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Nuclear Bailout Repeal Sparks Debate Over Electric Bill Costs

The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie.
Ron Schwane
Associated Press
The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie.

The Ohio House will begin to hold hearings on a possible repeal of a sweeping energy law that bailed out two nuclear power plants, among several other things. Supporters and opponents of the law, which is now at the center of a federal bribery investigation, are fighting over what the final cost would be on electric bills.

On Thursday, the newly formed House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight will convene to hear a Republican-backed proposal on how to repeal HB6 and revive the law it replaced. It will include sponsor testimony for HB746, which was introduced by GOP Reps. Laura Lanese and Mark Romanchuk soon after the arrest of former House Speaker Larry Householder.

Under HB6, ratepayers will see new monthly charges of up to about $2.35 to pay for the nuclear, coal and solar subsidies. But supporters say electric bills will ultimately be lower due to the roll back of clean energy standards.

Opponents of HB6, including Trish Demeter with the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, counter that claim by arguing that the energy efficiency standards ended up saving ratepayers an average of $7 a month, with an average net benefit of about $4.

"The numbers that are being presented by HB6 supporters ignores the savings that are being enjoyed by Ohioans as a result of successful energy efficiency programs that were gutted in HB6," Demeter says.

Chris Neme, principal of the Energy Futures Group, explains that the energy efficiency programs are required by law to be cost effective. Before a utility attaches an increased charge on electric bills for efficiency programs, it must be approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

"The programs are required to be cost effective, so if in fact you actually do reach a tipping point where you can't get savings that are worth more than the cost of the programs, the programs will be rejected by the commission," Neme says.

The House and Senate are currently holding hearings to repeal HB6, which federal investigators say was the subject of a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly led by the former House Speaker. Householder and four associates have all pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges.

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.