GOP advance bill to halt collection of nuclear bailout money
Published 12:57 pm Thursday, December 17, 2020
COLUMBUS — A bill that would delay the collection of nuclear subsidies under the law at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe is under consideration by Ohio lawmakers as the lame duck session winds down.
The bill introduced by Republican Rep. Jim Hoops on Dec. 1 would halt the collection of at least $170 million in nuclear and solar subsidies by Energy Harbor for one year. It moved through the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight on Wednesday and might be up for a vote on the House floor as early as Thursday.
Republicans on Wednesday nixed the emergency clause in the bill and inserted language that would retroactively refund electricity customers most nuclear subsidies collected before the legislation’s effective date.
With no emergency clause, the bill’s passage through the House is more clear, requiring a simple majority and avoiding the need to garner Democratic support, which the bill does not have.
The proposal was a last-ditch effort as Republican lawmakers struggled to find common ground on repealing the law that led to the downfall of their former speaker in July and continues to loom over the majority party.
GOP lawmakers have also considered adding the measure to a separate water infrastructure bill that is pending before a conference committee. The idea received a flurry of backlash from Democrats, as well as supporters of a full or partial repeal of the law.
The $1 billion nuclear bailout, passed in July 2019, will add a fee to every electricity bill in the state starting Jan. 1 and direct over $150 million a year, through 2026, to two nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo.
Majority Republicans and Democrats in the House have argued over the best approach to reversing the law since the chamber’s former speaker, Larry Householder, and four of his associates were accused of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the polls.
Two men have since pleaded guilty and await sentencing, which has not been set. Householder and two others have pleaded not guilty.
In the days since criminal charges were filed over the energy bill, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine had voiced reservations about repealing it but later reversed course, saying the bill was tainted and needed to be repealed.
On Wednesday, DeWine said he would sign a bill that would delay or repeal the nuclear subsidies if it were to come to his desk, The Toledo Blade reported.
“If the Legislature presents me with this bill, and the bill has in it what I think it is, then I certainly would sign it,” the Republican governor said.