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Ohio has spent the last few years putting on a perfect example of how residents suffer when utilities go unchecked.

What has become the state’s biggest corruption scandal in history started in 2019, when lawmakers approved more than $1 billion in bailouts for nuclear and coal-fired power plants, paid for with ratepayer money. An FBI investigation later linked the law to more than $60 million in bribes, including from Ohio utility FirstEnergy.

Starting this week, some of the key players alleged to be at the center of the House Bill 6 scheme are on trial. So Energy News Network reporter Kathiann M. Kowalski, who’s been reporting on the scandal since its beginnings, sat down with former Ohio utility regulator Ashley C. Brown and former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers at a talk hosted by the Columbus Metropolitan Club last week to discuss what’s at stake in upcoming court cases, and how it continues to hurt Ohioans most of all.

To Brown and Kowalski, one of the biggest issues with HB 6 — which remains on the books — is how much it has cost and will continue to cost ratepayers. 

“The problem is under Ohio law, the [public utilities] commission can’t refund any money that’s still being collected subject to this poisonous tree of what remains of HB 6,” Brown said. “Even if it’s determined it’s unlawful, the utilities will get to keep it.”

“The consumers … are going to continue to be victimized,” Brown continued.

That’s not to mention the health effects of delayed climate action as the bill prolongs the life of Ohio’s coal plants.

For more, you can watch a recording of the conversation.

And if you want a deeper dive into the HB 6 scandal, find more of Kowalski’s reporting from the Energy News Network, or sign up for the monthly Eye on Utilities newsletter produced in partnership with Eye on Ohio.


More clean energy news

🗺️ A new clean electricity blueprint: A new report by two major environmental groups offers the Biden administration a road map to reach its goal of powering the U.S. on 100% clean electricity by 2035. (Washington Post)

👀 Fossil fuels’ hidden agenda: A study finds fossil fuel companies are spending money on social media and targeted media operations to promote climate denialism and hide their operations’ environmental harms. (Bloomberg)

🔥 Gas stove safety tips: Experts detail gas stoves’ hazards and suggest ways to mitigate their dangers for those who can’t switch to electric or induction cooking. (ProPublica)

🚙 EVs’ hidden costs: Global lithium production would need to triple to meet projected U.S. electric vehicle demand, threatening local water shortages, Indigenous land grabs, and ecosystem destruction, researchers find. (Guardian)

🍴 You’re washing your dishes wrong: Engineers and experts say we’re still using dishwashers, refrigerators, and other appliances like their old, less-efficient models, wasting energy and raising our bills along the way. (Washington Post)

🚌 Cleaning up kids’ commutes: School districts across the country are beginning to roll out electric buses thanks to a financial boost from the 2021 federal infrastructure law. (ABC News)


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Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn brings her extensive editorial background to the Energy News Network team, where she oversees the early-morning production of ENN’s five email digest newsletters as well as distribution of ENN’s original journalism with other media outlets. From documenting chronic illness’ effect on college students to following the inner workings of Congress, Kathryn has built a broad experience in her more than five years working at major publications including The Week Magazine. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and information management and technology from Syracuse University.