A new TV commercial from the defenders of the House Bill 6 consumer bailout of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants states an outright lie.

The 30-second spot, entitled “Lights Out Ohio,” makes the false assertion that Chinese companies are buying Ohio power plants.

“Now because of deregulation, foreign entities including China are pouring into Ohio buying power plants and infiltrating our power grid,” the commercial says.

Despite repeated requests by The Dispatch, Ohioans for Energy Security, the group spending millions to oppose a petition drive to place a referendum on the ballot in November 2020 to repeal the law, could provide no documentation supporting its claim.

Group spokesman Carlo LoParo provide dozens of articles from corporate financing websites about the government-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and natural-gas fired power plants in Ohio, but all the articles concerned loans and financing it provided — not ownership interests.

“Chinese banks are heavily financing these projects — that’s a fair topic of discussion,” he said. “These are not simple loans ... (these are) substantial funders.”

LoParo declined to reveal the cost of the statewide commercial buy and who is funding his group.

The new commercial continues an over-the-top, Communist-tinged theme from Ohioans for Energy Security claiming that Chinese interests are attempting to take over Ohio’s electricity generation and close FirstEnergy Solutions’ pair of nuclear power plants along Lake Erie.

Again, the group can only point to Chinese loans to gas power plants, not ownership stakes. Akron-based FirstEnergy, the former parent of bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions, also has loans from a Chinese bank. The bank was among multiple lenders involved in financing three of Ohio’s four natural gas-fired power plants.

A group opposed to House Bill 6 — Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts — is working to obtain the valid signatures of 265,774 registered Ohio voters by Oct. 21 to place a referendum before voters on the November 2020 ballot.

Signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine, House Bill 6 will impose an 85-cent monthly charge on residential electricity bills to generate $150 million a year to subsidize the Lake Erie plants owned by Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions. If the referendum makes the 2020 ballot, the law will not take effect unless voters approve it. The bankrupt company threatened to close the plants starting June 30 without a subsidy, and will shut them down if the referendum qualifies for the ballot, LoParo said earlier.

Gene Pierce, spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, said of the opposition’s new TV commercial: “It’s just as misleading and untruthful as before ... it’s a sign of desperation. They have a billion dollars coming from someone else’s pocket and they will do everything they can — ignoring the truth — to get that money.”

Ohioans for Energy Security is a so-called “dark money” group that is not required to disclose their donors and the amounts they give. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts eventually will have to disclose its spending and donors. Pierce said they do not include Chinese interests.

Owners of natural-gas fired power plants have signaled they are funding the referendum effort, while allies of FirstEnergy Solutions apparently are bankrolling the TV commercials.

Supporters contend the law is necessary to preserve thousands of jobs at the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants and retain Ohio’s largest and cleanest source of electrical energy.

The commercial also claims the Chinese and other foreign entities are “going to use you to gain a monopoly on Ohio energy ... giving China a stranglehold on our power grid. Don’t sign their petition, or it’s lights out Ohio.”

FirstEnergy Solutions is attempting to overturn the referendum bid before the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing House Bill 6 imposed a tax that is not subject to repeal at the ballot box.

rludlow@dispatch.com

@RandyLudlow