A judge says Ohio’s attorney general can’t block the state’s nuclear plants from collecting fees on electricity bills even though the law that authorized the bailout money is at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s attorney general can’t block the state’s nuclear plants from collecting fees on electricity bills even though the law that authorized the bailout money is at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe, a judge ruled Friday.

A Franklin County judge denied Attorney General Dave Yost’s attempt to stop Energy Harbor from receiving payments to the company’s two nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo that were bailed out through the now-tainted legislation.

The bailout is funded by a fee that will be added to every electricity bill in the state starting Jan. 1 — directing over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the two nuclear plants.

Energy Harbor is the former FirstEnergy Solutions, a onetime subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. The company said in a statement last week that the state’s lawsuit “unjustly targets the company for lawfully participating in the political process and advocating for policy that is consistent with our interests.”

The lawsuit also sought to freeze the assets of former House Speaker Larry Householder’s $1 million campaign fund and dissolve the dark money groups involved in the bribery scheme.

But Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Brown noted in his ruling that blocking donations and other speech would be an infringement of the companies’ and individuals’ First Amendment rights.

“I don’t know that there’s any way, absent a judicial determination of criminal conduct, that I can prohibit future speech,” Brown wrote.

Yost said while he was disappointed

Texas-based power provider Vistra will retire its entire fleet of coal plants in Illinois and Ohio by 2027 as part of its plan to reinvent itself as a renewable energy and battery company.

Together, the coal plants slated for closure account for 6.8 gigawatts of generation capacity — equal to around 15% of Illinois’ total power capacity. Five of the seven coal plants Vistra named are in Illinois.

A major power producer and retailer, Vistra had acquired several of the plants in 2018 after merging with energy company Dynegy. But like scores of other power companies before it, Vistra has struggled to make the coal plants profitable amid a surge in supply of natural gas, falling electricity prices, and newly competitive wind and solar farms. It also faced tightening environmental restrictions that would have forced onerous new investments to reign in pollutants.

The scheduled closures are only the latest in a long string of them. Since 2016 Vistra and its subsidiaries have closed or announced the closure of 19 coal plants totaling more than 16 gigawatts across Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

Some of the earlier closures occurred because plants ran afoul of environmental rules. In November 2019 a federal judge ordered two units in Bartonville, Illinois, to close by 2022, part of a lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Air Act, according to Bloomberg Law. And in August 2019 Vistra said it would close four plants in Illinois to meet the requirements of Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard, which limits allowed emissions of sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants.

Vistra owns a large portion, but not all, of Illinois’ coal power plants. Three others are owned by power company NRG. The municipally-owned City, Water, Light and Power (CWLP) owns the Dallman Power Plant downstate. And the Southern Illinois Power Cooperative

Ohio is ordering General Motors to pay back $28 million in tax credits after it failed to meet the terms of the 30-year agreement by closing its Lordstown plant after 10 years.

GM has also been ordered to invest an additional $12 million for community development in the state, which has long struggled to regain its former manufacturing swagger.

In 2008, with gas prices soaring, GM received more than $60 million in tax credits for agreeing to keep 3,700 employees at the plant through 2028 under the Job Retention Tax Credit program and for agreeing to create 200 new jobs under the Job Creation Tax Credit program if it maintained operations through 2037 to develop the fuel-efficient Chevy Cruze.

“The company did not maintain its commitment to retain the jobs,” the Ohio Development Services Agency said in a news release.

If Ohio had ordered the repayment of all of the $60.3 million in tax credits, it would have been one of the largest tax credit clawbacks in U.S. history.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump traveled to the region in 2016 and told rallygoers, “Don’t move, don’t sell your house,” because the jobs that had left Ohio were “all coming back” if he was elected.

But in 2018, the company announced amid declining sales that it would cease production of the Cruze at the Lordstown plant and shut down operations, along with those of four other North American plants.

Construction of a GM joint-venture battery cell plant began this year on the site of the former facility with the promise of creating 1,100 new jobs. And a new company called Lordstown Motors, working with a financing deal with GM, began producing an electric pickup truck called Endurance, also on the former grounds.

Trump travels to Cleveland on Tuesday to appear in the

General Motors  (GM) – Get Report said on Monday that it would invest $71 million in two manufacturing facilities in Ohio, with work expected to begin immediately.

GM will allocate $39 million to its Toledo transmission plant and $32 million at its Defiance casting plant. Both investments are expected to maintain 240 jobs.

“Through these investments, GM continues to strengthen its significant manufacturing presence in Ohio,” said Phil Kienle, GM vice president of North American manufacturing and labor relations, in a company statement. 

The company’s eight-speed rear-wheel-drive transmission will be developed and upgraded through the Toledo investment. The other investment will help prepare the Defiance casting plant for future work containing engine casting components.

A team of 1,700 workers manufactures and assembles GM’s six-speed, eight-speed, and ten-speed rear-wheel-drive and nine-speed front-wheel-drive transmissions at the Toledo facility. Those transmissions are commonly used in a number of Buick, GMC and Chevrolet vehicles.

The Defiance facility, which currently employs around 580 people, produces castings for V-6 and V-8 engines that are also used in a variety of GMC, Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet vehicles.

GM also has said it would build a new $2.3 billion battery cell manufacturing plant in Lordstown, Ohio, through a joint venture with LG Chem. The venture, called Ultium Cells, will create more than 1,100 new jobs, GM said.. 

GM says the plant will play a crucial role in the company’s plan to eventually go all-electric.

The Detroit automaker employs more than 3,800 people in Ohio. Its investments in the state have totaled $3.3 billion since 2009.

Since May 2019, GM has been working with Lordstown Motors to launch its Endurance electric pickup.

The acquisition of Lordstown Motors by DiamondPeak Holding is expected to close during the fourth quarter and the company will be listed on the Nasdaq. 

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland-Cliffs is making its second billion-dollar acquisition in less than a year with the purchase of steel maker ArcelorMittal’s U.S. business for about $1.4 billion in cash and stock.

About a third of the deal will be an up front cash payment of about $505 million, the companies said Monday. ArcelorMittal, based in Luxembourg, will also receive stock in Cleveland-Cliffs valued at about $873 million.

In return the Cleveland iron ore mining company will get six steelmaking facilities, eight finishing facilities, two iron ore mining and pelletizing operations, and three coal and coke making operations.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2020 and will make Cleveland-Cliffs the largest producer of flat-rolled steel and iron ore pellet in North America, the company said.

“The acquisition of ArcelorMittal USA amplifies our position in the discerning automotive steel marketplace, and further improves our position in important U.S. markets such as construction, appliances, infrastructure, machinery and equipment,” said CEO Lourenco Goncalves.

ArcelorMittal USA averaged more than $10 billion in revenue in 2018 and 2019. Cleveland-Cliffs does about $2 billion in annual revenue. The companies said the acquisition will save it about $150 million annually.

Late last year, Cleveland-Cliffs bought AK Steel in a stock deal valued at about $1.1 billion.

Shares in Cleveland-Cliffs climbed more than 10% Monday.

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