Push to repeal bailout gains momentum

By Randy Ludlow, - Catherine Candisky - The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine has called for state lawmakers to repeal House Bill 6 as bipartisan support grows among state lawmakers for overturning the $1 billion nuclear energy bailout.

At a Thursday press conference, DeWine called for the General Assembly to “very quickly” repeal and replace House Bill 6 while preserving the two nuclear power plants afforded the bailout.

He supports nuclear power as a carbon-free, clean source in Ohio’s energy mix. The plants provide 15% of the state’s electricity.

DeWine said the bill has been tarnished, and lost public confidence, due to the Householder bribery and racketeering scandal and its fallout.

On Wednesday, DeWine said he still supported the bill, which he signed into law one year ago Thursday.

“No matter how good the policy is, the process by which this bill was passed is simply not acceptable,” he said.

“That process has forever tainted the bill and now the law itself … the process by which it was created stinks. It’s terrible, it’s not acceptable.”

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others were arrested this week and charged in a racketeering conspiracy after allegedly taking $60 million from FirstEnergy through a dark-money group in exchange for the bailout of its two nuclear plants in northern Ohio.

DeWine and numerous Republican and Democratic state leaders have called on Householder to resign.

The governor called on House members to promptly “be very engaged in thinking about who the next speaker should be.

“It’s clear Speaker Householder can longer function as speaker with these very, very serious charges …,” he added. “The people’s business must be done.”

DeWine said, like many Ohioans, he is “still struggling to process everything” concerning the federal case and charges.

The governor’s call for repeal added to a growing, bipartisan chorus that sought to overturn the bailout.

State Rep Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, was joined by several colleagues at a Statehouse press conference on Thursday to announce a bipartisan effort to repeal the bill.

The 2019 law aimed to save two nuclear power plants from closure by giving them $1 billion paid for by a surcharge on electric customers starting Jan. 1, while slashing incentives for renewable energy.

Lanese, who is sponsoring the repeal bill with Rep. Mark Romanchuk, R-Mansfield, said House Bill 6 must be repealed not only because it “was bad policy from the start, but because we need to reassure Ohioans that their representatives, Democrat or Republican, are truly working in their interest.”

Rep. Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township, said the bill has “33 bipartisan co-sponsors” in the 99-member House.

The House passed the bill, now law, 51 to 38 in July 2019. The Senate passed the bill 19 to 12 just more than a year ago.

“If we look at the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Attorney’s office, the 81 pages detail allegations that definitely taint this bill…we need to start fresh,” Lanese said.

She said she does not oppose nuclear energy nor does she want to see jobs lost but the energy policy was not properly vetted and must be tossed.

Lanese, who voted against House Bill 6, said she hopes proposals which had been removed from the legislation like incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency can be included in future legislation.

Carfagna said once the bill is repealed, some of the provisions should be reviewed and possibly reconsidered.

“The first priority, aside from this legislation, is to restore public trust and confidence not only in the House of Representatives but government service,” he said.

“We have a long ways to go.”

House Democrats supporting the effort did not appear at the press conference.

Two Democrats, Rep. Michael J. Skindell, of Lakewood, and Rep. Michael O’Brien, of Warren, announced on Wednesday plans to introduce their own repeal as well.

“This was a scheme to rip-off taxpayers…based on deceit and lies and selfish egotistical intent,” said Sen Stephanie Kunze, a Hilliard Republican supporting a similar repeal effort in the Senate. “We need to start from scratch.”

DeWine previously said he opposes the repeal because he says nuclear power should be part of Ohio’s energy portfolio.


By Randy Ludlow,

Catherine Candisky

The Columbus Dispatch

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