Politics

Clean Energy Future President Vows H.B. 6 Referendum

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A referendum committee has been formed to overturn legislation signed into law Tuesday that subsidizes two nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions.  

The announcement by Bill Siderewicz, president of Boston-based Clean Energy Future, followed House Bill 6 being signed into law Tuesday afternoon by Gov. Mike DeWine. The bill passed by a 51-38 vote in the Ohio House of Representatives. On July 17, it was approved by a 19-12 vote in the Ohio Senate.

The legislation will apply monthly surcharges of $2.50 for residential energy customers, $20 for commercial customers and $250 for customers classified as industrial. It also creates the Ohio Clean Air Quality Development Authority, which would provide during the first year “clean air credits” under the Ohio Clean Air program to power plants, such as nuclear power plants, that produce zero carbon emissions. 

FirstEnergy Solutions operates two nuclear plants in Ohio, the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo and the Perry nuclear plant along Lake Erie.

Nearly all of the members of the Mahoning Valley’s delegation to Columbus – state Sens. Sean O’Brien and Michael Rulli, and state Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan, Michael O’Brien, and Gil Blair – all voted against the legislation. State Rep. Don Manning, R-59 New Middletown, voted in favor of the legislation. 

Critics charge the legislation amounts to nothing more than a bailout for FirstEnergy Solutions. 

“The voters hate this blatant ‘pay to play’ scheme” to the tune of up to $400 million per year, Siderewicz said in an email responding to a request for comment Tuesday. Clean Energy Future developed the natural gas-fueled Lordstown Energy Center that opened last year and has plans to build a second such plant next to it.  

The first $170 million will go to the two “currently bankrupt and money-losing” Davis-Besse and Perry plants, he said. Nearly all of the rest goes to Ohio electric utilities invested in Ohio Valley Electric Corp. coal plants, which include FirstEnergy Solutions, FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light Co. and Duke Energy Ohio. 

By September, the referendum committee will have gathered enough signatures to “hold [H.B. 6] in a coma until permanently killing it” in the November 2020 election, and “sweep away many of its ill-advised proponents” such as Manning and “Republican ‘follower’ sheep in Columbus,” he said.

Lepore-Hagan, D-58, in a statement issued by her office accused the state legislature of siding with “corporate interests” and of gutting Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. 

“H.B. 6 harms our state’s growing renewable energy industry, our environment and working Ohioans who will now foot the bill for a corporate bailout,” she continued. “Once again, the legislature has turned its back on the future at the expense of Ohio families, clean energy workers, small businesses and the health of Ohioans.”

More than 112,000 Ohioans now work in the clean energy sector, eighth highest in the country and third in the region, according to her release.

“This bill offers no aid to the gas-fired power plant located in Lordstown or the two additional plants slated for construction,” Blair, D-63 Weathersfield, said in a separate statement.

“Although the bill is touted to save jobs and nuclear plants, there is no language contained in the legislation which guarantees either. General Motors has shown us in Lordstown that bailouts without commitments from the bailed out corporations are bad policy,” he continued. 

Daniel Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the legislation “irresponsible economic policy” in a statement issued following the House vote. While the rest of the country is adding jobs in “one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy,” Ohio is signaling to the clean energy sector that it isn’t welcome in the state.  

“If this mess of a bill passes, the rest of the nation will be looking closely at Ohio’s statehouse trying to understand the motivations for a bill that is so far out of line with what is happening everywhere else,” he said. 

A firm representing FirstEnergy Solutions said it was preparing a statement it would release today.

Related coverage:

Hearings Begin on Bill to Subsidize Nuclear Plants | April 12, 2019

Pictured: FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear power plant outside Toledo.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.