DeWine signs energy bailout bill

Two of Ohio Valley Electric Corp.'s coal plants will receive subsidies under House Bill 6. (William Alden/Flickr)

COLUMBUS — "Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 6 on Tuesday, just hours after it was passed by the Legislature. The law imposes an energy tax on electric customers to subsidize First Energy's two northern Ohio nuclear plants, as well as Ohio Valley Electric Corp.'s Kyger Creek coal plant in Ohio and the Clifty Creek coal plant in Indiana.

Richard Hill of Madison, Ind., has lived near Clifty Creek for most of his life and said he believes it's wasteful to bail out aging coal plants when their pollution threatens communities. 

'They're trying to force ratepayers to pay for something that's not economical and not clean,' he said, 'and there are definitely better alternatives that they should be exploring.'

Hill said other utility companies are moving away from coal and investing in renewable sources such as wind and solar. HB 6 also ends the state's renewable-energy and energy-efficiency programs, but provides some funds for solar and wind power.

Supporters have claimed the law will save Ohio about $640 million and incentivize renewable energy. Backers of the bill also have predicted that without the subsidies, more than 4,000 jobs would be put at risk. However, Hill noted that the OVEC coal plants have been around since the 1950s. 

'It is a pretty major employer' he said, 'but it's been there so long that surely the company and even the local workers would have to assume that, at some point, it's going to outlive its usefulness, which it has.'"

— Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service 

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Ohio Gov. DeWine signs bill to bail out nuclear plants, slash renewable energy

COLUMBUS — "Ohio lawmakers pitched the legislation as a cost-saver for ratepayers, saying they offset the new fee with cuts to incentives for renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and the elimination of fees used to push companies becoming more energy efficient in making and delivering energy by 2020.

Lawmakers in the Ohio House of Representatives sent the bill to DeWine Tuesday afternoon with a narrow, 51-38 vote. The governor signed it shortly after.

'Our goal all along has been to save the nuclear plants, save the jobs but also to keep the cost of energy down for the ratepayer,' DeWine told reporters Thursday. 'I think House Bill 6 does that.'

The bill passed less than a week after House Speaker Larry Householder said he didn't have enough support present to pass the legislation. On Monday, House leadership even asked to borrow a state-owned plane to fly lawmakers back from a Chicago conference for the vote. That plan was later ditched, according to a Dayton Daily News report."

— Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

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Nuclear subsidy opponents already working to hold referendum on Ohio House Bill 6

COLUMBUS — "To put the measure on the ballot, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts needs to collect an initial 1,000 petition signatures from registered Ohio voters within 90 days of the bill’s signing, as well as get the go-ahead from the secretary of state, attorney general, and the Ohio Ballot Board. If the group clears those hurdles, it would then need to collect an additional 265,774 petition signatures to put HB6 up for a vote.

Even if all that happens, HB6 opponents would need to raise millions of dollars to win against the bill’s well-funded backers -- such as Generation Now, a nonprofit that has spent more than $9.5 million to date on TV and radio ads in support of the legislation, according to political ad tracker Medium Buying. Generation Now’s business address is a house owned by a political adviser to Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

The legislation, introduced in April, offers a $150 million-per-year bailout to Ohio’s two nuclear power plants, owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. The bill also eviscerates the state’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards for utilities (which ratepayers currently pay a surcharge to fund), creates publicly funded subsidies to the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation to shore up its coal-fired power plants in Ohio and Indiana, and gives $20 million per year to six solar plant projects."

— Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com

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Ohio's nuke and coal subsidies will likely be challenged at the ballot

"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

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Ohio Governor signs nuclear and coal bailout at expense of clean energy

Perry Nuclear Power Plant

 

'"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

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Ohio Gov DeWine signs controversial nuke subsidy bill

"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 

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Lawmakers missed FirstEnergy Solutions' deadline to subsidize nuclear: Now what?

"'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

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Rachael Belz Testimony on Substitute House Bill 6

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

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Statement in Response Ohio House Passage of Substitute House Bill 6

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


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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