COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans continue to foot the bill of not just former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder's public corruption trial, but also the bill that landed him in federal court.
Every day, Ohioans fund two of Ohio Valley Electric Corporation's (OVEC) coal plants. These subsidies are about $150 million per year, according to a study commissioned by the Ohio Manufacturers' Association.
Since Jan. 1, 2020, Ohioans have paid $80,000 dollars a day just for this portion of House Bill 6, according to the Ohio Consumer Counsel. After News 5 aired this report, the OCC realized that it is more likely $130,376 per day.
H.B. 6 was an energy bill that would provide a bailout to FirstEnergy and other failing or struggling utility companies. Householder is accused of accepting more than $60 million as a bribe in exchange for a $1.3 billion bailout for FirstEnergy.
"It's crazy money that Ohioans are paying to prop up two Eisenhower-era coal plants, one of which is in Indiana, both of which pollute our air, and aggravate health problems for our citizens," Melissa English, deputy director of Ohio Citizen Action, said.
Ohio Citizen Action is classified as a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) but has become a progressive-leaning coalition dedicated to environmental safety.
Since Householder's arrest in 2020, the state has continued to push laws that keep Ohio going in the wrong direction, English said.
H.B. 507, signed into law in January would classify natural gas as "green energy," despite it being a fossil fuel that has played a major role in climate change. This bill would also make it easier to drill for oil and gas in state parks.
"You look at its contributions to greenhouse gases, you look to its pollution of our water table, you look at the travesty of injection wells in Ohio, accepting waste from fracking from other states, and you call that green?" English asked. "I don't know what planet that's green."
The bill was motivated by environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing concerns, News 5 partner Ohio Capital Journal reported. ESG is a set of standards for companies to follow that focus on accountability and minimizing harm to the world, according to the CFA Institute.
No supporters of H.B. 507 were available to speak, but Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the bill during his signing.
“As my administration has analyzed this bill,” the governor said. “I believe the amendments in House Bill 507 do not fundamentally change the criteria and processes established by the Ohio General Assembly in 2011 that first established the policy of leasing mineral rights under state parks and lands.”
One of the most common arguments is both natural gas and nuclear energy is much cleaner compared to coal, plus it helps keep jobs for the workers.
"That's creating investment, jobs and all the ancillary economic impact that comes from that," state Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) said about H.B. 6 in 2019 right before he sponsored the legislation.
But just like with H.B. 6, dark money groups allegedly influenced this bill. The Washington Post reported that a natural gas firm had been trying to get lawmakers to pass this bill for months. Until consumers start seeing accountability with where the money comes from, English said these groups will go unchecked.
"We need to do a better job of electing people that are true public servants," she said.
Senate Bill 6, recently introduced by state Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), bans certain boards from adopting policies or making investment decisions for the purpose of "influencing any social or environmental policy or attempting to influence the governance."
This would apply to state retirement systems, Bureau of Workers' Compensation and state colleges and universities. None of these currently follow ESG guidelines.
Back in 2021, the governor signed legislation giving county commissioners new powers to kill wind or solar projects. This came a week after signing a bill that blocks cities or counties from banning natural gas or propane hookups to decarbonize new buildings.
News 5 Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau will be in Cincinnati covering the Householder trial. Previous coverage of the scandal is can be found below:
- 'The company was just bleeding cash': FirstEnergy testifies at Larry Householder public corruption trial
- 'Unholy alliance' — Chaotic first day of Larry Householder corruption trial
- 'Eyes of the country are on Ohio' — Jury selected in Larry Householder corruption trial
- Difficult to escape Larry Householder’s influence at Ohio Statehouse, even ahead of corruption trial
- Former Ohio speaker Larry Householder seeks to prevent recordings being played in corruption trial
- Dozens of companies, AG Yost, former lawmakers subpoenaed ahead of Householder corruption trial
- Ohio House Bill 6 scandal settlement payments coming soon, but isn’t over yet