Attorney General saves Ohioans nearly $2B over life of HB6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXIX) – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says he has saved Ohioans nearly $2 billion over the life of the nuclear bailout law House Bill 6 through a series of lawsuits and other legal actions over the past year.

A year ago this week, the state’s top attorney began to systematically detail “the corruption embedded in House Bill 6 to stop FirstEnergy Corp. from ripping off Ohioans through the illicit nuclear bailout law,” according to a news release from his office.

“I have used, and will continue to grab, every tool available to this office to dismantle this illegal bill and hold accountable those who were part of the unholy alliance,” Yost said Thursday. “Corruption has no place in Ohio, and it will be stopped at every turn – no matter who is involved.”

House Bill 6 was enacted in 2019 to collect $1.3 billion from “ratepayers” — Ohio residents — to subsidize two Ohio nuclear plants owned by Energy Harbor, formerly part of FirstEnergy.

The bill is at the center of a federal bribery case involving FirstEnergy, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and their accomplices.

“I wanted to send a message that the consequences of political corruption are so high that no one tries this again,” Yost said. “Political corruption doesn’t happen without private money – the person paying is just as guilty as the person who is receiving.”

He filed a civil lawsuit against FirstEnergy, Householder and their known accomplices seeking he says to make up “for the harm they caused Ohio and going after their personal profits from the scheme.”

The lawsuit marked the beginning of a series of court actions by Yost in the past 12 months aimed at halting FirstEnergy’s cash grab.

Yost also blocked FirstEnergy from collecting the nuclear bailout money from residents, which would have provided $150 million a year in excess profits to Energy Harbor.

Ten days before Ohioans were to begin paying the money, a Franklin County judge upheld Yost’s injunction.

In January, Yost sought to freeze the guaranteed profits provided to FirstEnergy under HB6 through a so-called “decoupling” rider.

The provision was intended to allow FirstEnergy to adjust its rates to ensure that the company annually matched the record profits it made in 2018, a year of extreme cold and extreme heat in Ohio.

In response to Yost’s motion, FirstEnergy agreed to stop using the profit rider, saving Ohio customers as much as $1 billion through 2029, according to Yost.

“We had to stop the flow of money, which was the biggest part of the corruption,” Yost said. “You cut off the trough, you cut off the corruption.”

In July, First Energy admitted in court records it paid $61 million into an account that Householder controlled to pass HB 6. The company agreed to pay a $230 million penalty and plead guilty a wire fraud charge.

Federal investigators also announced FirstEnergy admitted paying Sam Randazzo, the former chairman of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio who resigned after the FBI raided his Columbus home last year, a $4.3 million bribe in 2019 just weeks before Gov. Mike DeWine appointed him the state’s public utilities regulator.

Yost said he became aware that Randazzo was unloading properties, selling four with a combined value of nearly $5 million and transferring a house worth more than $500,000 to his son for free.

He received a court order to freeze nearly $8 million of Randazzo’s assets to preserve them for possible collection by the state while the federal criminal investigation continues.

Randazzo has not been charged with any criminal acts and has denied any wrongdoing.

While waiting for the completion of the criminal prosecutions, Yost’s civil case remains ongoing through informal fact finding and defending Randazzo’s appeal. 

Yost says he also is monitoring the actions and assets of those named as defendants in that case “to see if additional steps are needed to preserve assets to make Ohio whole.”

Householder and another alleged co-conspirator, former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges, have pleaded not guilty to racketeering.

Their cases will return to federal court Oct. 5 for a status conference.

Two others charged in the scheme, his political strategist Jeff Longstreth and lobbyist Juan Cespedes, pleaded guilty last year to one count each of racketeering. They have not been sentenced yet.

Neil Clark, a GOP lobbyist, also was charged but died by suicide in March in Florida.

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