Checks & Balances Project is requesting the identities of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission staff members who recommended issuing the protective order that declared publicly available information to be trade secrets in the audit conducted into the details of Ohio’s HB6 law.
The order, granted July 7 by Attorney Examiner Megan Addison, forced the redaction of the identity of the company that auditors said was “overcharging” for the coal it was supplying to the Ohio Valley Electric Corp.’s Clifty Creek power plant, the cost of that coal and OVEC’s net income.
The motion for the protective order filed by the PUCO staff said “financial information contained in the Audit Reports that is highly sensitive in nature.”
Concealing the name of the company supplying expensive coal to Clifty Creek — Resource Fuels of Columbus— made it difficult for members of the public and interested parties to discover the profit motives behind the company’s financial support of former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder, who rammed HB6 through the Ohio legislature in 2019.
At the time HB6 became law, Clifty Creek was Resource Fuels’ only contract to supply coal. Testimony provided to PUCO in October showed Resource Fuels made $12.6 million more for the coal it supplied OVEC in 2020 than Alliance Fuels, which provided more coal from the same mine.
Resource Fuels’ owner an early Generation Now backer
HB6 supporters led by FirstEnergy of Akron donated $61 million to a fund called Generation Now that was used to bribe Householder, who was convicted in March of participating in a racketeering conspiracy. Wayne Boich, the owner of Resource Fuels, was one of the first donors to Generation Now in February 2017.
Boich and his wife Cynthia each gave $25,000 to Generation Now, while Resource Fuels gave $250,000 in April 2018, one month before the May primary election in which Householder allies were nominated for seats in the Ohio House.
Householder, a Republican, ran for the speakership after the 2018 general election and won with the support of those House candidates who were backed by Generation Now.
Financial motives for supporting HB6
The financial motives for the support of FirstEnergy and its nuclear power-generating affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions, were well known when federal prosecutors announced the indictments of Householder, former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges, and others in July 2020.
FirstEnergy Solutions, which had filed for bankruptcy in March 2018, wanted a bailout of its money-losing nuclear plants to emerge from bankruptcy with a healthy balance sheet. FirstEnergy wanted a similar bailout for the two coal-fired plants owned by OVEC of which FirstEnergy is a part owner.
But Resource Fuels, which federal records show continued overcharging for coal in 2021 and 2022, went unidentified through much of the HB6 investigation, even though it gained close to $38 million in excess coal payments over three years.
Federal prosecutors noted the Resource Fuels donation to Generation Now during Householder’s trial last March. Householder said under oath that he didn’t recognize the name of the company whose owners have been some of his biggest supporters.
Members of the Boich family gave Householder’s campaign accounts $73,168.70 between 2018 and July 2, 2020, records filed with the Ohio secretary of state’s office show.
Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks & Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.
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