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DeWine Signs Energy "Bailout" Bill

Two of Ohio Valley Electric Corp.'s coal plants will receive subsidies under House Bill 6. (William Alden/Flickr)
Two of Ohio Valley Electric Corp.'s coal plants will receive subsidies under House Bill 6. (William Alden/Flickr)
July 24, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio electric customers soon will be footing the bill for some aging coal-fired power plants.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed House Bill 6 on Tuesday, just hours after it was passed by the Legislature. The law imposes an energy tax on electric customers to subsidize First Energy's two northern Ohio nuclear plants, as well as Ohio Valley Electric Corp.'s Kyger Creek coal plant in Ohio and the Clifty Creek coal plant in Indiana.

Richard Hill of Madison, Ind., has lived near Clifty Creek for most of his life and said he believes it's wasteful to bail out aging coal plants when their pollution threatens communities.

"They're trying to force ratepayers to pay for something that's not economical and not clean," he said, "and there are definitely better alternatives that they should be exploring."

Hill said other utility companies are moving away from coal and investing in renewable sources such as wind and solar. HB 6 also ends the state's renewable-energy and energy-efficiency programs, but provides some funds for solar and wind power.

Supporters have claimed the law will save Ohio about $640 million and incentivize renewable energy. Backers of the bill also have predicted that without the subsidies, more than 4,000 jobs would be put at risk. However, Hill noted that the OVEC coal plants have been around since the 1950s.

"It is a pretty major employer," he said, "but it's been there so long that surely the company and even the local workers would have to assume that, at some point, it's going to outlive its usefulness, which it has."

Hill noted that the utility has invested in cleaning up air emissions, but said that doesn't make all the toxins disappear.

"Basically, it's pulled out of the emissions that would go up the stacks, but then it has to go somewhere," he said. "So, you've got things like mercury and boron, and all kinds of other things that are concentrated in the coal ash, so that has to be stored."

Clifty Creek sits on the Ohio River, and Hill contended that the significant amount of coal ash produced also increases the risk of groundwater contamination.

The text of HB 6 is online at legislature.ohio.gov.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH