Proposed Ohio ‘clean energy’ bill could disproportionately harm some small businesses

Berea Manufacturing owner Mike Pandoli sits in his office on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland.com)

BEREA — "If passed, a controversial energy bill under debate by Ohio lawmakers could cause a small Cleveland-area welding shop’s electric bill — and possibly those of other businesses like it — to more than double.

Berea Manufacturing, which employs eight people in an industrial park not far from Baldwin Wallace University, under House Bill 6 could see its monthly electric bill go up from around $800 a month to around $1,800 a month, according to an analysis from experts contacted by cleveland.com.

...Because of how HB 6 is written, other similar small companies could be disproportionately impacted if they, like Berea Manufacturing:

  • Are an industrial business with multiple electric meters, despite being just one company and
  • Have relatively low electricity use

Here’s why.

HB 6, which lawmakers designed to bail out two financially troubled Ohio nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt former FirstEnergy subsidiary, would assess varying charges on each electric customer in the state to help subsidize “clean energy” generators. The new charges are expected to raise $150 million for the two nuclear plants, in Ottawa and Lake counties.

The bill would offset the new charges by eliminating existing charges that fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects."

— Andrew Tobias, Cleveland.com

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Ohio House panel slows nuclear 'bailout' plan

COLUMBUS — New subsidies to reward the generation of power that emits no or less carbon into the air would be implemented more slowly under a bill approved Thursday by a Ohio House of Representatives subcommittee.

But while it might take a bit longer getting there, critics argue the bill still represents a consumer bailout for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants on the shore of Lake Erie.

...The bill would generally get rid of Ohio’s current mandates that utilities find more of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, and gradually reduce electricity consumption overall through efficiency programs.

It would replace those programs with credits for the generation of zero-emissions power, such as nuclear and renewable sources, and existing polluting sources like coal and natural gas that show they are reducing their carbon dioxide emissions."

— Jim Provance, Toledo Blade

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Ohio Citizen Action calls for the removal of Rep Nino Vitale as Chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee

COLUMBUS -- Ohio Citizen Action is calling on Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to remove Nino Vitale as chair of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee for advocating the removal of subsidies that help poorer Ohioans become more energy-efficient.

Excerpt:

"As an organization with a strong commitment to helping all consumers see the benefits of clean, renewable and energy efficiency efforts and affordable utility bills, we find Vitale’s comments are imprudent, inappropriate, narrow-minded and discriminatory.

…We find it reprehensible that an Ohio lawmaker would prefer to subsidize a bankrupt energy giant, rather than assist low-income Ohioans with programs that would keep them warm and ultimately help save money. Yet, House Bill 6 would require those same low-income consumers to pay to bailout FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants. Vitale’s stance fails to put the needs of his constituents first. It fails to think of those in need. It fails to see the big picture or listen to logic. Ironically, 11.1 percent of residents in Champaign county live in poverty as do 13.7 percent of Logan residents and 8.9 percent of Shelby residents – all Vitale’s constituents.

Vitale is entitled to his own beliefs and bias towards poor Ohioans, but he has revealed his one-sided goal to benefit Wall Street investors – not hardworking Ohioans. Someone so blatantly opposed to helping low-income Ohioans is unfit to lead the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Mr. Speaker, we hope you agree that by his actions, Rep. Vitale is unfit to lead as Chairman. ”

— Rachael Belz, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action, letter to Larry Householder, Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives

read the full letter (pdf)


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

read full testimony

 


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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