With Ohio bailout law secured, FirstEnergy Solutions successor moves to increase share buybacks by $300 million
COLUMBUS -- "Leaders of a former FirstEnergy subsidiary, which Ohio electricity customers will soon begin paying $150 million annually to subsidize under a nuclear bailout law Ohio officials passed last year, have moved to spend an extra $300 million on repurchasing the company’s own stock.
The stock buybacks, meant to benefit corporate shareholders, come less than a year after an aggressive multi-year lobbying effort by FirstEnergy that culminated in Gov. Mike DeWine and state lawmakers approving $1 billion in bailout money funded by surcharges on Ohioans’ electric bills. The company and elected officials who backed the bailout argued without state money, the power plants and their parent company would become insolvent.
The board of directors for the company now known as Energy Harbor on Friday voted to increase authorization for its stock buyback program from $500 million to $800 million, according to an investor presentation the company posted to its website. Energy Harbor can buy back the stock any time until Aug. 27., under the terms of a company plan, approved as the Akron company spun off from FirstEnergy as it emerged from bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year."
-- Andrew Tobias, cleveland.com
"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