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Biggest bribery and money-laundering bust in Ohio history, but the crooked pro nuclear law still stands!

Opinion: How bad nuclear plant bailout legislation got passed

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/2020/08/19/opinion-how-bad-nuclear-plant-bailout-legislation-got-passed/5571847002/  Jigar Shah

It’s not often a law about power plants and electricity rates leads to a federal raid – let alone the biggest bribery and money-laundering bust in state history. But Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, once forced to resign in 2004 due to “corrupt activity,” managed to outdo himself when he was charged as a ringleader of a $60 million bribery case tied to the 2019 taxpayer-funded bailout of the state’s decrepit coal and nuclear plants.
Householder and four others stand to trade their Brooks Brothers and Rolexes for jumpsuits and bracelets. Gov. Mike DeWine, a fellow Republican, called on the speaker to resign. But plenty of others were also complicit in passing a law that, even without charges of federal corruption, stank to high heaven. And it’s a law that’s still on the books.
Just how bad is it? What was then called House Bill 6 is so toxic that it united the American Petroleum Institute and environmentalists last year to oppose it. The law is designed to prop up ailing nuclear plants, but it’s so radioactive even the nuclear industry’s main trade group declined to support it. And even as ad campaigns swamped Ohio airwaves like the height of election season, it ultimately took President Trump swooping in from Washington to convince state lawmakers, who even then knew better, to close their eyes, hold their noses and vote for it.

Now the law is forcing Ohio taxpayers to cough up $1.3 billion in subsidies to prop up two aging nuclear plants – quashing cheaper natural gas and zero-emissions renewables like wind and solar. It also memorialized taxpayer subsidies for ailing coal plants – including, because Householder and his alleged co-conspirators were apparently feeling neighborly, for a coal plant across the border in Indiana.

But let’s not lose sight of FirstEnergy. The opaque electric utility had already long shirked accountability for its actions, cloaking itself in expendable subsidiaries and opposing virtually any measure to improve Ohio’s air and water, which the utility has long been responsible for befouling. This time, to protect its toxic nuclear and coal assets, the company apparently happily engaged in what even the scheme’s conspirators allegedly openly referred to as “pay to play,” buying Ohio lawmakers for a song compared to the $1.3 billion the utility now stands to skim from Ohioans’ pockets.

We have yet to see how many more dominoes fall. There’s Sam “The Randazzler” Randazzo, the supposed ex-lobbyist and current public utilities commission chair, who seems to have much to answer for in the scheme. And FirstEnergy, it appears, didn’t stop at allegedly buying Ohio politicians. Even after the law passed, it spent another $38 million in an apparent dark-money campaign to make sure it’d stopped Ohio’s vital transition to a clean energy economy – the prospect of thousands of new clean jobs, not to mention saving the Earth, apparently not enough when compared to FirstEnergy profit margins and executives’ Christmas bonuses

Even as the feds continue following the money, we know what must happen: Gov. DeWine, who unenthusiastically signed the bill, is now calling for its repeal – a crucial first step toward righting this eye-popping wrong. As we now know, courtesy of the FBI and Justice Department, supporting these ailing power plants was nothing more than a successful bid to line executives’ pockets – and, it seems, buy the house speaker a vacation home in Florida. As we continue to learn who knew what when, erasing this law will clear the way for cleaner, far cheaper, truly market-competitive resources like natural gas and renewables to power our homes and businesses.

Ohioans deserve better – more honest politicians, truly transparent electricity providers, cleaner air and water. Repealing this law, and holding our officials to account, is the way to get there.

Jigar Shah is president of Generate Capital, a San Francisco-based finance company that builds, owns and operates renewable energy infrastructure.

August 20, 2020 - Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA

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