The Ohio House approved a controversial bill that proponents say will preserve carbon-free energy production and that opponents say is a bailout of the nuclear industry in the state.
If it becomes law, House Bill 6 would create a new Ohio Clean Air Program to subsidize power plants fueled by nuclear and solar power. Beginning January 1, 2020, consumers would fund the program through a dedicated monthly charge – including 50 cents per month in 2020 and $1 per month in 2021 through 2026 for residential customers.
The move comes after Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions announced its intentions to close Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor near Toledo and Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry. The company filed for bankruptcy in March 2018.
“I know this issue is difficult because there are so many Ohioans affected and so many parties interested in the outcome,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement following the voted 53-43 vote Wednesday in favor of the bailout. “As I have previously stated, Ohio needs to maintain carbon-free nuclear energy generation as part of our energy portfolio. In addition, these energy jobs are vital to Ohio’s economy. I look forward to this legislative discussion continuing in the Ohio Senate.”
The Ohio Clean Air Program terminates on Dec. 31, 2026. The bill is expected to raise $70 million in Fiscal Year 2020 and $169 million in Fiscal Year 2021.
Electric generating facilities in Ohio fueled by nuclear or solar power that meet the criteria of “clean air resource” may apply to the Ohio Clean Air Program. The program awards a “clean air credit” up to $9 for each megawatt hour of electricity a clean air resource produces.
While 10 House Democrats voted in favor of the bill, others lambasted it, saying it does nothing to protect existing jobs or secure new ones.
“HB 6 forces taxpayers to prop up out-of-state corporations instead of investing in a clean energy future here in Ohio,” state Rep. Sedrick Denson, D-Cincinnati, said in a statement. “We want to ensure Ohio energy is generated in Ohio. Discouraging investment in Ohio companies and Ohio technologies isn’t the way to grow jobs or our economy.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, FirstEnergy applauded the move.
“This bill provides an effective legislative solution to keep FES’s nuclear power plants open for many years to come, while preserving 4,300 highly-skilled jobs and an important revenue source,” FirstEnergy Solutions said in a statement, according to various reports.
A senior adviser to President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign called at least five Ohio House members on Tuesday night, “pressuring” them to vote in favor of the bill, Politico reported. The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.