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Lawmaker Pursuing Subsidies For Ohio's Nuclear Power Plants

FirstEnergy Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio.
Ron Schwane

State lawmakers are working on a bill that could effectively bailout the state’s two nuclear power plants. A piece of draft legislation would create subsidies, rewarding nuclear for not emitting carbon.

The proposal crafted by state Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) would allow a new charge on electric bills. The unofficial language would cap those new charges per month at $2.50 for residential customers, $20 for commercial users and $250 for industrial users.

Callender’s office reiterates this is only a rough draft, saying there’s already a new rendition of the bill drawn up so details are expected to change.

Nuclear power has been struggling in the energy market against cheaper natural gas and stiff competition from other sources.

FirstEnergy Solutions, which used to be a subsidiary of FirstEnergy and owns Ohio’s two nuclear plants, has filed for bankruptcy but says it’s also pursuing legislative relief.

A federal bankruptcy judge last Thursday rejected the multi-billion dollar bankruptcy plan, intended to avoid paying the cost of cleaning up and decommissioning power plants. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Alan Koschik called the plan "patently unconfirmable."

State and federal regulars argued FirstEnergy is trying to abuse the bankruptcy system to avoid paying costs when it shuts down plants. FirstEnergy Solutions said in a statement it's woring to address the ruling. The company plans by 2021 to decommission three nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania and three coal plants by the end of 2022.

Opponents have suggested a so-called nuclear bailout would undermine renewable energy and efficiency programs.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.