The Representative's Corner
It is time to eliminate the cost of corruption. Recently, my colleague, State Representative Casey Weinstein, and I introduced House Bill 120 (HB 120), which would repeal a subsidy that has already cost electric customers in Ohio over $200 million (about $150,000 a day) since 2020 and, if our bill does not pass, will ultimately cost you close to an estimated $850 million by 2030. The subsidy we are paying is known as a “rider” on your electric bill. Riders are how the electric utilities hide added costs to your electric bill on top of the cost of the electricity you use each month.
This particular rider is paid to American Electric Power (AEP), Duke Energy, and Applied Energy Services (AES), who own the Ohio Valley Electric Company (OVEC). OVEC operates two 1950s antiquated coal fired power plants – one in southeast Ohio – the other in Indiana, yes Indiana.
How did this corporate welfare paid by you end up on your electric bill? As alluded to with my opening sentence, it was wrapped into the most corrupt law ever passed by the Ohio General Assembly – HB 6 - in July, 2019. Incidentally, it has been found that AEP, like First Energy, paid substantial funds to the dark money PAC behind HB 6. It is unclear if these funds came from ratepayers like you, by the way. Interestingly, First Energy, who provides a large share of our power in northeast Ohio, divested its interest in OVEC in 2020, but we continue to pay the subsidy to OVEC’s current owners.
AEP, Duke, and AES have never proven that the subsidies are needed to keep the plants open. In fact, the credit rating agency FitchRatings stated, “Fitch does not expect a direct impact to OVEC if Ohio House Bill 6 is repealed.” Further, the operating agreement for the OVEC plants is binding on its owners. Because of these facts, which the owners of OVEC do not want to admit, the operation of the plants and the corresponding jobs they support are not likely to be affected by the repeal of the subsidy.
Now, we are not unsympathetic to the hard working Ohioans at the Ohio plant. However, these plants have far outlived their expected viability. Thus, it is not a matter of if, but when the plants will close. Our hope is that AEP, Duke, and AES will put together a transition plan for the employees that could include training for smooth transitioning to jobs in cleaner energy production technologies. It should also be noted that coal power plants produce pollution that can negatively impact people and the environment.
It has been admitted to us that the OVEC subsidies would have never been passed on their own by the General Assembly. It took a corrupt bargain to get them done. Ohio’s electric production is supposed to be deregulated and operating in an open market. The OVEC subsidies are an affront to our nation’s free market economic principles in which the market best decides winners and losers, not the government, especially when it is the people’s money being used to help prop up inefficient, dirty, and money losing business ventures.
Our bill would not only end the subsidies you are paying to OVEC’s owners, but refund you the money you have paid to them already. We will continue to stand up to the powerful special interests and fight to eliminate this corporate bailout paid directly by you on your already rising monthly electric bill. Our bill is a simple way for the General Assembly and Governor DeWine, who has publically stated his support, to give Ohio residents some relief from our current inflationary environment and garner back some of the trust they lost in their state government as a result of HB 6 by showing them that we reject the culture of corruption that the OVEC subsidies represent.
Sean Patrick Brennan
Sean Patrick Brennan