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Ohio lawmakers wrangle over how to repeal crooked nuclear bailout law

Meanwhile, Ohio Has Its Own Nuclear Debate, Inside Clean Energy:  BY DAN GEARINO   – 4 Sept 20, Ohio lawmakers talked this week about whether—and how—to repeal a 2019 nuclear bailout law whose main backers are now the subject of a federal bribery probe.

On a superficial level, the discussions in Ohio and Illinois have a lot in common with talk about the role of nuclear power in the energy system, and lots of intrigue from federal prosecutors. For more details, see my story from July.

But the tone in Ohio is different, largely because the state government is controlled by Republicans who place little value on making a smooth transition to clean energy.

“I’ve never known this state or this General Assembly to be overly concerned with the environment,” said Thomas Suddes, who teaches at Ohio University and writes about state politics for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.

He said both parties tend to value retaining jobs for constituents and helping party allies, and that this usually takes precedence over ideology.

Closing the nuclear plants would cost thousands of jobs, and a bill repealing the subsidies could be used in arguments ahead of the November election to portray lawmakers as insensitive to local concerns in the areas that host the plants.

So, even with the bribery scandal, there is a natural reluctance to repeal the bill, which makes Suddes doubtful that any substantial action will happen in the next few months.

“The cautious thing to do for a lot of incumbents would be to leave it alone,” he said.

Gov. Mike DeWine and some legislators have said they want to repeal and replace the 2019 law. But the governor and many others say they still support many of the law’s provisions, including subsidies for the state’s two nuclear power plants, owned by Energy Harbor, the company formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions.

For now, there is nothing approaching consensus on what a replacement should look like.

House Speaker Robert Cupp has said he favored repealing and replacing the law, although he has given no specifics about a replacement. He said this week that he will appoint a special committee to study the issue, which is likely to mean there will not be quick action on a repeal…………

Randi Leppla, the lead energy attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, said the situation with the repeal effort seems to change “hour by hour.”

“It’s very, very clear that what we need to be doing is ripping this off the books and starting over from scratch,” she said. “This bill is corrupt from the bottom up, and it’s really just bad policy for Ohio.”

In addition to the nuclear bailout, the Ohio law subsidizes two coal-fired power plants and eliminates state requirements that utilities meet annual benchmarks for renewable energy and energy conservation.

The combination of policies harmful to the environment have made the Ohio law an example of a nuclear bailout that has little public benefit, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists and many others.

At least for now, Ohio leaders are doing little to erase this dubious distinction.

September 5, 2020 - Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA

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