Yost Files Civil Case Against FirstEnergy, HB6 Corruption Defendants

Sep 23, 2020

Attorney General Dave Yost (R-Ohio) is attempting to block nuclear power plants from receiving what could be more than a billion dollars of ratepayer money from the bailout passed a year ago through HB6. Yost filed a civil case in court, basing the lawsuit off the findings of a federal corruption investigation.

Federal investigators say a utility believed to be FirstEnergy and other companies played a role in a $61 million bribery scheme that helped pass HB6, the nuclear power plant bailout, into law. 

Yost says his lawsuit will stop the defendants in the case from receiving the subsidies, created through rate increases on electric bills next year.  

"Because it is essentially ill-gotten gains that corrupt activity should not result in a monetary advantage for the people who acted corruptly," says Yost.

The case names Energy Harbor as one of the defendants. Energy Harbor is formerly FirstEnergy Solutions which was a subsidiary of FirstEnergy before restructuring. Energy Harbor owns the two nuclear power plants in Ohio set to receive the $150 million in annual subsidies created through HB6.

The revenue for those subsidies are raised through new charges on electric bills that are set to begin in January 2021. Yost says it is up to the Ohio General Assembly whether those new charges are applied. They could be avoided through a repeal of HB6, which is currently being debated in the House and Senate.

So what would happen to the money if it's collected from ratepayer but not distributed to energy companies? Yost says, "It stays in the treasury until the General Assembly reacts or until the lawsuit's resolved and then it would go out according to whatever the law says at that moment." 

After the case was filed, a spokesperson for FirstEnergy issued a statement saying, "While, as a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation, our CEO Chuck Jones said during a recent earnings call that he believes FirstEnergy acted properly in this matter and intends to ensure our Company and our role in supporting HB 6 is understood as accurately as possible. Ethical behavior and upholding the highest standards of conduct are foundational values for the entire FirstEnergy family. We strive to apply these standards in all business dealings, including our participation in the political process."

The lawsuit also requests specific penalties for the defendants that have been indicted in the federal racketeering investigation, including former House Speaker Larry Householder. 

Yost requests the court to bar defendants from holding any government office or position in a political organization for eight years, ban them from lobbying for eight years, and pay damages.