FirstEnergy, DeWine’s office and others still far from full disclosure on HB 6October 14, 2021
Advocates, lawmakers, regulators and the public still can’t get all documents relevant to the state’s $60 million House Bill 6 scandal involving ousted Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, FirstEnergy and others. Barriers include protective orders, privilege and confidentiality claims, delays and other roadblocks.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio “must first broadly investigate FirstEnergy in order to learn the facts for remedying any consumer harm,” said Merrilee Embs, spokesperson for Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston. “Ohioans are owed the facts by their state government. Unfortunately, in PUCO cases some facts can be hard to come by from FirstEnergy.”
In broad terms, federal and state court cases allege that FirstEnergy, its affiliates, and others paid roughly $60 million to dark money groups to elect supporters of Householder, secure the passage of HB 6, and block a voter referendum to stop it. FirstEnergy has also admitted to paying millions of dollars to a company linked to Sam Randazzo, including $4.3 million shortly before he became chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
HB 6’s nuclear subsidies and recession-proofing provisions have been repealed. However, other parts of the law still require Ohioans to pay roughly $233,000 per day for two 1950s-era coal plants, known as the OVEC plants. The law also gutted Ohio’s clean energy standards.
Although FirstEnergy made some admissions this summer, the company is “still trying to sit on more details and information that seem really important for a lot of people to understand what potential penalties the company could still be facing going forward,” said Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute.
“What we’ve seen to date suggests there’s a lot not to trust,” Anderson said.
At the Public Utilities Commission, for example, FirstEnergy wants to block a mid-case appeal by the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel on document production issues. Among other things, the Consumers’ Counsel wants copies of all documents from the investigation that led FirstEnergy to fire former CEO Chuck Jones and others. Those materials presumably include information about Randazzo. The requested documents could also reveal more about payments to Generation Now and other dark money groups that allegedly furthered Householder’s and FirstEnergy’s interests.
The Consumers’ Counsel also wants documents FirstEnergy may have produced in civil court cases, such as shareholder lawsuits against the company. Some of those cases are on hold during the criminal case against Householder and others. In cases that are moving ahead, FirstEnergy has sought court orders to restrict who sees documents produced to various parties. In at least one case, opponents can’t even share the materials with lawyers in other cases against the company. So, the Consumers’ Counsel needs…