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FirstEnergy Charged In House Bill 6 Scandal, Agrees To $230 Million Penalty

The Perry Nuclear Power plant in northeast Ohio, one of the two nuclear power plants owned by Energy Harbor, formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions.
Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio
The Perry Nuclear Power plant in northeast Ohio, one of the two nuclear power plants owned by Energy Harbor, formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions.

FirstEnergy will pay $230 million after entering into a deferred prosecution agreement over charges that the company bribed then-House Speaker Larry Householder and former Public Utilities Commission chair Sam Randazzo.

The company admitted it "conspired with public officials and other individuals and entities", according to a release from Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Vipal J. Patel. FirstEnergy is charged with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud.

A formal announcement is expected this afternoon in Cincinnati.

A year ago yesterday, five people were arrested in connection with the effort to pass House Bill 6, the law that created subsidies for Ohio's two nuclear power plants, and the effort to stop a repeal of the law. Those arrested included then-House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges, lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes, and Householder operative Jeff Longstreth.

Prosecutors said Householder and the other defendants took part in a $61 million bribery scheme that helped Householder rise to power in order for him to pass the bailout.

Two entities were also named - the 501(c)4 group Generation Now, which fought the attempt to repeal House Bill 6, and a utility widely believed to be FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy's former subsidiary Energy Harbor, which had been known as FirstEnergy Solutions, owned the nuclear power plants.

Longstreth and Cespedes have pleaded guilty. Clark died by suicide in Florida in March. Borges and Householder have maintained their innocence. Householder was ousted from his leadership position not long after his arrest, and expelled from the House last month.
Generation Now pleaded to a racketeering charge in February.

FirstEnergy was reported to be looking to make a deal with prosecutors, after firing its top executives.

Sam Randazzo resigned from the Public Utilities Commission after his home was raided by the FBI. No charges have been filed against him. But FirstEnergy disclosed in an SEC filing that it paid $4 million to end a consulting agreement with a company associated with an individual who went on to become a state regulatory official.

State lawmakers have repealed the nuclear subsidies in House Bill 6. But the law also created subsidies for two coal-burning power plants and six solar projects, and cut renewable energy standards and energy efficiency standards for utilities.
This story will be updated.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.