Ohio Consumers Power Alliance endorses the National Economic Transition Platform

Local leaders in coal communities are developing solutions that tackle the climate crisis and create equitable and sustainable economic growth from the ground up

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance is pleased to announce that we have endorsed the National Economic Transition Platform. Launched June 30, 2020, this platform provides national leaders a path forward to developing the community-powered, national economic transition program that American coal communities need and deserve.

From Appalachia to the Navajo Nation, the people hit hardest by the changing coal economy are facing a profound crisis. As these challenges continue to mount, local leaders in coal communities are working to tackle the climate crisis and create equitable and sustainable economic growth. The National Economic Transition Platform is crafted by these leaders, to give national policymakers a framework for a comprehensive national economic transition program that will create and support vibrant, inclusive communities.

This platform empowers workers and communities—in rural, urban, and tribal settings— as the nation adapts to the realities of climate change while confronting economic and public health crises. These solutions are built by and for communities to create resilient economies that can withstand shocks like economic recessions and worldwide pandemics. Together with more than 80 other organizations, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance has endorsed this platform as a way to work toward a future where the communities hit hardest by the decline of the coal industry have equitable economies, thriving local businesses, and family-sustaining jobs.

The framework for this platform is built on seven pillars of integrated federal policy solutions. Fully addressing the challenges of the energy transition requires a substantial local, state, and federal-level investment, as well as investment from the private sector and philanthropy. Together, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance and our co-signatories call upon national policymakers to advance the platform’s framework; it is the best way to serve and assist the people and places most affected by past and future coal transitions. The time for equitable and lasting change is now.

Inside clean energy: The racial inequity in clean energy and how to fight it

Solar Worker Demographics

"It doesn't take much of a leap to see a connection between underrepresentation in the solar work force and the lower use of solar in some neighborhoods. Whole communities are much less likely to have job contacts in the industry, and are also less likely to know someone who has rooftop solar and can talk about its benefits.

These discrepancies touch on a larger environmental justice issue: Majority black neighborhoods also have higher levels of air pollution from industry and fossil fuel electricity than majority white neighborhoods, according to a large body of research.

The inequities in solar power are a major concern because the solar industry is likely to be an increasingly important part of our economy.

If the benefits of this industry are mostly limited to people who already are in a position of privilege, this leads to justified resentment. And that resentment can be exploited by industries that want to slow down the transition to clean energy. For example, some utilities have sought help from NAACP chapters to oppose rooftop solar, based on the idea that the benefits of solar are going to mainly white and affluent households, shifting costs to everyone else. The utilities' argument is shaky at best, with little evidence that solar cost-shifting is anything more than a minor issue, but there is no escaping that black communities have not gotten a proportionate share of the benefits of solar."

-- Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News

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With Ohio bailout law secured, FirstEnergy Solutions successor moves to increase share buybacks by $300 million

COLUMBUS -- "Leaders of a former FirstEnergy subsidiary, which Ohio electricity customers will soon begin paying $150 million annually to subsidize under a nuclear bailout law Ohio officials passed last year, have moved to spend an extra $300 million on repurchasing the company’s own stock.

The stock buybacks, meant to benefit corporate shareholders, come less than a year after an aggressive multi-year lobbying effort by FirstEnergy that culminated in Gov. Mike DeWine and state lawmakers approving $1 billion in bailout money funded by surcharges on Ohioans’ electric bills. The company and elected officials who backed the bailout argued without state money, the power plants and their parent company would become insolvent.

The board of directors for the company now known as Energy Harbor on Friday voted to increase authorization for its stock buyback program from $500 million to $800 million, according to an investor presentation the company posted to its website. Energy Harbor can buy back the stock any time until Aug. 27., under the terms of a company plan, approved as the Akron company spun off from FirstEnergy as it emerged from bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year."

-- Andrew Tobias, cleveland.com

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A dirty battle for a nuclear bailout in Ohio

A mailer sent to thousands of Ohio residents falsely linked the Chinese government to anti-bailout activists.

"The raw political and economic power of the industry was on display even after the bill was passed. Having been defeated within the legislature, grassroots organizations such as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts and Ohio Consumers Power Alliance took to the streets and tried to collect signatures on a petition calling for a referendum question about HB6 to be included in the 2020 elections. It was a tough task, since those opposing the bailout had less than two months to gather over a quarter of a million valid signatures.

FirstEnergy tried to stop them with a two-pronged approach. The first was a legal trick. It went to the state’s supreme court and argued that the monthly charges on customers 'should be considered tax increases, which cannot be challenged by a referendum.' But the court dismissed the case, saying there was 'no ‘justiciable controversy’ for it to decide.' For the main part, though, the response from FirstEnergy and other beneficiaries was more of the same: dark money–backed organizations spending millions to undo the grassroots efforts by urging voters to refuse signing the petition.

Among these organizations was one called Ohioans for Energy Security, which sponsored television advertisements that falsely claimed that China is 'intertwining themselves financially in our energy infrastructure,' threatening 'national security,' and implying that not going through with the bailout campaign would lead to Chinese control of Ohio’s power grid. The watchdog organization Energy and Policy Institute quickly identified that some of the people featured in the TV advertisement were in fact FirstEnergy employees. In other words, there was reason to suspect that FirstEnergy was behind the advertisement. Ohioans for Energy Security also mailed thousands of letters to state residents with bold lettering behind a Chinese flag imploring, 'Don’t give the Chinese government your personal information.' The hyperbolic allegations about China apparently are connected to natural gas-fired power plants in Ohio that were partially financed by a Chinese government-owned bank, although FirstEnergy has itself borrowed money from the same bank."

-- Shakiba Fadaie and M. V. RamanaBulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Citizens groups demand aggressive Cleveland utility reconnections

End Poverty Now is a coalition of 22 groups in Cleveland that works to address and combat issues of poverty in Cleveland communities. The above photo lists the coalition's demands concerning the utility shutoffs during the COVID-19 outbreak.

CLEVELAND — "Rachael Belz, Executive Director for Ohio Citizen Action told News 5 the coalition has started a petition drive, calling on the city to more aggressively let citizens know they can have service temporarily restored.

Belz said the growing financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis is going to have even more residents get behind on paying their utility bills.

'How do they even find out that’s what they’re supposed to do,' Belz said.

'Even sending a postcard or making a phone call or at least try to make a phone call and leave a message.'

— Joe Pagonakis, News 5 Cleveland

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Ohio green-energy groups increasingly look to locals in fight against global warming

COLUMBUS — "Environmental advocates have been working on the local level for years, finding success in getting cities to commit to getting 100 percent of their energy from renewable sourcesreplacing gas-powered city vehicles with electric cars, and even building their own solar arrays, among other things.

But now, such efforts are becoming more organized with the creation of Power A Clean Future Ohio, which will work to help municipal leaders implement carbon-reduction plans. The new group is backed by organizations such as the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio Mayors Alliance, and the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter.

'Regardless of what the state is doing, there’s just a lot of opportunity for local governments to step in here, and to take a kind of leadership role,' said Joe Flarida, executive director of Power A Clean Future Ohio. 'There’s just kind of a natural fit there and a lot of authority that they have to do things right away, so we’re taking advantage.'"

— Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com

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Power struggle: Federal ruling calls into question Ohio's nuclear plant subsidies

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

"'FERC's order is a direct response to a trend of state subsidization of uneconomical power plants, including those benefiting from the recently passed Ohio House Bill 6 (HB6),' the report reads. 'The FERC order is a giant stick against state subsidies, and tips HB6 on its head: Rather than improve the economic position of select Ohio (and Indiana) power plants, the HB6 subsidies now jeopardize these same power plants from competitively earned revenue in the wholesale electric capacity market. ... About $190 million in annual capacity revenue for these same generators is now at risk,' it adds.

While it says it's not telling Ohio or any other state whether to subsidize their power plants, FERC wants to make sure auctions for capacity power are fair and competitive. It's instructed the regional grid operator PJM to institute a minimum offer price rule (MOPR) for its capacity auctions, setting prices at which subsidized plants could bid in.

Capacity power is electricity the grid keeps on reserve to meet its maximum load requirements. It's tapped into when the grid exceeds its base load and needs more juice. Power companies bid to provide that power at a set price. When the grid needs it, PJM begins buying the lowest-priced power and keeps buying more expensive power from other bidders until it has enough. Then, all of the capacity power providers get that last and highest price for all of the capacity power they provided.

FERC says allowing nuclear plants supported by state subsidies to bid into these auctions at lower prices than other nuclear plants could support is not fair. So, it's ordered PJM to set a minimum price at which Davis-Besse, Perry and other subsidized plants can bid in."

-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business 

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Statement of Response as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts Files to Dismiss its Appeal to Save House Bill 6 Referendum

CINCINNATI — Nearly one year ago, House Bill 6 was introduced with the intent of providing a consumer-funded bailout of two inefficient nuclear power plants and weakening the state’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. As the legislation moved through the House and Senate, changes were accepted that added subsidies for two of the region’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants and essentially gutted the clean energy standards that have been so successful since their passage in 2008. Following a quick signature on HB 6 from Governor Mike DeWine, Ohioans for Corporate Bailouts began moving forward with an attempted referendum to put the issue before Ohio voters in November 2020.

Yesterday, that movement toward a public vote on this issue came to an end. After running one of the most expensive and divisive campaigns of intimidation and confusion, FirstEnergy Solutions and the unlimited cash they poured into securing this bailout could not be matched by the resources of Ohioans for Corporate Bailouts. As a result, referendum supporters were forced to file a motion to dismiss its appeal before the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals and end its pursuit of additional time to collect signatures and place the issue on the ballot.

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance opposed House Bill 6 since the day it was introduced in 2019. Now after a long and brutal battle, the end result is that Ohioans will not have the final say on whether they support state investment in clean energy innovation and economic growth. Those same Ohioans, however, will now be saddled with a charge on their bills every month to bail out two nuclear plants and two old, dirty coal plants.

FirstEnergy Solutions left a dark stain on democracy in Ohio in their fight to win at all costs. A majority of Ohio lawmakers also chose to put corporate profits over the best interests of Ohio consumers by passing House Bill 6 back in July. No new technology, no job growth. Lawmakers chose only to reward the bad business decisions of a bankrupt corporation. We will remember their votes on this critical bill.

— Rachael Belz Project Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance

How market power gives electric utilities political power

"In the pathway to 100% renewable energy lie electric utilities. Since the time of electrification until the 1990s, every electric utility was a monopoly––it owned everything to deliver electricity from the power plants (and sometimes even the coal mines) to the transmission lines to the substations to the distribution lines to the meter on your home or business). With a market monopoly, utilities have enormous political power to promote or avoid change.

Utilities operate under three legal structures: investor-owned, public, or cooperative. Investor-owned utilities were the first, and they focused on serving urban areas with the highest concentrations of customers. Municipal, city-owned utilities followed soon after, serving cities without private utilities or taking over private utilities that didn’t provide high quality, affordable service. Supported by the federal government, member-owned rural electric cooperatives filled in the gaps left by the first two (as shown in the map below).

Monopoly defined all three ownership structures. For private utilities, the early captains of the electric industry realized it would be more profitable if they didn’t have competition. An early industry leader, Samuel Insull, cut a political deal with state policy makers––protection from competition in exchange for public oversight via regulatory commissions, often called Public Utilities Commissions. The first of these was formed around 1905. For public and cooperative utilities, they also retained a monopoly, but with oversight of municipal utilities provided by a city’s voters and elected officials and oversight of cooperatives provided by a board of member-owners elected by customers."

-- John Farrell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

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Ohioans tell State Representative Upchurch that they have not forgotten his vote on House Bill 6

Consumer group running radio ads with a reminder of Upchurch’s support of coal bailout

Rep. Terrence Upchurch

CINCINNATI – Four months after the passage of controversial House Bill 6, the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance has launched a radio campaign reminding voters in Ohio House District 10 that State Representative Terrence Upchurch voted against their best interest when he voted in support of the legislation in July 2019.

House Bill 6 bailed out two failing nuclear power plants and two of the region’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, while gutting the state’s successful renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The bill imposes a monthly fee on every electric ratepayer across the state to subsidize FirstEnergy Solutions to the tune of $150 million each year to keep their nuclear power plants operational. In addition, $50 million each year will be used to subsidize two coal plants, one of which is located in Indiana. At the same time, the reversal of the energy efficiency standards is estimated to cost Ohioans $4 billion in cost savings that will no longer happen.

Voices on the radio spot currently airing on WMJI and WTAM in Cleveland tell Representative Upchurch, “We will remember. We will remember your yes vote on HB 6. We will remember that you voted for Wall Street investors over hardworking Ohioans…Your vote on HB 6 bailed out two outdated nuclear power plants and two coal plants – one that’s in Indiana. Your vote killed Ohio’s renewable energy standards and energy efficiency efforts. We will remember.”

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