Recent news

One year ago today, FBI agents arrested five men in the HB6 scandal

Jul 21, 2021 9:48 AM

It has been one year since Ohioans first learned of the $61 million bribery scandal surrounding House Bill 6. We are still working to clear the cloud of corruption and disgrace that hangs over our state government.

The costly coal subsidies and provisions gutting our clean energy standards implemented by House Bill 6 remain in effect today, costing our ratepayers millions every day and dragging down our economic growth.

Over the past year, Ohio lawmakers have had the perfect opportunity to develop a real energy policy for our state. Instead, they have chosen to pass legislation designed to erode property owner rights, abandon an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and pit neighbor against neighbor.

Ohio deserves a comprehensive energy policy built around equitable solutions that are good for our economy, our communities, and our health. We call on the Ohio General Assembly to stand up to big utilities and take back our energy future.

 


Legislative Update

Jul 08, 2021 2:57 PM

The Ohio General Assembly has left Columbus for the summer, quite literally leaving the good, the bad and the ugly in their wake. Here’s all the latest from Ohio Citizen Action’s legislative efforts thus far in 2021. Our work is clearly not done, and you have some calls to make! See ideas for action below. We need your voice!

House Bill 6 was introduced in April 2019 by Reps. Jamie Callender (R- 61) and Shane Wilkin (R- 91). Signed into law in July 2019, HB6 gave a $1.3 billion rate-payer funded bailout to FirstEnergy’s two failing nuclear plants and two old, polluting OVEC coal plants. The law also slashed Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.

Ohio Citizen Action worked with partners to put a statewide referendum overturning House Bill 6 put on the November 2019 ballot, an effort that failed after one of the nastiest campaigns we’ve ever seen. A pair of dark money groups, Ohioans for Energy Security and the now-admitted guilty Generation Now, spent at least $25 million on TV ads and mailers attacking the referendum effort.

Then in July 2020, Rep. Larry Householder (R- 72) and others were arrested by the FBI in connection with the $60 million bribery scheme surrounding HB 6. Ohio Citizen Action called for the full and immediate repeal of HB6 and the removal of Larry Householder from the legislature. By late March 2021, the pressure from OCA members and coalition partners led to Ohio lawmakers repealing the rate-payer funded nuclear bailout portion of the law, via HB 128.

Consumers can look forward to the $27.5 million decoupling refund provided by HB 128 in August 2021. Householder was finally expelled from the House in June 2021, which will be filled by Ohio State Highway Patrol former commander, Kevin D. Miller.

Ohio Citizen Action celebrates all of these victories, but more work needs to be done. As you read this, $233,000 taxpayer dollars a day flow to subsidize two dirty, old coal plants on the Ohio River, and Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards remain gutted. Ohio Citizen Action has continued the call for a FULL repeal of HB 6.

ACTION: Even if you’ve written before, please take the time to tell your legislators again to FINISH THE JOB and fully repeal House Bill 6 at repealhb6.com.

House Bill 109 was introduced in February 2021 by Reps. Cindy Abrams (R- 29) and Sara Carruthers (R- 51). HB 109 is an anti-protest bill which raises the stakes of being involved in a protest in order to intimidate activists and chill free speech. Not long after its introduction, the board at Ohio Citizen Action voted to  strongly oppose HB 109. The bill creates higher fines and prison time for individuals involved in and organizations supporting any protest where the activities are subjectively deemed a “riot.”

Opponent testimony on HB 109 was held Thursday, June 24, but it was added to the committee's agenda on a Tuesday evening, with a 9:00 am Wednesday deadline for all testimony. It's not surprising that the Ohio legislature scheduled an opponent hearing for an anti-protest bill with so little notice. As of now, it is unclear how or when HB 109 will move forward. Ohio Citizen Action remains strongly opposed to HB 109.

ACTION: Call or email your state representative and urge them to vote against HB 109. Find your rep here: Ohio House District Map.

Introduced in February 2021, Senate Bill 52 is sponsored by Sens. Bill Reineke (R- 26) and Rob McColley (R- 1). SB 52 subjects renewable energy projects to a new and additional layer of government regulation not applied to any other energy source, and blocks landowners from installing solar and wind projects on their own land.

Ohio Citizen Action took swift action to strongly oppose SB 52 and to organize members to urge state lawmakers to stop the bill. The controversial legislation faced roadblocks and many rewrites as a result, including united opposition from the business, farming, and environmental communities -- and did not get the easy victory proponents had expected.

The soon-to-be law is a de facto moratorium on wind and solar energy production in the state. SB 52 is currently sitting on Governor DeWine’s desk. It has become clear the policy is going to be a substantial deterrent to economic investment in Ohio, so while we expect the Governor to sign the bill into law, its detrimental impacts likely mean this conversation will continue.

Find out how your representatives and senators voted on SB 52 here. Ohio Citizen Action remains strongly opposed to SB 52.

ACTION: Call your state legislators to thank those who voted against SB 52 and express your displeasure with those who voted yes. Find out your legislators' phone numbers with The Ohio Legislator District Maps

After months of pressure from Ohioans to repeal HB6, Senate Bill 117 was introduced in March 2021 by Sens. Mark Romanchuck (R- 22) and Hearcel Craig (D- 15). SB 117 is a bipartisan repeal of the HB 6 rate-payer funded bailout for the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) coal plants: Kyger Creek in Ohio and Clifty Creek in Indiana.

As you may know, OVEC was initially developed in response to national security concerns during the 1950s, OVEC’s contract with the Department of Energy ended in 2003. The plants are currently owned by AEP, Duke, FirstEnergy, and AES Ohio (formerly Dayton Power and Light). These utility companies were committed to pay any OVEC costs through 2040, which ended up being a bad business decision on their part, which led to the rate-payer funded OVEC bailout included in HB 6.

The repeal of this coal bailout is a strong step in the right direction. Proponent testimony for SB 117 was held in May 2021, and came from a large and vocal group of stakeholders. Business owners, environmental advocates, and members of the public all voiced their support for SB 117. Opponent testimony for SB 117 was held June 15, 2021. It starkly contrasted the proponent hearing in that the only opposition came from representatives of the utility companies. While the legislature is on recess,

SB 117 sits in the Senate Energy and Public Utilities committee. A full repeal of HB 6 is incomplete without a repeal of the OVEC bailout, and we need Ohio lawmakers to pass SB 117 to make this possible. Ohio Citizen Action is strongly in favor of SB 117.

ACTION: Call your state senator and strongly urge them to support SB 117. Find your senator here: Ohio Senate District Map.

You make this advocacy possible. We couldn't do it without you!


Ohio Citizen Action responds to passage of Senate Bill 52

Jun 29, 2021 9:31 AM

Clean Energy in Ohio Loses Out Again

Again today, Ohio lawmakers had the opportunity to step out of the shadows of corruption and develop a real energy policy for our state. Instead, they have chosen to support policies like Senate Bill 52, legislation designed to erode property owner rights, abandon an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and pit neighbor against neighbor. All this to ensure that fossil fuel interests continue to reign in Ohio.

It is important to remember that while Ohio legislators just passed a bill granting local and county officials the authority to interfere with wind and solar generation, over and above the thorough review of the existing Ohio Power Siting Board, those same legislators recently passed another bill prohibiting local officials from interfering with fossil fuel generation. Add these most recent roadblocks to the anti-clean energy provisions of House Bill 6, and you have three strikes that could count Ohio out of the clean energy market for the foreseeable future.

Senate Bill 52 looms much larger than just one damaging piece of state legislation. Its passage demonstrates that our state leaders are taking Ohio’s energy economy in the wrong direction in total disregard of what consumers in this state want from their energy policy. Ohioans are ready for a diversified approach that ensures reliability, keeps costs reasonable, creates new jobs, and reduces pollution in our air and water. Senate Bill 52 is more than just a bad bill, it’s a missed opportunity.

-- Rachael Belz, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action


In remembrance of Chuck Nelson 1956 ~ 2021

Jun 28, 2021 6:16 PM

I had the privilege of meeting Chuck Nelson in 2008, when Ohio Citizen Action joined the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining. He, Judy Bonds and Larry Gibson were a formidable trio working to reveal the all-out assault by the coal industry on the people and landscape they loved most. They did more than that though, they fought and organized and testified and they inspired many people like myself to care and to act too. Chuck was a coal miner most of his working life. When he spoke about how coal companies betrayed their workers, destroyed the land and paid politicians to look the other way, you could tell he lived it.  His voice may have been soft, but you could hear the frustration and rage underneath and the desire for justice that drove him on. Rest well, sir. You will be missed.

-Melissa English


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.