(The Center Square) – An Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight continues to debate a pair of bills to repeal House Bill 6, a ratepayer-funded bailout of two nuclear power plants.
On Wednesday, the committee heard witnesses for House Bill 738 and House Bill 746, bills introduced following the arrest and indictment of former House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, and four others as part of an alleged $60 million public corruption racketeering conspiracy to pass HB 6.
“We can craft a free-market based comprehensive energy policy that includes nuclear, natural gas, oil, solar, wind, and any future energy breakthroughs that will make our constituents proud,” state Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, said in testimony for a hearing last week. “But we can’t quickly do it on the back of HB 6. We must do it with transparency, integrity and a more comprehensive approach. After we repeal HB 6.”
HB 6 created a new Ohio Clean Air Program to support nuclear energy plants and some solar power facilities. Electricity consumers fund the program, potentially bringing in up to $85 million in the 2021 fiscal year, with a surcharge that runs through 2027.
Wednesday’s hearing turned contentious at times, including when state Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, questioned Sam Randazzo, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Ohio Power Siting Board.
“I think the public deserves full transparency and disclosure of any potential biases that he has,” Weinstein said, adding that he owned a company that is a creditor of FirstEnergy Solutions.
“There was, obviously, some personal skin in the game for him with the success of FirstEnergy and HB 6,” Weinstein added. “But, it’s ok; I don’t have any other questions because I don’t want to give him an opportunity to shill for his former bosses anymore, and I think Ohioans are sick of it.”
Randazzo said he has never represented an electric utility or an affiliate regulated by PUCO or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as either an attorney or a lobbyist.
Meanwhile, PUCO ordered FirstEnergy Corp. to show that “any political or charitable spending” supporting HB 6 was “not included, directly or indirectly, in any rates or charges paid by ratepayers in” Ohio, The Associated Press reported.
Democrats contend Republicans are slowing the process to repeal HB 6, saying the committee uses an “unnecessary stall tactic.”
“It has been 56 days since we learned about the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history involving the passage of HB 6,” state Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, said in a Tuesday statement.
“Now Republican leadership is blocking our numerous attempts to repeal HB 6,” Leland added. “There are 58 cosponsors of two repeal bills, more than enough for passage. Republican leadership should stop protecting HB 6 – we need to show that Ohio