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Craig Shirley: New Indictment Raises Concerns About Corruption in Nuclear Industry


The recent indictments of Samuel Randazzo and two former executives of  the Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corporation reveals the extent and depth of political corruption within the nuclear industry.  It was just recently that nuclear executives were found guilty of bribing elected officials, resulting in jail time for all convicted.

FirstEnergy executives are now accused of bribing members of the Ohio legislature to prop up several faltering nuclear reactors.  Ohio legislators went to prison for accepting bribes to pass State Bill 6. Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder is currently serving a twenty-year sentence.

When most people think of political bribery, they think of money changing hands and then a bill is either passed or defeated.  The fifty-page indictment against these two nuclear executives shows something much more complex and nefarious was at play.

The three men were charged with such crimes as aggravated theft, grand theft, bribery, money laundering, and telecommunications fraud.

According to the indictment:

“The Governor nominated Randazzo to become Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chair on February 4, 2019, and Randazzo became PUCO Chairman on April 11, 2019. During the following months, Randazzo used his position as PUCO Chair to advance FirstEnergy’s regulatory and legislative priorities. Randazzo lobbied members of the General Assembly in favor of key provisions of what became HB 6, including drafting portions of the bill himself. FirstEnergy was scheduled to have a full rate case in 2024. Randazzo, however, issued a PUCO decision on November 21, 2019 eliminating FirstEnergy’s requirement to file a new rate case in 2024. That decision gave FirstEnergy a financial windfall because at the time, FirstEnergy had been over-earning up to that point, and Jones and Dowling were concerned about a substantial rate decrease in 2024. Randazzo also gave FirstEnergy executives Chuck Jones and Michael Dowling advance notice of his decision on the 2024 rate case issue, in violation of PUCO rules against ex parte communication with the parties to a PUCO case.”

“Randazzo took the helm of the PUCO on April 11, 2019, while continuing to serve as an unregistered lobbyist for his former employer. He would write parts of a law that would send millions of dollars in subsidies to FirstEnergy for its nuclear power plants, which FirstEnergy claimed were losing money. He wrote other parts of the same law that would legally guarantee the investor-owned FirstEnergy’s profits at the level of 2018—a very good year for FirstEnergy. Both these provisions were contained in the law known as House Bill 6.”

 

The complexity of this scheme shows the lengths people will go to in order to enrich themselves, game the system and prop up forms of energy that have shown to be ineffective.

The desperation that seemed to drive these executives and public servants has to have been all-consuming.

But regardless of the motivation of the corruption in this case, the case revealed that no amount of skullduggery can make an unsuccessful nuclear energy plant produce to the point of profitability.  There is simply no breaking the laws of economics.

The people of Ohio have received a great gift: sunlight on the underhanded workings of its government. Justice Louis Brandeis famously said “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Now the sunlight has shone on these corrupt nuclear lobbyists and politicians, to the betterment of all Ohioans.

The level of duplicity to arrange subsidies for a faltering nuclear site is staggering.

This case shows how easy it is for corruption to creep into nuclear energy issues and the industry. Corruption reeks throughout the nuclear industry.


Author Craig Shirley is Chairman of Citizens for the Republic, the political action committee founded by Ronald Reagan.

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FirstEnergy's nuclear plants in Ohio were losing money because of dispatch rules that require the transmission system operator to give priority to fickle solar and wind electricity. Meanwhile, coal, gas, and nuclear power plants are required to keep operating 24/7 at low power, consuming fuel, paying staff and capital amortization, while not earning any income because their output isn't allowed to be distributed.


As for subsidies, what Ohio did makes sense: Every electric generator gets exactly the same subsidy per kilowatt hour, no matter how it's generated -- but Federal subsidies are still heavily tilted toward solar and wind: 103 times greater for wind, and 262 times greater than nuclear,. per kilowatt hour.


If solar and wind subsidy-chasers were required…


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