Big nuclear power plant smokestack with white smoke billowing out

Ohio House Bill (HB) 6 is a huge proposed bailout of two Chernobyl-in-progress Ohio nuclear power plants, plus two old coal burners. The bailout would go to Akron’s bankrupt FirstEnergy, whose two nuclear reactors sit on Lake Erie, threatening the drinking water of millions.

In 1986 the Perry reactor east of Cleveland became the first U.S. reactor to be damaged by an earthquake. Critical pipes and concrete were cracked, as were nearby roads and bridges. A top-level state study showed soon thereafter that evacuation amidst a major accident would be impossible.

FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse, east of Toledo, is a 42-year-old Three Mile Island clone. In 2002, boric acid ate through its head, threatening a Chernobyl-scale accident irradiating Toledo, Cleveland, and the Great Lakes. At FirstEnergy’s request, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has exempted Davis-Besse from vital regulations for flooding, fire protection, earthquake vulnerability and security. Its radiation shield building is literally crumbling.

In 2003, when nearby power lines sagged onto tree limbs, FirstEnergy blacked out some 50 million people throughout the northeast and well into Canada.

By then, FirstEnergy had scammed Ohio for some $9 billion in “stranded cost” bailouts. The utility said “open market competition” would lower rates ... after it pocketed the public’s money. The upshot is that energy costs in FirstEnergy territory in Northern Ohio are the highest in the state, which has resulted in keeping industrial development out of the area.

Now FirstEnergy says its subsidized nukes can’t compete with gas and wind power. The latest incarnation of the ever-changing HB 6 would give them about $157 million/year through 2026. This would come from Ohio’s electric ratepayers – even those outside FirstEnergy territory. The regressive measure would add about $1/month to residential bills and would hit small businesses hard.

Because it is illegal for Ohio to directly subsidize any particular energy source, Ohio Republicans have crafted HB 6 as “The Ohio Clean Air Program.” Cleverly, the word “nuclear” is not even in the bill.  But it is written in a way that only gives a bailout to FirstEnergy’s two nukes and two coal plants, one of which is in Indiana!

Even worse, HB 6 also quashes Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. Historically, FirstEnergy was the driving force behind Ohio’s 2014 wind setback law, which dictates such a great distance for a wind turbine from any home or road that only a handful of turbines can be built in Ohio, let alone a wind farm. 

Ohio is poised to be a leader in wind and solar development. Efficiency mandates have cost Ohioans $1.5 billion and will save $8.7 billion over their lifetime. These benefits are being crushed by through legislative shenanigans.

Yes, those seven top FirstEnergy Execs, who skimmed $20 million in salaries and perks from their shareholders in 2017, and bankrupted the company at the same time, deserve a bailout. In 2018, they spent $3 million on “lobbying” and they want something for it.

To insulate the parent company against bankruptcy, FirstEnergy has spun off its nukes and coal into another entity, FirstEnergy Solutions. The nuclear giant Exelon is positioning itself to buy FirstEnergy’s nuclear and coal plants when the bankruptcy is settled. Thus, the bailout would actually go to Exelon, whose headquarters are in Illinois.

Ohio’s media have come out strongly against HB 6. Many hours of testimony have been heard at the Statehouse, the vast majority against the bill. Opponents have testified that no one bailed out their towns when industries left. 

Indeed, worker jobs would be affected by plant closures, and towns and local businesses would feel the impact. With enough public pressure, decommissioning – the dismantling of the plants – could begin immediately upon closure and nuclear workers could be rehired for that enormous job.

The Ohio House passed HB 6 on May 23.  Stunningly, ten democrats voted for this Republican bill. On June 30, in an unusual move, the legislature extended their session by 17 days.  Please call your legislators during this window and tell them NO ON HB 6.  

FIND your legislators and their phone numbers at Call by July 16

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