Ohio News Briefs

Utility says power plants will stay open during bankruptcy

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Attorneys for FirstEnergy Solutions say the company’s coal and nuclear power plants will keep producing electricity while the company undergoes reorganization under bankruptcy.

The FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary told a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Akron that it should have enough money to remain operating and pay its employees during the reorganization.

FirstEnergy Solutions said while filing for bankruptcy protection on Saturday that it faces billions of dollars in debt and increasing pressure from natural gas power plants.

The company operates two nuclear plants in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania. It also has coal-fired power plants in both states.

But FirstEnergy Solutions said Tuesday that the long-term future of the plants remains in question.

Last week, the utility said it intends to shut down its nuclear plants within three years.

Police investigate reports of ‘zombie’ raccoons

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — Police are investigating reports of “zombie-like” raccoons in northeast Ohio.

WKBN-TV reports Youngstown police have received more than a dozen calls in the past three weeks about raccoons acting strangely in the daytime.

Photographer Robert Coggeshall says he was playing with his dogs outside his home last week when one such raccoon approached them. Coggeshall says the animal would stand on its hind legs, show its teeth and fall over backward.

The raccoon Coggeshall saw and 14 others police responded to were euthanized.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the animals were likely suffering from distemper, not rabies. The viral disease causes coughing, tremors and seizures and leads raccoons to lose their fear of humans.

Authorities are asking residents to report raccoons behaving unusually to their local police station.

Wind turbine company offers scholarships to STEM students

FINDLAY, Ohio (AP) — A wind turbine company in western Ohio is starting a scholarship program to support STEM students.

WTOL-TV reports the Findlay-based company One Energy Enterprises is giving back to the community through its One Energy Megawatt Scholarship Program. One Energy will offer a $5,000 a year scholarship to a local STEM student for each turbine it builds.

There are almost 20 turbines in the program. The names of students who win the scholarships will be placed on the side of the turbines.

CEO and General Manager Jereme Kent says the scholarship is a way to help and inspire students in the area. Kent says some of the students might even work for One Energy someday.

State targets road as part of anti-distracted driving push

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — The state is increasing enforcement of a stretch of Ohio highway with high numbers of distracted driving violations and crashes.

The Ohio Department of Transportation and the State Highway Patrol says signs will warn drivers about distracted driving along a 17-mile portion of I-76 and I-80 in Mahoning and Trumbull counties in northeastern Ohio.

The section of highway has been designated the state’s first Distracted Driving Safety Corridor.

The patrol says troopers handed out more than 2,700 distracted driving violations in Mahoning and Trumbull counties from January 1, 2016, through February.

The state says distracted drivers have caused nearly 65,000 crashes statewide since 2013. The crashes resulted in 189 deaths and more than 22,000 serious injuries.

Coroner tracks huge spike in Columbus area overdose deaths

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The coroner serving the greater Columbus area says overdose deaths blamed largely on opioids soared again last year.

Franklin County Coroner Dr. Anahi Ortiz said Tuesday that the central Ohio county saw 520 overdose deaths in 2017, a 47 percent increase from the previous year.

Ortiz said abuse of the synthetic painkiller fentanyl is driving the increase, accounting for 67 percent of all overdoses compared to 2016. Fentanyl accounted for 41 percent of overdose deaths that year.

The coroner said victims continue to be mostly white men, though the number of female overdose fatalities is climbing.

The state Health Department says a record 4,050 Ohioans died of overdoses in 2016, with 2017 statewide numbers expected to be much higher.