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Plenty Of Dark Money Involved In Battle Over Ohio's Energy Law

Ohio House

The Ohio House Speaker said opponents of the state’s new energy law will need big money to overturn it.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed a law this month that will give $150 million a year in subsidies to Ohio’s two nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, as well as eliminate the state’s green energy standards.

Natural gas provides a third of Ohio’s electricity generation. Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), who led the push for HB 6, said three of the four natural gas powered plants in Ohio are funded by Chinese interests.

“The only folks that have a tremendous interest in closing down our nuclear power plants, where Ohio generates its energy and where there are Ohio jobs, are people from outside the state of Ohio who want to monopolize our grid,” Householder says. “And who are they? They’re foreign nationals from China.”

The group Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has already begun rallying support for a ballot issue to overturn the energy law. They’ll need over 265,000 signatures to get on the 2020 ballot.

Householder said overturning the law will be “vastly expensive.” And he says potential Chinese involvement is a security issue as well. 

A spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts said he wouldn’t respond to Householder’s comments, but said the coalition includes energy, environmental and good government groups.

The nuclear plants that benefit from the law are owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, the former power generation subsidiary of FirstEnergy. The companies are now separate, and FirstEnergy Solutions is working its way through bankruptcy court. It threatened to close the plants without legislative help.

The campaign for HB6, which included lots of TV ads and mailers, got funding from Generation Now, a dark money group with ties to Householder. It’s not required to disclose its donors. FirstEnergy Solutions also had allies that were supporting the measure. 

The Columbus Dispatch found that FirstEnergy donated nearly $1 million to legislators, officeholders and political parties prior to the energy bill vote. The newspaper found that Householder alone received over $25,000 from FirstEnergy during his 2018 primary campaign.