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Group announces it 'will not file' petitions for Ohio nuclear subsidy repeal

The group looking to repeal Ohio's controversial nuclear subsidy law "will not file" the required signatures with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts was required to collect 265,774 signatures of registered voters in the state by Oct. 21 to place a referendum to repeal House Bill 6 on the November 2020 ballot. The group said it will now await a decision from the U.S. District Court on its motion for more time to gather signatures.

"We are fully prepared to continue circulating petitions if the court rules in our favor and grants us a full 90 days to collect signatures," Gene Pierce, a spokesperson for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, said in an Oct. 21 news release.

The group has spent several weeks gathering signatures in favor of its effort to block the law, which provides $150 million in annual financial support for the 908-MW Davis-Besse and 1,268-MW Perry nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions Corp.

Pierce said Oct. 15 that the group was on track to meet the deadline. However, the anti-H.B. 6 group has been involved in a heated and sometimes physical contest with those that support the new law as it gathers signatures for the referendum.

"Nuclear bailout supporters of House Bill 6 have stooped to unprecedented and deceitful depths to stop Ohioans from exercising their Constitutional rights to put a bailout question on the ballot for voters to decide," Pierce said in the news release. "We may never know how much money the corporate backers spent in their campaign of deceit, but we estimate their television, digital and radio advertising, direct mail and their blocking and fake petition to cost over $50 million."

In addition, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts submitted a motion with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Oct. 15 to extend the amount of time it has to collect signatures.

The group said a "blackout period" in Ohio state law that mandates pre-approval of the referendum petition before "obtaining a single signature" is unconstitutional.

"Because of the ban on core political speech resulting from the Summary Statute, the committee seeks to be afforded an additional 38 days in which to continue engaging in core political speech with the voters of Ohio in order to obtain signatures on the petition to subject H.B. 6 to referendum," Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts wrote in its petition for preliminary and permanent injunction.

An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 22.

Bankrupt power provider FirstEnergy Solutions has warned that efforts to repeal H.B. 6 could jeopardize the nuclear plants.

"Unfortunately, any additional negative news from the courts or the successful submission of petitions to put a referendum on the ballot will destabilize the financial situation of those plants," FirstEnergy Solutions said in an Oct. 15 statement. "This will force the company to move back on a path to deactivation if alternative measures to provide needed financial support do not arise quickly."