Ohio AG returns to court to shut down ‘HB6 piggybank’

Ohio AG returns to court to shut down ‘HB6 piggybank’
Perry Nuclear plant along Lake Erie in North Perry was one of two Ohio nuclear plants bailed out by passage of House Bill 6. (Source: Mark Duncan/AP)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is returning to court to try to halt what he says is another, lesser-known fee First Energy is still collecting, totaling $102 million from customers.

That’s despite a court recently granting his request to block other fees related to Ohio’s $150 billion nuclear bailout, House Bill 6.

Yost’s motion asks a judge to prevent FirstEnergy from implementing the other rate increases that are “for the sole purpose of padding FirstEnergy’s bottom-line.”

He said the legal move was necessary to protect FirstEnergy customers and “to undue the harm that was corruptly put into HB6.”

His latest court filing is based on the same legal theory as the one obtained against the nuclear bailout, so he is predicting it will be just as successful.

“First we had to stop the collection of the fee created to line the pockets of Energy Harbor and now we are trying to stop the guaranteed profits for FirstEnergy and inappropriate rate increases to Ohioans,” Yost said. “It’s time for the court to shut the HB6 piggybank down.”

HB6 had a “decoupling mechanism” that only applied to FirstEnergy and allowed it to match its record-high income level from 2018 every year going forward regardless of how much electricity it sold anytime in the next decade, he said.

This guarantees FirstEnergy will receive its high-water-mark profits regardless of service levels, providing no accountability and abusing the concept of decoupling, according to Yost.

Last year, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four of his associates were arrested by federal authorities and accused of using nearly $61 million in bribes from companies like FirstEnergy to pass the nuclear subsidies in House Bill 6 and to defend the law against a ballot effort to block it.

Two of the men charged, lobbyist Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth, a longtime campaign and political strategist for Householder, recently each pleaded guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy to pass and uphold a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout.

The extent of the men’s cooperation with federal authorities in the ongoing investigation is not yet clear.

Householder, R-Glendord, has pleaded not guilty and remains free on his own recognizance.

His criminal case returns to court for a status hearing in March.

He resisted calls to resign following his arrest last year. He recently was re-elected to his seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, representing Ohio’s 72nd district, which includes all of Perry and Coshocton counties and parts of Licking County.

So far this legislative session, none of his fellow lawmakers have made a move to expel him from office, which only they can do under state law.

In Cincinnati, when two council members recently were indicted on federal corruption charges, Yost moved quickly to ask the Ohio Supreme Court to begin suspension proceedings against them both.

While allegations of public corruption are resolved in the courtroom, a suspension is the right course of action even as the appearance of corruption has no place in government, Yost said at the time.

Both men, Jeff Pastor and then P.G. Sittenfeld, have pleaded not guilty and agreed within weeks to take voluntary suspensions from council.

Both still collect their taxpayer-funded paychecks from the city of Cincinnati, but a judge has appointed temporary replacements to their council seats.

People convicted of felony crimes in Ohio are barred from holding public office.

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