Ohio legislators revealed Monday their latest plan to save Ohio’s only two nuclear power plants from bankruptcy.
As previously reported, FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy that manages several power stations across the Midwest, announced that it was closing all three of the nuclear plants it owns and operates throughout the region. Two of these plants are located in Ohio, with the third in Shippingport, Pennsylvania.
Due to its close proximity to the Ohio border, many of the Pennsylvania plant’s employees hail from the Buckeye State, meaning that the overwhelming majority of the 2,300 employees set to be laid off from all three plants would be native Ohioans. The organization’s subsequent moves sparked national outrage and condemnation from Democrats, Republicans, and environmental groups:
Energy companies like FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries are required to keep enough money in reserve to cover the cost of environmental cleanup should it be necessary. When FES filed for bankruptcy, FirstEnergy, the parent company, immediately began filing extensions with the federal government to discuss these requirements. Simultaneously, they met with private creditors to ensure all personal debts were either paid, nullified, or managed. When this was completed, FirstEnergy then decided to “spin-off” FES and act as if they were a wholly independent company.
In so doing, the intent appears to be to have the federal government demand money from a defunct and bankrupt FES, while FirstEnergy skipped out on the bill. Should this be successful, Ohio taxpayers would be required to pay for the cleanup and safe disposal of all remaining material. In some cases, this could involve the disposal of hazardous radioactive material.
Last week, a bankruptcy judge rejected the organization’s plan to shut down the plants. While it had settled its debts with creditors, the company made no attempt to address the cleanup costs or hazardous waste removal. The presiding judge called the bankruptcy plan “patently unconfirmable,” and FirstEnergy will have to refile.
Under the new proposed bill, the state would subsidize the plant with millions of taxpayer dollars. These funds would be passed to the energy company under the newly created “Ohio Clean Air Program.” Funding would come from a $2.50 surcharge for every residential electric consumer in the state, and an additional $20 for all commercial customers, and a further $250 from industrial customers. In total, $300 million would be raised with $180 million going directly to FirstEnergy Solutions.
Though legislators insist this is only a draft bill, at least one legislative aide has confirmed that a formal bill, based off this draft, will be introduced by the end of the week. Should the introduced bill be similar to this draft, it is likely to be highly divisive, even within the respective parties.
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