FILE - Nuclear Plants Ohio

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has been cleared to gather signatures for its ballot initiative to overturn about $1 billion worth of subsidies for nuclear energy after secretary of state certified the initial signatures for the petition language.

The next step for the anti-bailout coalition is to receive about 265,000 signatures for the ballot initiative to appear on the 2020 ballot in November. The deadline for these signatures is October 21, 2019.

The bailout was signed by Gov. Mike DeWin this year to keep open two nuclear power plants owned by First Energy Solutions: the Davis-Besse Power Plant in Ottawa County and the North Perry Power Plant in Perry. The plants employ 650 and 700 people respectively. The bailout would be paid for through increased rates for consumers.

FirstEnergy has said that without the bailout, the plants would close down. Some right-leaning groups testified against the bailouts because they claimed that ratepayers should not have to subsidize a failing business. Several left-leaning groups testified against the bailout because they hoped that more of the money would be used for wind and solar energy.

A newly emerged group called Ohioans for Energy Security has criticized the effort to repeal the bailout and ran advertisements linking Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts to the Chinese government because one of the companies that voiced support for a repeal received some funding from a bank owned by the Chinese government.

"Last weekend, we began our campaign to raise awareness about those behind this repeal effort,” Carlo LoParo, a spokesperson for Ohioans for Energy Security, said in a statement.

“Now that signature gathering has begun, we will let voters know that signing this repeal petition puts Ohio jobs and clean energy production at risk,” LoParo said. “We'll also continue to inform voters that out-of-state companies with strong financial ties to the Chinese government are trying to repeal this new law in a blatant attempt to increase their own market share by killing their Ohio-based competition. These companies want to create an energy monopoly for themselves. That’s what the repeal effort is all about."

Gene Pierce, a spokesperson for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, accused Ohioans for Energy Security of fear-mongering.

"These ads are designed to intimidate and threaten our petitioners who are exercising their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to place this ridiculous bailout on the ballot," Pierce said in a news release. "This is the kind of garbage that will get someone hurt and we will hold all parties associated with their campaign responsible for any harm that comes to our circulators."

Staff Writer

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.