Bailout of 2 Ohio nuclear plants stalls in Statehouse

FILE – In this Tuesday, April 4, 2017, file photo, plumes of steam drift from the cooling tower of FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Testimony submitted to Ohio lawmakers largely opposes a proposed special fee on FirstEnergy Corp.'s customers in the state, The Plain Dealer reported Thursday, June 8, 2017, though the Akron-based utility says the money is needed to secure the future of Ohio's two aging nuclear plants, the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

CLEVELAND (AP) — A proposed bailout for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants that would lead to rate increases for FirstEnergy customers appears to be stalled in the Legislature.

One legislative committee considering the idea suspended testimony last month amid protests against the plan while another committee held its fourth hearing this week without taking a vote.

Much of the written testimony submitted to lawmakers opposes a plan that could lead to $300 million a year in new charges for FirstEnergy customers, The Plain Dealer reports.

FirstEnergy’s average residential customer would pay about $5 more per month, while businesses and factories would see much larger increases if the Legislature approves the bailout.

The Akron-based utility says subsidies are needed to save the Davis-Besse and Perry plants, which sit along Lake Erie and produce 14 percent of the state’s electricity. The company has said the plants might be sold even if subsidies are approved.

The plants are vital tax generators for rural towns near them, providing millions of dollars for school districts and local governments. The Benton-Carroll-Salem school district east of Toledo could lose $8 million a year if Davis-Besse closes.

Like many nuclear plants in the U.S., Davis-Besse and Perry are aging, are costly to operate and maintain, and face stiff competition from utilities producing power with cheap natural gas.

Some nuclear plants have already closed. Power companies have said they will shut down other plants if they don’t get help. New York and Illinois recently approved multibillion-dollar subsidies to stop unprofitable nuclear plants from closing.

The Ohio Senate may not vote on the proposal until fall, said Sen. Bill Beagle, a Tipp City Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee.

And the proposal may not be voted on by the House. Rep. Bill Seitz, who chairs the House Utilities Committee, said in May he would not hold more hearings.

“I am not sensing a keen desire on the part of the House members to vote on this, and doubt that we will have more hearings in the near future unless something cataclysmic should happen,” the Cincinnati Republican said.

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