COLUMBUS — Ohio lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to legislation dismantling two key parts of the corruption-ridden House Bill 6 that give billions in ratepayer dollars to energy companies.
House Bill 128, which Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to soon sign, is the first bill to clear the legislature that repeals any part of HB6, the law at the center of what authorities say is the largest bribery scheme in Ohio history.
HB128 rescinds a $1 billion-plus financial bailout of two Northern Ohio nuclear power plants. It also repeals a “decoupling” provision that allows FirstEnergy Corp. to collect a comparatively high amount of money from customers even in years when demand is down, and orders refunds for money already collected.
HB128 also revokes language from a different law making it easier for FirstEnergy to pass a state test meant to prevent utilities from making significantly excessive profits.
House Bill 6, which passed the legislature in 2019 after a contentious battle, came under even more scrutiny starting last summer, when then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four allies were charged with using more than $60 million in FirstEnergy bribery money to secure the bill’s passage.
HB128 passed the legislature with little opposition. One reason for that is that after Householder’s arrest, DeWine and a majority of state lawmakers called for the repeal of HB6. But another reason is that Energy Harbor, the former FirstEnergy subsidiary that now owns the nuclear plants, has lobbied for the option of turning down the bailout money because a federal regulatory ruling might otherwise make the subsidies a liability.
Even if DeWine signs HB128, several other parts of HB6 would remain in place, including provisions gutting Ohio’s energy-efficiency programs and renewable-energy mandates, as well as statewide subsidies for two coal plants — one in Indiana, one in Ohio — owned by a consortium of utility companies in the state.