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Ohio House Begins Hearings On Nuclear Bailout Repeal Proposal

State Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) during a House session on April 11, 2018.
Ohio House
State Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) says the Ohio nuclear bailout law should be completely repealed.

The Ohio House has started hearings on a potential repeal of HB6, the sweeping energy law that bails out nuclear power plants. A federal investigation alleges the bill is at the center of a large corruption scheme involving then-House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford).

A key argument in the debate to repeal HB6 is whether to wipe out the entire law, or only parts of it.

The $1 billion nuclear power plant bailout is a cornerstone of the bill, but it also subsidizes coal plants and solar farms, while rolling back and eliminating renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates.

State Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) fought against the argument that the bill is still good policy.

"Some will argue that the process not the policy was corrupt," Lanese said. "Even if true, the legislation is so intimately tied to the process that it would take the precision of splitting atoms to separate the two."

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) says there's a lot to unravel with HB6, which is why he called for a special committeeto hold hearings on the issue.

A federal investigation accuses a utility, widely believed to be FirstEnergy and its subsidiary, of funneling more than $60 million into a 501(c)(4) called Generation Now. That group, according to investigators, was controlled by Householder who allegedly used the money for personal and political gain.

Lanese said there are three main reasons why HB6 should be repealed, beginning with the corruption allegations against Householder and other defendants who played a role in lobbying for HB6.

Second, Lanese says the company's $800 million stock buyback earlier this year proves that Energy Harbor (formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions) was not in need of the subsidies created by the bill. Lanese says the third reason to repeal HB6 is because of the provision in the legislation on decoupling, which severs the tie between profits and electricity sales.

Much of the hearing in the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight focused on the fiscal impact a repeal would have on monthly electric bills. Although HB6 creates new charges of up to $2.35 a month for nuclear, solar, and coal subsidies, supporters say it results in a net decrease because of the cuts to clean energy mandates.

Opponents say the energy efficiency standards resulted in a cost benefit, saving customers a net gain of about $4.

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.