COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Two of Ohio’s major cities are attempting to block the law at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe from going into effect Jan. 1.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley filed a complaint Tuesday, citing the need to save the state’s electric consumers “from the crushing monetary payments,” the now-tainted legislation would impose on them.
The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to block the new 85-cent fee that will be added to every electricity bill in the state.
If no legislative or legal action is taken, the fees will direct over $150 million a year, through 2026, to two nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo as part of a $1.3 billion nuclear bailout now under federal investigation.
House lawmakers had until Oct. 1 to repeal the law through the Legislature in order to avoid the fees that will begin to be charged to 90% of the state’s electric consumers starting in the new year.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also filed a lawsuit last month in an effort to block the two nuclear plants from collecting the fees on the electricity bill if the Legislature did not act in time.
But Klein and Cranley say the attorney general’s actions do not go far enough to “address the harm that Ohio utility ratepayers still face as they pay into a corporate bailout fund that was secured through fraud, deceit and intimidation.”
The complaint names FirstEnergy Corp., Ohio Public Utilities Commission chairman Sam Randazzo and state Treasurer Robert Sprague.
While FirstEnergy and its executives have denied wrongdoing and have not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure a $1 billion legislative bailout for the two unprofitable nuclear plants then operated by an independently controlled subsidiary called FirstEnergy Solutions.
Larry Householder, the former House speaker, and four of his associates were charged in the probe for allegedly shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the polls. All five men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“Columbus and Cincinnati are suing to make sure Ohioans get to keep their hard earned money, especially as we head into the winter months during a pandemic,” Klein said in a statement.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.