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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It's deadline day for anti-nuclear bailout referendum

Groups opposed to House Bill 6 need more than 265,000 signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in 2020. (distell2610/Pixabay)

Groups opposed to House Bill 6 need more than 265,000 signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in 2020. (distell2610/Pixabay)

COLUMBUS — "Ohioans who want voters to decide the future of a new clean-energy law soon will know if their efforts are fruitful. Today is the deadline for opponents of House Bill 6 to submit the signatures needed to get a referendum on the November 2020 ballot.

The controversial bill was signed into law in July, and includes new fees on electric bills that would keep two First Energy nuclear plants open. Melissa English, director of the opposition group Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, said petitioners spent the weekend in an all-out blitz to reach as many voters as possible.

'Informed and engaged citizens are the best possible hedges against the abuses of government and corporate power. That's what this is about,' English said. 'This has been a long, ugly fight. Pro-bailout forces understand that if Ohioans get a chance to vote on this they're going to vote it down.'"

— Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service

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Dark money is pouring in to protect the “worst energy policy in the country”

Mother Jones illustration; Getty

"It all started back in July, when the Ohio state legislature passed a law—called HB6—that, starting next year, will charge consumers new fees to rescue four struggling power plants. Those charges will eventually add up to a $1 billion bailout for the utility FirstEnergy Solutions’ two nuclear plants, while handing a lifeline to two 1950s-era coal plants owned by another utility, the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation.

Because of the law, Ohio is the first state to reverse its renewable energy standards and efficiency targets, all while funneling more money to coal—a move that has clean energy advocates fuming. Leah Stokes, an environmental political science professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, called it the 'worst energy policy in the country.'

But this it isn’t your typical environmentalists-vs.-fossil-fuel-industry fight. The side opposing the bailout has clean-energy advocates working alongside the natural gas industry. And though the supporters of the bailout include some of the usual suspects—FirstEnergy, coal-reliant American Electric Power and Duke Energy, and the coal baron and Trump donor Robert Murray—they have also marshaled a mysterious string of deep-pocketed advocacy groups."

-- Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones

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Actual CO2 emissions from EPA show “Ohio Clean Air Program” in HB 6 legislation lies to Ohio voters

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Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts' promotional material

COLUMBUS - "Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts today released data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showing that carbon dioxide emissions from the three coal plants that benefit from HB 6 exceed by more than two times the carbon offset from the two nuclear plants that ratepayers are being forced to subsidize under the law.

'This information from the EPA shows once again how HB 6 supporters lied to Ohioans by claiming the bill was about clean air when it’s really just a bailout for a bankrupt company that doesn’t reduce carbon emissions,' said Gene Pierce, spokesman for the coalition.

From the moment that HB 6 was filed last spring, supporters of the ratepayer bailout for the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions stated the plants must be subsidized and saved because they don’t emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

However, under HB 6, two money losing coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp, Clifty Creek in Indiana and Kyger Creek in Ohio, were added to also receive direct subsidies. A third coal plant set for retirement, the W.H. Sammis plant in Ohio, indirectly got a boost from HB 6 when owner FirstEnergy Solutions announced that with the subsides approved for its nuclear plants, it would keep Sammis open, too."

-- Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts

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In Ohio, shady front groups fight dirty to attack grassroots campaign against $1 billion nuke/coal bailout

"An ugly political war is raging in Ohio, pitting consumer and environmental advocates against big utilities and dark-money front groups that want to make electricity customers pay more than $1 billion to bail out failing nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The bad guys are fighting dirty, using deceitful scare tactics and alleged cash payoffs that are now under investigation by the state attorney general, to derail the anti-bailout campaign.

It’s a fight for the future of energy that could erupt in other states as utilities seek public subsidies to prop up their outdated, inefficient, dirty and dangerous power plants against competition from cheaper and cleaner solar and wind power. Figures compiled by EWG show that in the past three years, five states have handed utilities more than $15 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts of failing nuclear plants.

This summer, Ohio utility interests spent almost $10 million to push through legislation to slap a surcharge on ratepayers’ monthly electricity bills in a move to subsidize two nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions and two coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp. Not only are the plants not needed to provide a secure supply of electricity but the bill would also effectively stop state renewable energy and efficiency mandates for utilities.

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill. But a grassroots group, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, wants to let voters decide whether to overturn the law."

-- Grant Smith and Bill Walker, Environmental Working Group (EWG)

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Editorial: Campaign built on deceit undermines democracy in Ohio

COLUMBUS -- "Each time we think we have stated strongly enough our thorough disgust with backers of a nuclear-plant bailout (House Bill 6) and their lying, dangerous campaign to prevent voters from having a chance to overturn it, a new outrage prompts us to say it again: Voters, do not be fooled. If you oppose making electricity customers pay an extra $150 million per year to subsidize two failed power plants — or even if you just think voters should have the last word — sign the petition.

A dark-money group calling itself Ohioans for Energy Security — likely funded by the nuclear plants who want the bailout — has embarked on a scorched-truth campaign to stop an effort by another dark-money group, funded by natural gas interests, to put a referendum — which could cancel HB 6 — on the November 2020 ballot.

The latest ugly distortion is in a 30-second TV ad by Ohioans for Energy Security that began airing last Friday. It warns viewers about people gathering petition signatures for the referendum, describing them as 'outsiders brought into our state to roam our neighborhoods.'

We call this ugly because it casts the gathering of ballot petition signatures as something sinister. A mailer sent out by the group earlier instructed, 'If you see a circulator, report them to our hotline.' For what? Committing democracy?"

-- Editorial Board, The Columbus Dispatch

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