Column: Statehouse full steam ahead on nuclear plants’ bailout

COLUMBUS -- "Say this much for the proposed bailout by Ohioans of FirstEnergy Solutions’ two Ohio nuclear power plants: The debate shows who really has power at the Statehouse.

Shameless as plant-closing General Motors’ CEO Mary T. Barra is (amid layoffs, her total 2018 compensation was $21.7 million) can anyone imagine Barra asking the Republicans who run Ohio’s General Assembly to boost the sticker price of every car sold in Ohio to save GM’s Lordstown plant?

That’s not far from what House Bill 6, the proposed nuclear bailout, would do to the checkbook of an Ohioan who pays an electric bill, whether to DP&L, FirstEnergy, AEP or Duke. The Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants, built by what’s now FirstEnergy, can’t produce power as cheaply as ever-more-plentiful natural gas. Without customer subsidies, Perry and Davis-Besse will shut down. Something like St. Paul on the road to Damascus, Ohio’s GOP-run House has suddenly become a convert to clean air."

-- opinion,Thomas Suddes, Columbus Dispatch

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Battle over energy bill includes $2.4M in ads to sway public

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, unveiled House Bill 6 on April 12. Since then, it’s led to an all-out battle: 142 witnesses testified, more than $3-million spent on TV and radio ads to sway public opinion, and a dramatic walk-out by Democratic lawmakers from a hearing they said was unfair.

But a long line of opponents have given testimony.

Environmentalists don’t like that the bill seeks to wipe out renewable energy standards and energy efficiency programs that have been in place for a decade. And they aren’t happy that coal-burning plants could qualify for ‘clean energy’ grants.

Free market think tanks such as Americans for Prosperity and Buckeye Institute don’t like that the bill would allow the government to pick winners and losers – doling out grants to help some companies, rather than letting market forces do the work.

Natural gas industry interests don’t like that it would bail out nuclear energy – its competition in electricity generation.

Some manufacturers don’t like the surcharges, the anti-competitive approach or the overall uncertainty of what the bill may bring."


IEEFA update: Bailing out Ohio’s nuclear and coal plants unnecessary for supply or rate stability

CLEVELAND – "A bill before the Ohio General Assembly (HB 6), aimed at rescuing FirstEnergy Solutions’ economically uncompetitive aging nuclear and coal-fired power plants is misguided, according to a briefing note released by the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

The briefing note: Bailout Bill a Bonanza for FirstEnergy Solutions, may end up costing Ohio consumers and businesses more than $300 million per year 'in perpetuity,' according to IEEFA.

'Proponents of this ill-advised bill are using misleading arguments to warn about nonexistent dangers to the electricity supply and rising energy costs,' said IEEFA director of resource planning analysis and author of the briefing note David Schlissel. 'The data shows, to the contrary, that Ohio has ample energy supply and that retiring the plants in question would in no way undermine the reliability of the system or raise costs.'"

-- David Schlissel, IEEFA’s director of resource planning analysis

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Rachael Belz testimony on HB 6 to the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, May 8, 2019

COLUMBUS -- "While there have been some changes to the bill, the focus of the legislation remains the same—utilizing a creative approach to disguise a consumer-funded bailout of two old, outdated nuclear plants as a comprehensive energy policy to reduce carbon emissions. Every ratepayer in Ohio would be charged a monthly fee to subsidize FirstEnergy’s failing investments.

At the same time, however, the bill sets limits, exemptions, and restrictions for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs that make it nearly impossible for real participation in the Ohio Clean Air Program. If that were not enough of a disincentive for clean energy development in Ohio, the legislation effectively repeals the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, tying the hands of new technology companies that are creating jobs and saving consumers money. If consumers wish to continue their participation in these programs, they would have to opt-in to those efforts. They will now pay to support the clean energy standards they believe in and the monthly charge to bailout the state’s nuclear power plants, serving up a double whammy to those consumers who truly want clean air and clean energy in Ohio.

As we all know, the cheapest form of energy is the energy we never use, which is the beauty of energy efficiency. Energy efficiency has not run its course in Ohio. According to the 2019 Midwest Clean Energy Jobs report, 81, 676 Ohioans are employed in the energy efficiency sector, an increase of 2.5 percent over 2018, making it the largest sector of clean energy jobs in the state. Turning our backs on energy efficiency means consumer bills will increase—period."

-- Rachael Belz, Project Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance

read full testimony

 


Big money pushes for energy bill; consumer groups oppose it

COLUMBUS — "The push to bailout Ohio’s aging nuclear energy plants is taking to the airwaves with TV and radio spots running across the state and in neighboring Kentucky and West Virginia.

Generation Now, a secretive political money group, is bankrolling the ad campaign, Federal Elections Commission records show. And the buys – more than $225,000 — are being made by Strategic Media Placement, a Delaware County firm run by GOP operative Rex Elsass.

It’s the latest strategic move by the nuclear energy industry, which has forcefully supported House Bill 6. The pending legislation would eliminate existing renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates and surcharges and replace them with new fees applied to 4.8 million electricity customer bills across Ohio. The money would be used for a new grant program that would dish out $9.25 for each megawatt of carbon-free energy generated.

The bill is pending in the Ohio House.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Consumer Power Alliance, which opposes the bill, launched a radio ad campaign targeted in the legislative districts of six key lawmakers, including Republicans Nino Vitale of Urbana and Niraj Antani of Miamisburg." —Laura A. Bischoff, Dayton Daily News


Ohio Consumers Power Alliance launches new series of ads amid House Bill 6 testimony

The following statement can be attributed to Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance.

Starting today, residents in many areas of Ohio will begin hearing radio ads targeted at members of the Ohio House of Representatives ahead of House Bill 6 testimony. The radio ads will run in the following districts:

  • Representative Nino Vitale (District 85 – Logan, Champaign, part of Shelby)
  • Representative Niraj Antani (District 42—Miamisburg)
  • Representative Bill Reineke (District 88—Tiffin)
  • Representative Derek Merrin (District 47—Monclova Township)
  • Representative Craig Riedel (District 82—Defiance)
  • Representative Tom Brinkman (District 27—Mt. Lookout)

The ads are paid for by the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, a project of the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund, and will focus on House Bill 6 being a nuclear power plant bailout tax. The legislation is a creative approach used to disguise a consumer-funded bailout of two old, outdated nuclear plants as a comprehensive energy policy to reduce carbon emissions. Every ratepayer in Ohio would be charged a monthly fee to subsidize FirstEnergy’s failing investments.

Calling House Bill 6 a clean air program that will save consumers money is disingenuous and dishonest. This bill is designed for one purpose – to bailout bankrupt FirstEnergy. House Bill 6 will actually cost hardworking Ohio families an additional $6.11 per month since it removes energy efficiency savings.

It is clear that state legislators are misleading Ohio consumers. Energy efficiency saves customers money. For every $1 spent on energy efficiency measures, $2.65 in savings results. In fact, programs under Ohio’s existing energy efficiency standards have already saved Ohioans $5.1 billion. This critical fact has been completely ignored by supporters of the legislation, demonstrating again that elected officials are not telling consumers the whole story.  The real cost of House Bill 6 is $312 million annually, and families will see $6.11 MORE in charges on their monthly utility bills.

House Bill 6 remains a contested bill and hearings will continue in the Ohio House on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Consumers deserve to know what is at stake for their families. Legislators need to look at the numbers and tell the entire story. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Tracy Sabetta | 614-581-2907 | tracy@ohioconsumerspoweralliance.com


Conservatives criticize FirstEnergy nuclear bailout bill as ‘corporate welfare’

FirstEnergy's Davis Besse nuclear plant at Oak Harbor, Ohio. PHOTO BY AlienCG / Creative Commons

COLUMBUS -- "Ohio Republicans pushing a bill to subsidize two nuclear plants are finding themselves at odds with conservative groups in the state.

...Both the Buckeye Institute and Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio chapter were among dozens of parties who offered testimony to the committee late last month along with clean energy groups, consumer advocates and other opponents.

'[I]n the plain-spoken language most Ohioans prefer to use, HB 6 is corporate welfare,' said Micah Derry, Ohio state director of Americans for Prosperity. 'It is cronyism on full display; in other words, a bailout.'

Likewise, research fellow Greg Lawson of the Buckeye Institute called HB 6’s provisions 'classic examples of government subsidies being used to prop up declining businesses — the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants operated by FirstEnergy Solutions. 'And while there would be some funds that could be drawn upon by other entities, those monies risk 'becoming a glorified slush fund with the real incentive being for companies to find new and creative ways to tap into that fund,' rather than risking their own capital, he added."

-- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Midwest Energy News

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Proposed Ohio ‘clean energy’ bill could disproportionately harm some small businesses

Berea Manufacturing owner Mike Pandoli sits in his office on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland.com)

BEREA — "If passed, a controversial energy bill under debate by Ohio lawmakers could cause a small Cleveland-area welding shop’s electric bill — and possibly those of other businesses like it — to more than double.

Berea Manufacturing, which employs eight people in an industrial park not far from Baldwin Wallace University, under House Bill 6 could see its monthly electric bill go up from around $800 a month to around $1,800 a month, according to an analysis from experts contacted by cleveland.com.

...Because of how HB 6 is written, other similar small companies could be disproportionately impacted if they, like Berea Manufacturing:

  • Are an industrial business with multiple electric meters, despite being just one company and
  • Have relatively low electricity use

Here’s why.

HB 6, which lawmakers designed to bail out two financially troubled Ohio nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt former FirstEnergy subsidiary, would assess varying charges on each electric customer in the state to help subsidize “clean energy” generators. The new charges are expected to raise $150 million for the two nuclear plants, in Ottawa and Lake counties.

The bill would offset the new charges by eliminating existing charges that fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects."

— Andrew Tobias, Cleveland.com

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Ohio House panel slows nuclear 'bailout' plan

COLUMBUS — New subsidies to reward the generation of power that emits no or less carbon into the air would be implemented more slowly under a bill approved Thursday by a Ohio House of Representatives subcommittee.

But while it might take a bit longer getting there, critics argue the bill still represents a consumer bailout for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants on the shore of Lake Erie.

...The bill would generally get rid of Ohio’s current mandates that utilities find more of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, and gradually reduce electricity consumption overall through efficiency programs.

It would replace those programs with credits for the generation of zero-emissions power, such as nuclear and renewable sources, and existing polluting sources like coal and natural gas that show they are reducing their carbon dioxide emissions."

— Jim Provance, Toledo Blade

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Ohio Citizen Action calls for the removal of Rep Nino Vitale as Chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Citizen Action is calling on Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to remove Nino Vitale as chair of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee for advocating the removal of subsidies that help poorer Ohioans become more energy-efficient.

Excerpt:

"As an organization with a strong commitment to helping all consumers see the benefits of clean, renewable and energy efficiency efforts and affordable utility bills, we find Vitale’s comments are imprudent, inappropriate, narrow-minded and discriminatory.

…We find it reprehensible that an Ohio lawmaker would prefer to subsidize a bankrupt energy giant, rather than assist low-income Ohioans with programs that would keep them warm and ultimately help save money. Yet, House Bill 6 would require those same low-income consumers to pay to bailout FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants. Vitale’s stance fails to put the needs of his constituents first. It fails to think of those in need. It fails to see the big picture or listen to logic. Ironically, 11.1 percent of residents in Champaign county live in poverty as do 13.7 percent of Logan residents and 8.9 percent of Shelby residents – all Vitale’s constituents.

Vitale is entitled to his own beliefs and bias towards poor Ohioans, but he has revealed his one-sided goal to benefit Wall Street investors – not hardworking Ohioans. Someone so blatantly opposed to helping low-income Ohioans is unfit to lead the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Mr. Speaker, we hope you agree that by his actions, Rep. Vitale is unfit to lead as Chairman. ”

— Rachael Belz, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Larry Householder, Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives

read the full letter (pdf)