The Ohio House of Representatives has voted to rescind the nuclear subsidy provisions of H.B. 6, the controversial 2019 piece of legislation that has been marinating in scandal since last July. Just one week earlier, a similar measure was passed unanimously in the Ohio Senate.
Approved by a tally of 86-7 on March 10, H.B. 128 strips H.B. 6 of subsidies for Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, as well as a “decoupling” provision that would have been of substantial financial benefit to FirstEnergy Corporation, the former parent company of Energy Harbor. The new bill retains H.B. 6’s subsidies for utility-scale solar projects, however, and for two coal plants (one in Ohio, one in Indiana).
H.B. 128 was sponsored by Reps. James Hoops (R., Dist. 81) and Dick Stein (R., Dist. 57).
Pro & con: “While this isn’t a perfect bill, it does a couple of things,” said Stein in comments on the House floor prior to the vote on the legislation. “Number one, it takes away all incentives and advantages that were given to FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor. [Energy Harbor] will no longer receive that billion dollars. [FirstEnergy] will no longer receive the current decoupling plan. . . . So all the issues and consternation regarding H.B. 6 will be eliminated through H.B. 128.”
That view was not shared by Rep. Laura Lanese (R., Dist. 23), who apparently remains consternated. A vocal critic of H.B. 6 and one of the seven no votes on H.B. 128, Lanese in her floor comments questioned the need to move the new legislation so quickly. “So why are we rushing this bill through after just three weeks, when we’ve known about this situation for at least eight months?” Lanese asked. “Presumably, we’re doing it because [Energy Harbor] asked us to so that they can participate in the next energy capacity market. … The perception is that we are the handmaiden of the utility industry, and I don’t think that’s a good perception to have.”
Lanese’s assertion relates to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s vote in December 2019 to expand its minimum offer price rule, effectively raising the bids of subsidized resources attempting to sell power into the wholesale capacity market. According to various news reports, Energy Harbor has indicated to Ohio lawmakers that it no longer wants the H.B. 6 subsidies.
Background: H.B. 6 established a seven-year program to charge the state’s electricity consumers fees to support payments of about $150 million annually to Energy Harbor. The utility (then called FirstEnergy Solutions) had announced in March 2018 that it would be forced to close Davis-Besse and Perry without some form of support from the state. (The payments to Energy Harbor were blocked last December by an Ohio Supreme Court injunction, which complemented an earlier lower court ruling.)
On July 21 of last year, federal prosecutors arrested Larry Householder, then speaker of the Ohio House, and four lobbyists and political consultants for their involvement in an alleged $61 million corruption and racketeering scheme aimed at guaranteeing passage of H.B. 6.