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Will FirstEnergy’s lavish lobbying dollars buy a bailout?

FirstEnergy, the Ohio-based utility that just announced premature closures of four of its nuclear reactors, has spent $2 million a year on lobbying over the past seven years. On April 4, the company’s chief lobbyist reportedly dined with President Trump, just as its subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), which filed for bankruptcy on March 31, is attempting to score a bailout to pre-empt the shutdowns which, it claimed, would cause a grid emergency, something the grid operator has exposed as nonsense. (More details here.) FES also played the jobs card while obfuscating its role in a fatally restrictive zoning provision passed by the Ohio legislature in 2014. The measure stifled $1.6 billion in wind power development in the state which would have created thousands of steady and secure renewable energy jobs. But FirstEnergy’s lobbying dollars, like those of the National Rifle Association, are an investment in Members of Congress and the White House for just such an instance as this, and it’s a well-used script. The Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade group, has typically spent similar amounts in lobbying dollars each year. Exelon, the country’s biggest nuclear corporation, spent a whopping $9 million in 2011 alone and $4.5 million last year, only a fraction less than the NRA which spent just over $5 million in 2017. More