One of Sherrod Brown’s top campaign contributors partnered in a joint venture converting waste to electrical power — a venture which received millions of stimulus funds and a sweetheart deal with the government. This sweetheart deal fleeced millions of public utility customers while benefiting shareholders of one of the nation’s wealthiest real estate companies.
Over the course of Sherrod Brown’s career in Congress, Forest City Enterprises ranks second place in total affiliated contributions to Brown. These donations total more than $118,000. Forest City Enterprises is a premier real estate company based in Cleveland with $10.7 billion in assets spread across locales such as New York City, Cleveland, and Los Angeles. Not content to earn a profit solely from transactions in a competitive market place, the real estate firm seems to have broadened its portfolio to include projects reliant on the generous hand of the government.
Forest City Enterprises and Quasar Energy Group recently celebrated the grand opening of a 1.3-Megawatt waste-to-energy system in Cleveland that “recycles organic waste residuals from local businesses and produces electricity that will be sold to Cleveland Public Power.” In this joint venture, Forest City Enterprises supplied the land and Quasar Energy Group supplied the technology. On its face, this sounds like a fantastic culmination of a business partnership. As it turns out, there’s more to the story.
In a state with an abundant supply of natural gas and coal, energy derived from “organic waste residuals” isn’t anything close to cost competitive with these other resources. Of course, Forest City is no stranger to siphoning off federal money for projects. The firm sought more than $1.5 billion in direct and indirect taxpayer funds for its Atlantic Yards project. This project is no different.
The Cleveland facility was one of 11 waste-to-energy plans in Ohio to share a total of $10 million in federal stimulus grants. Considering the abject failure of the Obama administration’s green energy funds recipients, these awards to bio-energy electricity projects are troubling enough on their own. However, there is more to the story. Cleveland Public Power entered a ten-year contract with the joint venture to purchase the electricity produced by the facility at seven cents per kW-hour.
Cleveland Public Power (CPP) is the largest municipally-owned electric utility in the state of Ohio. At its founding in 1903, Reformist Cleveland mayor stated CPP’s mission was to “give to the people in their homes and places of business the benefit of electric power at the minimum of cost…” This agreement does anything but fulfill CPP’s mission.
Consider that CPP actually takes a loss on the energy purchased from the stimulus-funded joint venture. For many residential customers, CPP only charges a yearly average of approximately 6.3 cents per Kw hour and for many industrial customers pay less than 2.0 cents per kW. Paying an exorbitant 7.0 cents per Kw hour to the Forest City-Quasar joint venture forces rates to increase on consumers to compensate.
Just how uncompetitive is the joint venture electricity compared to other sources? According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), costs for nuclear energy production from competing sources of energy range from only 2.19 cents per kWh to 4.51 cents per kWh. Yet, CPP agreed to pay a whopping seven cents per kWh for energy produced from waste!
Senator Sherrod Brown claims to fight for manufacturing jobs in Ohio. Yet he voted for a stimulus bill which resulted in inordinate sums of taxpayer dollars going to one of his top campaign contributors. This contributor, Forest Enterprises, reached an agreement with the CPP to purchase its energy at a rate far in excess of the market rate for competing sources of energy. This can only serve to adversely affect the very manufacturing sector Sherrod Brown claims to support by making energy costs in Ohio less competitive. Did the large contributions from those affiliated with Forest Enterprises influence the awarding of stimulus funds to their pet project? Did these large contributions curry favor with the CPP? Ohio voters deserve an answer from Senator Brown. He should make public whether he approves of this mismanagement of taxpayer resources in purchasing overpriced energy from this leading campaign contributor.