Ohio House Bill 6

Over the several days leading up to (the May 29) vote on House Bill 6, state Rep. Thomas West found himself in the same position as this (Canton Repository) Editorial Board, trying to understand complex legislation that seemingly was changing by the day.

The last revision came only hours before lawmakers, in a 54-43 vote, approved the bill that would overhaul the state’s energy policy.

Gone are the state’s renewable portfolio standards and its energy efficiency mandates. Preserved, for at least several more years, are Ohio’s two nuclear power plants and the thousands of jobs they support directly and indirectly. Added is the Ohio Clean Air Program, which will provide credits to qualifying clean-energy electricity producers (nuclear and large-scale solar projects).

And tipping the scale for West and other lawmakers is a provision that changes the surcharges all electricity users are paying. The Legislative Service Commission calculates residential customers will save an average of $3.68 per month on their electric bills.

Commercial and industrial users could save even more, and top executives from several in our area, along with labor group leaders, contacted West directly, stating their positions on the bill and asking for his support.

... For this board, bailing out FirstEnergy’s two nuclear power plants ... is a difficult provision to accept. We agree with critics of the bill who ask why government should be helping to determine “winners” and “losers” in the competitive marketplace. The bill also bails out two coal-fired plants, a late change we find particularly troubling.

The alternative to approving the bill, however, would leave the state in a worse condition. Ohio is not in position to take off-line the two sources of nearly all of its clean energy.

The Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants account for 15 percent of Ohio’s electricity generation overall and a staggering 90 percent of its clean — meaning zero-carbon emission — electricity production.

It’s a reflection of (and indictment of) the state’s poor record at developing clean, alternative energy sources over the past decade that it finds itself today needing to maintain nuclear power plants mainly because wind and solar account for only about 2 percent of its energy portfolio.

That is unacceptable. It is imperative the provisions in HB6 incentivizing large-scale solar projects be used aggressively so that we, as ratepayers, are not placed in a similar position another decade from now: tepidly supporting a bill only because the alternative is even less desirable.

In the final roll call, West joined nine other Democrats in support of the bill. Republican Scott Oelslager likewise voted yes. Reggie Stoltzfus and 16 other Republicans voted no.

... In the end, we need progress toward an energy policy that retires more outdated coal-fired plants, stops propping up segments of the market and moves Ohio toward cleaner, renewable alternatives at a pace at least comparable with other states.

The Canton Repository

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