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FirstEnergy nuclear bailout would be crony capitalism at its worst 


 Should legislators help save Ohio nuclear plants? NO: FirstEnergy bailout would be crony capitalism at its worst Columbus Dispatch, 4 Feb 19,  Crony capitalism is never acceptable and should be always met with public outrage. But more-covert pay-to-play schemes that affect Ohio’s long-term economic health are particularly egregious. Take for instance the campaign-contributions scheme from FirstEnergy Solutions over the past year. While transactions to more than a dozen of Ohio policymakers may seem normal to the average voter, recent activity in Columbus reveals a much more calculated operation that seemly puts FirstEnergy’s nuclear agenda ahead of Ohio’s future.

In April 2018, FirstEnergy Solutions filed for bankruptcy in the wake of massive financial problems arising from the company’s competitive power-generation fleet. The company announced it would shut down its Ohio nuclear plants over a three-year period because continued operation wasn’t profitable. FirstEnergy had been unsuccessfully pursuing bailouts from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio since 2014 and seeking a nuclear subsidy in the legislature since 2016 without success.

So it scrambled desperately for a lifeline, hatching a plan to offer sizable campaign donations to candidates hoping to gather up political allies to support its demand for $300 million a year to keep its plants operational.

What did FirstEnergy cough up for its legislative lifeline? For starters, the company gave $172,000 in total to Ohio House candidates, many of whom had no legislative or energy-industry experience. It also donated $565,000 to the Republican Governors Association, an amount more than five times what the company gave to Governor Mike DeWine’s Democratic counterpart.

We can clearly see the pay, but what exactly was the play? Conveniently, on the first day of the new General Assembly a standing committee on power generation was established, setting the stage to justify passage of a nuclear bailout and help out FirstEnergy. Additionally, FirstEnergy recently announced a debt-restructuring agreement with its creditors. Not coincidentally, this surprise development came on the tails of securing state-lawmaker support to bail out FirstEnergy.

This situation is pay-to-play politicking at its worst, flying in the face of the new administration’s promises to be the most innovative administration in Ohio’s history. Part of an innovation agenda should include rejecting political favoritism toward uncompetitive and less technologically advanced nuclear power plants. Ohioans need to know that FirstEnergy’s attempt to influence a bailout for its failing nuclear plants isn’t just bad ethics. It’s also awful public policy.

Incidentally, natural gas is fueling jobs and consumer cost savings across America. This is especially true in Ohio, …………


February 4, 2019 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA

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