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Federal Judge Declines Extension For Nuclear Bailout Referendum

HB6 Referendum petitioner collects signatures on Otterbein University's campus.
Andy Chow
HB6 Referendum petitioner collects signatures on Otterbein University's campus.

U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus has rejected the request from Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the anti-nuclear power plant bailout group, to have more time to collect signatures. The group was trying to put the controversial law, HB6, up for a vote on next year's ballot.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts already missed the deadline and did not collect enough signatures to trigger a referendum on the nuclear bailout law. That allowed the laws created through HB6 to go into effect on Tuesday.

Attorneys for the referendum group argued for more time, saying the constitution grants 90 days to collect signatures but petitioners only had 52 days because it took two tries for the Ohio Attorney General to approve the petition language.

But, attorneys for the state argued that Ohio law requires the AG to review the petition to make sure it's "fair and truthful."

It's possible this case could continue. The federal judge certified lingering questions that the Ohio Supreme Court could take on.

"We're disappointed, but we're exploring our options with the Ohio Supreme Court," says Gene Pierce, spokesperson for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts.

Several groups mounted a well-funded campaign against the referendum to protect the nuclear bailout law, which would have granted $150 million in annual subsidies to FirstEnergy Solutions.

"The federal court ruling is a victory for the new law. Thousands of good jobs have been saved, and so have the sources of 90% of the emission-free power generation in Ohio," says Carlo LoParo, spokesperson with Ohioans for Energy Security. "Opponents failed to get enough signatures for a referendum, and also failed to change the state laws they understood they were required to follow."

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