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DeWine still supports energy legislation at center of corruption case

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaking during  a news conference on Wednesday, July 22.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaking during a news conference on Wednesday, July 22.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine today expressed continued support for energy legislation at the center of public corruption charges brought this week against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others.

Asked whether he supports bipartisan calls to repeal House Bill 6, DeWine said he signed it into law last year because it protects Ohio jobs and is part of having a balanced energy policy that doesn’t over-rely on fossil fuels. Without the legislation, he said, Ohio would have lost two nuclear power plants.

“Our position has been that we need nuclear power, our position has been that we need non-carbon-polluting energy,” DeWine told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The policy is good policy. Because people did bad things does not mean that the policy is not a good policy,” he said.

ExploreSpeaker of the House Investigation: Here’s what we know

Introduced and passed last year, HB6 made several changes to Ohio’s energy law. It watered down renewable energy standards that had been in place for a decade. It provided two bailouts: one for the Ohio Valley Electric Corp., which is partially owned by DP&L, AEP and others; and another bailout for Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions, which owns two aging nuclear power plants along Lake Erie. FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy and is now named Harbor Energy.

DeWine said it was clear that a tremendous amount of money was being spent on advertising in support of HB6, but he had no indication anything illegal was potentially going on. He said he first learned of the FBI investigation when the news broke Tuesday. He said he is not aware of anything implicating his administration; federal prosecutors also said Tuesday the criminal allegations don’t appear to involve the governor’s office.

“I had no suspicion of any illegal activity,” DeWine said, calling the details laid out in the federal complaint “a sickening story.”

DeWine has stated Householder should step down as speaker. He said Wednesday that the House should handle Householder’s removal. But if the governor needs to call a special session of the General Assembly, “I certainly would not hesitate to do that at all.”

He also urged the General Assembly to find ways to bring more transparency to the elections process.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted added that current lawmakers could look at proposals he put forward when he was in the Ohio Senate. “This has been a problem for years and there are solutions to it,” Husted said.

Householder and four others are facing federal charges in connection to a $60 million bribe paid to pass and uphold a nuclear plant bailout, according to investigators.

ExploreBribery investigation: Calls for resignation mount; clients ditch lobbyist

Householder was charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme and was released on bond after appearing in federal court Tuesday.

Political consultant Jeff Longstreth, lobbyist Neil Clark, lobbyist Juan Cespedes and former Ohio GOP Chairman Matthew Borges are each charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme.

ExploreRead the indictment here: $60 million Ohio bribery investigation