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Government & Politics

Legislators, School Districts React to FirstEnergy's Plans to Close Its Nuclear Plants

Davis Besse

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally misidentified the superintendent of Perry local Schools.  

FirstEnergy says it’s starting the process of shutting down its two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio, saying it can’t compete with lower natural gas prices. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports the company says it’s willing to work with lawmakers to find ways to keep them operating.

Republican Sen. John Ecklund of Chardon says the time is now to look at his bill, which would allow FirstEnergy to charge customers more to subsidize those nuclear plants, “to provide the support through rates that they provide for other initiatives such as energy efficiency and alternative energy and renewable energy sources.”

Democratic Sen. Kenny Yuko of the Cleveland area says he’s concerned about the impact of the shutdowns, but there may not be the political will to pass the bill.

“The numbers don’t lie and the facts don’t really support this being an ongoing process.”

Yuko says he thinks the interest is in cleaner, safer fuels such as natural gas. But Eklund says nuclear power plants have zero emissions, unlike natural gas.

Local schools take a hit
The closures will also have a financial impact on the school districts where it does business.

Perry Nuclear generates about 25 percent of the property tax revenue that goes to Perry Local Schools, east of Cleveland. Superintendent Jack Thompson says the announcement comes as no surprise, and it gives the district time to prepare.

“We’re going to keep everyone informed and follow this very closely. And the good news is, we have time to adjust and adapt to our situation. We have years of time. This isn’t going to happen overnight. We’re going to be working and doing everything we can to maintain the wonderful, vibrant school systems and community that we have.”

Thompson says the district may have to become more reliant on state funding, or put a levy on the ballot in the future, to make up for the shortfall.