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Counter Points is written by WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson. In it, he shares insights on political news on the local, state and national level that impacts the 2020 election. Counter Points is delivered once a week on Wednesdays and will cease publication soon after the November election is decided.

Franklin County Judge Blocks Nuclear Bailout Fees From Kicking In

The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie is one of two nuclear power plants saved by a nuclear bailout in Ohio.
Ron Schwane
Associated Press
The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie is one of two nuclear power plants saved by a nuclear bailout in Ohio.

A Franklin County judge has granted a preliminary injunction that blocks the owner of Ohio's two nuclear power plants from collecting fees as part of HB6, the controversial bailout law at the center of a federal racketeering investigation.

At a hearing Monday, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Chris Brown granted a preliminary injunction to halt Energy Harbor, formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions, from collecting increased fees from ratepayers.

"To not impose an injunction would be to allow certain parties to prevail," Brown said. "It would give the O.K. that bribery is allowed in the state of Ohio and that any ill-gotten gains can be received."

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, along with the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati, had sued to stop those provisions of the energy law from going into effect next month.

"Ohio wins!" tweeted Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost after the ruling. "Judge puts HB6 nuke surcharge in the deep freeze. Preliminary injunction issues. Proud of our litigation team!"

HB6 creates new charges on electric bills for a $1 billion nuclear power plant bailout. But federal investigators allege the bailout is the result of quid-pro-quo between the energy company, a former subsidiary of FirstEnergy, and former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

In their lawsuit, the cities of Columbus and Cincinnati argued that HB6 amounted to an unconstitutional lending of state credit to a private entity.

"Today's ruling is a win for all Ohioans," Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement. "HB6 was passed through deceit, deception and corruption and this decision means that Ohio ratepayers will keep their hard-earned dollars instead of paying for a massive corporate bailout."

Defendants argued there are still many moving parts in the issue, including the ongoing federal investigation and the possibility of state lawmakers modifying or repealing HB6.

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News

Paige Pfleger is a reporter for WOSU, Central Ohio's NPR station. Before joining the staff of WOSU, Paige worked in the newsrooms of NPR, Vox, Michigan Radio, WHYY and The Tennessean. She spent three years in Philadelphia covering health, science, and gender, and her work has appeared nationally in The Washington Post, Marketplace, Atlas Obscura and more.