Ohio lawmakers must not delay repeal of HB6

Local state legislators Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, and Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, wasted no time getting to work to repeal the nuclear bailout bill that adds surcharges to every Ohio electric bill after allegations of bribery and political favors came to light recently.

But so far, other legislators led by Republican lawmakers, have been slow to react.

We had used this space to oppose the bill for other reasons, long before its passage and before the allegations came to light that led to the indictment of then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

Householder and four associates were arrested July 21 on federal racketeering charges in a $60 million bribery case related to the taxpayer-funded bailout of two failing nuclear power plants through HB 6. Householder pushed through the plan to provide a $1.3 billion bailout last year of the plants owned by former subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp.

The bill was so unfair that it became the impetus for a developer to pull the plug on plans to build a third natural gas-fired power plant in Trumbull County — even after nearly $1 million already had been spent on development and permitting of Lordstown-3, according to Bill Siderewicz, who intricately was involved in this and plans that brought the other two plants to Lordstown. Siderewicz is president of Clean Energy Future and a minority investor in the Lordstown Energy Center.

HB 6, passed and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine last summer, allows for about $1 billion to go to nuclear power plants located near Toledo and Cleveland in order to keep them open and operating. Without the cash infusion from customers, FirstEnergy Solutions, which is going through bankruptcy reorganization, warned those two nuclear power plants would be shut down within two years. Who is paying the tab to keep the plants running? You and all electric users in the state of Ohio are.

At the time, Trumbull County legislators Rep. Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield and Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, spoke out against the bill. In the statehouse, they, and state Rep. Michele LePore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, voted “no” on its passage. State Rep. Don Manning, R-New Middletown, now deceased, voted yes.

Last week, Rep. Michael O’Brien lashed out after the repeal bill he had co-sponsored in the House was slowed by a decision to have a new committee work on repealing and replacing the law. A frustrated O’Brien accused the Republican-led House of dragging its feet by adding a layer of bureaucracy.

Also last week, Sen. Sean O’Brien argued that HB 6 puts “a significant financial burden on taxpayers just for power’s sake and to line the pockets of oneself and a few select cronies.”

He called the evidence against Householder and the others “overwhelming,” and demanded that the legislation “cannot be allowed to stand.”

We agree.

Ohioans should not be required to bear the financial burden of bailing out FirstEnergy’s aging and expensive nuclear power plants. We especially should not now that new information has come to light about the questionable inner workings of our state government that led up to the bill’s passage.

State lawmakers must move immediately to repeal House Bill 6, before even one dollar is collected to bail out First Energy Solutions’ two bankrupt nuclear plants.

It already is known that Householder pushed hard for the bill’s passage. While those involved must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, if they are convicted, they must receive the most severe punishment allowable with no opportunity at plea negotiations.

But even before the criminal case is adjudicated, we know the bill was passed under obvious improper influences. That makes it even more imperative that it must not stand.


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