July 1 (Reuters) - FirstEnergy Solutions said on Monday it hopes Ohio lawmakers will pass a bill by July 17 to prevent the early closure of the state's two nuclear power reactors but cannot buy fuel for the units at this time without legislative certainty. FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt subsidiary of Ohio energy
company FirstEnergy Corp , had said it would shut the
Davis-Besse and Perry reactors on Lake Erie in 2020 and 2021 if it did not get some financial help from the state for the money-losing plants by the June 30 fuel purchase deadline for Davis-Besse. The Midwestern state's House of Representatives passed a nuclear bailout bill in May, known as "House Bill 6" (HB6). The Ohio Senate worked on its own version of HB6 over the weekend and was still working on it early on Monday, according to a legislative aide. State legislators were now working toward final passage of HB6 by July 17, FirstEnergy Solutions said. "Should we receive the long-term certainty that comes with an affirmative vote within this timeframe, we will immediately re-evaluate our options," FirstEnergy Solutions said in a statement, noting the company remains "on path for a safe deactivation and decommissioning" of Davis-Besse. "Given the expectation that the legislation will be passed in the coming weeks, we have communicated our commitment to doing everything possible to accommodate this process, which will come with increased financial burden associated with missing the June 30th fuel purchasing deadline," it said. The House version of HB6 would provide FirstEnergy Solutions with about $150 million a year from 2020 to 2026, according to local newspaper reports. A version of the Senate bill last week also included subsidies for a couple of coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp (OVEC) like the House version of the bill. OVEC is owned by several utilities, including units of
American Electric Power Co Inc and Duke Energy Corp
. Cheap and ample gas from shale fields like the Marcellus and Utica in Ohio has depressed electricity prices nationwide over the past several years, making it uneconomical for generators to keep operating some nuclear- and coal-fired power plants.
The version of the bill passed by the House was opposed by most environmental groups because it would weaken the state's renewable and energy efficiency targets to reduce consumer power costs. FirstEnergy Solutions has warned that shutting the reactors could result in the loss of 4,300 jobs.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino, editing by G Crosse)