FirstEnergy hires top-earning K Street firm

Source: Dylan Brown, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, April 20, 2018

FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. hired K Street’s top lobbying firm days before declaring bankruptcy.

The FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary overseeing the utility’s unregulated power plants filed for Chapter 11 protections April 1.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP started work for FirstEnergy Solutions on March 28, according to a lobbying registration released today.

FirstEnergy has pulled out all the stops to have the Trump administration or Congress step in to avoid the closure of a number of coal and nuclear plants.

Last year, the utility spent $2.2 million on influencing policymakers in the nation’s capital, up nearly $400,000 from 2016.

So far, none of the strategies has produced results. FirstEnergy, however, along with its largest coal supplier, Murray Energy Corp., have backed the Trump administration to invoke its emergency authority under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act and a proposed rulemaking to subsidize fuel storage at coal and nuclear power facilities.

Akin Gump’s team working for FirstEnergy will include Jamie Tucker, former legal counsel to then-Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.); Geoff Verhoff, a former Senate Finance Committee staffer; Sam Olswanger, a former Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) staffer; Hank Terhune; and Sean D’Arcy.

Akin Gump was the top-earning lobby firm on K Street last year. The firm earned about $39 million in lobbying fees in 2017, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group.

FirstEnergy has several other lobby firms working on its behalf, including Van Scoyoc Associates, Holland & Knight LLP, National Environmental Strategies and Miller Strategies LLC, helmed by Jeff Miller, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s former campaign manager. FirstEnergy also has its own in-house lobbying team.

Reporter Kevin Bogardus contributed.