Ohio lawmaker considers opt-out clause to keep FirstEnergy nuke bailout alive
An Ohio lawmaker is considering adding an opt-out clause to legislation that would create a subsidy to keep ailing nuclear plants in the state alive, WKSU reports.
The legislation, which would create a $300 million annual payment for FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, is facing an uphill battle in the legislature. Hearings on the measure were suspended this month.
- In an effort to make the bill more palatable, Rep. Bill Seitz (R) is considering adding a provision that would allow ratepayers a single opportunity to opt out of payments to support the nuclear generators.
FirstEnergy’s top nuclear executive in March said the company’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants would be forced to close if they did not receive some sort of payment beyond what is available from the wholesale market.
But in May the state’s House of Representatives suspended a vote on a bill that would create a Zero Emission Nuclear Resource (ZEN) program that would keep the plants running by compensating them for their pollution free generation.
The bill would provide $300 million a year for the nuclear plants through a charge on electric bills, but lawmakers are wary of the burden it would put on ratepayers.
Seitz, who is chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee, halted the legislative hearings on the bill earlier this month, and recently told WKSU he would not put the bill to a vote until he felt he had enough support in his committee and in the House.
In effort to bolster support, he has floated the opt-out provision. “We would give all FirstEnergy customers a one-time option to opt out of paying,” he told WKSU.
A similar provision has been used before, but it could face a tough battle. Seitz said FirstEnergy does not support the opt-out clause and would likely try to squelch it.
The company warned earlier this month that even if the support bill passes, payments may not come early enough to save the nuclear plants. The push for subsidies represents a national trend in the power sector, with nuclear payments approved last year in New York and Illinois and under discussion in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut.
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