As Ohio regulators sit on coal plant subsidy cases, costs could rack up for ratepayers

Ratepayers are getting tiny credits right now, but House Bill 6’s coal plant bailouts have huge net costs. And millions of dollars of those costs were improper, critics argue. This story is a joint project of the nonprofit Energy News Network and Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Although Ohio regulators have paused four FirstEnergy cases dealing with House Bill 6, they could still take action in cases dealing with the two 1950s-era coal plants that were subsidized by the law at the heart of Ohio’s ongoing corruption scandal. 

Yet the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has made no rulings in those cases in months.

Special counsel hired to help PUCO with document requests has multiple ties to HB 6 push

Links include an HB 6 co-sponsor, a lobbyist for FirstEnergy’s former subsidiary, and a former partner who served as an officer for Generation Now

This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism, in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. An outside law firm working with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on responses to federal subpoenas and public records requests has multiple ties to the law at the heart of the state’s ongoing corruption scandal. The firm, Dinsmore & Shohl, is headquartered in Cincinnati and has offices in 30 cities across the United States. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office retained the firm as special counsel for the PUCO after it received the first of two federal subpoenas in the spring of 2021 relating to House Bill 6.

Freeze of regulator’s HB 6 cases could further harm Ohio consumers

A federal prosecutor’s move to stay PUCO cases would thwart investigations behind FirstEnergy’s spending and other matters related to Ohio’s ongoing House Bill 6 corruption scandal. This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism, in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. On Tuesday, a federal prosecutor asked to shut down four Ohio regulatory cases relating to Ohio’s House Bill 6 scandal for at least six months. If granted, the request by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker of the Southern District of Ohio will further block Ohioans’ ability to learn more about the alleged corruption behind the state’s 2019 nuclear and coal bailout law. 

FirstEnergy admitted last year that it paid nearly $60 million and bribed two Ohio public officials in connection with HB 6, including the former speaker of the Ohio House and a former head of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Regulators’ foot-dragging on public records hides the full story behind Ohio’s utility corruption scandal

Documents produced at the end of July shed light on Sam Randazzo’s role at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. But more documents before and after his tenure still haven’t been produced. This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism, in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine knew critics questioned whether the former FirstEnergy nuclear plants really needed House Bill 6’s $1.1 billion bailout.

Former PUCO chair texted he knew FirstEnergy charge was likely unlawful, but company would keep money anyway

Texts about the $456 million charge may further undermine public confidence in the PUCO. This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Newly disclosed texts from a former head of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio suggest he knew a grid modernization charge that cost ratepayers nearly half a billion dollars was “likely to be found illegal and could not be refunded.”

Former PUCO Chair Asim Haque and former FirstEnergy Vice President Michael Dowling exchanged text messages on the same day the Supreme Court of Ohio held the charge unlawful. Challengers in the case had argued that the commission’s order imposing the charge basically had no strings attached to make FirstEnergy take any specific actions to modernize the grid.

Dark money helped Ohio utilities subsidize coal plants, delaying climate action at ratepayers’ expense

The biggest corruption scandal in Ohio’s history happened right under people’s noses, and much of the law at its center remains on the books. This story originated from the Energy News Network and Eye on Ohio and is part of ‘Climate & Democracy,’ a series from the global journalism collaboration Covering Climate Now. It has been three years since Ohio lawmakers first introduced the power plant bailout legislation that is now at the heart of the largest corruption case in state history. Since House Bill 6 passed in 2019, an FBI investigation has revealed a $60 million bribery scheme, leading to extensive admissions by FirstEnergy — a utility company central to the scandal — and guilty pleas from three defendants in a federal criminal case. 

Beyond that, though, accountability has been slow to come, and HB 6, which also gutted the state’s clean energy standards, remains on the books. Just as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report notes how vested interests have blocked progress on climate change mitigation, the HB 6 scandal shows how utility, fossil fuel and nuclear interests have framed Ohio energy policy, even when that policy conflicts with voter preferences on renewable energy.

Former Ohio regulator linked to $4 million payoff directed agency to limit response to FirstEnergy corruption

Former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo shaped agency responses to HB 6 scandal: ‘Proactive’ show-cause action followed only after bad publicity. Randazzo and others closely tracked legislative actions as well. 

This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Newly produced documents show that Sam Randazzo, former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, came up with the idea to let FirstEnergy show it didn’t use ratepayer money for House Bill 6, the nuclear and coal bailout law at the heart of Ohio’s largest corruption case. The move was far short of a full investigation that consumer advocates have called for.

Ohio cities settle civil claims related to power plant bailout

In a consolidated case, the Ohio attorney general’s office wants to move ahead on its civil racketeering case against FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor and others. This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. The cities of Cincinnati and Columbus have dismissed their state court claims against FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor for the companies’ actions relating to House Bill 6, the nuclear and coal bailout law at the heart of a $60 million corruption case in Ohio. “The dismissal was the result of negotiations with the defendants, the court’s ruling in our favor, and the partial repeal of HB 6,” said Andrew Garth, interim city solicitor for Cincinnati.  

The Dec.

FirstEnergy says Ohio law at center of corruption probe protects it from ratepayer lawsuits

Class action case casts doubt on the integrity of the PUCO’s own actions in light of alleged corruption. This article is provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or the Energy News Network, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Despite admitting to alleged bribes and unlawful activity that led to the passage of House Bill 6, FirstEnergy just argued that the law and orders under it shield the company from lawsuits from ratepayers. The argument came in a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of ratepayers who are or will be subject to higher rates as a result of House Bill 6.