COLUMBUS—State Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) introduced legislation on Thursday to help the effort to bring a steel plant to Southern Ohio. House Bill 312 would alter the allowable scope of an economic development rider approved by the Public Utilities Commission.
“I have made a promise to my constituents to leave no stone unturned when it comes to bringing a steel plant to our area,” said Johnson. “This bill will provide flexibility for New Steel as they attempt to secure capital for the project through a power purchase agreement with a major electric provider.”
Under current Ohio law, the PUCO can allow a utility company to put a rider on the consumers’ electric bill within its service territory for economic development purposes. This rider can only be imposed on its customers. HB 312 would still allow the PUCO to approve such a rider but the cost would no longer be contained solely within the electric company’s service territory thereby lowering the per person cost.
New Steel could use this new ability to work out a power purchase agreement with a major utility. Such a deal would involve receiving the money for the plant’s construction up front, with New Steel paying the electric provider back with a predetermined amount of electricity the plant would generate over a set length of time.
“The hang up with this type of deal is that a public utility company will want a mechanism in place to hedge their risk since they would be providing a lot of cash up front,” said Johnson. “This policy change would make it much easier to arrange a power purchase agreement so the plant can be built while still protecting Southern Ohio’s electric customers from high bills.”
Johnson was also quick to point out that the bill’s passage would not guarantee that the plant would be built but stated it would “greatly increase its odds.”
“If I had the capital and ability to singlehandedly make this plant a reality, we would have broken ground already,” said Johnson. “But I will do everything I can in my capacity as state representative to turn the tide of the chronic job loss we’ve seen in Scioto, Lawrence, and Adams Counties for decades.”
The New Steel Plant would bring an estimated 1,100 permanent jobs to Southern Ohio plus a large number of construction jobs and the overall boost to the economy that comes with having a large manufacturing employer in the area. House Bill 312 is awaiting referral to a House standing committee.