Commissioners say: Don’t repeal without replacing HB 6

Larry Limpf

County commissioners in Lake and Ottawa counties are urging the state legislature to not repeal House Bill 6 without a “thoroughly vetted and workable” replacement.
In a joint statement, commissioners from both counties criticized the alleged illegal activity of the former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives while the bill was being debated in the legislature but said the bill benefited their counties and the state.
“While we detest any alleged illegal or unethical activity before, during or after the enactment of the legislation, we certainly believed the policy outcomes were of great benefit not only to our counties, but also to all Ohioans. If the former House speaker or ‘dark money’ contributors were coordinating illegal behind-the-scenes activities, they should be punished in accordance with federal and state laws,” the commissioners said.
According to a federal criminal complaint, from March 2017 to March 2020, millions of dollars were paid in exchange for the assistance of then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Larry Householder, and four associates, in passing House Bill 6 and then working to defeat a ballot initiative that, if passed by voters, would have rescinded the legislation.
In all, about $60 million was funneled through Generation Now, an entity formed as a 501(c)(4) organization, from an “energy company and its affiliates during the relevant period,” the complaint says.
The bill was passed by the legislature last summer and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine. It established the state’s Clean Energy Program but drew intense criticism from environmentalists and others because it provides subsidies for coal and nuclear plants, including the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Ottawa County and Perry Nuclear Power Station in Lake County.
FirstEnergy Solutions, the parent company of the power plants and a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. emerged from bankruptcy as a separate entity earlier this year with a new name, Harbor Energy.
FES had filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in 2018, arguing its coal and nuclear power plants could not compete against cheaper energy sources such as natural gas.
Without a ratepayer subsidy, they argued, the power plants would be closed.
Elected officials, school district administrators and union leaders from Lake and Ottawa counties were among those voicing support for the bill while it was pending in committees at the statehouse.
“Simply throwing the policy out with the political bathwater seems short-sighted at best and potentially catastrophic to Ohio’s energy portfolio and costs moving forward. The fact remains if the nuclear fleet in Ohio is closed, nearly 90 percent of Ohio’s zero-carbon electric power generation and over 25 percent of Ohio’s entire electric energy portfolio would be lost and will not come back,” John Hammercheck, president of the Lake County commissioners, said last week.
Mark Stahl, president of the Ottawa County commissioners, said the bill helped save thousands of jobs and bolstered the property tax base schools and local governments rely on.
A replacement bill could include more “fiscal transparency” for any recipient of clean energy credits and oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Ohio, Jerry Cirino, a Lake County commissioner, said.
“In addition to reviewing the amount of clean energy credits, a replacement bill should include specific plans to strengthen Ohio’s other sources of zero-carbon, alternative energy generators,” he said. “There is plenty of time to study the issues, review options and hear from all parties to figure out how to pass a bill that retains clean nuclear energy and incorporates other changes to HB 6 that many will embrace.”
Bills have been introduced in both chambers of the legislature to repeal the bill and Gov. DeWine has said he support its repeal.
Cajon Keeton, treasurer of the Benton-Carroll-Salem School District, said the district has been receiving about $1.2 million annually from the Davis-Besse plant in real property taxes and about $2.3 million in public utilities taxes. The district saw its tax receipts from the plant drop by more than $4 million due to a devaluation of the plant a few years ago.


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