Ohio’s ‘Nuclear Bailout’ Bill Stuck in Legislative Limbo


COLUMBUS, Ohio — First Energy gave the Ohio Legislature until June 30 to pass House Bill 6, which opponents called a bailout. Failure to pass it by the company’s imposed deadline would result in the shutdown of at least one of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants, the company warned. The House and Senate missed that deadline.

And now the bill waits in legislative limbo.

According to First Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of First Energy, which runs the plants, they had to order new fuel rods for the Davis Besse station no later than June 30. Legislators have taken a gamble, and scheduled a vote on the Senate version of the bill on Wednesday – 17 days past the deadline imposed by First Energy.

But it wasn’t that easy. Although the Senate was still making changes to the House version of the bill the morning before their vote, one more amendment was needed for the House to be willing to consider the changes the Senate had made. The last-minute amendment postponed the subsidies for one year.

Workers from both plants filled the Senate chamber, anxiously awaiting the outcome. When the bill was “informally passed,” meaning it would not be voted upon at that time and could remain on the Senate calendar indefinitely, they became anxious.

“If the Senate postpones voting, it will bring a lot of uncertainty to our company and potentially they might have to cut costs, cut jobs and that would affect the community as well as myself,” one of the workers told The Ohio Star.

When the Senate reconvened, brought the bill back up and quickly amended it, an almost audible sigh of relief arose from the spectators. The employee said he felt fairly certain a year wait for the subsidies would still allow the Davis Besse plant to remain open.

The bill was kicked back to the House, which scheduled a 7:45 p.m. caucus and an 8:00 p.m. session to concur on Senate changes. Supporters filed into the balcony and watched the minutes tick by until finally, shortly before 9:00 p.m., Speaker Householder called the members to order. He quickly worked through a couple of minor items, then adjourned. House Bill 6 was never heard.

On the May 29 when the House passed its version of the bill, it received only 53 votes out of 99. Wednesday there were fewer still. “We were a little bit short,” Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) told Gongwer Wednesday evening. “I think we got up to 49 (votes) so it’s probably best for us to wait until Aug. 1 when we’ve got a full House and take care of it.”

“First, HB 6 is still a bailout,” Greg Lawson, research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, told The Ohio Star. “Second, while it is possible consumers will save money compared to the status quo, they could save even more by getting rid of existing renewable mandates and not adding the new surcharges.”

“So while the pig has at least been given some lipstick and may look a bit better, it is still a pig,” Lawson declared.

However, for the majority of Senate members, including many conservatives, the bill ticked off too many boxes in the “pro” column. A chance to preserve an “all of the above” energy policy, lower rates for citizens, several thousand jobs saved, and lower subsidies for wind and solar forced upon the state by the Obama administration were enough reasons for an ideologically wide group to vote yes, 19 to 12.

There was one “con” mentioned in addition to the bailout issue. A source from the Senate familiar with the bill told The Ohio Star that “HB 6 is a quid pro quo scheme for certain politicians who’ve been funded by First Energy over the last few years.”

“First Energy could get paid back many times over and have a war chest to fund their political allies along with union laborers who will support those who protected their jobs,” shared a second unnamed source from the Ohio House.

The question that remains is whether the House can muster enough support to pass the bill August 1.

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Gavin Power Plant” by Analgoue KidCC BY 2.0.







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