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A tax or not a tax? That is the question that could sink opposition to Ohio's nuclear bailout

COLUMBUS – "When Ohio lawmakers approved a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, they bristled at one word that opponents of the subsidies used repeatedly: tax. 

'I heard a lot about a tax,' Green Township Rep. Bill Seitz said. 'I do believe in being precise. Not one word in this bill creates any tax of any kind whatsoever.'

That was then.

This is now: in an effort to halt a ballot challenge, a Columbus attorney is calling the nuclear subsidies a new tax on Ohioans.

That's because taxes are not subject to a veto referendum, the method opponents hope to use to stop the legislation from taking effect.

House Bill 6, which adds fees on ratepayers' bills for nuclear plants while slashing incentivizes for renewable energy and energy efficiency, meets all the requirements of a tax, wrote attorney John Zeiger in an Aug. 1 letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. 

'The charges levied under H.B. 6 are imposed by the legislature, upon a broad class of parties and for a public purpose,' he wrote.

Zeiger asked Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to reject the referendum. Zeiger, known for helping to disqualify the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate in 2014, did not say in the letter whom he represented."

– Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

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Attorney general shuts down proposed referendum to overturn Ohio’s new nuclear bailout law

Attorney General Dave Yost

COLUMBUS — "Yost, a Columbus-area Republican, wrote in a rejection letter to the group Ohioans Against Corporate Bailout that he found 21 errors with the group’s proposed summary language – a succinct explanation of the proposal provided to voters asked to sign a petition supporting the measure.

The errors he cited range from inaccurate definitions of terms such as 'electric distribution utility' and 'operation risks' to misstating the size of energy projects that are eligible for a property tax exemption. (The proposed summary states that projects generating less than 20 megawatts are eligible, while the new law states the tax exemption is for projects greater than 20 megawatts.)

The proposed summary, Yost asserted, also misstates the powers given by the new law to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the newly created Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, the latter of which will oversee the distribution of $150 million per year (raised from a new $1 surcharge on every Ohio ratepayer’s bill) to Ohio’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, both of which are owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. that is in bankruptcy proceedings as part of an attempt to become a separate company.

Yost’s rejection means Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has to revise their summary language, collect another 1,000 signatures from registered voters, and resubmit their proposal to the attorney general’s office. The group has until Oct. 21 to submit language that’s acceptable to the attorney general, according to Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts spokesman Gene Pierce.

In a statement, Pierce said his group will submit a revised summary within the next several days that addresses Yost’s concerns."

— Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com

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FirstEnergy turns on supporters

TOLEDO -- "FirstEnergy Solutions got its $150 million a year bailout from the state of Ohio and then proceeded to declare war on the unions that represent workers in two of its nuclear power plants.

The company’s attempt to cancel its contracts with the unions at Perry and Beaver Valley nuclear generating stations smack of opportunism and bad faith. Perry is near Cleveland. Beaver Valley is in Pennsylvania.

The General Assembly’s vote to save good-paying jobs at Ohio’s two nuclear plants — Perry and Davis-Besse — earned some Democratic backing, enough to push it over the edge. Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, near Oak Harbor, was not included in FirstEnergy Solutions’ legal filing."

-- editorial board, Toledo Blade

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Wind industry says Ohio’s proposed turbine ‘incident’ reporting rules are too vague

a wind farm

"Ohio’s wind industry could soon face more hurdles to siting and producing wind farms if regulators approve new rules on building codes and incident reporting. 

The proposed rules would require various components of wind farms to comply with building code regulations. They also call for prompt reporting of 'incidents' at wind farms, as well as regulatory approval before facilities start up again after those events.

The building code requirements 'state the obvious and should not be controversial,' said lawyer John Stock in comments filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board in July on behalf of wind farm opponents. Stock represents opponents in various cases dealing with individual wind farms. He has also represented the Murray Energy coal company in regulatory proceedings.

But the proposed rules present multiple problems, according to industry and environmental advocates."

- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

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FirstEnergy Solutions moves to ditch union contracts

FirstEnergy Solutions' veteran nuclear plant workers would lose traditional pensions if a bankruptcy court agrees with the latest FES restructuring plan

AKRON -- "On the same day in July that Ohio lawmakers approved state-wide customer charges to give FirstEnergy Solutions a six-year $1.1 billon nuclear plant subsidy, the company told a bankruptcy court it could not honor existing contracts with unions representing power plant employees and intended to negotiate completely new bargaining agreements once it emerged as a reorganized company.

 


Referendum to defeat House Bill 6 begins to gather energy in state

Ohio's Perry Nuclear Plant Credit: Neal Wellons (Creative Commons)

COLUMBUS -- "FirstEnergy Solutions might not want to spend its bailout money just yet. There's reason to doubt Ohioans will follow through in subsidizing the Akron company's nuclear plants in Lake and Ottawa counties.

While state legislators may have decided to subsidize the Perry and Davis-Besse plants with about $150 million a year from ratepayers via House Bill 6, voters have not. A referendum to overturn HB 6 is gaining support and could land on the ballot in a perfect, high-turnout election year for its success.

'I think it could easily win. … HB 6 is very unpopular,' said Paul Beck, a professor emeritus and former chair of the political science department at Ohio State University.

Beck and other observers say HB 6 has it all, in terms of angering voters. Liberals and even some conservatives hate that it guts support for renewable energy after the state used subsidies to lure those industries to Ohio. Liberals hate that it subsidizes dirty coal plants. Many conservatives hate that it picks winners and losers by subsidizing one industry over another."

-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business

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Nuclear energy bill won't affect plans for wind farm

Wind farm in Bowling Green, the pioneer of the state in developing commercial wind energy.

 

BELLEVUE — "The approval of a bill to save Ohio’s nuclear power plants won’t affect plans to place a wind farm in Erie and Huron counties.

Apex Clean Energy wants to construct up 71 wind turbines in the two counties in with its Emerson Creek project. Its proposal is being reviewed by the Ohio Power Siting Board, which holds the authority to deny or approve it.

The Ohio General Assembly recently approved House Bill 6, which subsidized Ohio’s nuclear energy plants, including FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse.

But the bill also eliminated Ohio’s efficiency and renewable energy standards. Despite this change, Apex said it plans to move forward with the Emerson Creek if the board approves it.

'Hundreds of local landowners and farmers have invested time and energy into local wind projects with Apex Clean Energy,' Apex spokeswoman Natasha Montague said. 'We continue our commitment to these projects and the communities they benefit.'"

— Michael Harrington, Sandusky Register

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Could wind turbine farms power the valley's future economy?

VAN WERT — "The Blue Creek Wind Farm operated by Avangrid Renewables is not far from the small rural, suburban city of Van Wert.

The farm's 152 wind turbines catch your attention while traveling on Route 30 to the Ohio-Indiana border.

The largest wind farm in Ohio generates enough electricity to power the entire nearby communities.

'We're in both Paulding and Van Wert counties. That's more homes than we actually have in Paulding and Van Wert, so we could theoretically supply every home here,' said Neil Voje said, plant manager at Blue Creek Wind Farm.

Voje says you need the right amount of space and a certain amount of wind for a wind farm to be successful. He says most areas around the country are viable locations.

The wind turbines can generate power starting with winds as low as 5 miles per hour, but the sweet spot for maximum production is 25 to 35 miles per hour. They're larger than the wind turbines of the past spanning 100 meters tall.

The movement from the turbines means money for two local school districts to the tune of more than a million dollars each year.

'That's big money for our schools, for county general- $300,000 comes into the county general fund, which we use for lots of different expenditures,' said Thad Lichtensteiger said, Van Wert County commissioner.

Money from the wind farm helped the Crestview Local Schools enough financially that it didn't have to ask voters for a renewal levy in recent years. He says Lincolnview Schools used the funding to provide all of its students with tablets in the classroom.

While traditional jobs of the past in the Midwest continue to disappear, employment in the renewable energy sector is expected to power the economy in the years to come."

— Lindsay McCoy, WFMJ Weekend Today

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Ohio’s nuclear power rescue bill: some questions and answers

COLUMBUS — ”Ohio lawmakers on Thursday are expected to rework high-profile legislation that would scrap the state’s green-energy mandates in favor of subsidies to “clean-energy” power producers.

It’s the latest milestone in the controversial legislation, which supporters say would save Ohioans money on their electric bills and opponents claim is a “bailout” for two Northern Ohio nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions.

House Bill 6 is a complicated but important bill that has created interesting bedfellows: Republican House Speaker Larry Householder, FirstEnergy Solutions, labor unions, nuclear power advocates, and local officials on one side; House Democrats, environmental groups, the fossil-fuel industry, renewable energy companies, and some conservative organizations on the other.

Here’s more on what the bill would do, the arguments for and against it, and how likely it is to pass.”

— Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com

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