by J.D. Davidson
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio again took aim at the company at the heart of the state’s controversial nuclear bailout bill.
The PUCO initiated an audit of FirstEnergy’s compliance with corporate separation laws and regulations. Already, the commission is investigating the company’s Ohio distribution utilities’ political and charitable spending.
Though not named in a federal indictment in a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme that led to the arrest of former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, FirstEnergy or Energy Harbor, which was formerly FirstEnergy Solutions, continue to reportedly be linked to HB 6.
The commission wants a request for proposal seeking an independent, third-party auditor to review the corporate separation during the time period leading up to the passage of HB 6 and the referendum efforts. It plans to select an auditor by Dec. 2, with a report due April 21.
The PUCO has jurisdiction over FirstEnergy’s three electric distribution companies – Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., Ohio Edison and Toledo Edison.
In September, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a civil lawsuit and asked that no money go from ratepayers to companies involved.
Yost’s lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, names former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, FirstEnergy and others.
HB 6 created a new Ohio Clean Air Program to support nuclear energy plants and some solar power facilities. Electricity consumers fund the program, potentially bringing in up to $85 million in the 2021 fiscal year, with a surcharge that runs through 2027.
It led to the arrest and indictment of Householder, R-Glenford, and four others as part of a $60 million “public corruption racketeering conspiracy” to pass the legislation.
Two of the five indicted pleaded guilty last week.
A special House Select Committee held hearings throughout the fall in an attempt to repeal HB 6. No action was taken before an Oct. 1 deadline that could have stopped the fees from being collected.
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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.
Photo “Perry Nuclear Powerplant” by FirstEnergy Solutions. CC BY-ND 2.0.