Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has filed its first round of signatures with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to hold a referendum on the law that bails out nuclear plants and scraps green energy policies.
If their petition language is approved they will start collecting signatures to put the issue on the 2020 ballot in November. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts would need 265,774 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The new law, created through HB6, would create a new 85 cent charge on monthly electric bills for residential ratepayers. Commercial and industrial ratepayers would also see a new fee which will generate $150 million for FirstEnergy Solutions’ two nuclear plants, Davis-Besse and Perry.
FirstEnergy Solutions has been seeking a significant subsidy from Ohio lawmakers for several years, saying it was one of the only ways to avoid shutting down both plants.
That new charge on electric bills creates an additional $20 million for existing solar farms.
The law also props up two struggling coal plants through language that allows utilities to charge customers up to $1.50 a month to subsidize the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation’s two coal plants, Kyger Creek in Gallia County and Clifty Creek in Madison, Indiana.
In addition to the new subsidies, the law rolls back policies that required investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Gene Pierce, spokesperson for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, acknowledges that utility policies can get complicated. “But the impact of it, the bottom line, wallet, pocketbook impact of it, is pretty simple," Pierce said. "There’s an increased cost that many Ohioans are going to have to pay to bailout some unprofitable investments that a major company made.”
Pierce said the group was not yet disclosing specific supporters of the referendum effort but added that he expects many of the opponents of HB6 to continue voicing their concerns about the law.
Supporters of HB6 have said bailing out the nuclear plants means saving jobs and protecting the environment since nuclear provides the largest amount of non-carbon emitting energy generation in Ohio. They add that cutting the green energy policies helped offset charges to electric customers and results in a rate reduction.