(The Center Square) – Democrats want lawmakers to take action on House Bill 6, a ratepayer-funded bailout of nuclear power plants in Ohio, when the state House convenes next week, but one Republican says any replacement must prioritize nuclear energy.
The bill faces new scrutiny after a federal grand jury indicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, and four others as part of a $60 million “public corruption racketeering conspiracy” to pass the legislation.
“When corruption is revealed, it is important we as lawmakers act quickly to fix what has been broken,” Reps. Michael J. Skindell, D-Lakewood, and Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, said in a Thursday letter to members of the House of Representatives. Last month, the lawmakers introduced legislation, House Bill 738, to repeal the bill, but it has not yet been assigned to a committee.
“Our constituents are telling us that this issue requires our immediate attention and action, and every day that passes further erodes the public’s trust in this institution and in each of us,” they added.
The lawmakers want to use a discharge petition, “a seldom-used parliamentary maneuver.” According to House rules, “a bill can be discharged from a committee with the signatures of a majority of members (50) once the bill has sat in committee for 30 days,” they wrote.
HB6 created a new Ohio Clean Air Program to support nuclear energy plants and some solar power facilities. Electricity consumers fund the program, potentially bringing in up to $85 million in the 2021 fiscal year, with a surcharge that runs through 2027.
Lawmakers pushed the measure after Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions said it planned to close Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor near Toledo and Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry. FirstEnergy Solutions filed for bankruptcy in March 2018 and emerged earlier this year as Energy Harbor.
Several high-profile Republicans, including Gov. Mike DeWine, have called for the repeal of the legislation. Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, told The Columbus Dispatch the state Senate would take up a repeal of HB6 when it meets in September.
The press secretary for House Republicans did not immediately respond to a Friday afternoon request for comment. However, in a Friday op-ed, state Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron, said any repeal of HB 6 “must also contain an immediate replacement bill that prioritizes Davis Besse and nuclear energy.
“Some may argue that the free market should decide which businesses succeed and fail,” Swearingen wrote. “I understand and appreciate those arguments. However, the reality is that Davis-Besse has not been operating in a free market in a long time.
“For many years, other energy providers such as wind and solar have received taxpayer subsidies while providers like Davis-Besse have not received any subsidies,” Swearingen added. “That is not a free and fair market. This is an issue to address with regards to our energy grid going forward.”
Last month, the state House voted unanimously to remove Householder from his leadership post. Lawmakers subsequently elected state Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, as his replacement.
Todd DeFeo is a contributor to The Center Square