Repeal of House Bill 6 needed to return trust
Ohio legislators are right to be furious about the way they were manipulated into taking $150 million per year out of their constituents’ pockets to benefit two nuclear power plants.
In July, federal authorities arrested former state House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder and four associates. They are accused of being involved in a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly utilized to ensure passage of a bill to bail out the nuclear plants, near Cleveland and Toledo.
Under House Bill 6, which is current law, Ohio consumers will have surcharges totaling $150 million a year added to their electric bills, beginning Jan. 1. The money, being collected through 2026, will go to keep the nuclear plants afloat.
Lawmakers acted quickly — rightly so — to oust Householder from his leadership position. Then came calls to rescind the HB 6 law. So far, that has not happened, and time is running out.
Critics of the House’s Republican leadership accuse them of dragging their feet, with Ohio families paying the price for delay in repealing the law.
But — and we mean this as no defense of the despicable characters involved in the alleged bribery scheme — the situation is complicated. Some believe merely repealing HB 6 in total would not be a good thing.
That’s because the HB6 measure included a variety of other provisions, including promotion of renewable energy.
And, there is the question of whether keeping the plants in operation is beneficial to Ohioans — regardless of how HB 6 came to be enacted.
State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, told us recently that ultimately he believes HB 6 should be repealed. However, he does not support pulling it back without first studying all the intricacies that came with it.
Conversely, state Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, and state Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, believe so strongly that the language needs to be repealed immediately that each is sponsoring his own bill to repeal HB 6.
Sean O’Brien last week told us, “We have got to do a straight repeal. … That bill was so tainted, how do you restore public trust when you see that happen?”
After the repeal, he argues, then supporters of the bailout can go back to the drawing board in an attempt to conjure up new legislation with new debate over whether it should pass.
We agree with that assessment.
Ohioans should not be required to bear the financial burden of bailing out FirstEnergy Solutions’ aging and expensive nuclear power plants. We especially should not now that new information has come to light about the questionable inner workings of our state government that led up to the bill’s passage.
Ohioans have no reason to have faith that this legislation can be “fixed,” particularly when it stems from such improper influences.
State lawmakers must move immediately to repeal House Bill 6 in its entirety. And then they can start over from scratch.