2 nuke plants, 1 bribery scandal, no answers: Towns on edge


TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – For much of the past four years, residents of two villages along Lake Erie have been worried about the fate of their nuclear power plants, which generate enough tax revenue to pay for nicer schools than theirs. neighbors. .

Like many US nuclear power plants struggling to compete with natural gas and renewables, the owners of the Ohio factories have turned to the government for help, persuading state lawmakers to Give them a billion dollar bailout.

But relief for the villages of Perry and Oak Harbor was short-lived after the financial bailout became entangled in a political corruption scandal that prompted calls to drop the bailout.

The uncertainty surrounding the future of the two Ohio factories – Davis-Besse near Toledo and Perry near Cleveland – has created a new wave of anxiety that extends into another year after state lawmakers ended December, postponed their decision to repeal or not the bailout or come up with a new financial lifeline that would keep factories open.

This is just the latest twist for rural towns, which found themselves caught amid the scandal-tainted rescue this summer when federal investigators said the former owner of the factories had secretly funneled millions to secure payment.

“It’s like a big slap in the face,” said Perry Fire Chief James McDonald, whose department derives nearly half of its budget from taxes paid by the nuclear power plant east of Cleveland.

Nuclear power plants are anchor points for Perry and Oak Harbor, two working-class bedroom communities that are rooted in agriculture and have few other industries. The two factories employ around 1,400 workers and generate around $ 30 million in tax revenue for their home communities, with the majority going to schools – which are the communities’ biggest draw.

The closure of the Davis-Besse plant would be “catastrophic,” said Guy Parmigian, director of a school district that would lose millions due to a shutdown. “It’s not just us. It is our library, our county, the township.

Because her school derives about 40% of its income from the factory, the district would face deep budget cuts without her. “We don’t want to think about the possibilities, but they are definitely there on the table,” Parmigian said.

It’s a familiar conundrum for cities anchored by nuclear power plants.

They often become too dependent on their tax revenues as it is difficult to attract other businesses due to the fears associated with the industry. Plus, almost all nuclear power plants – including those in Ohio – are in isolated locations and many are closed. sites cannot be redeveloped for new uses because they store radioactive waste.

The loss of revenue stream from the Perry plant could turn the area into a “ghost town” as taxes would likely rise to make up the difference, said Jack Thompson, director of local schools in Perry, who has a swimming pool and community fitness center, thanks to the factory, which opened in the late 80’s.

Cities in Vermont, Illinois, and Florida and other states where nuclear power plants have closed over the years have already seen this kind of economic impact firsthand and are now grappling with more property taxes. costs, service cuts and less school funding.

While nuclear power plants are not designed to last forever, shutdowns in the United States are happening sooner than expected as plants struggle to compete with cheaper natural gas plants and renewable energy sources. Four factories have closed since the start of 2018, and more are on the block.

A few states, including New York, Illinois and New Jersey, have saved …

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