Ohio lawmakers learn about Clean Energy Bill, opponents say it will raise electric bills


COLUMBUS (WKBN) – Your electric bill is broken down into a bunch of fees and costs. Opponents of House Bill 6, which creates the Ohio Clean Air Program, say it is going to drive up energy costs and raise electric bills.

Supporters say it needs to pass to help two nuclear power plants managed by First Energy.

The program would eliminate just under $4.50 in alternative energy standards fees from your bill. They would be replaced with a $2.50 fee that would go into a fund used, in part, to prop up the nuclear plants.

Supporters of the bill say that makes the amount you pay go down. Simple math, right?

What they don’t like to talk about is what that $4.50 does to keep energy costs down. According to the bill’s opponents, those costs would ultimately rise. That would bring the overall energy costs on electric bills up, eliminating the nearly $2 in savings.

The fees being removed mandated companies keep a diverse energy portfolio with renewable energy sources.

By removing the mandate to have them, some opponents argue there will be no guarantee renewable energy will be pursued in the state.

Lawmakers asked what would get opponents — representing clean energy sources like wind and solar — on board with it. The answer was one simple thing — preserve the alternative energy standards.

That response drew a visible frown from one lawmaker.

The financially failing nuclear power plants are not the first energy providers to be in danger of closing in Ohio. Over the last six years, nearly 50 energy producing units have shut down.

While this is the first bill put forward to provide financial assistance, lawmakers said this is an issue that has been discussed behind the scenes at the Statehouse for years.

Lawmakers have known a solution to the problem was needed but for some reason, they couldn’t get off the starting line — until now.

Now that they have, opposition to the method is fierce. Dozens of people are scheduled to testify this week against the bill or as an interested party that neither supports nor opposes it.

Supporters were given their chance to testify last week.

With the nuclear plants and the economies of communities they’re in hanging in the balance, lawmakers will be looking to move swiftly.

Some opponents say there are solutions to this problem out there and they are willing to work with lawmakers to get to those solutions, but this bill is not the way.

Some put forward the idea of trying to help the communities through tough times after the plants have closed as a more appropriate use of money.

Others say subsidizing the plants on a short-term basis with clear guide rails may work, but it would be to the end of preparing the communities for an inevitable shutdown.

Meanwhile, American Energy Providers testified as an interested party neither supporting nor opposing the bill on Tuesday. It wants the legislature to define “need” once and for all.

The definition of what need is has stymied the company’s efforts to get a 400 MW project approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

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