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Akron-based Energy Harbor closing W. H. Sammis Power Plant

  • Jan 27, 2023
The Times Reporter

Akron-based Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary, is closing its W. H. Sammis Power Plant, with all 140 people working at the plant losing their jobs.

The facility, located in Stratton, in eastern Ohio along the Ohio River, is one of the state's few remaining coal-fired power plants.

According to a Jan. 13 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notice from plant director Christopher Cox to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Office of Workforce Development, the mass layoff is expected to start no earlier than March 14.

Cox said in the letter that all employee terminations and the complete closure of the facility are expected to take place between March 14 and July 15, with the first terminations expected to begin sometime between March 14 and April 14. Cox said terminations will be on a rolling basis as the facility is phased down.

The notice came one week before the start of a complicated public corruption case in relation to House Bill 6, with co-defendants Larry Householder, the former Ohio House speaker, and Matt Borges, the former Ohio Republican Party chairman, pleading not guilty to federal racketeering charges.

Householder is accused of orchestrating a criminal pay-to-play scheme to win back control of the Ohio House of Representatives, pass a $1.3 billion bailout for two nuclear plants and defend that law against a ballot initiative to kill it.

Federal prosecutors must prove that Householder traded legislation − a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants on Ohioans' electric bills − for nearly $61 million in campaign cash. Householder says he did nothing wrong.

Borges is accused of playing a key role in that effort to overturn the law, called House Bill 6, and bribing a ballot initiative operative for insider information.

In 2018, FirstEnergy announced plans to close its two nuclear power plants − Davis-Besse in Ottawa County and Perry in Lake County. Meanwhile, company officials were working on solutions to keep the plants open at the state and federal level.

As part of that push, FirstEnergy and its allies used nonprofits known as dark money groups to funnel contributions to Householder to conceal the scope of their donations.

FirstEnergy later admitted it bribed Householder and Gov. Mike DeWine appointee Sam Randazzo, who led the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The company agreed to a $230 million fine and to cooperate with a larger federal investigation. Randazzo has not been charged with any crime and Householder has pleaded not guilty.

In 2022, Energy Harbor said it planned to shut down or sell the remaining three units at the Sammis plant, in June 2023, five years earlier than it said previously.

"Over the past two years, it has been made abundantly clear to us that our customers, communities, and capital markets partners recognize the value of partnering with Energy Harbor as we help transform clean energy supply," John Judge, Energy Harbor's president and CEO, said in a statement at the time.

In 2018, FirstEnergy Solutions, the name of the company at the time, said it would shut down the plant in 2022. It reversed the decision a year later just as state lawmakers passed House Bill 6, the legislation that bailed out Ohio's nuclear plants by adding a fee to the monthly electric bill that consumers pay.

Four other units at the plant closed in 2020.

The legislation didn't directly provide aid to the plant, but Energy Harbor said at the time that the bailout would improve its finances enough that it could keep the Sammis plant open.

The legislature later repealed the fee.


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