A federal judge said he intends to rule no later than today on whether a referendum petition drive in Ohio against a nuclear bailout will get additional time to collect signatures, Kallanish Energy reports.
That announcement came Tuesday from U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. after a three-hour hearing, the Columbus Dispatch reported
Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group that had been circulating petitions against House Bill 6, that would aid two nuclear power plants in Ohio owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, filed a lawsuit seeking more time to gather signatures.
The group did not file the petitions, saying a state law requiring the Ohio Attorney General to certify petition language illegally took up 38 of the 90 days it had to gather signatures.
The group needed to gather 265,774 signatures by 12:01 a.m. Tuesday from 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties to place a referendum on House Bill 6 on the November 2020 ballot.
Officials declined to say how many signatures had been collected.
Supporters of the bailout legislation, Ohioans for Energy Security, have spent about $16.6 million on ads fighting the referendum petition, while petition sponsors have spent roughly $5 million, the Dispatch said.
House Bill 6, approved last summer by the Ohio Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, provides nearly $1 billion to bailout two nuclear power plants that are owned and operated by FirstEnergy Solutions. They are the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants in northern Ohio.
Under the bill, Ohio electric customers will pay a new fee of 85 cents a month on their electric bills, with 90% of that money, or about $150 million, a year going to FirstEnergy Solutions. It would impact all utility customers in Ohio, not just FirstEnergy customers.
FirstEnergy Solutions had said it intends to close the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in 2020 and the Perry nuclear plant in 2021 unless a bailout is put into action. The nuclear plants cannot compete with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.
The fee would be collected from 2021-2027.
The company has spun off from Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp and is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. FirstEnergy Solutions was the unregulated generation arm of FirstEnergy, with coal and nuclear power plants.
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