July 24, 2020 / 2:50 PM / 18 days ago

UPDATE 2-FirstEnergy CEO defends company's actions in Ohio nuclear bailout bill

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WASHINGTON, July 24 (Reuters) - The chief executive of FirstEnergy on Friday defended his company’s support of an Ohio bill passed last year to bail out two nuclear power plants, legislation at the center of a federal bribery investigation.

“I believe that FirstEnergy acted properly in this matter and we intend to cooperate fully with the investigation to, among other things, ensure our company and our role in supporting (the bill) is understood as accurately as possible,” Charles Jones, the chief executive told a quarterly earnings call.

A U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio said on Tuesday that a company, without identifying it, gave $60 million to Generation Now, a political nonprofit operated by Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four other men tied to state politics. Those funds were used for lobbying that secured passage of the $1.5 billion bill last year, the federal prosecutor said.

FirstEnergy shares dropped 35% this week after analysts linked the utility holding company to allegations of bribery in the scandal following the arrest of Householder by the FBI.

Householder and four others were accused of taking $60 million to pass the bill that provided taxpayer money to bail out the state’s two nuclear power plants, which were owned by a unit of FirstEnergy.

FirstEnergy had said that without some form of subsidy it would have to shut the reactors.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, reversed course on Thursday and called on the state’s legislature to repeal and replace the bill, which also slashed renewable power standards. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner; additional reporting by Scott Disavino in New York, editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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