The General Assembly left town after a couple of desultory hearings regarding the repeal or repeal-and-replacement of the much-vilified HB 6.
The bill included many more anti-consumer provisions than the $0.85 per month nuclear bailout charge. It has a customer charge on residential customers of up to $1.50 per month to bail out two 1950s era coal plants (one in Indiana), and another charge to subsidize four solar projects (the lipstick on the pig). HB 6 repealed the energy efficiency standards, which is why OPAE is closing out the AEP Ohio and DP&L programs. The bill also repealed the advanced energy standards which were promoting solar and other renewable energy developments in Ohio.
The Governor and a number of Republican legislators favor a ‘repeal and replace’ strategy. They would repeal HB 6, and replace it with legislation that delivers the same nuclear subsidy as HB 6. The coal subsidies would stay in place. The energy efficiency standards and the advanced energy standards would still be repealed. A couple of “bells and whistles provisions” like the $200+ million windfall to FirstEnergy from guaranteeing the Company continues to earn what it did in 2018, would also be dumped. It does look like language that increases the transfer from HEAP to HWAP by another 5% would be retained, a provision designed to offset the loss of funding under the energy efficiency mandates. OPAE thanks Rep. Jason Stephens, an ex-board member at Ironton/Lawrence Community Action, for his leadership on this issue.
Other legislators, many of them Democrats, prefer a straight repeal which would kill the subsidies and reinstate the efficiency and advanced energy standards. It is unlikely there are enough votes for this approach. A majority of the General Assembly remains opposed to efficiency and renewables; many are climate change deniers. And most want to just see the whole issue go away.
Meanwhile, State Attorney General Dave Yost has filed suit to prevent the funds collected under the HB 6 riders from being transmitted to Energy Harbor, the reorganized FirstEnergy Solutions, now owned by hedge funds and Wall Street investment banks. The city attorneys from Columbus and Dayton have sued to stop the collection of the riders all together, characterizing them as an illegal tax.
Expect HB 6 to provide additional fodder for the news media for the next several months. Many of the powers that be are waiting for us to forget the whole mess so they don’t have to deal with it at all.