Here is Ohio State Rep. Larry Householder, whom the FBI arrested Tuesday. If you do the crime, you gotta do the time, man.Photo: John Minchillo (AP)
The FBI has arrested Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Tuesday. Though details are pending, the Toledo Blade reports that the arrest is because he was allegedly involved in a $60 million bribery scandal related to the state’s passage of a nuclear and coal bailout bill last year.
Along with Householder, former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, lobbyist Neil Clark, political consultant and Householder adviser Jeff Longstreth, and lobbyist Juan Cespedes were also arrested, according to the Toledo Blade. More details are forthcoming at a 2:30 p.m. ET press conference being held by the FBI.
But signs point to issues with how the 2019 bill, known as HB 6, was passed. It focused on subsidizing dirty energy and killing energy efficiency initiatives—all on the taxpayer’s dime. This year, utility customers began paying an additional $1.50 monthly to keep the state’s dying coal industry in business. The bill was also set to increase homeowners’ monthly bills 85 cents while industry would see bills rise by up to $2,400 per month higher next year. That would bring in a total of $170 million a year, $150 million of which would go toward bailing out two nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, which is now Energy Harbor.
There was little oversight in the bill for how FirstEnergy could use the money as well as funds for coal plants that were projected to lose $5.3 billion between now and their planned retirement in 2040 before the bailout. Along with all this, the bill cut the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. State legislators tried to argue that ratepayers would be saving money but, um, hello? Climate change? Staving off a lifetime of environmental ruin seems like a pretty good idea in my book. The efficiency standards also saved ratepayers an estimated $5.1 billion over a decade before the repeal as part of HB 6. Less efficiency means more energy use, which benefits utilities looking to make a buck.
Anyway, the whole bill created turmoil and dissatisfaction. Now, it appears that state leaders didn’t pass this bill because they thought it would be good for their constituents. Nope, they allegedly passed it because they were being paid to.
“We knew for quite a while that Larry Householder was doing the bidding of FirstEnergy,” Leah Stokes, an energy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara who wrote a book that in part chronicles the shadiness of HB 6, told Earther.
In her book, Stokes notes the the utility took to backing Householder in his race to be state House speaker. It also took what she calls the “unusual approach” of backing other state representative candidates who supported his bid.
Since the arrests, FirstEnergy’s stocks have dropped dramatically. It’s still unclear whether these arrests and federal investigation will affect the company or the future of the bill, but Stokes said it should be repealed given the circumstances.
This is a developing story, and Earther will update as more information becomes available.