Lawmaker argues low-income Ohioans should pay their own energy-efficiency costs

COLUMBUS -- "The chair of the Ohio House committee that may soon be considering legislation to offer hundreds of millions in subsidies to “clean-energy” nuclear power plant owners is arguing in favor of the bill because it would remove subsidies that help poorer Ohioans become more energy-efficient.

Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Nino Vitale, in a Wednesday email to fellow Republican state Rep. John Becker, wrote that low-income Ohioans should have to cover their own costs of insulating their homes and using LED light bulbs, rather than accept money from ratepayer-funded energy-efficiency programs.

'I ask, how many subsidy programs do we need to give away? We are already paying for food, heating assistance, cell phones, child support, and the list goes on and on,' Vitale wrote.

'While this may sound mean to some, a little hunger in the belly or being a little cold on some really cold days is a good incentive for me to get up, go to work and provide for my 5 boys and wife,' the Urbana lawmaker continued. 'If everything is provided for me through government programs that I will never have to reimburse, what incentive is there for me to ever change and cover my own expenses?'"

-- Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Radio ads hitting key lawmakers in debate over nuclear subsidies

COLUMBUS -- "A newly formed organization that is fighting against the new clean air/nuclear bailout legislation under debate in the Ohio House is hitting two Republican lawmakers with radio attack ads.

The Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, which calls itself a statewide consumer advocacy group focused on keeping energy rates low through a diversified energy portfolio, is going after Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro, a prime sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Dick Stein, R-Norwalk, chairman of the subcommittee hearing the bill.

...Rachael Belz, project director for the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, testified against House Bill 6 on Tuesday, calling it a 'creative approach used to disguise a consumer-funded bailout of two old, outdated nuclear plants as a comprehensive energy policy to reduce carbon emissions.'

Belz, who also is executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, a grassroots mobilizing organization, said the new Power Alliance was formed three weeks ago and is funded by individuals and groups backing the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund.

'Not one penny of our Ohio consumer dollars should be spent to bail out these plants,' she said."

-- Jim Siegel, Columbus Dispatch

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Rachael Belz testimony on HB 6 to the House Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee, April 23, 2019

COLUMBUS -- "I am standing here today representing the Ohio consumer, a voice that is often mentioned but rarely heard in Ohio’s energy debate. We know our fight against FirstEnergy’s multiple attempts to saddle Ohio ratepayers with higher electric bills is a bit of a David and Goliath-scale battle. But we hope you will hear our opposition to this bill.

And we are not alone. As you may have noticed during last week’s proponent testimony, over the course of nearly four hours, only those wanting to keep the two nuclear plants open testified. There was no support demonstrated by any other sector you say will benefit from this bill—no support from coal, natural gas, wind, solar, hydropower, or energy efficiency. Their absence was noticeable and should have you asking the question as to why a bill you say is not a bailout is only supported by those who want a bailout.

Our members remain staunchly opposed to rewarding FirstEnergy’s bad business decisions by allowing them to dig deep into the pockets of Ohio ratepayers to cover the bill with no end in sight. We also remain deeply disappointed that that this legislation would reject energy innovation and job growth while keeping Ohio firmly planted in the dark ages of energy technology."

-- Rachael Belz, Project Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance

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Ohioans could be charged more fees in their electric bill

New monthly fees would be collected from all 4.8 million electric utility customers in Ohio under energy bill

Environmentalists and consumer advocates on Tuesday warned that a bill pending in the Ohio House would pile more costs onto consumers and stifle renewable energy and conservation programs.

...Also, the bill would wipe out mandates for renewable energy and energy efficiency but allow utility companies to continue charging customers for the efficiency programs.

'In addition to footing the bill to bailout FirstEnergy’s two outdated nuclear plants, Ohio consumers would be left holding the bag for clean energy programs that would no longer exist. The legislation effectively repeals the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, but clears the way for utilities to continue billing their customers for the benefits they will no longer receive,' said Tracy Sabetta, of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance."

FirstEnergy and its allies, seeking nuclear plant bailout, have spent millions on influence campaign

COLUMBUS — "FirstEnergy’s efforts to try to get Ohio politicians to rescue its troubled nuclear power business haven’t come cheap.

Since 2017, FirstEnergy and its allies have spent millions on campaign contributions to Ohio politicians, as well as on lobbying, public relations and advertising, state and federal records show. The time period covers multiple attempts to subsidize the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo and the Perry nuclear plant, near Cleveland, including a new iteration, a “clean air” bill Republican state lawmakers rolled out on Friday.

Nailing down an exact number is difficult. But the spending can be tracked through two main sources:

· State and federal campaign-finance filings, which detail campaign contributions from FirstEnergy and its allies.

· Filings in the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings for FirstEnergy Solutions, a former subsidiary which FirstEnergy spun off last year as it works to exit the power-plant business. FirstEnergy Solutions now owns the plants, part of a corporate restructuring plan that’s currently before a federal bankruptcy judge in Akron for approval.

Some of that campaigning showed itself on Friday, when state lawmakers rolled out House Bill 6, which would tack new fees onto every electric bill in Ohio, raising $300 million for “clean energy” — including $150 million for the Davis-Besse and Perry plants — while eliminating different charges that fund renewable energy projects. Backers of the plan bill it as a way to fund clean energy and protect jobs, while downplaying the legislation’s origins as a way to rescue the nuclear plants, which together have about 1,400 full-time employees."

— Andrew Tobias, Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Statement of Opposition to Clean Air Program—House Bill 6

Ohio’s Electric Consumers Should Not Subsidize the Status Quo

The following statement is attributed to Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance:

The mission of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance is to educate and mobilize our state’s energy consumers around opportunities to diversify Ohio’s energy portfolio and keep rates low. Today, lawmakers provided us with our first test.

The legislation is a creative approach used to blatantly disguise a consumer-funded bailout of two old, uneconomical nuclear plants as a comprehensive energy policy. Every ratepayer in Ohio would be charged a monthly fee to subsidize more of the same. The legislation effectively repeals the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, tying the hands of new technology companies that have been creating jobs without saddling consumers with added charges.

Our members remain staunchly opposed to rewarding FirstEnergy’s bad business decisions by allowing them to dig deep into the pockets of Ohio ratepayers to cover the bill with no end in sight. We also remain deeply disappointed in our leaders for continuing to reject energy innovation and job growth while keeping Ohio firmly planted in the dark ages of the status quo.

Ohio consumers could pay $300M through electric bill fees under new plan

Ohio consumers would pay $300 million through new fees in their electric bills to create a new pot of state money — more than half of which could go to bailout two nuclear power plants along Lake Erie.

At a Friday press conference, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, detailed legislation he is pushing to eliminate surcharges electricity customers currently pay for energy efficiency, peak demand and renewable energy, which he says aren’t accomplishing goals.

...FirstEnergy Solutions and its allies have been looking for a bailout to keep open the plants, which generate about 18.3 million megawatts of zero carbon emission power each year.

Householder’s energy bill, which will be assigned to a committee next week, was immediately met with criticism from the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and Ohio Consumers Power Alliance as a consumer-funded bailout of aging nuclear power plants that does little to promote renewable energy from wind and solar.

'The entire intent of this bill is to bailout the two nuclear power plants,' said Tracy Sabetta, a consultant to Ohio Consumers Power Alliance. Under the legislation language, no existing solar farm in Ohio would qualify for grants under the new program, she said."

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Davis-Besse remains in limbo after bankruptcy judge strikes down FirstEnergy plan

TOLEDO — "It’s back to the drawing board for FirstEnergy Corp. and its subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions, now that a federal bankruptcy judge has struck down an important part of the utility company’s proposed restructuring plan.

The plan attempted to free the parent company of liability for mounting losses for the division of the firm that controls FirstEnergy’s unprofitable coal-fired and nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ottawa County.

FirstEnergy Solutions, which has been assigned to take on the debt and operations of those plants, responded by saying it expects to submit a revised disclosure statement for its reorganization plan. The filing will be with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Akron overseeing its Chapter 11 restructuring."

— Tom Henry, Toledo Blade

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Ohio bill would create ‘clean air’ fund to benefit nuclear, excluding wind and solar

The draft legislation would create a new surcharge, with proceeds distributed to power plants that “make a significant contribution toward minimizing emissions.”

COLUMBUS -- "Legislation to subsidize two FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear power plants in Ohio is about to surface in the Ohio House.

Republican majority leaders have been circulating a proposal that would add up to $300 million annually to electric bills across the state, creating a state 'clean air program' with grants administered by political appointees.

About $180 million would be earmarked for the FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear power plants, say analysts who have looked at the legislation. The remaining $120 million could be used to prop up other companies — though it appears those companies would not be owners of wind and solar farms.

The draft legislation, obtained by the Energy News Network, would add a $2.50 per month surcharge to every residential customer’s bill, a $20 per month surcharge to every commercial customer’s bill and a $250 monthly charge to every industrial customer’s bill."

-- John Funk, Energy News Network

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Ohio's clean energy future just took another step backward

COLUMBUS — “If you’re a supporter of clean and renewable energy, you know our state legislators often work against new forms of energy. And, today’s news of the Ohio Senate’s confirmation of Sam Randazzo as the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) was yet another example.

With this one appointment, Governor DeWine and the entire legislature have put Ohio further behind, turned their backs on billions of dollars in economic development, thousands of jobs and cleaner air for our children.

They appointed Sam Randazzo knowing he has fought against renewable energy as a lawyer and former lobbyist with Industrial Energy Users-Ohio. He also successfully worked with Rep. Bill Seitz to end future wind development in Ohio in 2014 and has worked on legislation to roll-back Ohio’s modest renewable energy standards.

Read our report opposing Randazzo’s nomination.

Randazzo’s application of a conflict-of-interest standard also bears scrutiny. In 2016 he objected to the nomination of Howard Petricoff, a lawyer with ties to the wind industry, siting conflict-of-interest.  As PUCO Chairman, he now will preside over both groups he represented and vehemently opposed.  We will join others in demanding he recuse himself from all matters involving his former clients and opponents.  However, we have serious doubt that he will do the ethical thing and recuse himself from the cases and projects he so adamantly fought against.

What this means for us, Ohioans who share a cleaner, greener vision of our energy future, is more work, more vigilance and more power-building. As the systems and agencies designed to protect the public’s interest become usurped by corporate interests bent on propping up coal and nuclear power, we must let them know we’re watching and fight back. Governor DeWine and Mr. Randazzo must hear from the pro-clean energy majority of their constituents, regularly and often. Our fight for Ohio’s renewable energy future depends on it.”

— Rachael Belz, executive director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance