COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee held its second hearing on House Bill 6 (HB 6) Wednesday. The bill is being called a bailout by some and a clean energy job saver by others.
Two gentlemen were asked to give testimony to the committee by its chair, State Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville). Sam Randazzo, Ohio Public Utilities Commission chair, and Asim Haque, executive director for Strategic Policy and External Affairs at PJM Interconnection, explained the electricity market in preparation for HB 6 discussions. PJM plans and operates the electric grid that covers all or part of 13 states and the District of Columbia. Haque previously served as chair of the Ohio PUCO until March 1, 2019.
Although both offered lengthy testimony on the bill, they testified as “interested” parties and neither offered a conclusion on the merits of HB 6.
Supporters of HB 6 include the Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance, which identifies itself as “a statewide coalition of government, business and labor leaders.”
First Energy Solutions is also a supporter of HB 6. The company runs the two nuclear power plants that will be decommissioned and shut down if HB 6 does not pass. The Davis-Besse plant went online in 1977 and according to First Energy Solutions is scheduled to shut down in May 2020. The Perry plant was licensed for operations in 1986 and is scheduled to close in 2021.
Opponents of HB 6 include the Sierra Club and other pro-environmental organizations, supporters of renewable energy, Ohio Consumer’s Counsel, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP).
Micah Derry, the executive director for AFP in Ohio, did not mince words in his testimony before the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee in the Ohio House. Derry, speaking to subcommittee members, declared: “Recognizing that the sponsors of HB 6 vehemently deny this bill is a bailout, with all due respect, they are wrong.” He went on to say that “House Bill 6 is corporate welfare.”
“It is cronyism on full display. In other words, a ‘bailout,'” he said.
Ohio’s Future Foundation (OHFF) spoke about HB 6 at its Youngstown meeting on May 28. The organization also called it a bailout, but noted that in its present form consumers were likely to save more from the decreased fees than they would be charged by the rate increases supporting the nuclear plants. OHFF provided a graphic to show how the plan would work.
Ned Ford, conservation chair of the Sierra Club, spoke exclusively to The Ohio Star at Wednesday’s Senate hearing.
“Corporate welfare is fine, but stop mixing it up with efficiencies and renewables without understanding the savings that efficiencies and renewables create,” he said, pointing to the fact that wind and solar were losing money while coal and nuclear were getting handouts.
Opponents of the bill have also pointed out that First Energy Solutions, a break-off company from First Energy, is currently going through bankruptcy court. The parent company has spent over $1.5 million on politicians since 2017. A Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s article revealed that First Energy has donated to both political parties in large amounts over the last two years and is now heavily supporting HB 6.
Derry told The Ohio Star Wednesday: AFP will not endorse any candidate who supports a bailout.
“AFP has 4 principles: equal rights, openness, mutual benefit and helping people reach their full potential. This bill violates 1, 2 and 3,” he said.
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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star. Follow Beth on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by Alexander Smith. CC BY-SA 3.0