In the days before it passed in the Ohio House, Speaker Larry Householder argued that state aid for the nuclear industry was appropriate because it produces the bulk of the state’s clean energy.
Householder, R-Glenford, appeared on the TV program “The State of Ohio” and went on the attack when the discussion focused on House Bill 6, which is designed to preserve the state’s two nuclear power plants and their 700 jobs.
While the legislation has been derided by critics as a bailout bill for bankrupt First Energy, which owns the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, Householder argued that the plants produce 90 percent of the state’s clean energy.
“We cannot walk away from that,” he said.
Householder’s interview was taped prior to House Republicans stripping provisions that would bolster efforts to generate wind and solar energy in the state. The current version of the bill would add a surcharge to consumer’s power bill that would benefit First Energy and Ohio Valley Electric Corp.
Ohio law requires the state to get an eighth of its energy from clean, renewable sources by 2027. Since that law was passed 11 years ago, Householder said only 3 percent of Ohio’s current energy production comes from renewable sources. He considers that a “failure” and the state needs to reconsider how to generate higher volumes of clean energy.
Currently, nuclear power is not considered one of those sources that would count toward the 12.5 percent goal.
The battle between nuclear energy supporters and those opposed to the bill also doubles as an in-state versus out-of-state conflict, Householder said. A generation ago, Ohio produced 140 percent of its energy needs, making it an energy exporter. Now, the state produces about half of what it needs and must look elsewhere for the extra demand.
Losing the nuclear plants would require the state to look elsewhere for even more of its energy needs. Householder conceded other sources could provide cheaper energy, but there would be a substantial cost for the state’s economy and to the school districts who rely on the tax dollars generated by energy-sector jobs in their communities.
“It may mean lower costs, but the fact is Ohio is losing jobs,” he said. “And we’ve always been an energy producing state.”
Householder, who unseated state Rep. Ryan Smith as speaker in January, was also questioned about Generation Now, which has spent $2 million to support the bill. Entities associated with the organization were also involved in Householder’s election to the state House.
Smith, R-Bidwell, has been an outspoken critic of the bill and the subsidy for First Energy.
Householder said the money from Generation Now has come from Ohio workers who want to keep their jobs and companies that want to stay in the state. On the other side, opponents of the measure want to siphon money out of Ohio and make consumers more reliant on out-of-state energy sources.
“I’m in a battle,” said Householder, who also served as Speaker during his first stint in Columbus from 2001 to 2004. “I’m in a battle for Ohio. That’s what I’m in a battle for.”
– – –
The Center Square is a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a non-profit organization dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility.
Background Photo “Avon Lake Power Plant” by Ben Stephenson. CC BY 2.0.