Energy

Ohio House Speaker Arrest Tied to Energy Industry Bailout

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Although we rarely hear a peep about it now, the idea that we would resurrect dying sectors of the energy industry such as coal and nuclear power was once a key talking point of Trump's 2016 campaign and the first few years of his regime.

The centerpiece of Trump's policy was suppose to be an elaborate bailout scheme that would see residents pay more for electricity to subsidize ancient coal or nuclear power plants that were due for retirement. Former Energy Secretary Rick Perry even tried to implement that policy before it was struck down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) whose board members couldn't find any rational economic basis for it.

When that policy failed, some state lawmakers took matters into their own hands and that brings us to Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. The Republican lawmaker spearheaded an effort to impose higher fees on state residents to subsidize nuclear and coal-fired power plants and then opposed a ballot initiative that would roll the policy back.

Charges filed by federal prosecutors tell us Householder was paid by the energy industry and he funneled that money into his own personal expenses.

Mr. Householder, 61, was described as the ring leader by U.S. Attorney David DeVillers during a news conference in Columbus. [...]

Additionally authorities have implicated a 501(c)4 organization called Generation Now; a nonprofit organization that prosecutors contend was used to disburse “dark money” campaign contributions to House candidates deemed loyal to Mr. Householder, nearly all of whom later supported his 2019 election as the Ohio House speaker.

All of the charged individuals are accused to diverting some of the money to their own personal benefit. [...]

Mr. Householder, a veteran Republican lawmaker, pushed for passage of House Bill 6, designed to funnel about $1 billion from surcharges on consumer bills to bail out two struggling nuclear power plants.

He is accused of conspiring with Generation Now between March, 2017 to March, 2020 to enact the bill and then work to kill a subsequent ballot effort that was designed to repeal it. The money flowed into Generation Now from an unidentified energy company and its affiliates, authorities allege.

Federal prosecutors say they expect more charges to be filed so we're probably going to learn who the "unidentified energy company" is.

Right now it appears that FirstEnergy is the unidentified company and you may recognize that name. Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray lobbied the Trump regime in support of the Energy Department's proposed bailout scheme because FirstEnergy was one of Murray's biggest customers. Murray infamously supported former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2016 by cutting campaign ads (pictured above) that he forced his employees and miners to appear in. Murray Energy filed for bankruptcy after the nationwide bailout scheme failed in the fall of 2019.

As a resident of Ohio, it appears to be true that I have personally paid more for electricity, at least in part, because the state Republican party's speaker was paid off to raise my rates. And according to prosecutors, Householder used his windfall to purchase a home in Florida, settle a lawsuit against him, and pay off his credit cards.

I don't feel good about that, but I will say this is probably the last grasp. If bribery and corruption are all that's left -- if they can't make a compelling economic case for their continued operation -- these energy companies are done. Clean energy is the future.

Instead of giving Householder and his cronies $60 million to support a corrupt bailout scheme, they should have started their own transitions to clean energy.

  • David Greenberg

    Once again you will hear the trope from republicans that “both sides do it.” While Democrats may not be flawless, Republicans, while loudly dissing government, appear to view it as a trough in which to bury their piggish snouts.

  • Draxiar

    Green sustainable energy is the next Industrial Revolution…and it’s already underway.

    I’ve often asked myself why fossil fuel companies don’t start tilting towards sustainable energy more. They have to know their industry is dying off, right? They have the money to make the leap.

    It was brought to my attention (not sure how I didn’t see this before) that fossil fuels are consumable. If it’s consumable then people have to keep paying for it and it keeps the money flowing in. I always knew that the industry didn’t give a rip about the environment or their consumers beyond the money they could suck out of them but that reveal just underscored it for me. They have no soul.

  • muselet

    I would have no real problem with someone who honestly supported the idea of subsidizing legacy power generation. They’d be spectacularly wrong as a matter of public policy—and, in the case of coal, public health—but I could respect their principles.

    Larry Householder seems to have no principle beyond “gimme!” No, I tell a lie. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” also qualifies as a principle. Sorta.

    If even half the allegations made by federal prosecutors are true, Householder deserves some prison time and a swingeing fine.

    As for Bob Murray, I’m just petty enough to hope his name appears in the next batch of criminal complaints.

    –alopecia