Members of the Ohio House who voted in favor of a bill to bail out uncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants received over $320,000 in campaign money from four utilities that will benefit financially from the bill’s passage.
American Electric Power (AEP), Dayton Power & Light (and it’s parent company AES Corporation), Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy Corp.’s PACs have targeted Ohio with nearly $1.65 million in campaign cash since the start of 2017, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission.
Forty of the fifty-three state representatives who voted for the power plant bailout bill, HB 6, received campaign contributions totaling $322,776 from these utility PACs during the same time period, including:
- Nearly $188,000 from FirstEnergy
- $73,500 from AEP
- Nearly $49,000 from Duke Energy
- Over $12,700 from Dayton Power & Light
The bill, as passed by the Ohio House, would bail out the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions (FES). FirstEnergy Corp. is eager to sever all ties with its now bankrupt former subsidiary, but employees of FES continue to contribute money to FirstEnergy Corp.’s PAC. David Griffing, vice president of government affairs for FES, has contributed $1,650 to the PAC this year.
The bill would also extend bailouts to two coal-fired power plants operated by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC), of which AEP, Dayton Power & Light, and Duke Energy own shares. FES received a bankruptcy court’s approval to exit OVEC last year, though that decision is being appealed by OVEC.
Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards will also be eliminated, meaning consumers will lose out on the electricity bill savings generated by those programs.
Ohio utility customers will pay $2 billion in nuclear subsidies to FES over six years if the Ohio House version of the bill becomes law, according to an analysis by the Ohio Manufacturers Association. AEP, Dayton Power & Light, and Duke Energy customers will together pay an additional $368 million for OVEC coal subsidies, according to a fact sheet from the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund.
Over $67,000 in campaign contributions to Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, and that’s not counting all the dark money linked to FirstEnergy
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a top proponent of the bill, received a total of $67,415 from the four utility PACs. AEP was the largest contributor, and gave $30,000 to Householder’s campaign.
FirstEnergy was next with $24,415, and that doesn’t count the money from Generation Now Inc., a dark money group linked to FES that spent one million dollars to help Householder become speaker. The group has since purchased $8.4 million in ads supporting HB 6.
More than $123,000 in campaign contributions to the sponsors of HB 6
Over $123,000 in utility campaign cash went to the following sponsors and co-sponsors of HB 6:
- Rep. Jamie Callender: $13,500, all from FirstEnergy
- Rep. Shane Wilkin: $17,500 total, including $11,500 from FirstEnergy and $6,000 from AEP
- Rep. Jon Cross: $20,200 total, including $12,700 from FirstEnergy and $7,500 from AEP
- Rep. Anthony DeVitis: $34,415 total, including $33,915 from FirstEnergy and $500 from Dayton Power & Light
- Rep. Brett Hillyer: $13,207, all from FirstEnergy
- Rep. Doug Jones: $1,500 total, including $1,000 from Duke Energy and $500 from FirstEnergy
- Rep. Bill Reineke: $1,500, all from FirstEnergy
- Rep. Bill Seitz: $16,000 total, including $6,500 from AEP, $5,000 from Duke Energy, $2,500 from FirstEnergy, and $2,000 from Dayton Power & Light
- Rep. Dick Stein: $2,000, all from FirstEnergy
- Rep. Nino Vitale: $3,500 total, including $2,500 from FirstEnergy and $1,000 from AEP
The bill’s co-sponsors include members of the Ohio House Republican leadership, and the chairs of the committee and subcommittee that approved the bill before it was passed by the full House.
Seitz is the Republican Ohio House Majority Floor Leader, and DeVitis is the Assistant Majority Floor Leader. When the full Ohio House debated the bill in May, Seitz rose four times to speak in its support.
Vitale chairs the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which first considered the bill. In emails obtained by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Vitale voiced support for the provisions of the bill that would eliminate energy efficiency programs that help low-income individuals and families save money.
“While this may sound mean to some, a little hunger in the belly or being a little cold on some really cold days is a good incentive for me to get up, go to work and provide for my 5 boys and wife,” Vitale wrote in the emails.
Hillyer, Cross, and Stein are members of Vitale’s committee.
Stein is chair of the Subcommittee on Energy Generation that also heard testimony on HB6. Cross and Hillyer also serve on the subcommittee.
HB 6 is just the latest bill to bail out uncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants in Ohio. The Ohio House considered earlier bills to bail out FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants and OVEC’s coal plants in 2017-2018, but those bills failed.
Below is a spreadsheet listing the campaign contributions that Ohio House members who voted in favor of HB 6 have received from AEP, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy’s PACs since the start of 2017, along with sources for the data.