The company that runs Ohio's two nuclear power plants is increasing its stock buyback from $500 million to $800 million, less than a year after lawmakers approved a bailout for those power plants. This has critics questioning the company's financial situation.
Energy Harbor, formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions, told lawmakers it needed the subsidies in order to keep its two plants open. That resulted in the Ohio House and Senate passing HB6 which creates $150 million in annual subsidies through 2027. Those subsidies will be collected through a new charge on mostly everyone's monthly electric bills starting in 2021.
Micah Derry, state director of Americans for Prosperity Ohio, says this is why he and several other groups opposed the bailout, through HB6, in the first place.
"Even though they haven't received a single dollar from the state yet, they suddenly have $300 million free to buy back stocks from the shareholders, rewarding the shareholders for riding it out with them," says Derry.
Energy Harbor says in a statement that the share repurchase is unrelated to the subsidies.
"The share repurchase is not related to the funding generated by House Bill 6 which does not begin until April 2021. Once received, HB6 funds will be used to keep our nuclear units in Ohio operating, maintain more than 4,000 jobs, and generate 90 percent of the carbon free electricity for the State of Ohio," Energy Harbor said in its written statement.
The fight over HB6 formed a collection of opponents that don't usually land on the same side. That included Derry's American for Prosperity Ohio, environmental groups, and oil and gas companies.