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Bill To Subsidize Nuclear, Cut Renewable Energy Standards Clears House

The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie.
Ron Schwane
Associated Press
The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie is scheduled to shut down in 2020.

The Ohio House passed a sweeping energy bill, HB6, that would bail out the state’s two nuclear power plants and wipe out green energy standards, with the help of Democratic support.

The bill passed by a vote of 53-43. Ten Democrats voted for the bill while 17 Republicans voted against the measure.

The bill would add a $1 fee to residential ratepayers' monthly electric bill, generating about $190 million for the Ohio Clean Air Program. That pot of money will then be used for "clean air" credits, most of which will go to the state's two nuclear plants, Davis-Besse and Perry, owned by FirstEnergy Solutions.

A late change to the bill allowed certain solar energy projects to also receive those credits. The solar project must already be approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board and generate more than 50 megawatts of power. Five projects match that description.

Democrats argued that the bill is a step backwards in the state's fight against climate change. The renewable energy and energy efficiency standards were approved in 2008 in an attempt to require investment in those energy sources.

Several Republicans against the bill argued that it picked winners and losers in the energy market.

But as House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) argues, there is no free market approach to energy.

“How can you say that when you put subsidies in wind and you put subsidies on solar, you subsidize everything accept certain segments of the marketplace, that that’s a free market?” asks Householder.

FirstEnergy gave more than $150,000 to House Republicans in 2018 leading up to the November election, but Householder denies a connection between the bill and FirstEnergy’s political support

FirstEnergy Solutions is currently filing for bankruptcy and says the nuclear plants will close without legislative relief.

In a statement, FirstEnergy said, "We’re very pleased that HB6 has successfully passed the Ohio House and will be working for a similar result when the State Senate takes up the legislation. This bill provides an effective legislative solution to keep FES’s nuclear power plants open for many years to come, while preserving 4,300 highly-skilled jobs and an important revenue source. Until the Senate vote, FES will continue to engage in a constructive dialogue with legislators about the need to protect 90% of the state’s zero- emissions electricity and provide the majority of Ohioans considerable savings on their electricity bills."

The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate where committee hearings could start in the beginning of June.

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.