OH indictments in nuclear-bribery-for-bailouts conspiracy

davis-besse with lake erie in background
On February 12, 2024, State of Ohio Attorney General, Dave Yost — flanked by Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Summit County Sheriff Kandy Fatheree — announced dozens of state felony indictments against two former FirstEnergy executives — Charles “Chuck” Jones, former CEO of FirstEnergy, and Michael Dowling, former FirstEnergy senior vice president of external affairs — as well as former PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) chairman Samuel “Sam” Randazzo.The state charges are related to the House Bill (HB) 6 scandal, described as the largest racketeering, bribery, and money laundering conspiracy in Ohio history. In June 2020, the U.S. Attorney for Southern Ohio announced indictments against five co-conspirators, including State of Ohio House of Representatives Speaker, Larry Householder. Those federal charges alleged FirstEnergy and its executives bribed Householder with $61 million, in return for a $1.3 billion ratepayer-funded bailout, to prop up troubled nuclear reactors at Davis-Besse (pictured above) and Perry on the Lake Erie shore, as well as coal burners in southern Ohio and Indiana, which were built in the 1950s in order to power the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission uranium enrichment gaseous diffusion facility at Portsmouth, Ohio.Although the nuclear bailouts contained in HB6 were later repealed, the coal bailouts remain to this day. Last June, Householder was convicted of the federal charges, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. One of his co-conspirators was sentenced to five years in prison, and another alleged co-conspirator reportedly committed suicide prior to his prosecution proceeding. Remarkably, despite the sprawling scandal, ethics reforms have not been enacted in Ohio in its aftermath.Beginning in December 2010, Beyond Nuclear joined with Ohio environmental grassroots allies to challenge the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor’s 60-year operating license, a two-decade extension. The coalition was represented by attorney Terry Lodge of Ohio, who has watch-dogged Davis-Besse and other Ohio nukes since 1977. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license extension proceeding lasted more than five years. Although we lost in the end, and NRC rubber-stamped Davis-Besse operations not till 2017 but till 2037, we shined a lot of light on such scandals as the severely cracked, and still cracking, radiological containment Shield Building.

For several years, FirstEnergy sought massive bailouts, including at the federal level. When that didn’t work out, FirstEnergy turned to Householder, and the HB6 conspiracy was hatched. This even included a $38 million “dirty tricks” slush fund, which Householder et al. used to block a ballot initiative aimed at repealing HB6. Tactics included physical intimidation, and a propaganda campaign warning ballot initiative petition signers that they would be helping China take over Ohio’s energy industries, and that their personal information would be shared with the Chinese government.

Here is some of this week’s media coverage on the state indictments against the former FirstEnergy execs and PUCO chairman:

“Fired FirstEnergy execs indicted in $60 million Ohio bribery scheme; regulator faces new charges,” Associated Press, Feb. 12, 2024;

“Former FirstEnergy executives indicted in $60 million Ohio bribery scheme,” The Hill, Feb. 12, 2024;

Re-posted in the Feb. 13, 2024 Midwest Energy News:

OHIO: Ohio’s attorney general files a total of 44 charges against a former top energy regulator and two former FirstEnergy executives for their alleged roles in a bribery and money-laundering scandal meant to benefit the utility. (Ohio Capital Journal)

ALSO: Consumer advocates and Democrats continue to call for the full repeal of House Bill 6, which includes subsidies totaling $500,000 a day to prop up uneconomic coal plants. (Columbus Dispatch)

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