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Ohio Senate Eliminates Subsidies From Nuclear Bailout Law

This Oct. 5, 2011 file photo shows the cooling tower of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio.
Amy Sanceta
Associated Press
This Oct. 5, 2011 file photo shows the cooling tower of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Ohio Senators have unanimously approved a bill that strips out a key provision of HB6, the sweeping energy law that’s at the center of a federal corruption scandal.

The bill from two Republican state senators, SB44, erases the $1 billion in fees over the next decade that all Ohio electric ratepayers would pay to subsidize the state's two nuclear power plants.

Two court orders have put collection of those fees on hold. However, state Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) said in debate on the House floor that recent federal actions on nuclear power mean the plants are unlikely to be shut down, sparing their employees and their communities.

“We are now confident these goals will be protected going forward with the added benefit of a reduction in rate for homeowners and businesses around the state of Ohio," Rulli said.

The plants’ owner Energy Harbor – a former subsidiary of FirstEnergy – is out of bankruptcy and says it’s strong enough not to need the subsidies.

SB44 does keep the energy law's $20 million in subsidies to solar projects.

House Bill 6 created $150 million in annual subsidies for the Davis-Besse and Perry power plants by instituting an $0.85 charge on monthly electric bills. It also permitted utilities to charge ratepayers up to $1.50 a month to subsidize the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation’s two struggling coal plants, both built in the 1950s – one in southeast Ohio, the other in Indiana.

It also gutted Ohio's mandate that utilities get 12.5% of their power from renewable resources by 2025. And it ended required energy efficiency programs run by utilities, which supporters say saved ratepayers $5 billion over the last 10 years.

Federal prosecutors say House Bill 6 is the centerpiece of a $60 million pay-to-play scheme involving Republican former speaker Larry Householder, four other people, a dark money group and a utility widely believed to be FirstEnergy. Two individuals and the organization Generation Now have pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, admitting they participated in a conspiracy at Householder's direction that helped him get elected House Speaker in exchange for passing an energy law favorable to FirstEnergy.

Householder pleaded not guilty to the charges and was re-elected to the Ohio House in November.