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.
By Kathiann M. Kowalski
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 for readers of The Tremonster.
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, city solicitor for Cincinnati.
The Dec. 2 dismissal does not include any admission of wrongdoing by FirstEnergy or Energy Harbor. The joint filing was made “with prejudice,” meaning the cities cannot bring the same claims against the companies at a later time.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio should conduct a big-picture, in-depth review of FirstEnergy’s spending and governance in light of the company’s admissions last month about former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo, critics say.
“It’s not a debate anymore whether the company engaged in corruption,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The company did so. With this pervasive corruption, the PUCO needs to mind the store in order to protect the public interest and to protect consumers.”
Concerns about the outsized influence of utility and fossil fuel interests have resurfaced as the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio begins steps to name a new commissioner after the sudden exit of Chair Sam Randazzo.
Randazzo resigned on Nov. 20 after an FBI team had searched his home and FirstEnergy released a mandatory quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The report showed the company paid $4 million to an entity associated with Randazzo shortly before his appointment last year.
Now the Public Utilities Commission, or PUCO, has put out a call for applicants to fill the vacancy. Under Ohio law, a nominating council will review the applications and then nominate four candidates to the governor. Advocates have criticized the council, which only has one seat for a consumer advocate, as being too heavily tilted toward utility interests.
Consumer advocates, industry organizations and environmental groups continue efforts to learn more about claims that FirstEnergy and current or former subsidiaries may have financed an alleged $60-million conspiracy to make sure Ohio’s nuclear bailout bill became law and withstood a referendum attempt.
Yet opposition by FirstEnergy in two regulatory cases and in state court has combined with the legislative recess to prevent those groups and voters from learning more before Election Day.
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.
Questions about possible improprieties arose after former House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was arrested on July 21. That case involves an alleged criminal conspiracy by him and others to pass House Bill 6 last year and then to defend it against a citizens’ referendum. The federal complaint and indictment allege that the defendants received approximately $60 million from “Company A” — apparently FirstEnergy — and its subsidiaries and affiliates.
A bill to repeal Ohio’s nuclear bailout law has languished for more than a month so far, and signs suggest that House leadership may be angling to defer or stop such efforts as Election Day draws near. Lawmakers filed repeal bills soon after the arrest of former speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and others in July.
Starting in January, House Bill 6 will require ratepayers to pay approximately $1 billion over the course of six years for subsidies that FirstEnergy had sought for two Ohio nuclear plants. Yet more is at stake, even beyond the $7 average increase in monthly energy spending that some advocates forecast as a result of the law.
After meeting with First Energy this morning regarding the severe tree trimming in the neighborhood, at my request they have agreed to come and speak with residents and to hear community concerns TONIGHT from 5:30pm – 7:00pm at Rose-Mary Center 2346 W. 14th St. (formerly OLA-St. Joseph Center). Please attend this very important meeting.
Cleveland City Councilman, Ward 3
Shanetta (Dorsey) Trundle reports she and the other tenants in her Tremont building on W 11th Street were told the earliest they can expect the Illuminating Company to restore power is 10:00 pm. Cleveland Public Power customers on her street have all had power restored.