COLUMBUS — A newly formed organization that is fighting against the new clean air/nuclear bailout legislation under debate in the Ohio House is hitting two Republican lawmakers with radio attack ads.
The Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, which calls itself a statewide consumer advocacy group focused on keeping energy rates low through a diversified energy portfolio, is going after Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro, a prime sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Dick Stein, R-Norwalk, chairman of the subcommittee hearing the bill.
The bill would create a new $300 million program, issuing energy credits for carbon dioxide-free power generation. More than half of the money would go to FirstEnergy Solutions, the operator of two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio that has said it needs subsidies to keep the plants operating beyond 2021.
The program funded via monthly energy bill surcharges that include $2.50 for residential customers, and in exchange, the state is doing away with fees related to current energy efficiency and renewable standards programs. Supporters say that, overall, most customers would pay less in mandated costs.
The ad says: “Rep. Shane Wilkin is sponsoring a tax increase to hardworking Ohioans in order to bail out old nuclear power plants. Rep. Wilkin believes in bailing out a bankrupt company at your expense. He’d rather bail out Wall Street investors than protect his community. You didn’t elect him to raise taxes. Tell him no on House Bill 6.”
The Stein ad has a similar script. Wilkin said he heard about the ad on Tuesday.
“It’s obviously misleading. It’s not a tax increase,” he said, noting that the current mandates would be voluntary. “It’s a decrease for most Ohioans, pretty substantially for our largest job creators.”
Rachael Belz, project director for the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, testified against House Bill 6 on Tuesday, calling it a “creative approach used to disguise a consumer-funded bailout of two old, outdated nuclear plants as a comprehensive energy policy to reduce carbon emissions.”
Belz, who also is executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, a grassroots mobilizing organization, said the new Power Alliance was formed three weeks ago and is funded by individuals and groups backing the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund.
“Not one penny of our Ohio consumer dollars should be spent to bail out these plants,” she said.
Dozens of individuals and organizations have testified over the past two days, either fully opposed to the bill, or pointing out significant concerns with how it would operate. Those groups include the Columbus Partnership, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and a host of environmental advocates and renewable-energy companies.
The AARP Ohio also issued a statement Wednesday opposing the bill.
“The idea that Ohio utility customers would be asked to not only bail out a profitable corporation, but also be required to pay legacy fees for conservation programs that may not exist in the future or provide consumer benefit is absurd and unfair,” said Barbara Sykes, the AARP state director.