Ohio’s ‘Chernobyl Socialism’ would hand $20 million to seven utility scammers

A huge proposed bailout of two Chernobyl-in-progress Ohio nukes (plus two old coal burners) would put $20 million directly into the pockets of seven utility executives. Their bankrupt company last year spent $3 million “lobbying” the legislature.

Akron’s bankrupt FirstEnergy (FE) owns the Perry nuke, east of Cleveland, which in 1986 became the first US reactor damaged by an earthquake. Critical pipes and concrete were cracked, as were nearby roads and bridges. A top-level state study showed soon thereafter that evacuation amidst a major accident would be impossible.

FE’s uninsured Davis-Besse nuke, near Toledo, is a 42-year-old Three Mile Island clone. In 2002, boric acid ate through its head, threatening a Chernobyl-scale accident irradiating Toledo, Cleveland, and the Great Lakes. At FE’s request, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has exempted Davis-Besse from vital regulations for flooding, fire protection, earthquake vulnerability, and security. Its radiation shield building is literally crumbling.

In 2003, when nearby power lines sagged onto tree limbs, FirstEnergy blacked out some 50 million people throughout the northeast and well into Canada.

By then, FE had scammed Ohio for some $9 billion in “stranded cost” bailouts. The utility said “open market competition” would lower rates … after it pocketed the public’s money.

Now FE says its subsidized nukes can’t compete with gas and wind power. It wants $190 million/year or more from all Ohio ratepayers, even though most get zero nuke electricity.

FE first said the money was for “clean air” and “zero emission reactors.” But all nukes emit heat, chemicals, radiation, Carbon 14, and more. Their cooling towers kill birds, their waste hot water kills marine life, their cores (at about 300 degrees Centigrade) heat the planet.

The bailout bill, called HB6, attacks renewable and efficiency programs that have saved Ohio ratepayers billions of dollars and created thousands of jobs. A single sentence in the Ohio Code is blocking some $4 billion in turbine development.

The breezy “North Coast” region along Lake Erie is crisscrossed with transmission lines and good sites near urban consumers. Farmers throughout the flat, fertile agricultural land desperately want the income turbine leases could provide. The new projects would create thousands of construction and maintenance jobs. They would feed Ohio’s manufacturing base, which produces a wide range of wind and solar components. By lowering electric rates, they would restore a competitive position long lost to high electric rates. Indiana, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania all have at least double Ohio’s installed wind capacity. Texas has twenty times more. By 2022, Germany will be totally nuke-free.

Ohio has just been shaken by findings that significant radiation has leaked from a dead uranium plant in southern Ohio, contaminating schools and terrifying local residents.

Like that old “stranded cost” scam, FE’s new bailouts would suck desperately needed capital from Ohio’s faltering industrial base. The reactors are obsolete. The workforce is aging. The nukes will shut anyway … if they don’t blow up first.

FE is really protecting its huge executive salaries. In 2018, it spent $3 million on “lobbying.” Its top seven officers, who bankrupted the company, were collectively paid more than $20,000,000, more than 10% of the proposed bailout:

Charles E. Jones Jr., President & CEO: $9,858,109;

Leila L. Vespoli, EVP, Corporate Strategy, Regulatory Affairs & Chief Legal Officer: $3,801,639;

James F. Pearson, EVP, Finance: $3,840,576;

Donald R. Schneider, President, FE Solutions: $2,343,232;

Steven E. Strah, SVP & CFO: $2,798,523;

Bennett L. Gaines, SVP, Corporate Services & Chief Information Officer: $1,442,149;

Samuel L. Belcher, SVP & President, FE Utilities: $3,004,019.

The Ohio House has already ignored extensive anti-bailout public testimony (see mine at https://ohiochannel.org/video/ohio-house-energy-and-natural-resources-committee-5-22-2019) and voted 53-43 to keep those executive handouts soaring.

The bill now moves to the Senate and its gerrymandered GOP majority. Ohio’s corporate-owned governor has assured FE he’ll approve their bailout.

Ohio consumers may then join lawsuits against similar bailouts in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere. A referendum, which they might well win, is also possible.

Meanwhile, millionaire utility execs everywhere will see if the Buckeye State can be suckered again into bailing out two obsolete, cash-sucking nukes on the brink of catastrophic collapse.

Stay tuned.

Harvey Wasserman’s Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm; California Solartopia is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7 fm, Los Angeles. His book The People’s Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to Solartopia will soon be at www.solartopia.org.

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