After Ohio lawmakers passed a measure requiring electric customers in the state to pay for a massive bailout which would prop up dying FirstEnergy power plants, the company has taken steps to fight back against efforts to pass a referendum which would overturn the controversial law.
Part of the company's effort is a $1 million scare ad campaign that a front group for FirstEnergy named Ohioans for Energy Security is running, which makes the rather bizarre allegation that the natural gas plants poised to take up the slack for electric generation in the state if the referendum is successful are backed by China, and thus Ohio's electric grid would be controlled by China if the law is repealed.
Here is the ad:
Not surprisingly, The Columbus Dispatch investigated these claims and did not find substance to them:
LoParo sent along items from Power Finance & Risk, a website covering the power industry in the Americas. One, from Jan. 30, was related to financing for a project to build a natural-gas-powered generating facility in Lordstown by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners, Siemens Financial Services and Clean Energy Future. That last company is significant because the man who runs it, Bill Siderewicz, also is involved with the anti-bailout effort, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts.
The news item said that a $534.4 million loan for the project was being put together by a group of banks led by Credit Agricole of France and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is controlled by the state. LoParo said he didn’t know how much of the Chinese bank’s money was going into the project.
But that project was cancelled. As The Dispatch reported last week, Siderewicz pulled the plug on the project because of the passage of the nuclear bailout.
It’s still the case that some Siderewicz gas-generation projects in Ohio have been financed in part by the Chinese bank. But there’s an important difference between financing a project and investing in one. In the first instance, the bank acts a lender. In the second, the company becomes part owner.
In any case, LoParo didn’t provide The Dispatch with any evidence that the Chinese government intends to play a role in a possible repeal of House Bill 6.
“It’s a ridiculously wrong statement to distract voters from the penalties this bill (will inflict) on Ohio consumers,” said Gene Pierce, spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts.In an interesting example of hypocrisy, FirstEnergy has received financing from this exact same Chinese bank on other projects.
The group behind the ad also lobbied for the passage of the bailout, and also worked on the campaign for state Attorney General Dave Yost (who launched his own action against the referendum by rejecting the measure because of what he stated were errors and imprecise language).
The Energy and Policy Institute, an anti-fossil fuel organization, took a long look at Ohioans for Energy Security and followed the money to find out who is really behind the group. Beyond the links to FirstEnergy, the investigation also found ties to coal magnate Robert Murray and his company, Murray Energy. Murray has already been vocal in his opposition to the bailout referendum.
Click here to read about the investigation by The Energy and Policy Institute.
Now FirstEnergy is taking the fight to the Ohio Supreme Court.
From The Columbus Dispatch:
Last month, it was scary television commercials telling voters that they could avoid a Chinese takeover of power generation in Ohio by not signing petition forms for a ballot initiative.
Now, FirstEnergy Solutions is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to block the referendum petition drive, which seeks to overturn a $1 billion bailout of the utility’s Ohio nuclear power plants that the state legislature and Gov. Mike DeWine approved in July.
The filing Wednesday contends that an increase charged to all Ohio electricity ratepayers to fund the bailout constitutes a tax, and the Ohio Constitution bars a public vote on a tax increase.
The constitution says “laws providing for tax levies ... shall go into immediate effect. ... The laws mentioned in this section shall not be subject to the referendum,” says the court action filed by Columbus attorney John Zeiger.This argument is very interesting, because proponents of the bailout were very adamant during the process of getting it passed about stating that it was not a tax. Now that it is passed, they are doubling back on that and saying that it is in an effort to keep it in effect.
Click here to read that whole article.