CResidents of Lake County in northeastern Ohio are back on edge.
So are those in Ottawa County in northern Ohio.
The $61 million Statehouse scandal involving House Bill 6 has raised concerns that the legislation will be repealed and will put the state’s two nuclear power plants at risk — again — of being shut down.
At stake are 1,400 jobs in the two counties along Lake Erie, where the plants are major economic drivers.
“The people of Perry and Ottawa are on pins and needles again. Are they going to have jobs?” said Jerry Cirino, a Lake County commissioner and advocate for the Perry nuclear plant.
The second plant, Davis-Besse, is in Ottawa County.
Residents of both counties thought the plants were saved from closing after the nasty political fight that led to the passage of HB 6 a year ago. The key provision of the law is a subsidy of $150 million a year that is to flow to the plants starting next year and running through 2027.
Then came the arrests of then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four others in a bribery and racketeering scandal linked to HB 6. The five are accused of using the money to back legislative candidates to help Householder regain the speaker’s seat; to pay for advertising to build support for HB 6; and to ensure that opponents of the law did not gather enough signatures in their attempt to overturn it.
Since the scandal erupted in July, some legislators have pushed for the repeal of the legislation, and that worries Cirino and one of his Ottawa County counterparts, Mark Stahl.
“It’s created a lot of anxiety for the men and women who work out there” at the Davis-Besse plant, Stahl said.
The two commissioners say the legislation is good policy for the state despite the scandal.
“We’re talking about an economic cataclysm,” Cirino said of the impact if Perry is closed. “As one elected official, I cannot and will not step back and let this happen.”
What House Bill 6 does
The legislation is best known for imposing a fee of 85 cents a month on residential ratepayers in Ohio beginning in 2021.
The fee will generate about $170 million a year, with $150 million of that going to the nuclear plants. The remaining money will support the development of six solar projects in the state.
Beyond that, the law extends fees of up to $1.50 a month on consumers to shore up two old coal-fired power plants — one of them in Indiana — through 2030. The plants are owned by a group of power companies including Columbus-based American Electric Power.
The law also guts the state’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency efforts, which opponents of HB 6 say have helped create tens of thousands of jobs in Ohio and reduced the power bills of Ohio consumers.
Proponents of the law say those moves will reduce average monthly electric bills by $2.77, or $1.3 billion over nine years. Opponents say that is misleading because the energy-efficiency programs have helped consumers reduce their electricity bills.