Proponents testify on clean air bill

By: 
Larry Limpf

The economic consequences from lost tax revenues to school districts and local governments if two nuclear power plants in the state are shuttered were featured in much of the testimony given Wednesday to members of a sub-committee in the Ohio House of Representatives The Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy Generation heard proponent testimony on House Bill 6, which would establish the Ohio Clean Air Program and be administered by an Ohio Air Quality Development Authority. The bill allows an electric generating facility to apply for certification as a clean air resource or reduced emissions resource to be eligible for the program that would be funded by monthly charges billed to customers of electric distribution utilities. Currently, residential, commercial and industrial energy customers pay monthly mandated charges for renewable and energy efficiency/peak demand services. HB 6 would make those programs optional and replace them with the OCAP that would appear on customer bills. Jamie Callendar, R- Concord Township, and Shane Wilkin, R – Hillsboro, sponsors of the bill, said residential customers now pay on average about $4.39 a month in mandates. Those customers would only pay $2.50 a month on mandated charges under the proposed format. Commercial customers would pay $20 a month and industrial customers would pay $250 per month. Users consuming more than 45 million KWh a year would pay $2,500 per month. The lawmakers project the proposed fee structure would collect about $300 million a year for the program. Jamie Beier Grant, director of the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation, told the committee the bill “incentivizes lower carbon emissions versus forcing mandates.” “Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station is located in Ottawa County – the community I represent. “Together with the Perry Nuclear Plant to my east, roughly 90 percent of Ohio’s zero emissions energy generation is represented in these two plants alone. Closure of these facilities would leave Ohio searching for alternative electric generation facilities to replace the two plants; and would leave the state reeling to fill the gap in these carbon-free generation sources.” Cajon Keeton, treasurer of the Benton-Carroll-Salem School District, testified the loss of the two plants would be felt throughout the state. “The uncertainty surrounding the future of Davis-Besse operations has created a lot of anxiety among our staff who worry about the future of their own jobs and among students whose family members work at the plant. However, local school districts are not the only ones that would take a serious hit if the nuclear plants close. Each year, the two nuclear plants pay $30 million in state and local taxes. That tax revenue benefits communities and public schools across the state. If that $30 million disappears, schools and students will be the first to lose out. Closing these plants will contribute to our statewide school funding dilemma,” he said. The committee also heard testimony from representatives of organized labor, city and county governments and others. Jerry Cirino, a Lake County commissioner, said the bill offers both environmental and economic benefits to the state “As commissioner, I want to emphasize today that the Perry Nuclear Power Plant is an engine for economic growth, as it contributes to clean-energy efforts, and secures our power supply for all of Ohio,” he said. Environmental organizations have said the bill is little more than a bailout for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants operated by FirstEnergy Solutions. “The bill is nothing more than another bailout tax for failing nuclear plants paid for on the backs of hardworking Ohioans. Adding insult to injury, the proposed bill would dismantle one of the only state policies that reliably delivers electric bill savings to customers, decreases air pollution, and creates new jobs in Ohio,” said Trish Demeter, vice president of energy policy with the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund. “The OEC Action Fund rejects the notion that this bill is for the benefit of cleaner air. The bailout tax will not create any new jobs, and is just another short-term fix to a long-term problem. Wind and solar are the most viable and least risky clean energy sources today and in the future, yet Ohio legislators want to invest in the technologies of yesterday.” FirstEnergy Solutions has announced it plans to shut down the Davis-Besse plant by May 31, 2020 if it doesn’t receive financial support from the state or federal legislatures. It also plans to deactivate the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry, O. by May 2021 and units 1 and 2 of the Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, Pa. by May 2021 and October 2021 respectively.

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