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HB6 Opponents Say Plea Deals Put Pressure On Ohio Legislature To Repeal Law

Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) at a press conference with other Ohio House Democrats in 2019.
Ohio House
Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) at a press conference with other Ohio House Democrats in 2019.

Opponents of the energy bill that bailed out two nuclear power plants say the latest plea deals in a corruption case sends a strong message that the bill should be repealed.

Two defendants – Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth – pleaded guilty Thursday in a federal racketeering investigation, saying they aided the operation that saw $61 million flow from a utility believed to be FirstEnergy into a dark money group. Those funds were then used to help state Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) become House Speaker, and pass HB6, a $1 billion nuclear bailout law.

State Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) has been calling for a repeal of the bill.

"I think that the dominoes falling in this criminal conspiracy is going to put more pressure on Republican leadership to repeal House Bill 6," Leland says.

Bipartisan bills to repeal HB6 have been introduced in both the Ohio House and Senate, but the legislation has yet to receive a vote.

Lawmakers didn't move quickly enough to prevent consumers from seeing increased utility bills this January, so the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati recently filed lawsuits against FirstEnergy, seeking to stop those fees from being collected. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is also suing to prevent FirstEnergy from receiving any ratepayer subsidies.

FirstEnergy fired CEO Chuck Jones after an internal investigation into the racketeering case, saying he violated company policy. Two vice presidents were also fired.

"I believe that FirstEnergy acted properly in this matter and we intend to cooperate fully in the investigation," Jones said in an earning call in July.

As for Householder, he was ousted as Speaker, but pleaded "not guilty" to racketeering charges. He remains on the ballot for re-election in his district this November.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.