COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to cut away part of House Bill 6. The bill is at the heart of a federal racketeering case involving former House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, his associates and FirstEnergy.
What You Need To Know
- House Bill 6 infamously centered around the $61 million bribery scheme to pass a $1 billion nuclear bailout of two state power plants
- Lawmakers are working to cut away parts of HB6
- Two bills are being introduced to change items involving Ohio energy
The state legislature is considering getting rid of another subsidy attached to the bill as well as restoring part of Ohio's energy efficiency law.
House Bill 6 infamously centered around the $61 million bribery scheme to pass a $1 billion nuclear bailout of two state power plants. Two of Householder's associates, Jeff Longstreth and Juan Cespedes, have pleaded guilty along with Householder's dark money group, Generation Now.
FirstEnergy also fessed up to its role in bribing Ohio's former top utilities regulator, Sam Randazzo, who helped make the bill a law.
"HB6 was a corrupt bill," said Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus, R-Paris Township.
Yet, there were other polarizing things in the bill like a handout to the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation, or OVEC, to keep two coal plants afloat. One of which is in Indiana.
"I think we've lost the trust of Ohioans," Stoltzfus said.
Ohioans have paid $340 million for the plants so far with plenty more to come until 2030.
Stoltzfus and fellow House Republican Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, have introduced House Bill 351 to stop the subsidy. Senators Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, and Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, have a similar bill working through the Senate.
"If those OVEC subsidies can stand on their own feet, within their own legislation, with their own bill, by all means. And if they can pass then so be it. But as it stands now, they're tainted. They need to be removed," said Stoltzfus.
A FirstEnergy spokesperson said the company "does not retain" any of the money and simply gives it to OVEC's three companies: AEP Ohio, Duke Energy Ohio and AES Ohio. A spokesperson from AEP said OVEC provides "critical generation resources."
The Ohio Environmental Council disagreed.
"Coal is closing all over the country, including here in Ohio, because it just can't compete in the marketplace. And so, artificially propping up two plants, one of which isn't even in Ohio on the backs of ratepayers, is really an irresponsible move," said Randi Leppla, Vice President of Energy Policy and Lead Energy Counsel for OEC.
The other bill getting bipartisan support comes from Columbus Democrat David Leland and House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati. House Bill 389 says if electric companies can find ways to lower their customer's bills and those ideas get approved by the state, then those same companies could charge as much as $1.50 per month for Energy Waste Reduction programs. Customers can also opt out of the programs which is different from House Bill 6.
"It's all about saving money,” said Leland. “It's about saving money for the consumers. It's about creating green energy jobs and it's about reducing our carbon emissions.”
While OEC also supports this bill, Leppla said it does not go far enough. The bill calls for companies to reduce its customers' energy use by half a percentage per year. Before House Bill 6, that number was 2%.
"It makes fiscal sense, economic sense, makes sense for the climate for us to be doing as much as we can to reduce our energy consumption,” Leppla said. “What we're really talking about here is making sure that we're just cutting out leaky windows, all those things that make us pay higher bills for no reason and make us turn to dirtier and more expensive energy sources to source that energy."
The sponsors of the two bills have different levels of confidence in their bills becoming law.
Seitz has said his and Leland's Energy Waste Reduction bill has as much bipartisan and environmental support from the beginning as likely will be ever seen for a bill. So they think that will get to the finish line. However, the OVEC bill is seen as more of a 50-50 chance. Stoltzfus said he hopes that changes the more the legislature hears about its benefits.