What’s next for Ohio’s House Bill 6?

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation last week to repeal parts of House Bill 6.

House Bill 128 revokes the $1 billion bailout of the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants that House Bill 6 became widely known for. The other thing the legislation is known for is the alleged bribery scandal that brought it to life in the first place.

The bill, signed March 31, also repealed the decoupling provision that would have given FirstEnergy Corp. guaranteed profits for years to come. The provision allowed FirstEnergy to adjust rates to ensure it made at least $978 million a year – a benchmark hit in 2018 – going forward.

FirstEnergy announced last week that it would refund customers $26 million that it collected since January 2020. That was also part of the bill DeWine just signed. 

Federal authorities alleged House Bill 6 became law in July 2019 as part of a $60 million bribery scheme involving FirstEnergy, former House Speaker Larry Householder and four of his allies. Householder was arrested and charged last summer with conspiracy to commit racketeering. 

Leftovers

In addition to the nuclear bailout, House Bill 6 gutted the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for utilities. It also gave out subsidies for two coal-fired power plants and five utility-scale solar farms.

Ohio Valley Electric Corporation’s coal-fired power plants — Kyger Creek, in Cheshire, Ohio, and Clifty Creek, in Madison, Indiana — would benefit from a monthly surcharge of $1.50 for residential ratepayers, and up to $1,500 for commercial customers. The Ohio Manufacturers Association, which is urging the repeal of the coal subsidies, estimated the subsidies could cost Ohioians up to $700 million through 2030.

The plants, both built in 1955 to power a uranium enrichment facility, typically sell electricity to the PJM grid at a loss. They’re owned jointly by AEP, Duke Energy and Dayton Power & Light.

The solar farms — Hardin, Hillcrest, Vinton, Willowbrook and Hecate — are in line to get $20 million a year. None of the projects are operational yet, but Hardin, in Hardin County, and Hillcrest, in Brown County, are close to being complete.

Next steps

All of those things remain in place so far, although Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said they might be next to go. 

Repealing the nuclear subsidies, that was the easy part, he said, in an interview with “The State of Ohio” that aired April 2. Huffman said that discussions are happening to cut the millions in coal and solar subsidies. Several bills have been introduced, although none have made it out of committee yet.

The renewable energy requirements and energy efficiency programs are probably not coming back, Huffman said, at least not as they were. He regrets signing the bill in 2008 to create the programs in the first place.

“I don’t think that’s the end of energy efficiency programs,” he said, in the interview. “Part of the program, the problem was, it was energy efficiency but only on paper.”

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