by J.D. Davidson
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wants the companies at the center of the House Bill 6 controversy to open their books and appear before a committee established to decide whether to repeal the law.
Yost said FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor are profitable and should answer questions before the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight. In a letter to the committee, he responded to concerns that a lawsuit he recently filed prevents the companies from testifying.
“There is absolutely no reason to restrain them from answering questions in the light of day – and well into the night, as long as it is in a public session,” Yost wrote. “In fact, Ohioans would welcome it.”
HB 6 would send, according to Yost, the bulk of $1.3 billion paid by ratepayers to nuclear reactors formerly owned by FirstEnergy and now operated under Energy Harbor. The legislation led to the federal indictment of former House Speaker Larry Householder and four others. Federal prosecutors allege bribery and racketeering in the runup to the bill’s passage.
A Franklin County judge ruled Friday that Yost can’t block FirstEnergy and its companies from donating money to lawmakers, and new fees that begin in January on Ohio electric bills can still be sent to Energy Harbor.
“I am disappointed with this mornings’ ruling,” Yost said in a statement Friday. “The core of this complaint remains: the corrupt enterprise funded by First Energy that procured a billion-dollar money hose for its benefit. Today was just a preliminary round. There’s a lot more to go.”
Yost said the bailout came from the single idea that the nuclear plants are a large liability and at risk for closure without public money.
“Knowing what we know now, these corporations have lost any benefit of the doubt. They owe it to the legislature and the public to appear before the committee and provide a detailed financial accounting of their operation,” Yost wrote in his letter
Last week, Yost entered the HB 6 fight when he filed a civil lawsuit aimed at stopping any money from going to Energy Harbor.
“The first and most important thing is the $1.3 billion that will be taken from Ohio electricity ratepayers, the majority of which will go to support the non-profitable, nuclear energy reactors formerly owned by a subsidiary of FirstEnergy and now operating post-bankruptcy under the name of Energy Harbor,” Yost said when he announced the lawsuit.
He named Householder, FirstEnergy and others and alleges money laundering, extortion, bribery and tampering with evidence.
He said the allegations and federal charges have eroded Ohioans trust in government and outside interests’ confidence in doing business in Ohio.
“Ohio citizens’ trust in government’s ability to act in an ethical and honest manner has been eroded. Ohio’s reputation among states as a place to do business fairly has been damaged,” Yost said.
– – –
An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.
Background Photo “Gavin Power Plant” by Analogue Kid. CC BY 2.5.