Democrats propose another attempt to repeal coal plant subsidies in Ohio's nuclear bailout law
The nuclear power plant subsidies in the bailout at the center of the largest corruption case in Ohio history were repealed less than a year after the arrests in the case in 2020.
But the rest of that sweeping energy law known as House Bill 6 remains, including subsidies to two coal-fired power plants.
Republican former House speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges were convicted March 9 of racketeering for their roles in the case. Prosecutors said they passed the bailout law to benefit FirstEnergy, which owned the nuclear plants though a subsidiary, with the help of the dark money group Generation Now. And they say Householder and Borges were behind the effort to stop a ballot issue to repeal the bailout law.
No fewer than 13 bills to repeal all or part of House Bill 6 have been introduced since September 2020, by Republicans and Democrats. Only a bill sponsored by two Republicans to repeal the nuclear subsidies passed, in 2021.
The latest attempt to take back at least part of the law is from Reps. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Sean Brennan (D-Parma). Brennan said not only is the law tainted by corruption, but he’s not convinced the plants need the money.
"If it's such a great idea, then after it's been undone, hopefully in a bipartisan spirit - I think we can do that - then we can revisit it. And if the subsidies make sense after they've been vetted in the sunlight, so to speak, maybe something can happen," Brennan said. “If the utility companies can make a case that these subsidies are absolutely needed, then we can look at it after we undo this piece of HB 6.”
Brennan said he thinks the time is right to repeal these subsidies, an effort that has the support of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.
“We're paying to keep 1950s coal fired power plants. I was born in 1970, and from what I understand, these things are well beyond their years. And one of the things I think I'd like to hear from from the utilities is, you know, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when the these plants are closed,” Brennan said. “What's their plan for the workers in those in those plants to help them transition to what's to come with cleaner energy and so forth?”
It’s estimated the subsidies for the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation’s coal-fired plants in Ohio and Indiana, owned in part by a FirstEnergy subsidiary, will cost Ohio ratepayers a billion dollars in the next seven years.
House Bill 6 also gutted renewable energy requirements and energy efficiency programs for utilities. This bill would not restore those.