Akron Beacon Journal. Feb. 14, 2021.
Editorial: What are lawmakers waiting for? Repeal corrupt HB 6 now and start over. Expel Householder.
What will it take to knock down House Bill 6, a corrupt Ohio law which still stands like the coal-fired smokestacks of old?
Well, after nearly eight months of waiting, it appears Ohio Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mark Romanchuk, is advancing. That’s good news for consumers, as it would formally remove one form of electric utility subsidy and provide refunds to electric utility customers. However, coal and nuclear subsidies would stay and renewable energy provisions would remain dead.
Background: How the FBI claims Larry Householder corruptly parlayed $60M into a $1.3B energy bailout, personal gain
HB 6 remains polluted by a $61 million bribery scandal tied to its support and passage. Federal investigators allege FirstEnergy Corp., known as “Company A” in court filings, bribed former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Perry County, and others to pass the bill that allows a $1 billion-plus rate-payer bailout of two nuclear power plants and other operations once owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.
The conspiracy continues to grow. On Feb. 5, representatives of the political group Generation Now signed a guilty plea acknowledging it was part of a criminal conspiracy with Householder, who was arrested in July, and others. Those others include lobbyists for FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions. Two men also have pleaded guilty in the case.
In some quarters, including this editorial page, House Bill 6 was hailed in 2019 for helping to keep the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants online. Nuclear energy is a reliable source for Ohio and is considered clean energy. The two Lake Erie plants employ thousands of people, as well.
In written testimony in support of Senate Bill 10, Greg R. Lawson, research fellow at the Buckeye Institute think tank, called HB 6′s decoupling provisions, a type of subsidy, egregious for locking in “the highest possible cost to consumers for the maximum benefit of one company — FirstEnergy.”
The Buckeye Institute, a conservative free market public policy supporter, says SB 10 is a step in the right direction but “does not repeal the bailouts or all that was wrong with House Bill 6.”
The Nature Conservancy, in its written testimony, also calls SB 10 a step forward, but adds it doesn’t come close to addressing the “myriad” of shortcomings in the state’s energy policies. The nonpartisan conservancy group urges the state to work with “businesses and manufacturers, municipalities, environmental and conservation groups, consumer advocacy agencies” and others in crafting an energy plan for the state.
Even if one agrees that FirstEnergy subsidiary Energy Harbor (formerly FirstEnergy Solutions) needs a subsidy to keep its aging nuclear plants online as a reliable, clean source of electricity, Ohio lawmakers should try again. Scandal taints HB 6 and the House, where Householder remains a representative.
In Coshocton County, one of the three counties in Householder’s 72nd District, elected officials are now calling on House Speaker Bob Cupp to remove Householder and name a replacement. The leaders, including all three Coshocton County commissioners and the city of Coshocton’s mayor, say he is no longer an effective voice for his constituents.
The Ohio General Assembly needs to work for Ohioans. Rewriting this legislation and removing a lawmaker under indictment should be priorities.
The scandal of HB 6 is not the only concern.
Ohio needs an energy policy that takes into consideration jobs, price and climate change. A new president is in office, and surely “clean energy” will be discussed with incentives offered to entrepreneurs.
Must Ohio cling to the past, with a scandalous bill guiding its energy policy?