Ohio Taxpayers could be stuck with a $1 billion nuclear cleanup bill if one national energy company has its way. The U.S Department of Justice, along with the “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of the Ohio Attorney General, acting on behalf of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection,” are all jointly fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen.
FirstEnergy, one of the nation’s largest investor-owned utilities, maintains the subsidiary; FirstEnergy Solutions (FES). That subsidiary actively managed three nuclear power plants, three coal plants, two natural gas plants, and three wind plants. A majority of these plants are based on Ohio with nuclear plants in Oak Harbor and Perry, a gas plant on Lorain, and a wind plant in Blue Creek. While only one of the coal plants is located in Ohio, in Stratton, the other two rest just outside Ohio’s borders in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. As a result, they too employ many Ohioans.
In March, FES announced that all three nuclear power plants would be shuttered within the next five years, laying off 2,300 workers. After attempting, and failing, to secure a bailout from the federal government, they then announced that the entire company would be filing bankruptcy. costing the area several thousand more jobs.
Energy companies like FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries are required to keep enough money in reserve to cover the cost of environmental cleanup should it be necessary. When FES filed for bankruptcy, FirstEnergy, the parent company, immediately began filing extensions with the federal government to discuss these requirements. Simultaneously, they met with private creditors to ensure all personal debts were either paid, nullified, or managed. When this was completed, FirstEnergy then decided to “spin-off” FES and act is if they were a wholly independent company.
In so doing, the intent appears to be to have the federal government demand money from a defunct and bankrupt FES, while FirstEnergy skipped out on the bill. Should this be successful, Ohio taxpayers would be required to pay for the cleanup and safe disposal of all remaining material. In some cases, this could involved the disposal of hazardous radioactive material.
The state of Ohio, the federal government, and several prominent environmental advocacy groups have all condemned this decision and are fighting to hold FirstEnergy accountable for the literal mess they have left behind.
A brief, filed Thursday, made it explicitly clear that, in the eyes of the state and federal government, the company had “significant independent liability” for the cleanup. The Environment Policy and Law center estimates that the cleanup cost will be well over a billion dollars.
FirstEnergy has yet to make a public statement regarding the matter.
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