"If opponents successfully place the issue on the November 2020 ballot, political consultants are expecting an expensive advertising campaign that could dwarf the approximately $15 million total spent by campaigns on both sides of the issue aimed at voter awareness of the position of their representatives and senators.
The long-rumored referendum petition appears to have been anticipated by the GOP majority, which pushed for passage of HB 6.
Approved Tuesday in the GOP dominated Ohio House by a 51 to 38 vote, mostly along partisan lines, the measure would provide FirstEnergy Solutions, owner of two Ohio nuclear plants, with about $1.1 billion through 2027, rather than through 2026 as originally planned.
The extra year means the company would not lose a year of payments if the law does not go into effect until November 2020, provided that voters reject the potential ballot initiative."
— John Funk, Utility Dive
'"We are bailing out a corporation, a failing corporation,' while harming the growing wind and solar industries, said Rep. Casey Weinstein, a Democrat.
He said the legislation would steer solar and wind investment away from Ohio and toward neighboring states such as Michigan. Other states, including South Carolina and Georgia, are being much more forward thinking about renewable energy, he said.
The Ohio Senate passed the bill 19-12 last week, but the House put off its vote until Tuesday because several lawmakers were absent and the bill would not have passed without them.
DeWine's office went so far as to approve the use of state aircraft to pick up two lawmakers from a conference in Chicago so they would be in Columbus for the Tuesday vote, though that flight plan was eventually canceled when the lawmakers determined they could drive back."
— Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News
"The Nature Conservancy said Ohio lawmakers missed an opportunity to develop a comprehensive energy policy.
'HB 6 is a step back from what we have currently in statute for the clean energy standards. This is not a comprehensive energy bill. Instead, this bill compromises successful policies that have supported renewable energy and energy efficiency to provide a legislative vehicle for a nuclear and coal bailout,' the group said in a statement.
Nuclear advocates cheered the bill's passage.
'Today's decision echoes support we've seen in New Jersey, New York, Illinois and Connecticut and reaffirms the major role nuclear carbon free energy has in lowering carbon emissions,' Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said in a statement.
The Ohio Consumers' Counsel and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association urged the governor for a veto, condemning the measure in a joint statement as 'the latest and maybe the worst of the retreats from competitive markets undertaken by the Ohio legislature' in the 20 years since the state embarked on deregulation.
Other groups that opposed the bill continue to look for ways to reverse the governor's action.
'We are open to all options, including a voter referendum, to kill this costly bailout bill and get Ohio back on track as a clean energy leader,' Dick Munson, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, told Utility Dive via email."
— John Funk, Utility Dive
"'In a written statement, FirstEnergy Solutions said it’s still optimistic about the nuclear subsidies bill passing, and if it does it will reevaluate their options. The statement goes on to say that the company remains committed to the process, which results in an 'increased financial burden associated with missing the June 30 fuel purchasing deadline.'"
Tracy Sabetta, a consultant for the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, has her own take on this statement.
'So the deadline was important but they will still happily take the money from consumers as long as the Legislature passes something soon,' says Sabetta.
Her group is against the bill and says it’s important for the Senate to take more time to look over the possible changes, given there are 50 proposed amendments.
'So I applaud the Senate for taking that step back and looking for ways to make this bill better rather than just catering to the deadline set by the corporation that stands to benefit the most from the legislation,' Sabetta says.
The House and Senate held sessions over the weekend, a rare move in the Legislature, to try to hash out a budget compromise. At the same time, the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee was holding hearings on the energy bill."
- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau
COLUMBUS -- "Our members remain staunchly opposed to rewarding FirstEnergy Solutions’ bad business decisions by allowing them to dig deep into the pockets of Ohio ratepayers to cover the bill. We appreciate the additional audit provisions included in this version, and we would love to take a look at those books when they become available, but that in no way makes this a palatable bill for our members.
Further, this is a huge change to energy policy for the state of Ohio. There is a rush to pass this legislation before a deadline date that was set by the corporation who stands to benefit the most from these changes. This deadline is just a few days away, and the legislation includes significant changes to energy efficiency, renewable energy and PUCO involvement. There is so much potential for a strong, comprehensive statewide policy that truly embraces energy innovation, saves consumers money, and reduces harmful emissions. Pushing this bill through when so many questions still remain and so many opportunities are ignored sells this state short and tells our members that Ohio really is not ready to embrace a clean energy future. Rather our leaders are just ready to support a corporate bailout."
- Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance
COLUMBUS -- "Today, members of the House of Representatives delivered a slap in the face to electric consumers in every corner of Ohio. The passage of a consumer-funded bailout of nuclear and coal plants in Ohio while gutting the state’s renewable energy and efficiency standards demonstrates that those voting for the bill are tone deaf to the needs and preferences of Ohio consumers.
Turning a cold shoulder to energy innovation and potential job growth only guarantees that Ohio will fall to the end of the line for clean energy development projects and efficiency savings in the Midwest.
Supporters of HB 6 threw millions of dollars into a media and lobbying campaign that confused Ohio consumers, but got them exactly what they wanted. In the end, lawmakers rewarded their bad business decisions by allowing them to dig deep into the pockets of Ohio ratepayers to cover the bill. We are deeply disappointed in our leaders for continuing to reject new technology and job growth while keeping Ohio firmly entrenched in the status quo. It is bad for consumers, and bad for Ohio."
-- Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance
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
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."
— Laura A. Bischoff, Dayton Daily News
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
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