Recent news

Consumer organizations respond to expulsion of Representative Larry Householder from the Ohio House of Representatives

Jun 16, 2021 3:49 PM

(OH-June 15, 2021) While the time had long passed to take this necessary step, we applaud members of the Ohio House of Representatives for finally taking decisive action in removing former House Speaker Larry Householder from his position as a State Representative.

Actions taken by Householder and his associates have disgraced the state of Ohio, and we are all still working to clear the cloud of corruption that hangs over our state government. It is time for a fresh start for the people of Ohio.

Householder had been removed from the Speakership and was not serving a role on any standing committee. Every day he was retained in the Ohio House served as a reminder of the scandal surrounding the passage of Bill 6. His continued presence sent a strong signal that while bribery and back room deals were welcome in Ohio, clean energy development is not.

Our state’s energy policy has been in the hands of corrupt politicians and polluting corporations long enough, it is time to take back our energy future. We thank the members of the House of Representatives who voted to oust Larry Householder from the Ohio House of Representatives today.

Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance and Executive Director of Ohio Citizen Action


BGSU digital arts students combat climate change using animation

Jun 09, 2021 1:51 PM

 

Did you know that there's a connection between climate change and digital animation? 

A few months ago, students from Bonnie Mitchell's Collaborative Digital Art Development class in the School of Art created a series of animated public service announcements about climate issues plaguing our society today. Some of the topics included plastic pollution, clean energy community action and filtering agricultural runoff to mitigate climate change. The animated PSAs were designed to help Algalita, Ohio Citizen Action Group and the Black Swamp Conservancy. 

“How do we help these organizations communicate their message in a manner that is appealing and effective?” Mitchell asked her students.

If you'd like to learn more about the amazing connection between climate change and digital animation, make sure to check out this article on BGSU's website here

To view Ohio Citizen Action's PSA created by Mitchell's students, it is available for viewing on our YouTube channel here


Cincinnati media mogul Carolyn Gilbert joins Ohio Citizen Action board

Jun 04, 2021 10:36 AM

CINCINNATI- Ohio Citizen Action welcomed new board member Carolyn Gilbert in mid-May, after she agreed to replace her dear friend Joshua Sands, who's moving out of state. Her decades of experience in radio and digital media will enhance the work the organization has already done to expand digital outreach, since the pandemic lockdown forced a suspension of in-person contact at the door. Learn more about Carolyn and other Ohio Citizen Action and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund board members on our board page.

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Akron’s Own Rich Swirsky 1953-2021

May 31, 2021 7:53 PM

by Sandy Buchanan

The outpouring of love and gratitude for Rich Swirsky, following his death last week from leukemia at the age of 68, is on a scale rarely seen. As an Akron City Council member, teacher, counselor, and community leader Rich directly touched the lives of thousands. And everyone describes Rich the same way: he listened to them, he genuinely cared, he got results --and he always had fun in the process.

A 1985 Akron Beacon Journal profile called Rich “Akron’s Own Ralph Nader.” While Rich probably got a good chuckle out of that – and he certainly deserved the comparison -- even that accolade doesn’t really do justice to him. To me, the most striking thing about Rich is that down to the very core of his being he was rooted in his community. That of course started with his family – the love of his life, Becky Jenkins, to whom he was married for 35 years, and their wonderful children, Sarah and David – and radiated out from there, to his neighborhood, his council ward, the city of Akron, and causes of justice around the world.

Rich served as the Akron Area Director for Ohio Citizen Action from the late 70s to the late 90s. In that role, he led a brilliant campaign to enact one of the nation’s first local toxic chemical right to know laws (which later become the model for a new federal law); convinced grocery stores like Acme to carry organic produce; pioneered “good neighbor campaigns” to urge polluters to make their facilities safer for workers and communities; and launched an environmental education program.

In the early days of Citizen Action – then known as the Ohio Public Interest Campaign – Rich championed the cause of workers who were losing their jobs due to plant closings. In 1978, when the Mohawk Rubber Company gave its workforce only 9 days’ notice that the factory would close, Rich threw his heart and soul into supporting the employees. He wrote a theme song for public rallies, with the memorable refrain, “Workin,’ Sweatin,’ Turnin’ Out the Tires.” (Later he said some of our other local directors nicknamed him “Workin’, Sweatin, Swirsky!”).

Last summer, Rich was delighted that the historian working on the presentations for a new memorial honoring the city’s rubber workers was interested in his song. We couldn’t find a copy of it in our old organizational files, so Rich said he sat down to remember the lyrics and they just “flowed out” Then he enlisted his friend Zach Freidhof, a local musician, to record it.

Although he had to pull back from daily City Council duties during his cancer treatments over the past six months, Rich kept his eye on Akron politics. He made sure that a plan to allow fracking underneath the reservoir that supplies the city’s water did not move forward. And just two weeks before he died, Rich joined an online Council meeting to cast crucial votes to pass measures to prevent evictions and to support the federal George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Rich was a huge Bob Dylan fan, and had a poster of “Forever Young” on his Facebook page. The song perfectly captures Rich’s spirit, and the gifts he gave all of us.

May you grow up to be righteous; May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you

May you always be courageous; Stand upright and be strong

And may you stay
Forever young


More great news for us as we welcome new staff members

May 13, 2021 12:06 PM

Ohio Citizen Action would like to welcome Senior Utilities Organizer Kyle Marcum and Digital Communications Associate Tobili Hatcher to our staff.

Tobili Hatcher

We recently hired Tobili as our new Digital Communications Junior Associate! Tobili will be helping OCA run their social media accounts, design fun and engaging content and interacting with our supporters.
Tobili joins us after graduating last May from Case Western Reserve University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies, with concentrations in Global Business and Latin America, and a secondary degree in Marketing Management. She was a Staff Reporter for
The Observer, the official student newspaper of Case Western Reserve University and still writes freelance for Mouthy Magazine, a monthly publication from the United Kingdom. 
We’re so happy to have Tobili on our team and are excited to watch her grow in this new position! 

Kyle Marcum

Kyle comes to us from years of organizing with the Human Rights Campaign, where he researched, drafted, and implemented advocacy plans to educate and lobby lawmakers on pro-LGBTQ policies. He's also organized on several electoral campaigns both before and after graduating with a degree in Political Science and Government from Marshall University in 2015.

Kyle will work closely with our sister organization, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance (OCPA), by assisting in the development of campaign strategies and leading OCPA’s utility efforts. Welcome Kyle!


Proponent Testimony on Senate Bill 117 Testimony of Melissa K. English Deputy Director, Ohio Citizen Action

May 12, 2021 1:41 PM

Proponent Testimony on Senate Bill 117 Testimony of Melissa K. English Deputy Director, Ohio Citizen Action

May 12, 2021

Chair Peterson, Vice-Chair Schuring, Ranking Member Williams, and Members of the Energy & Public Utilities Committee, my name is Melissa English and I’m the Deputy Director of Ohio Citizen Action. I thank you for the opportunity to present our support for Senate Bill 117.

This testimony is presented on behalf of Ohio Citizen Action’s 32,000 members and all Ohio utility ratepayers who have a stake in the decision before you.

While we acknowledge that portions of House Bill 6, the bill at the center of a $61 million bribery scandal, have been revoked, the repeal is incomplete without a full reversal of the bailout for two dirty coal plants operated by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation or OVEC.

OVEC is owned by Ohio’s major electric utilities and consists of two large coal plants – Kyger Creek in Cheshire, Ohio and Clifty Creek in Madison, Indiana. OVEC was formed in 1952 by utilities to provide electric services in the Ohio River Valley to provide power for uranium enrichment facilities then under construction by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Portsmouth. Many of those who support the OVEC bailout will often point out the fact that the plants were a national security resource as they powered the factory making the atomic bomb materials at the heart of the U.S. Cold War strategy. That was true once but has not been for decades. And it was not true when the utilities in question negotiated their latest intercompany power agreement that is in effect until June 30, 2040.


Ohio Citizen Action resumes field canvassing after 14-month pandemic hiatus

May 03, 2021 11:50 AM

As president of the board of Ohio Citizen Action, I’m so pleased to announce that today we resume field canvassing.

When we suspended our field operation in March 2020, we knew it was the right thing to do to protect our staff and families as well as the public. However, we worried about how our decision would affect our bottom line and our campaigns, which rely upon informing and engaging as many Ohioans as possible.

It was a challenge to face the $250,000 budget hole left from losing contributions made at the door. But our members really showed up for us and helped us to raise $46,907 in just seven weeks, most of it $25, $50 or $100 at a time.

We also had support to invest in expanding our phone and digital outreach. That made a huge difference in filling the information and organizing gap left by suspending field canvassing. Fortunately, that capacity will remain now that we’re restarting fieldwork.

I’ve been out with field canvassers myself and I’ve seen the power of connecting with people face-to-face. Our canvassers don’t use lists, which means we’re talking to people from all social, political and economic groups from all over the state. That’s important, because we recognize the inequitable distribution of environmental and consumer burdens and benefits. We need everyone’s help to improve the quality of life for all Ohioans and to better balance power between decision makers and people affected by their decisions.

We don’t make the decision to restart field canvassing lightly. We do so now because the combination of COVID vaccination rates rising, new cases falling and the success of other canvass-based groups restarting their field operations gives us confidence we can do this safely and successfully.

So look for us soon, on a front porch near you.

- Dick Wittberg, Ohio Citizen Action board president


Ohio should use our picks to draft a new energy policy

Apr 29, 2021 8:00 AM

CLEVELAND — As thousands of football fans begin to gather in downtown Cleveland for the highly anticipated National Football League (NFL) draft, much attention will be focused on our local landmarks, especially FirstEnergy Stadium. While we are proud to have our city on national display, Ohioans must not lose sight of the fact that every time the FirstEnergy name is seen on the face of the stadium, it serves as a constant reminder of the corruption and scandal levied by this utility giant on consumers in our state.  

The Cleveland Browns will have the 26th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. While that is an indicator of a highly successful season for the hometown team, it is a less than stellar ranking when it comes to energy in Ohio. The average electricity price in Ohio is 12.38 cents, placing the state 26th in the nation in terms of rate, usage, and average bill. Clearly, it is another building year when it comes to energy innovation and advancement in Ohio.

But we can tackle the problem. A full repeal of House Bill 6 would restore the state’s renewable energy and efficiency programs and demonstrate to Ohioans that FirstEnergy’s corruption and dark money will not win the day against Ohio consumers. So far, members of Ohio’s legislature have instead punted on developing a real solution to this problem, blocking economic growth and investment on our home turf. It is time to draft a new energy policy for Ohio.

So, while we should all enjoy the excitement of the NFL draft on the shores of Lake Erie, let’s not forget that Ohio’s elected officials have been on the clock since the news broke of the largest bribery scandal in the state’s history. Yet very little has happened to move the ball forward. Maybe it’s because FirstEnergy paid to put its name on Browns Stadium much like they paid to leave their mark on the Ohio Statehouse.

Go Browns!

-Lisa Maatz, Senior Advisor, Ohio Citizen Action


The Ohio Climate Justice Fund

Apr 26, 2021 11:57 AM

We’re excited to announce the launch of The Ohio Climate Justice Fund (OCJF), an emerging initiative that will invest in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) organizations in Ohio, working at the intersection of racial justice and climate action.   

Efforts to advance a clean energy future have historically excluded diverse voices. And studies have shown that nonprofit organizations led by people of color receive only a fraction of the philanthropic investment that White-led organizations receive.  

The OCJF was created to elevate a diverse coalition of advocates that will build the power to influence policy change and help move us toward a just and inclusive clean energy economy for Ohio.  

Launched with seed funding and support from the George Gund Foundation, Energy Foundation, and the Cleveland Foundation, the OCJF will award competitive, one-time grants between $15,000-$30,000 to BIPOC led organizations across Ohio to host community listening sessions and lead communities in conversations about the best and most effective ways to address climate and environmental justice in their communities. Grant applications are due by COB on May 19, 2021. 

To learn more, visit ohioclimatejusticefund.org, or email Leah D. Hudnall, Director of the Ohio Climate Justice Fund at [email protected]. To stay connected to this effort, follow the OCJF on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn


FirstEnergy seeks amnesty from Feds

Apr 23, 2021 3:49 PM

It might be the closest we'll get to a guilty plea.

FirstEnergy says it’s talking to the U.S. Justice Department to avoid possible criminal charges in the House Bill 6 bribery probe.

The company's strategic overview states that it has begun discussing what’s called a deferred prosecution agreement, through which the company might pay a fine to avoid criminal prosecution.


FirstEnergy says it expects resolution of the HB6 case to hurt the company
Whatever the resolution, it likely would harm the company, FirstEnergy reported. "FirstEnergy believes that it is probable that it will incur a loss in connection with the resolution of this investigation."

Follow the money trail

Remember how FirstEnergy’s internal investigation into the federal HB 6 corruption case identified money improperly collected from customers?

FirstEnergy now admits
 that money used to fund the HB6 bribery scheme came from customers in Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Exactly how much money was improperly collected from customers remains a closely guarded secret, but some details have trickled out of FirstEnergy and more may be on the way. 

Fines are all well and good, but when companies behave like criminals at the expense of their customers and corrupt those who hold the public trust, is it too much to expect they be prosecuted like criminals?

We don’t think so.