Ohio regulators decline to force FirstEnergy to hire an independent auditor

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.

Murray Energy’s limited disclosure in Ohio conspiracy case leaves big questions unanswered

The for-profit corporate structure of Hardworking Ohioans, Inc. and other groups precludes transparency on how companies use money to influence energy policy

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism, in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Help us provide more public service reporting by joining our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy News Network. While an Ohio-based coal company has contributed $100,000 to an organization that may have been involved in an alleged bribery operation to pass a power plant bailout law last year, company officials said in a bankruptcy filing that they don’t know how the money was spent. A bankruptcy court ruled last week that Murray Energy can move ahead to seek approval of its reorganization plan, subject to a representation that its officers and directors have no knowledge about how money it gave to a dark money organization might have been used to promote the Ohio coal and nuclear bailout law at the heart of a federal conspiracy case. 

The ruling is a partial victory for environmental and citizen groups, who had objected to a more limited disclosure statement proposed by Murray Energy and its related debtors on Aug. 6.

HB 6 repeal would address only part of Ohio lawmakers’ recent actions to slow renewables

But a complete repeal is needed as a minimum to undo the bill’s gutting of the clean energy standards, advocates say. 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 Energy News as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Both Republican and Democratic Ohio lawmakers are pushing to repeal the state’s nuclear bailout bill after this week’s release of a federal criminal complaint against House Speaker Larry Householder and others. Clean energy advocates say that would be a start, but more is needed to address eight years of lawmakers’ actions to slow the growth of renewables in the state.

In Ohio’s coal country, pandemic pushes unemployment rate from bad to worse

As the novel coronavirus spread, Appalachian Ohio saw the state’s highest percentages of people out of work. Ohio’s coal mining counties have been hit even harder as unemployment surged following the country’s novel coronavirus outbreak. As the statewide unemployment rate moved from 4.7% in February to 5.6% in March, counties in Appalachian Ohio also saw rates twice as high — up to 12.2% in Monroe County. The six counties with the highest percentages of people out of work in March were all in the state’s Appalachian region. 

Job security has been an ongoing concern for coal miners and their communities, and the coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse. As of April, the U.S. coal industry had lost one in seven jobs since January, when doctors diagnosed the first U.S. case of COVID-19.

Utilities, gas industry coordinate to oppose Ohio village’s clean energy goal

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.

Campaign contributions pay off for Ohio utilities and coal interests

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.

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.