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LaRose asks Ohio Supreme Court to not answer questions on referendum process

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COLUMBUS — "Mr. LaRose maintains that since Judge Sargus already rejected the federal First Amendment claim, there is no federal issue left that would be resolved by answering the five questions.

The law’s opponents urged the court to accept the federal queries.

'[T]he Ohio Supreme Court has the opportunity to right a wrong — the legislature has restricted the right of referendum for far too long,' the brief filed by environmental and government watchdog groups reads in part.

'In today’s context, restricting the democratic power of the people represents serious risks to Ohio’s democracy, the future of Ohio’s energy system, and the fight against climate change …,' it states. 'Ohio has the opportunity to enhance and invigorate its democracy — or, it can reduce democracy to a pay-to-play game, whereby only those with the largest bank accounts can achieve meaningful change.'"

— Jim Provance, The Toledo Blade 

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HB 6 referendum fight highlights the troubling ways Ohio voters can be silenced

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"Whether Ohio voters will or won’t get a chance to veto House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout bill, is a question entangled in a legal thicket. But complexity and pettifogging can’t mask the stakes: Do procedural laws, and the ability of those with deep pockets to monetize success in a petition drive, wrongly impair Ohioans’ constitutional right to vote up or down laws the General Assembly has passed?

Nearly a century ago, in 1915, the Ohio Supreme Court seemingly answered that question. The court said the 1912 constitutional amendment giving Ohioans the referendum was crafted 'to put it beyond the power of an unfriendly General Assembly to cripple or to destroy [it].' That’s not the only precedent on the issue, but, coming when it did, so soon after Ohio adopted the referendum, it deserves weight.

HB 6, passed in July, requires Ohio electricity consumers to subsidize the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants on Lake Erie, plus two coal-fueled Ohio Valley Electric Corp. plants, one in Indiana, and it phases out the state’s renewable-energy mandate."

-- Editorial Board, Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer

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Federal judge writes of blockers, bribes and bombast in HB 6 referendum fight

The Ohio Statehouse

COLUMBUS -- "'Few Ohioans are unaware of Amended Substitute House Bill 6 ... opponents and supporters of the measure locked horns in what has become one of the most expensive and divisive campaigns in Ohio history,' the judge wrote.

'Plaintiffs claim, and have supported the allegations with sworn testimony, that circulators of the referendum petitions have been assaulted and harassed,' Sargus said.

His honor also cited testimony about bribes to lure away circulators and a “fake petition” circulated by Ohioans For Energy Security, the dark money-fed pro-HB 6 force that dropped over $16 million on TV commercials.

Sargus concluded that the referendum organizers’ request for more days to solicit signatures, and a need for answers to unsettled state law, belong before the Ohio Supreme Court. Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts contend that state law illegally robbed it of 38 of the 90 days for its petition drive by requiring state approvals before signature gathering could begin."

-- Darell Rowland, The Columbus Dispatch 

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Editorial: Utilities’ powerful allies keep Ohio moving backward on energy

FirstEnergy Headquarters in Akron, OH. 

COLUMBUS -- "More bad news for clean energy came last week when the Ohio Power Siting Board unexpectedly derailed approval of an 80-megawatt solar project proposed for Brown and Clermont counties. The distinct departure from standard practice raised alarm and eyebrows among renewable energy supporters because Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo, who also heads the siting board, has had a long career prior to his PUCO appointment advocating for fossil fuel companies and opposing clean energy initiatives.

That same PUCO has tended to favor utilities and disfavor clean energy since long before Randazzo’s appointment as chairman earlier this year. In 2017, it allowed Akron-based FirstEnergy to begin collecting $168 million to $204 million per year in extra charges from customers. It ostensibly was to encourage the company to modernize its distribution system, but the ruling didn’t require FirstEnergy to actually do such work with the money.

The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the surcharges earlier this year but allowed FirstEnergy to keep the $400 million-plus it already had collected, without undertaking any distribution-system improvements.

Another 2017 PUCO ruling undermined clean energy development by limiting how much FirstEnergy could recover from customers for energy efficiency projects — in other words, limiting how much the utility would invest in such projects."

-- This editorial represents the opinion of the Columbus Dispatch editorial board, which includes the publisher, editor, editorial page editor and editorial writers.

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Video: HB6 Referendum Fight Goes To Court

"This week brought a close to one chapter for Ohio's nuclear power plant bailout law, House Bill 6. But another could be starting.

The law would create 150 million dollars in annual subsides for nuclear plants starting in 2021 and running for 10 years. It would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for two coal plants – one in Indiana. And it would roll back renewable energy requirements on utilities and eliminated the mandate for power companies to reduce its energy use.

The group fighting against the bailout and these other measures mounted a last minute push for signatures and as Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, their fight ultimately landed in federal court."

- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau 

 


Nuclear bailout law to go into effect after referendum group misses deadline

Rachael Belz, Ohio Citizen Action, collects signatures for the HB6 Referendum at Land Grant Brewery.

Rachael Belz and Melissa English, Ohio Citizen Action, collect signatures for the HB6 Referendum at Land Grant Brewery. 

COLUMBUS -- "Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts is still hoping a federal court will rule in favor of their request to extend the deadline in order for them to collect more signatures.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts says they did not have enough signatures to qualify for a referendum. The anti-nuclear bailout group did not turn in their collected signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State's office by the deadline set in order to make next year's ballot.

Gene Pierce, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts spokesperson, says their referendum drive has been met with heavy opposition. He says this includes ads, mailers, and canvassers who allegedly blocked and harassed signature collectors.

'The bottom line is that the smear campaign and the lies and deceit of the House Bill 6 supporters were successful in confusing Ohioans and discouraging them from signing our petition,' says Pierce."

-- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau

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IEEFA update: FirstEnergy stops at nothing in its quest for an Ohio ratepayer-financed bailout

EIA chart of Ohio Electric Power Generation by Fuel Source

"FirstEnergy has made one costly error in judgment after another over the past couple of decades. It covered up a near nuclear disaster at the Davis-Besse plant in 2002, for instance, ultimately costing hundreds of millions in repairs and replacement power. It made an ill-timed purchase of the coal-heavy Allegheny Energy in 2011. It sold natural gas and hydropower plants at a time when they were economically competitive. And it has failed to invest in wind and solar while leading the charge to weaken Ohio’s already-anemic renewable energy portfolio.

As a result, both the company and its subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions—which owns the nuclear plants in question—sank into deep financial trouble, and FirstEnergy Solutions declared bankruptcy in April 2018. The company said it would close its two nuclear plants, Perry and Davis-Besse, and its remaining coal plant, W.H. Sammis, if it didn’t get a bailout from ratepayers or taxpayers.

Over the course of several years, FirstEnergy proposed at least four legislative and regulatory bailout schemes in Ohio (and IEEFA issued several analyses showing why these proposals were such a bad deal for Ohioans). Most of these schemes were rejected in full or in part for being unfair to ratepayers and antithetical to Ohio’s deregulated electricity marketplace. It also must be said that Ohio’s elected leaders have shown little interest in supporting workers and communities harmed when uncompetitive electricity generation plants close. This political inertia has enabled a climate ripe for fear-mongering by coal and nuclear proponents.

The 2018 elections gave the bailout proposal new life, when FirstEnergy saw its chance to hit the jackpot by placing its bets in the form of  close to $1 million in strategically-placed campaign contributions on a new governor, Mike DeWine, and new leadership of the Ohio General Assembly."

-- Sandy Buchanan, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)

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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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Editorial: When thugs disrupt electoral process, courts should intervene

"Under state law, the referendum group has until Oct. 21 — 90 days after Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB 6 — to gather 265,774 valid signatures. The federal lawsuit asks a judge to reset the clock for another 90 days to compensate for what the group claims are unconstitutional burdens imposed by state referendum law.

Those include the requirement for the attorney general to approve proposed ballot language — Yost’s approval didn’t come until 40 of the 90 days had elapsed — and a requirement that signature gatherers submit their personal information in a public record.

Organizers of the referendum effort say Generation Now agents are using that information to contact signature gatherers and buy them off.

However the court rules regarding state referendum law, if Yost’s investigation finds criminal conduct by blockers, we hope it will lead to convictions, serious penalties and another chance for the referendum effort if it fails to meet the signature deadline."

-- Editorial Board, The Columbus Dispatch

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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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