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HB6 Supporters Rally Behind Bailout Delay, Pointing To New Auditing Measures

In this May 20, 2005, file photo, plumes of steam drift from a cooling tower of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant along Lake Erie in North Perry, Ohio.
Mark Duncan
Associated Press

Ohio lawmakers are still puzzling over what, if anything, to do with the nuclear power plant bailout tied to an alleged $60 million racketeering scheme. The legislature has until the end of the month to make a change before ratepayers see new charges on their electric bills.

Despite the bribery allegations, several Republican legislators believe the energy law is still what's right for Ohio. State Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) says keeping the nuclear plants means saving jobs and retaining clean burning energy.

"It provides 90% of Ohio's carbon free energy generation in this state and 15% of its base load," Stein said. "Those are all policy reasons why I felt, and I think other members felt, HB6 was an advantage."

That's why Stein supports a new bill in the Ohio House, HB798, that delays the bailout rather than repealing it entirely. Stein says the bill gets rid of measures that would financially benefit FirstEnergy, such as the decoupling provision, and attaches additional auditing requirements.

"To assure the public that we're taking and doing our due diligence to make sure that the funding that we're offering to what is now Energy Harbor is appropriate," Stein.

Ohio's two nuclear plants are owned by Energy Harbor, a former subsidiary of FirstEnergy known as FirstEnergy Solutions.

Federal investigators say that HB6 is linked to an alleged quid-pro-quo between a company believed to be FirstEnergy and former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford). The conspiracy allegedly channeled funds through a dark money group in order to benefit Householder and his associates, in exchange for passing the nuclear bailout and defending it from a voter referendum.

Democrats, environmental groups and consumer advocates have called for HB6 to be repealed since Householder and four others were arrested this summer.

Stein, who did not support Householder for speaker, says the policy remains sound despite the process.

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.