Controversial new Ohio energy law may go before voters in 2020

A week after Gov. Mike DeWine signed a controversial energy bill into law, opponents filed the initial paperwork to put House Bill 6 on the statewide ballot for referendum.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts filed the petition wording to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday along with nearly 3,000 initial signatures.

The move signals that the battle over House Bill 6 is far from over. The group aims to put the new law up for a referendum vote in November 2020.

“Bailing out a multi-billion dollar corporation and gutting Ohio’s renewable standards is bad public policy and will cost the state tens of thousands of jobs,” said Gene Pierce, spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, in a written statement.

Related: Big money backs energy bill; consumer groups oppose it

House Bill 6 will give Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions $150-million a year from Ohio’s 4.8 million ratepayers for six years — $900 million — to help keep open two aging nuclear power plants along Lake Erie that had been scheduled for shutdown.

Another subsidy from ratepayers will be given to Ohio Valley Electric Corp.’s two coal-fired plants, in which DP&L, Duke Energy and American Electric Power hold ownership stakes. That is expected to cost ratepayers more than $350 million over a decade. The bill also scales back renewable energy portfolio mandates and eventually eliminates mandated energy efficiency programs.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts faces a big job on a tight deadline: collect 265,774 valid voter signatures by Oct. 21 to qualify for the November 2020 ballot.

Related: Plans canceled to send state plane to pick up lawmakers for key vote

With the new subsidies coming, FES announced on July 26 that it would not close the two nuclear power plants along Lake Erie. The same day FES rescinded plans to deactivate the coal-fired Sammis plant in Stratton, Ohio, in 2022.

Supporters of the new law say it’ll save Ohio consumers as much as $1.3 billion over several years. Opponents say it’ll actually cost ratepayers money since it scales back and eventually eliminates energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

About the Author