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Akron-based FirstEnergy refunds $26 million to customers amid bailout proceedings

Crooked River Chronicle
Crooked River Chronicle
 2021-04-01

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(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

By Collin Cunningham

(AKRON, Ohio) As part of legislation that Gov. Mike DeWine signed on Wednesday, energy company FirstEnergy will be refunding about $26 million to customers of Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison.

Per 19 News, the Associated Press reports the Akron-based company raised the $26 million from the other companies' customers through a "decoupling" provision contained within House Bill 6 (HB6), the controversial nuclear bailout bill that led to the arrest of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

DeWine's House Bill 128 (HB128) comes after the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ordered FirstEnergy to refund the money it collected from the three energy providers at the request of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, the station reports.

Formerly, "decoupling" allowed FirstEnergy to collect additional money in years where demand for electricity was low. Cleveland.com reports HB128 will render the practice moot, along with dropping the $1 billion nuclear bailout initiative from HB6, when it takes effect in 90 days.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office stated the practice would have earned FirstEnergy Corp. $102 million this year.

The company agreed to stop collecting decoupling revenue in February of 2021 as part of a settlement in a lawsuit with Yost, according to 19 News.

In 2019, former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones said decoupling "essentially takes about one-third of our company and I think makes it somewhat recession-proof," during a call with company investors, per Cleveland.com.

A Wednesday press release from FirstEnergy states its management team has "taken steps to reduce uncertainty affecting the company's Ohio utilities," both through the $26 million partial settlement and the company's decision "to not seek recovery of lost distribution revenue from residential and commercial customers."

There has been no word yet on when or how the money will be refunded.

Ohio senators voted to remove the nuclear bailout from HB6 on March 3, which would have propped up the state's pair of nuclear power plants, Perry near Cleveland and Davis-Besse closer to Toledo.

DeWine previously announced interest in repealing HB6 entirely in July of 2020 following Householder's arrest for allegedly accepting $60 million in bribes along with four other individuals, Cleveland.com reported last year. This came after the governor initially stated that the bill should be kept to preserve jobs at the plants.

FirstEnergy, Householder and four other individuals have been accused of accepting $60 million to grease the bill, with critics pointing to the fact that Householder assumed his role as speaker on Jan. 7, 2019, shortly before the bill was passed in May of the same year, per Wikipedia.

On March 6, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued five new campaign finance charges against Householder, alleging he accepted contributions exceeding donation capacities, in addition to more than 150 other charges the state secretary had previously leveled against him.

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