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Nuclear Bailout Group Urging People To Remove Signature From Referendum

Ohio voter signs petition for HB6 referendum in Columbus.
Andy Chow
Ohio voter signs petition for HB6 referendum in Columbus.

A new group is joining the fray over Ohio's nuclear bailout law, HB6, by encouraging people who have already signed the HB6 referendum to take their names off the petition.

Protect Ohio Clean Energy Jobs says voters are being deceived by anti-nuclear bailout petitioners, so they're using targeted ads on social media urging people who have already signed the HB6 referendum to take their names off the petition.

Alex Thomas, Protect Ohio Clean Energy Jobs treasurer, wrote in a statement, "We were part of the broad coalition that fought to save clean energy jobs in Ohio. Now, the opponents of this important legislation are leading a campaign to deceive voters, and in some instances, are directly lying about HB6. Ohio law specifically provides that voters can remove their signature from a petition, so we’re making sure voters are aware of their rights."

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Thomas is a director with Roetzel Consulting Solutions in Columbus and is registered as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions.

FirstEnergy Solutions runs two nuclear power plants in Ohio, Davis-Besse (Ottawa County) and Perry (Lake County). The two plants were scheduled to shut down until the Ohio House and Senate passed HB6, which generates $150 million a year in subsidies for the nuclear plants through an $0.85 charge on monthly electric bills.

The bill also creates another monthly charge on electric bills of up to $1.50 to subsidize two coal plants, Kyger Creek (Gallia County) Clifty Creek (Madison, IN). Also, HB6 rolls back requirements on utilities to use renewable energy and eliminates energy efficiency mandates.

Gene Pierce is spokesperson for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group pushing for the referendum.

"When HB6's supporters' false and misleading propaganda failed to slow down our petition drive, they resorted to physical intimidation tactics. When intimidation tactics didn't work, supporters switched to trying to confuse the situation even more with a 'withdrawal campaign.' Voters are not confused. They know HB6 is a bailout and they know this petition will put the billion dollar bailout up for a vote," Pierce says in a written statement.

Catherine Turcer with the voter rights group Common Cause Ohio, says the effort to remove names from the petition is just the latest strategy from groups trying to interfere with a citizen's right to referendum.

"Making it just even harder for voters to have the opportunity to vote on this energy bill," says Turcer. "There are so many hoops to do a referendum, it's just creating yet another hoop."

Other tactics in support of the nuclear bailout bill include millions of dollars in ads and mailers using anti-Chinese government rhetoric, paying people to follow petitioners around, and the circulation of a different, informal petition.

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