Federal judge to rule on Ohio referendum petitions

The effort to overturn nuclear bailout legislation in Ohio is now in the hands of a federal judge, Kallanish Energy reports.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group that had been circulating petitions against House Bill 6 that would aid two nuclear power plants in Ohio owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, filed a lawsuit seeking more time to gather signatures.

The group did not file the petitions, saying a state law requiring the Ohio Attorney General to certify petition language illegally took up 38 of the 90 days it had to gather signatures.

Preliminary injunction sought

It is seeking a preliminary injunction to get more time to collect signatures. That request will be heard by U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. in Columbus this afternoon.

The group needed to gather 265,774 signatures by 12:01 a.m. today from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties to place a referendum on House Bill 6 on the November 2020 ballot.

Officials declined to say how many signatures had been collected.

Gas-fired plant owners fighting bailout

The effort to overturn the legislation includes owners of natural gas-fired power plants that have sprung up in Ohio due to its abundant Utica Shale natural gas.

Supporters of the bailout legislation, Ohioans for Energy Security, have spent roughly $16.6 million on ads fighting the referendum petition, while petition sponsors have spent about $5 million, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Ohioans for Energy Security may have spent about $7 million to collect 846,000 signatures on its own petition to state officials supporting House Bill 6, the newspaper reported.

There have been other allegations of misleading advertisements and dirty tricks against opponents.

Nearly $1B provided to bail out 2 nuclear plants

House Bill 6, approved this summer by the Ohio Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, provides nearly $1 billion to bailout two nuclear power plants that are owned and operated by FirstEnergy Solutions. They are the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants in northern Ohio.

Under the bill, Ohio electric customers will pay a new fee of 85 cents a month on their electric bills, with 90% of that money, or roughly $150 million a year, going to FirstEnergy Solutions. It would impact all utility customers in Ohio, not just FirstEnergy customers.

FirstEnergy Solutions had said it intends to close the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in 2020, and the Perry nuclear plant in 2021 unless a bailout is approved by the legislature. The nuclear plants cannot compete with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.

The fee would be collected from 2021-2027.

The company has spun off from Akron-based First Energy Corp and is operating under Chapter 11 protection. FirstEnergy Solutions was the unregulated generation arm of FirstEnergy, with coal and nuclear power plants in its portfolio.

This post appeared first on Kallanish Energy News.