by J.D. Davidson
A little more than eight months after the billion-dollar government bailout of the state’s nuclear energy industry led the arrest of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, Gov. Mike DeWine officially put it to rest.
DeWine signed House Bill 128 into law late Wednesday. It repeals the nuclear provisions of the infamous House Bill 6.
Gone is the bailout for the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants in northern Ohio. Also eliminated was the ability for FirstEnergy to have its revenue levels relatively the same even during years when energy consumption decreases. HB 128 directed refunds of money already collected under the guarantee.
FirstEnergy announced Wednesday its plan to refund $26 million already collected under that “decoupling plan.” According to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, decoupling would have allowed FirstEnergy to collect more than $100 million this year.
What remains in HB 6 are subsidies for two coal plants in Indiana and Ohio, which have Ohio owners, along with $20 million annually to six large solar operations.
The repeal came with little fanfare. DeWine’s office announced it as an add-on to a news release that highlighted the signing of the state’s transportation budget and included several other bills. It did not include any comments from the governor.
Others, though, championed the move as good government, including The Buckeye Institute, an education and policy think tank in Columbus.
“With the stroke of a pen, a substantial part of Ohio’s two-year-long April Fools’ Joke on taxpayers has finally come to an end,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute. “Ohio House Bill 6 epitomizes the problem of crony capitalism and corporate tax handouts and serves as an unsavory example as why The Buckeye Institute remains opposed to all taxpayer-funded subsidies. We urge the General Assembly to move quickly to eliminate the remaining subsidies included in this notoriously flawed piece of legislation.”
The Buckeye Institute testified in April 2019 in committee meetings, marking the beginning of the two-year battle that surrounded the legislation.
After Householder’s arrest in July, a wide variety of legislation made its way around the General Assembly, while DeWine and many others immediately called for the repeal of HB 6.
No significant legislation made it to the governor’s desk by the end of last year, leaving in place a Jan. 1 rate increase for consumers to fund the bailout. However, Yost stepped in with lawsuits aimed at several provisions, and the Ohio Supreme Court issued a temporary stay in late December to stop the rate increase.
FirstEnergy agreed in February to give up what could have been a $120 million windfall in 2021, and Ohio put on hold its ongoing lawsuit relating to the state’s nuclear bailout law.
Yost called the agreement a big win for state consumers when the energy company said it would forego a provision in the law that guaranteed FirstEnergy the ability to recapture yearly profits based on its profit numbers from 2018.
Householder, who won reelection to his House seat in November, has entered a not guilty plea, however, three others indicted have pleaded guilty.
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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. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.