Legislation that would bail out nuclear and coal power companies passed the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday.
To pay for the bailout, consumers would be charged an extra one dollar every month on their utility bills for the next six years. The fee is expected to raise about $200 million, most of which will go toward the plants.
The bill, which is called the Ohio Clean Air Program, left out wind and solar plants, which caused controversy among Democrats and environmental groups. The bailout also received criticism from residents testifying against the legislation in the committee hearing, and some complained that the name is misleading.
FirstEnergy Solutions would receive the bulk of the aid for its two nuclear powerplants: the Perry Powerplant in North Perry and the Davis-Besse power plant in Ottowa County. The Perry Powerplant employees about 700 people and the Davis-Besse powerplant employes about 650 people.
Ohio Valley Electric, a coal company, would also receive funding under the bill.
If utilities sell electricity at a rate lower than production costs, they would be able to charge consumers the extra cost, but if they charge higher than the cost of production, the consumers would receive a refund.
Supporters of the legislation have disputed the term bailout because the companies would be funded via a tax credit. They have defended the legislation, arguing that it would save jobs at the plants and save costs in the long run when compared to the costs of other green energy initiatives.
During the hearing, Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, criticized the funding of coal and nuclear powerplants rather than wind and solar, which he said are safer alternatives. He said that coal powerplants have negatively impacted the air quality in Ohio.
Leo Almedia, who testified on behalf of Nature Conservancy, classified the bill as a bailout for nuclear and coal, which has nothing to do with promoting clean air.
The plan also has received criticism from conservatives, but for different reasons. The Buckeye Institute, a free-market, Ohio-based think tank, has argued that the legislation harms competition by providing aid to certain groups.
Thursday morning, before the vote, House Democratic lawmakers unveiled an alternative energy plan that would eliminate rate increases and mandate that utilities receive half of their energy from renewable resources by 2050.
The legislation will now face a vote in the House, where Republicans have a 61-38 majority. House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, has spoken in support of the bill. Republicans also have a majority in the Senate and hold the governor's seat. The bill passed the committee with an 8-5 vote, divided along party lines.