COLUMBUS — The operator of Ohio's two nuclear power plants says it is continuing with the shutdown of the facilities along Lake Erie, but it can switch gears and keep operating if the legislature passes a bailout bill quickly.

Meanwhile, an opponent of the bailout is continuing his efforts to keep that from happening — and that’s a battle that could affect negotiations over Ohio’s belated budget.

Rep. Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, said that plants operated by FirstEnergy Solutions, which asked for the state bailout, have received $10.2 billion in such subsidies since 1999. “I think that’s enough,” he said.

Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions had said Sunday was a hard deadline because it requires months of lead time to order and then process fuel for the Davis-Besse reactor east of Toledo. But after the Ohio Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee adjourned Sunday after considering just two of 57 amendments to the controversial legislation called House Bill 6, the company on Monday issued a statement that left some wiggle room.

“While FES is optimistic about the outcome for H.B. 6, the company remains unable to purchase the fuel required for Davis-Besse’s next refueling cycle without the certainty of critical legislative support,” the company said in a statement. “We remain on path for a safe deactivation and decommissioning. Should we receive the long-term certainty that comes with an affirmative vote within this time frame, we will immediately re-evaluate our options.”

FirstEnergy Solutions, which also operates the Perry reactor in Lake County, says it needs ratepayer largesse to afford the $52 million needed for nuclear fuel rods.

In its first year, the Senate version of the bill would toll Ohio ratepayers about $150 million to bail out two nuclear plants and a coal plant in Ohio and a coal plant in Indiana. And, while it was initially sold as a “clean” energy bill, it would eliminate subsidies for energy efficiency, make it harder to develop wind farms and eliminate a requirement that the state’s power companies get 12.5% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2027.

Some supporters note that FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants provide 90 percent of Ohio’s non-carbon-emitting electricity. Carbon and other emissions from coal and gas-powered electricity generators aggravate global warming and can cause ill health effects.

The subsidy for the nuclear and coal plants would be raised through a $1.80 monthly surcharge on electric bills statewide.

Romanchuk said just the subsidies for the nuclear plants should be enough to blow up H.B. 6.

“I’m opposed because 20 years ago we deregulated,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “We don’t need to be giving them subsidies any longer. They’re supposed to be able to compete.”

Over the weekend, as work stalled on H.B. 6, lawmakers also failed to pass a two-year budget by the midnight-Sunday deadline, forcing them to pass a 17-day extension for the first time in a decade. Conflicts over taxes, education and other matters could be sticking points, but Romanchuk suspects the real hangup was H.B. 6.

On Saturday night, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, criticized the House for waiting until late that evening to unveil its written budget amendments, saying that’s what forced the 17-day extension. House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, called the criticism “bizarre.”

But Romanchuk said he believes there’s a connection between the budget morass and the struggle over H.B. 6, of which Householder is a major proponent.

“My take is that a budget isn’t getting passed until H.B. 6 is resolved,” he said.

Householder’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. On Sunday he told The Dispatch that he would give his overworked staff some time off and then go back to work on Friday.

FirstEnergy Solutions is working with the district U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Akron to emerge from restructuring as a fully separate company from Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.