate as an energy broker and aggregator is an apparent reversal for FirstEnergy, which spent years legally separating from its non-regulated electricity businesses, including its former generation subsidiary. Critics say the move raises potential conflict of interest questions. It also comes as state lawmakers consider a bill that would broaden the range of services that regulated utilities could offer customers. FirstEnergy owns three regulated utilities in Ohio: Ohio Edison, Toledo Edison and the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company.
Analysis of state contracts to plug orphaned wells reveals that cleanup costs might creep into the billions
Plugging the myriad orphaned oil and gas wells around Ohio costs, on average, more than $110,000 per well, according to a new analysis of Department of Natural Resources data. The research was pulled from contracts the state awarded in 2019 by the ARO Working Group, a network that studies the decommissioning of oil assets and is affiliated with environmental group Earthworks. Compared with Ohio’s actual cleanup costs, operators are only required to put up a fund, called a bond, of $5,000 per well or $15,000 for all of their wells. This money, a fraction of the true price tag, is returned to operators once they plug their wells, which is meant as an incentive to do so. “My big concern is that the business models here in Ohio are premised on cheap water, cheap waste and cheap landscape change,” said Ted Auch, the Great Lakes program coordinator at environmental group FracTracker Alliance.
By April Johnston
In 1958, researchers from the University of Louisville and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission gathered at a lock on the Monongahela River for routine collecting, counting and comparing of fish species.
At the time, the best way to accomplish this was what’s called lock chamber sampling, or filling a 350-by-56-foot lock with river water, injecting it with cyanide and waiting for the dead fish to float to the top. Archaic, but effective. On this particular day, researchers opened the chamber to find one fish inside. One fish. It shouldn’t have been surprising, said Jerry Schulte, a biologist who managed the source water protection and emergency response team for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission [ORSANCO] for more than two decades.
Ohioans’ electric bills charge for more than the cost of making and delivering the electricity. With different utilities serving specific parts of the state, Ohioans’ electric bills and the tariffs that govern them vary. But they all have one thing in common: They’re hard for many people to understand. And the bills don’t clearly detail all charges to consumers. Here’s a guide to what all the small print says — and what it doesn’t say — on a sample bill from June for a residential customer of FirstEnergy’s Illuminating Company.
A look at how affiliate arrangements, subsidies and riders led to higher electric bills in Ohio — even as power prices declined
In a residential neighborhood south of downtown Cleveland, a decorative lamppost provides a stark illustration of what critics say is an abusive system of surcharges that have created billions of dollars in subsidies for the state’s utilities. The 150-watt light in a tiny residential park is the only thing for which the South Hills Neighborhood Association used electricity in July. Yet the electric bill was nearly $70 — only 38 cents of which was for the actual electricity consumed. The bill for that single lamppost is now nearly 750% higher than it was just 11 years ago. In July 2008, the charge for the same light totaled $8.28, with $2.69 going toward electricity.