Ohio advances coal, nuclear subsidies after pressure from Trump campaign official
The Ohio House approved a bill Wednesday to gut clean energy standards and subsidize at-risk nuclear and coal plants after a last-minute push from a Trump reelection official to secure its passage.
Bob Paduchik, a senior adviser to the Trump reelection campaign, made calls Tuesday night to at least five members of the Ohio House of Representatives, pressuring them to vote ‘yes’ on the bill, five people familiar with the outreach told POLITICO. Sources said Paduchik emphasized preserving jobs at the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants, both located in northeastern Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. Backers of the bill say the plants support a total of 4,000 jobs once contractors and suppliers are added to the mix.
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“The message is that if we have these plants shut down we can’t get Trump reelected,” said one senior legislative source with knowledge of the conversations. “We’re going into an election year, we can’t lose the jobs.”
Paduchik did not return requests for comment, but confirmed to a local reporter that he called lawmakers to support the bill, saying he did so as a personal matter.
“People ask me for my advice and opinion on things on politics, but they also ask me for my advice and opinion on electricity and power issues,” Paduchik told Cleveland.com. “Honestly, I think diversity in electricity generation is a strength in this nation, and I’m concerned that we lose that in Ohio if we shut down these two plants.”
The bill, which would create a $300 million subsidy program for two nuclear plants and two coal plants in the state, passed 53-43 Wednesday afternoon. It now heads to the state Senate.
Owner FirstEnergy Solutions has threatened to shut the plants down if they are not subsidized, and Cleveland.com reports Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, and labor union leaders made similar arguments in other 11th hour calls to lawmakers.
Legislators contacted by Paduchik include Republican Reps. Don Manning, Darrell Kick, Laura Lanese, Reggie Stoltzfus and Dave Greenspan, sources told POLITICO. The sources requested anonymity because they have other business before the legislature.
Paduchik led President Trump’s successful 2016 campaign in Ohio, after which he became co-chair of the Republican National Committee. In December, the Trump 2020 campaign announced he would return to oversee the president’s reelection bid in the crucial Midwestern swing state.
The White House referred questions on Paduchick’s involvement to the Trump campaign, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In addition to Paduchik, three sources said some legislators received calls from two members of the Ohio delegation to the U.S. House — Republican Reps. Steve Stivers and Bob Gibbs. Their offices did not return requests for comment.
FirstEnergy Solutions, which split from utility FirstEnergy in a bankruptcy proceeding last year, said it did not engage Paduchik or the House members on its behalf. FirstEnergy’s political action committee has supported Trump, DeWine and Ohio Republicans in the past, and CEO Chuck Jones met with the president and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry on energy policy before the utility and subsidiary split.
“FirstEnergy Solutions is not working with the Administration in any way, either directly or through proxies. There has been no engagement,” a spokesperson said in an email. The company also said it did not work with “the Trump campaign or the Ohio Congressional Delegation on HB 6.”
Along with subsidizing the nuclear plants, HB 6 would also increase existing payments to two large coal plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation, a conglomeration of Midwestern utilities. To pay for the new subsidies, the bill would eliminate the state’s energy efficiency standard and its 12.5 percent-by-2027 renewable energy standard, which are financed on customer utility bills.
Approval in the House means the bill will now move to the Senate. Insiders told POLITICO earlier this week that chamber could take longer to debate the bill, which could create a conundrum for FirstEnergy Solutions, which must decide next month whether to refuel the Perry plant or move ahead with shutdown procedures.
Analysts at ClearView Energy, however, predicted that final passage is likely before the last scheduled day of the legislative session, June 26.
“While we see fewer outspoken supporters in the GOP-controlled State Senate, we think sufficient support among Republicans and Governor Mike DeWine’s (R) advocacy for H.B. 6 could animate approval in the upper chamber,” analyst Tim Fox wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.