Federal officials on Tuesday arrested the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives in connection with a $60 million bribery and racketeering case tied to the $1 billion bailouts of two FirstEnergy Solutions (now Energy Harbor) nuclear power plants in Ohio, Kallanish Energy reports.
The case is one of the largest public corruption cases in Ohio history, officials said.
Arrested was Republican Larry Householder, who represents a House district east of Columbus.
He was a vocal supporter of House Bill 6 that approved the nuclear bailout and helped it through the General Assembly despite strong opposition.
Also arrested were the former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges, Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes.
The individuals were all charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering. They face up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.
The non-profit Generation Now with ties to Householder and Longstreth was also charged.
The Ohio company that gave Householder and associates the $60 million in secret payments over three years is identified in court papers only as Company A, but it is clear that the company involved is Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. and former subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions, officials said.
No one from the two companies has been charged. The stocks of both firms dipped after news of the arrests.
FirstEnergy Corp. said in a two-sentence statement it had received a subpoena tied to the federal investigation and intended to comply.
The bribe money was used to fund political campaigns and to personally benefit the parties, federal officials said during a Tuesday press conference.
The FBI said the arrests were part of a two-year investigation that included undercover agents and surveillance including recovering texts, emails, and other communications, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. It said there were dinners and meetings with federal agents meeting with Householder and the others.
More arrests are expected, officials said.
House Bill 6, approved a year ago by the Ohio Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, provides nearly $1 billion to bail out the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants in northern Ohio.
FirstEnergy’s bailout request came under heavy fire from private companies investing heavily in gas-fired power plants in Ohio fueled by natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shales.
Under the bill, Ohio electric customers will pay a new fee of 85 cents a month on their electric bills with 90% of that money or about $150 million a year going to Energy Harbor.
FirstEnergy Solutions spun off from First Energy Corp and went through Chapter 11 reorganization. It had been the unregulated generation arm of FirstEnergy with coal and nuclear power plants. It rebranded as Energy Harbor, an independent company.
The new fee will impact all utility customers in Ohio, not just FirstEnergy customers.
FirstEnergy Solutions had said it intends to close the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in 2020 and the Perry nuclear plant in 2021 unless a bailout was approved by the legislature.
The nuclear plants cannot compete with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy, the company said.
The fee will be collected from 2021-2027.
House Bill 6 would also provide $20 million a year for two coal-fired power plants, one in Ohio and one in Indiana
The plants are operated by the Ohio Valley Electric Corp. that is owned by several utilities. Ohio electric customers will pay up to $1.50 a month in new fees. That would produce about $50 million a year or $450 million by 2030.
The other 10% or about $20 million a year would support select solar projects.
The sweeping bill also eliminated subsidies for energy efficiency, made it harder to develop wind farms, and eliminated a requirement that utilities get 12.5% of the electricity from renewables by 2027.
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