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Huron County commissioners support Davis-Besse bill

By TOM JACKSON • Updated May 16, 2019 at 11:36 PM

It’s good to have allies.        

As they lobby for passage of House Bill 6, the measure aimed at keeping the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor open, the Ottawa County commissioners have been asking other local governments for help.

In response, many other local governments have passed resolutions in support of the bill, including the Huron County commissioners. Their counterparts in in Erie and Sandusky counties also support the bill.

Huron County Commissioner Skip Wilde said the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant is in its mid-90s as far as its efficiency and is one the important parts of how the area gets electricity. About a month ago, he toured the facility with other government officials.

“It’s an amazing, clean plant,” Wilde said.

Resolutions of support have been OK’d by the township trustees from Catawba Island, Clay, Harris, Milan and Put-in-Bay, the Ottawa County Township Association, the villages of Genoa and Oak Harbor, the commissioners from Auglaize, Erie, Huron, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams and Wood counties, the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.

The Norwalk Reflector also is in favor of House Bill 6, as shown in a recent editorial.

‘‘Nobody should undervalue the ability to produce clean energy,” the editorial said.                                        

“If these facilities close, there is no carbon-free energy source that will be able to fill the void. Solar and wind energy are dependent on Mother Nature, which is anything but predictable when it comes to energy production. They cannot now produce energy in a predictable, reliable way, and will be entirely unable to fill the vacuum in the energy grid should nuclear energy production in Ohio end,” it said. 

House Bill 6 would impose a fee on electrical bills to support the two nuclear power plants and other sources of energy that don’t produce carbon pollution. For most customers, the fee would be smaller than the current green energy surcharge, supporters say.

Ottawa County Commissioner Mark Stahl said the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee was to hold another hearing on House Bill 6 on Wednesday and take testimony. Stahl was to be one of the witnesses.

Stahl said the commissioners have reached out for support.

“We sent out a letter from the Ottawa County commissioners asking them to partner with us, basically to acknowledge the contribution nuclear energy makes to our region,” he said.

Each local government was asked to send a letter of support to their local legislators and Gov. Mike DeWine, Stahl said.

DeWine, meanwhile, said he supports efforts in the Ohio General Assembly to keep Ohio’s two nuclear power plants open.

DeWine, who went to Marblehead earlier this month to mark the expansion of the Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve, was asked after the ceremony about House Bill 6, which puts a charge on electrical bills to keep the two plants open and support green energy initiatives.

DeWine said he wasn’t necessarily endorsing every aspect of the current bill.

“We’re still looking at different aspects of the bill,” he said.

But he said he supports the measure’s intent.

“It heads us in the right direction,” DeWine said.

“We have to have nuclear power in Ohio,” said the governor, who said the state needs a “balanced approach” to energy production.

If you worry about carbon pollution in the atmosphere feeding global warming, “you can’t today get there with just solar and wind,” the governor said. Without nuclear power, “it just doesn’t work at all.”

Nuclear power currently accounts for about 14 percent of electrical power generation in Ohio, with wind and solar contributing about 3 percent.

DeWine said the potential of nuclear plants to help deal with global warming is why figures such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates favor it.

“We’ve got them in Ohio,” he said. “We don’t want to close them.”

Closing the two plants would cost about 1,300 jobs. Shutting down Davis-Besse would cost about 700 jobs at an average salary of about $88,000 a year, Stahl said.

Stahl said he’s pleased by DeWine’s comments.

“I’m excited to hear that the governor is on board,” he said. 

In a blog posting at the end of 2018 at his personal website, Gates touted the importance of nuclear power in dealing with climate change.

“Some people think we have all the tools we need, and that driving down the cost of renewables like solar and wind solves the problem. I am glad to see solar and wind getting cheaper and we should be deploying them wherever it makes sense,” Gates wrote.

“But solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy, and we are unlikely to have super-cheap batteries anytime soon that would allow us to store sufficient energy for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing,” Gates wrote.

“Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day. The problems with today’s reactors, such as the risk of accidents, can be solved through innovation,” he wrote.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby contributed to this story.

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