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Support for Davis-Besse grows

By Tom Jackson • May 29, 2019 at 4:00 PM

The Ohio House is poised to vote soon on House Bill 6, the measure aimed to keep Ohio’s two nuclear power plants from shutting down, including the Davis-Besse power station near Oak Harbor.

The Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bill Thursday after weeks of hearings, sending it to the full House for a vote. If it passes the House, the measure would then await Senate action.

Davis-Besse is losing money and will shut down by May 2020 if it doesn’t receive the subsidy funded by H.B. 6. The measure would save about 700 jobs at Davis-Besse.

The latest version of the bill, also introduced Thursday, seems more partisan than previous versions and eliminates provisions sought by many environmental organizations.                     

The earlier versions of H.B. 6 included subsidies for wind and solar power as well as the two nuclear power plants. The new version subsidizes the nuclear plants but eliminates funding for wind and solar.

The new version also has a provision, absent from earlier versions, that makes it harder to establish wind farms in Ohio. It establishes a procedure to allow voters in unincorporated areas of a township to vote on whether they want to allow a wind farm to be established in their neighborhood.

The measure would end a requirement that electrical utilities obtain 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources such as wind power and solar power.

A $2.50 a month fee on electrical bills for homeowners, which backers say is smaller than the current fee subsidizing renewable energy, would pay for the nuclear subsidy and also subsidize two coal plants in southern Ohio.

The bill was approved by the House Energy Committee on a party line vote, and the latest changes appear to make it less likely that Republicans will be able to obtain Democratic votes for the bill.

State Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, said Friday Republicans tried to reach out to Democrats by including provisions in the bill to promote renewable energy options such as wind and solar. The chairman of the House Energy Committee, state Rep. A. Nino Vitale, R-Vitale, became frustrated trying to get Democrats to support the bill, Arndt said.

“We spent a lot of time trying to work with the wind and solar folks, and they didn’t really want to play,” Vitale said, according to a report earlier this week in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The new version of the bill is so new that Arndt said he doesn’t have a feel yet for whether it is likely to pass the Ohio House. Arndt said he also doesn’t know what the Ohio Senate is likely to do.                                 

Democrats on Thursday introduced their own legislation, the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which includes subsidies for the nuclear power plants but also widens support for other forms of green energy, such as wind and solar.

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