House Bill 6: Battle between pro-bailout and anti-bailout in Ohio
House Bill 6, also known as Ohio nuclear bailout bill is a controversial new energy law in Ohio impacting 4.8 million consumers. This law pretends to impose a new fee on Ohioan's electric bill of 85 cents per month. It is supposed to provide a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants in 2021.
According to the Dayton Daily News, the legislation will provide 150 million a year for FirstEnergy Solutions and additional subsidies for Ohio Valley Electric Corp. FirstEnergy Solutions owns two nuclear plants outside Cleveland and Toledo and was recently declared in bankruptcy.
Of course, many Ohioans opposed the law and decided to fight. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, a coalition of businesses, consumers, and environmental groups, decided to go against HB6 by putting it up for a referendum, the only way to stop it.
For Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts to block the $1 billion bailout costing residential homeowners an extra tax, they needed to collect 265,744 valid voter signatures in half of the state’s 88 counties by October 21st (90 days). The group asked the federal court judge for more time.
Multi-Million Dollar Campaigns
In order to collect the number of signatures required, opponents of HB6 started a multi-million dollar campaign. By October, around $4.46 million dollars were spent on advertising and signature collectors. Extra efforts were required to at least try to put this law up for a referendum vote in the Ohio ballot on the same day as the presidential elections (November 2020).
By the same date, supporters of HB6 had already spent around $16.56 million. Companies backing up HB6 run multiple ads alleging Chinese were behind the referendum campaign. They also paid people to circulate an alternative petition opposing “foreign ownership of electric grid”. This quickly turned into an ugly fight with allegations of bribery, buyouts, xenophobia, harassment, and lawsuits.
As both campaigns moved to public areas, Ohioans were flooded with ads and thousands received mailers at their homes every day. Allies of FirstEnergy Solutions were accused of sabotaging signature collectors' efforts by confusing possible voters and preventing them from signing with intimidation.
By October 21st, efforts were not enough and referendum signatures were not filled, leaving It’s to the judge. An important thing to mention about this new law is that not everyone will be affected. Some rural and urban areas will be exempt from raises on electric bills.