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Yost right to call for halt to extra energy payments

Kudos to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost for taking it upon himself to head to the table with FirstEnergy in an attempt to hammer out an agreement to stop collection of the guaranteed profit subsidy approved by Ohio lawmakers as part of a tainted energy bill.

As part of the settlement, FirstEnergy this week filed an application advising the Public Utility Commission of Ohio, or PUCO, that it will forego collection of a profitability guarantee.

The move halts the company from using a clause in House Bill 6 that would have cost customers an extra $102 million this year.

House Bill 6, enacted in 2019, authorizes payments totaling some $1 billion in subsidies to energy companies, including nuclear and solar power interests, over a period of years. Electric customers would cover the cost.

Then, last summer, Ohio Rep. Larry Householder, then speaker of the state House of Representatives, was arrested, along with a few associates, by federal agents. They are accused in what authorities say was a $60 million bribery scheme involving HB 6.

We did not support passage of House Bill 6 at the time, and since the arrests and bribery allegations came to light, we have used this space to argue for its repeal. Despite much debate in Columbus, the legislation has not been repealed.

Now, however, this out-of-court settlement negotiated by Yost ends a guaranteed profit rider, not to be confused with the controversial $150 million nuclear bailout that also was contained in HB6.

While we all hope for reasonable utility bills, we understand increases are sometimes necessary. This “guaranteed profit rider,” however, does not seem reasonable, especially considering that it guarantees a profit to FirstEnergy and it passed as part of the tainted HB 6.

As written, the provision would have allowed FirstEnergy to adjust rates to ensure it made at least $978 million a year going forward. That benchmark came from 2018 when a cold winter and a scorching summer combined to boost FirstEnergy’s revenue to a record $978 million.

Yost had filed a lawsuit to stop the fee from taking effect, but in the settlement deal, FirstEnergy agreed to remove the fee this year.

Yost also is fighting a separate part of HB 6 that would require Ohioans to pay fees to help financially support Ohio’s two nuclear power plants.

For now, Yost was right to take action to halt these collections.

At the end of the day, though, passage of House Bill 6 will forever be viewed as tainted. The legislation needs to be repealed. After that, new debate can be held regarding language of any proposed replacement bills.

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