Nuclear plant subsidies hit electric bills in January; manufacturers want to block them

The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association on Wednesday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block charges to bailout two nuclear power plants from hitting more than 4 million electricity bills.

Under a controversial energy law known as House Bill 6, customers across Ohio will start paying fees on their monthly electric bills in January. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in August issued an order to establish the “Clean Air Fund Rider,” which will allow collection of up to $170 million a year. The bulk of the $170 million would go to Akron-based Energy Harbor to keep open its two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio.

The OMA Energy Group, whose members pay hefty power bills, asked the state supreme court to stay the PUCO’s order. The group is challenging the amount of the subsidies, the rate mechanism and the process the PUCO used to enact the rate mechanism.

House Bill 6 is at the center of a massive public corruption investigation. In July, former House Speaker Larry Householder and four other men were charged with racketeering in what prosecutors describe as a $60 million bribery scheme.

Prosecutors allege that money was funneled by utility companies, later identified as FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor, into a series of organizations that helped position Householder to become House speaker so he could in turn pass HB6 and defend it from a referendum attempt.

In October, two of the men pleaded guilty and FirstEnergy Corp. fired its chief executive and two other senior executives.

In November, FBI agents executed a search warrant on PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo’s condo and FirstEnergy told the Securities and Exchange Commission that it fired the executives in part because of a $4 million payment it made to end a consulting agreement with someone who was later appointed a full-time regulator over Ohio utilities. Randazzo resigned his PUCO post.

The Ohio House is considering bills that would repeal HB6 or delay collection of the nuclear subsidy fees for a year.

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