Ohio House passes bill that shores up nuclear, coal plants

The Ohio House has passed the biggest overhaul of the state’s energy laws in a decade, adopting a bill that shores up the state’s two financially struggling nuclear power plants and two coal-fired plants while gutting programs that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The bill, approved 53-43, would raise nearly $200 million a year by imposing a fee on electricity consumers, primarily to support FirstEnergy Solutions, the owner of the ailing Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants along Lake Erie. Without help, the company, spun off by Akron-based FirstEnergy, said the plants will close within two years.

The legislation also would put into law fees that ratepayers already are being assessed to support two old, coal-fired plants, one in Ohio and one in Indiana.

Backers say consumers actually will save money with the elimination of charges for energy efficiency and renewable energy, but opponents say without the charges, consumers will pay more in the long run because demand for electricity, along with prices, would climb.

Debate on the House floor was mostly about whether the state should be imposing subsidies that benefit a particular business and about the nuclear plants being the biggest source of carbon dioxide-free electricity in the state.

Representatives turned back several amendments meant to keep the energy efficiency and renewable programs in place.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which will begin hearings this week. FirstEnergy Solutions says it needs approval by June 30.

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