COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit attempting to block a proposed statewide vote that aims to overturn a financial rescue for Ohio’s two nuclear plants, according to a decision issued Wednesday.
The plants’ owner, FirstEnergy Solutions, had argued that the financial rescue approved by state lawmakers in July can’t be overturned by voters because it amounts to a tax. The company had said the Ohio Constitution prohibits tax levies from being overturned by voters.
While the decision is a win for opponents of the $1.5 billion rescue package for the nuclear plants and two coal-fired plants, they’re still waiting to hear whether the courts will give them additional time to collect signatures needed for a statewide vote.
Investors and developers in the state’s natural gas industry, along with backers of green energy, have led the fight against the nuclear plant rescue, which adds a new fee on every electricity bill in the state and scales back requirements that utilities generate more power from wind and solar.
The fees will generate $150 million a year beginning in 2021 for FirstEnergy Solutions’ two nuclear plants near Toledo and Cleveland.
The opponents missed a deadline in October to turn in enough signatures to get on the ballot next year. But they’ve asked the courts for an extension, saying that the state waited so long to authorize its proposed ballot initiative that it didn’t have enough time to collect the 265,000 signatures required.