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Editorial: Early start to HB 6 ad wars portends misinformation to come

Aug 29, 2019 1:40 PM

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The website of Ohioans for Energy Security warns, "don't give your personal information to the Chinese government."

"Brace yourselves, Ohio, for another whole holler-fest around House Bill 6, the recently passed law using Ohioans’ electric bills to bail out two nuclear power plants plus a couple of coal plants. It also will boost a few specific solar-energy projects but otherwise decimate clean-energy development in the state.

Unsurprisingly, the law has enough opposition that a campaign was mounted quickly to subject it to a ballot referendum. Equally unsurprisingly, HB 6 backers plan to fight the referendum effort.

If the law’s opponents succeed in getting the 265,774 valid petition signatures they need by Oct. 21 to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot, we can all expect a hard-fought campaign with a barrage of ads like those we saw while the General Assembly was debating the bill. Obnoxious ad wars are standard for high-profile ballot issues.

In this case, though, those who want to see the bailout bill survive aren’t even waiting for an election campaign; they’re spending money to keep an election from happening. A new group called Ohioans for Energy Security is running an ad urging people not to sign the referendum petition."

-- Editorial, The Columbus Dispatch

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Ad invokes spurious Chinese invasion of Ohio to try to head off HB 6 referendum: editorial

Aug 28, 2019 3:22 PM

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"As cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer reports, this could be just the opening salvo in a likely spending spree to protect the nuclear bailout, should the issue get on the ballot.

But what is the evidence to support the ad’s alarmist rhetoric about a Chinese invasion?

Not much.

Ohioans for Energy Security, the group behind the ads, cites the fact that Ohio natural gas plants built or being built by entrepreneur Bill Siderewicz -- one of those behind the anti-HB-6 referendum effort -- have Chinese investment money (yes, along with private U.S., British, and French money and equity from Australian and Germany firms, as well).

That’s not exactly the same as an invasion."

-- Editorial Board, Cleveland.com

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Scant evidence for Chinese threat claimed in nuke bailout backers’ ad

Aug 28, 2019 1:48 PM

(Screenshot from the new pro-HB 6 ad)

COLUMBUS -- "One problem with discerning the motives of the two groups around the legislation signed last month by Gov. Mike DeWine is that as limited-liability corporations, neither has to say who is giving them money, and both are refusing to do so.

'We’re not going to get distracted,' Pierce said. 'We’ll make our filings.'

Similarly, FirstEnergy Solutions is in bankruptcy after receiving $10.2 billion in state subsidies since 1999, but supporters of the bailout won’t say who’s financing the current $1 million ad campaign.

A spokesman for DeWine said he had no comment on the ad or its secret financing.

House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was perhaps the biggest supporter of the bailout and on Tuesday he seemed to support the ad as well.

'We continue to be concerned about increased foreign ownership of America’s critical infrastructure and the potential threat it poses to our national security, energy security and public safety,' said his spokeswoman, Gail Crawley.

Another backer, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said he favored the bill because it saved jobs. 'That’s the right public policy for the people of Ohio, regardless of whatever messaging either side uses on the campaign trail,' he said in an email."

-- Marty Schladen, The Columbus Dispatch

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Pro-nuclear bailout group joins battle over Ohio's new energy law

Aug 27, 2019 3:24 PM

(Photo by Steve Estvanik / Shutterstock.com)

COLUMBUS -- "A group is looking to collect signatures statewide to ask voters to overturn the law that bails out nuclear power plants. But a competing group has formed to argue in favor of the ratepayer subsidies.

Ohio voters could soon face an important decision regarding the future of the state's new energy law, without even looking at a ballot.

To put a referendum on the 2020 ballot, those who want to throw out the law would have to collect more than 265,000 valid signatures – which is a big number in a very short period of time. And it means you might be approached by a person with a clipboard in the next two months asking for your support.

The new energy law created through House Bill 6 bails out Ohio's two nuclear power plants through $150 million in annual subsidies. That money is generated through a new 85-cent charge on everyone's monthly electric bills."

-- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau 

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Pro-House Bill 6 group launches $1 million ad campaign to fend off statewide referendum

Aug 27, 2019 10:25 AM

COLUMBUS — "A new group that supports House Bill 6 has embarked on a nearly $1 million statewide ad campaign in an attempt to prevent a referendum on overturning the recently enacted law to bail out Ohio’s nuclear power plants and gut the state’s green-energy mandates for utilities.

The massive TV and radio ad buy, by the group Ohioans for Energy Security, is an early indication of the deluge of ads Ohioans will be subjected to if the proposed referendum makes the ballot in 2020.

...The 1-minute advertisement from Ohioans for Energy Security accuses Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts (without mentioning its name) of 'boosting Chinese financial interests.' The group, the ad states, 'is targeting Ohio’s energy, taking Ohio money, exporting Ohio jobs, even risking our national security. They’re meddling in our elections.'

The justification for these accusations, according an Ohioans for Energy Security release, is that Bill Siderewicz, a natural-gas power plant investor involved with Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, has received financing from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is owned by the Chinese government. Last week, Siderewicz’s company, Clean Energy Future, scrapped plans to build a $1.1 billion natural-gas plant in Lordstown; Siderewicz cited HB6 as the reason."

— jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com

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FirstEnergy Solutions behind argument against Ohio nuclear subsidy referendum

Aug 27, 2019 10:15 AM

(Davis-Besse Power Plant / Wikimedia Commons)

COLUMBUS -- "A public records request confirms that FirstEnergy’s bankrupt generation subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions, is behind a tax argument being advanced to block a referendum on an Ohio bill granting subsidies to nuclear and coal plants.

Ohio lawmakers passed the nuclear and coal subsidy bill on July 23 despite widespread opposition from environmental groups, consumer advocates, renewable energy industry interests, petroleum industry interests, free market advocates and others. Six days later, a coalition of some of those interests filed its first proposed referendum against the bill, with an eye toward getting it on the ballot for November 2020.

Two days later, attorney John Zeiger of Columbus sent a letter and legal memorandum to the Ohio secretary of state’s office, arguing that House Bill 6 is a 'law providing for a tax levy' that would be exempt from the state constitution’s referendum procedures."

-- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

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Pro-House Bill 6 group airs first TV commercial amid referendum fight

Aug 26, 2019 10:34 AM

COLUMBUS -- "In a spot heavy on imagery of Communist China, a new group supporting the House Bill 6 bailout of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants is airing its first TV commercial urging Ohioans to not sign petitions to place a referendum on the ballot to kill the law.

Ohioans for Energy Security began airing the 60-second commercial statewide Sunday on broadcast and cable TV station and radio stations, according to spokesman Carlo LoParo. The cost of the buy was not released.

...The commercial claims the Chinese, through loans by a government bank to companies that operate natural-gas fired power plants and which oppose House Bill 6, is attempting to control the American and Ohio power grids."

-- Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch

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FirstEnergy Solutions bankruptcy case held up by labor dispute

Aug 26, 2019 8:47 AM

COLUMBUS — "FirstEnergy Solutions’ proposed reorganization plan can’t go forward until the company reaches a deal with the two labor unions representing workers at its two of its three nuclear power plants, a federal bankruptcy judge said this week.

The decision by Judge Alan Koschik creates another obstacle to FirstEnergy Solutions’ plans to split away from FirstEnergy Corp. and operate Ohio’s two nuclear power plants with a newly passed $150 million annual bailout collected from ratepayers statewide.

Locals of the two unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Utility Workers Union of America, asked Koschik not to approve FirstEnergy Solutions’ reorganization, arguing that it was using the bankruptcy proceedings to wiggle out of its labor agreements with the unions.

FirstEnergy Solutions argues that it needs to negotiate new contracts, as the restructured company won’t be able to afford to offer the pension benefits granted under the current contracts agreed to by FirstEnergy Corp."

— Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com

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FirstEnergy Solutions' Chapter 11 continues

Aug 22, 2019 2:05 PM

CLEVELAND -- "Bloomberg Law reported that Koschik this week ruled in favor of FES over environmentalists on an issue involving long-term plans to clean up nuclear waste at the company's plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The company is still wrangling with the issue of how to deal with its unions after leaving bankruptcy, though, and has faced complaints about its reported plans to use its Chapter 11 case to cancel union contracts.

FES CEO John Judge addressed that topic in an Aug. 18 column in the Columbus Dispatch.

'The company has proposed to keep all wages, wage increases and work rules the same as in the existing contracts. We also have agreed to keep all medical, dental, time off and other benefits the same for the employees as in our existing contracts. Through an agreement with FirstEnergy Corp., we have ensured that all employees will receive any benefits they have earned under the existing FirstEnergy Corp. pension plan,' Judge wrote."

- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business 

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House Bill 6 opponents seek ballot decision

Aug 21, 2019 4:37 PM

Wilkin

COLUMBUS -- "If approved, the referendum campaign said it would begin collecting the roughly 265,000 signatures of Ohio voters needed to place the issue on the November 2020 general election ballot, with the deadline for obtaining those signatures two months away on Oct. 21, 2019.

Wilkin previously told The Times-Gazette that his view of the bill from the very beginning was that it had to bring with it a rate reduction for consumers, and despite the differences in what he originally co-sponsored and what the governor signed, he still holds that it’s a good bill.

Gene Pierce of Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts strongly disagreed with Wilkin’s assessment, describing House Bill 6 as 'a wrong-headed decision that makes government the final judge as to what companies survive and which ones don’t,' adding that in his group’s view, it should be the free market and free market prices that decide, and not 'a universal hike in fees on people that use electricity.'”

– Tim Colliver, The Times-Gazette

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