Ohio’s energy and economic future is now in the hands of the Public Utilities Commission.

  The PUCO has been confronted with three massive bailouts meant to prolong Ohio’s dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
  Thankfully, it has already nixed one.
  If it approves the other two, Ohio is doomed to dangerous, non-competitive mediocrity as well as ecological ruin.
  But if the PUCO does the right thing and refuses these gargantuan bailouts, Ohio may have a chance to use that money to power a competitive economic future.
  Citizen activists and rate-paying business organizations have joined in a unique coalition to help persuade the PUCO to spare the state this disastrous mistake. Your own activism on this issue could help make the difference.
  Ohio’s three largest utilities are locked into fossil/nuke obsolescence. Duke Energy in the south, American Electric Power in the central regions and First Energy up north all take huge profits from vastly out-dated coal burners and nuclear reactors.
  These filthy old power plants are destroying our state and our planet. While the world’s energy generation enjoys a massive technological revolution, some of Ohio’s power plants have been around for half a century. They are all decrepit to the point of collapse. But these are the ones Ohio’s utilities want the public to subsidize for many billions, locking the state out of the modern, alternative energy sources that are redefining the world.
  FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse (nuke) near Toledo, was designed in the 1960s and went on line in 1978. It is a clone of Three Mile Island, which melted a year later. It was has consistently been rated one of America’s worst reactors (until 2000). In 2000, inspectors accidentally discovered boric acid had eaten nearly all the way through a safety shroud, threatening the entire Great Lakes region with an apocalyptic radiation release.
  To this day no such potential catastrophic corrosion has been found at any other commercial reactor in the world. It’s infamous in energy circles as the “hole-in-the-head” reactor.
  To keep (it) generating radioactive profits, FE has treated Davis-Besse like an old jalopy it refuses to scrap. It’s been been chopped up, sliced into, glued together, patched over and covered up more than any other nuclear power plant anywhere.
  According to long-time expert Kevin Kamps of the Washington-based Beyond Nuclear organization, Davis-Besse’s concrete shield building is literally crumbling. Tiny cracks in the structure expand and crumble (due to) when ice gets in them, then melts, then freezes again. A recent coat of paint has locked in moisture, causing even more damage. Rebar steel within the structure expands and contracts with the weather, making the situation even worse.
  By all accounts Davis-Besse is as dangerously damaged and outdated a reactor as operates anywhere on Earth and should have closed long ago—-probably in 1979 when its sibling at TMI nearly exploded.
  Yet 36 years later FirstEnergy is asking the PUCO to stick the public with huge rate hikes to keep it going. In other words, even though the state is allegedly deregulated, with the free market supposed to determine how our power is derived, FE wants the PUCO to force ratepayers to subsidize a crumbling, obsolete hunk of radioactive junk that threatens the entire Great Lakes region.
  When deregulation was forced into Ohio by large moneyed utilities, billions of public dollars were used to prop up Davis-Besse. Its owners admitted the reactor could not compete, and demanded the public pay for upgrades so it could “make its way in the marketplace.”
  But that’s never happened. Stripped of subsidies, Davis-Besse is a huge money loser. And once again its owners are gorging at the public trough, demanding huge injections of cash to keep running a reactor that belongs to a by-gone century.
  In FE’s case, the money demand for Davis-Besse also includes ratepayer subsidies for the Sammis coal burner, a decayed, out-dated dinosaur that’s more that a half-century old. FE wants to rip $3 billion dollars out of ratepayer pockets to keep those two plants running, even though they can’t compete in the marketplace FE once begged to create.
  If the PUCO turns them down, it’s a virtual certainty that FirstEnergy will go to the courts to get their bailout there. It’s not clear what they’ll argue. But FE’s battalion of high-paid attorneys will be only too happy to take the case.
  If they lose there, FE will go to the governor and the legislature. Both espouse a “free market” ideology that seems to disappear whenever a big corporate backer demands a public bailout. But Ohio’s ratepayers, led by the Sierra Club and other activist organizations, are already gearing up for a big fight.
  The PUCO has turned down AEP’s request for massive subsidies for two coal burners. But the Commission's complex ruling still allowed the possibility of manipulative purchase power agreements that would amount to subsidies. Ratepayer advocates hotly dispute that part of the decision, which should spark an interesting court battle.
  On the other hand the PUCO ruled that the economic case for those two fossils could not be made. The numbers for Davis-Besse and Sammis are far worse, so there’s reason to be optimistic.
  The Commission has already held very well-attended public hearings in FE's northern Ohio service territory, where people overwhelmingly testified in opposition to being gouged for more than $3 billion that could otherwise be spent on clean, competitive new technologies.
  On June 15 the Commission will begin evidentiary hearings in Columbus. The public can observe but not testify.
  On, Sunday, April 12, the FreePress, Sierra and others will sponsor a conference at Columbus State Community College from 1-6 pm to strategize on how to stop this proposed rip-off. Saturday night, April 11, nuclear expert Kevin Kamps will speak on Davis-Besse’s catastrophe collapse to the FreePress evening Salon.
  Clearly the PUCO’s decisions in these three cases will define much of the bottom line on Ohio’s economic and ecological future.
  The governor and legislature have already nixed a major federal grant to restore passenger rail service from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati. They tried to stop the sale of Tesla cars here. And they made Ohio the first US state to gut a comprehensive green energy law meant to make the state competitive with other regions going to wind and solar power. (see box).
  If they now gouge billions more out of the state’s resources to prop up obsolete coal and nuke burners, Ohio can forget about any kind of 21st century future.

FreePress Senior Editor Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, and hosts the Green Power & Wellness Show at