by J.D. Davidson
While the Ohio General Assembly works on a bill to delay new consumer fees on electric bills, one state representative is getting support for his plan to end the charges completely.
State Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) introduced House Bill 772 that he says focuses on the “harmful policy to Ohioans” created by House Bill 6, a controversial nuclear bailout law that led to the indictments and arrests of five people, including former Speaker of the House Larry Householder, in a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme.
“The $150 million annual nuclear subsidy from Ohioans was never needed to sustain the operation of the two Ohio nuclear plants. Evidence was provided by witnesses during the House Bill 6 debate that financial instability was likely untrue,” Romanchuk said.
Romanchuk introduced his plan in late September, and it made its way to the Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight in mid-November. It’s had one hearing, with only Romanchuk testifying, despite support from The Buckeye Institute, AARP, the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Council, the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, the Ohio Chemistry Technology Council, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Ohio Cast Metals Association, the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council and the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition.
Romanchuk’s legislation does not stop with bailouts for nuclear power plants. It also would stop subsidies for two coal-fired plants – including one in Indiana – and require refunds to consumers.
“If the standard is to save our constituents money on their electric bills, House Bill 772 is the only repeal bill that will save Ohioans money,” Romanchuk said. “Per the attached LSC fiscal note, Ohioans will save a total of $2.93 billion as a result of passing House Bill 772. It’s time to put our constituents first and leave this money where it belongs, in their pockets.”
Those savings drew the attention of The Buckeye Institute, an Ohio think tank based in Columbus, and research fellow Greg Lawson, who called Romanchuk’s proposal the best policy for Ohioans.
“In the wake of the scandal surrounding the passage of House Bill 6, the Ohio General Assembly is now considering delaying the new charges, which were imposed to subsidize several nuclear and coal power plants in Ohio and Indiana,” Lawson wrote for The Buckeye Institute. “However, Ohioans deserve more than a delay, they deserve an end to taxpayer-funded subsidies, entirely.”
He said the elimination of taxpayer-funded subsidies should be a Christmas gift from the legislature to all Ohioans.
“Taxpayer-funded subsidies not only take money from the public and give it to privately owned companies, they increase the costs of goods for consumers, and this crony capitalism corrupts good government and corrodes public trust,” Lawson wrote. “It is time for Ohio policymakers to get out of the business of giving businesses taxpayer-funded subsidies. The gift they need to give every Bob and Betty Buckeye this holiday season is the end of the energy subsidies for nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewables. Representative Romanchuk has offered a policy that does just that.”
Currently, the select committee is focused on House Bill 798, introduced by committee chair Jim Hoops (R-Napolean) that delays for a year the consumer fee, along with the subsidies. That bill has had three hearings since its introduction in early December.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas.