CEO says:FirstEnergy acted ethically in HB 6 support

Larry Limpf

The second quarter earnings report of FirstEnergy Corp. includes a statement from Charles Jones, chief executive officer, about the federal investigation into how House Bill 6 passed in the state legislature and benefited a former subsidiary of FirstEnergy.
"We intend to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice investigation involving the Ohio Speaker of the House, and we will ensure our company's involvement in supporting HB 6 is understood as accurately as possible," Jones says in a press release about the company’s earnings. "I believe that FirstEnergy acted ethically in this matter. At no time did our support for Ohio's nuclear plants interfere with or supersede our ethical obligations to conduct our business properly. I believe the facts will become clear as the investigation progresses."
Jones also addressed the investigation during a recent earnings conference call with analysts and investors, saying it was a “grave situation.”
According to the criminal complaint, from March 2017 to March 2020, millions of dollars were paid in exchange for the assistance of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Larry Householder, and four associates, in passing House Bill 6 and then working to defeat a ballot initiative that, if passed by voters, would have rescinded the legislation.
In all, about $60 million was funneled through Generation Now, an entity formed as a 501(c)(4) organization, from an “energy company and its affiliates during the relevant period,” the complaint says.
House Bill 6, passed by the legislature last summer and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, creates the state’s Clean Energy Program but provides subsidies for coal and nuclear plants and drew intense criticism from environmentalists and others.
FirstEnergy Solutions, a FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary, emerged from bankruptcy as a separate entity early this year with a new name, Harbor Energy.
FES filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in 2018, arguing its coal and nuclear power plants could not compete against cheaper energy sources such as natural gas.
Utility executives turned to the legislature for financial assistance and in April 2019 the bill was introduced and then passed three months later. Without a ratepayer subsidy, they argued, the power plants, including the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, would be closed.
In another statement issued July 27, CEO Jones said FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary began discussing a separation in November 2016 when the parent company announced a review of competitive power generation.
“At that point, I and other members of FirstEnergy leadership no longer had any decision-making power regarding the strategic direction of FES,” he said.
Meanwhile, bills have been introduced in both chambers of the legislature to repeal House Bill 6.


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