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Republicans And Democrats Clash Over How To Repeal Nuclear Bailout

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) speaks to reporters on September 1, 2020.
Karen Kasler
Ohio Public Radio
Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) speaks to reporters on September 1, 2020.

At the Statehouse on Tuesday, both the Ohio House and Senate addressed the potential repeal of the controversial nuclear power plant bailout. As Democrats call for a quick repeal, Republicans moved ahead with a different approach.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) says a special committee will hold hearings on HB6, the law that bails out nuclear power plants, subsidizes coal plants, rolls back renewable energy standards and eliminates efficiency mandates.

Cupp says there's a lot of unwinding the House must do to understand the impacts of a repeal.

"And to do something in a hasty and reckless manner is totally inappropriate," Cupp says.

But Minority Leader Emilia Sykes says Democrats have asked for hearings on repeal bills that haven’t moved – so they’ll take other steps to, in her words, press the issue.

“We’ve asked, we’ve waited, our constituents have waited, they deserve to feel trust in the institution that is making the laws and holds the purse in the state of Ohio," Sykes said. "And when they don’t do that, we will have to find ways to act."

Part of the debate over a repeal is the impact it could have on electric bills. Nearly every Ohioan is set to see an increase of about $2.35 on their monthly electric bills for the nuclear power plant bailout, and to subsidize existing solar farms and coal plants.

Supporters of HB6 say a repeal would allow the continuation of increased charges customers see for the renewable and energy efficiency standards. Opponents of HB6 say the energy efficiency standards creates a return on investment with savings that counter the initial cost.

The Senate held its first hearing on a repeal bill, with several members who voted for the energy law defending it as good policy.

Federal investigators charge that HB6 was at the center of a $60 million bribery scheme. A utility believed to be FirstEnergy and its subsidiary is accused of funneling the money into a dark money group controlled by former House Speaker and current Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford), in return for passing the bailout. Householder, who faces federal racketeering charges, says he plans on entering a plea of "not guilty."

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.