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Editorial: Plenty of work for legislators before the year ends, but will they do it?

Nov 15, 2020 1:01 PM

State task force recommends schools educate all grade ...


COLUMBUS - "Ohio lawmakers could do a lot to restore an election-weary public’s faith in government by getting some important work done before the term ends on Dec. 31.

The so-called lame duck session typically is crowded with last-gasp attempts to get bills passed, including those that for one reason or another got little attention over the previous two years.  It could be especially busy this time around because the coronavirus pandemic interfered with legislative work for much of the spring and summer. 

We’re glad to note that legislative leaders seem focused, among other priorities, on a capital works budget, school funding, criminal sentencing reform and repeal of the House Bill 6 nuclear plant bailout. We’re disappointed, yet again, that they’re unlikely to take any meaningful action to curb gun violence.

The simplest item of business should be repealing HB 6. It’s simple because it clearly is the product of unprecedented corruption: a U.S. District Attorney in July revealed an investigation that charged then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates with bribery and racketeering. Since then two defendants have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation."

--Editorial Board, The Columbus Dispatch

Link to full article.

Meeting Our Energy Needs: Today and Tomorrow Webinar

Nov 10, 2020 12:16 PM

On Thursday, October 1, Ohio Citizen Action Cleveland Program Director Anastazia Vanisko moderated the first stop on the Ohio Equity Team’s Virtual Equitable Energy Tour, a panel titled, “Meeting Our Energy Needs: Today and Tomorrow.” The panel features SeMia Bray of Black Environmental Leaders (BEL), Kim Foreman of Environmental Health Watch (EHW), and Achilles Morales of the Ohio Equity Team (OET). OET, sponsor of the event, works to ensure that clean, healthy, safe, and sustainable air and water are available to all communities, specifically historically marginalized communities.

Discussion begins with a question to all attendees: “How does energy policy affect your life?” Many people respond by acknowledging the Ohio Legislature’s failure to develop any sort of comprehensive energy policy. Instead, Ohio continues to fund outdated and harmful forms of energy, such as coal. As a result, we the consumers are forced to pay for the inefficiencies of outdated energies on our surcharged electric bills.

SeMia Bray is the first to speak after the initial discussion question to attendees. She is a consultant within the renewable energy space, including with BEL, an organization that advocates for environmental justice. Bray starts her presentation mindfully, acknowledging our Native brothers and sisters who have traditionally cared for the land we live on here in Ohio. She reminds us that our relationships with the trees and plants are symbiotic; they take care of us by cleaning our air and giving us oxygen to breathe, and we ought to take care of them. Though we all know we have a long way to go in Ohio in terms of renewable energy development, we can look to many places in the world for inspiration and hope. SeMia acknowledges that, as a planet, we are adding more capacity to renewable energy each year than coal, oil, and natural gas combined. And thankfully, wonderful resources exist in Ohio to help us get the ball rolling on renewable energy, including Power a Clean Future Ohio and Black Environmental Leaders.

Next, Kim Foreman speaks on her work as the Executive Director of EHW, a group that focuses on the health of the indoor environment, as well as tangible approaches to connecting folks to the policy efforts of issues that affect them. Foreman shares that often the people who are most affected by climate change issues are the least connected to the conversation on how to mitigate those effects. EHW has done deep energy retrofitting of houses, with affordability as the core goal. They found that there were amazing savings of $680 per year for those living in the retrofitted, newly insulated homes! Additionally, Foreman discusses a few other projects EHW works on, including a food co-op project, which emphasizes locally-sourced food and economic justice strategies. These on-the-ground programs help marginalized communities in Cleveland to push for effective policy change.

Morales, Co-chair of the Ohio Equity Team and Co-creator of the Ohio Equity Team’s Voting Ambassador Program, gives crucial updates regarding voting in the upcoming election.

To end, the guest speakers answer questions from the attendees, including some that lead to discussion of the repeal of House Bill 6.

To answer the first discussion question of the panel, when I think of how energy policy affects my life, I think of the missed opportunities the Ohio Legislature has had to provide options for cleaner, safer, and cheaper forms of energy to me and my fellow Ohioans. Unfortunately, we do not have the true opportunity to choose where our energy comes from. Ohio legislators continue to put many roadblocks in front of potential renewable energy development in our state. I want to be able to choose to turn my lights on and heat the water I use with Ohio-generated solar and wind energy. That is, until Ohio can guarantee that all of my energy comes from wind and solar powered plants! Maybe I’m a dreamer.

The Ohio Equity Team hosted a crucial conversation about meeting Ohio’s energy needs, presently and going forward. When it comes to working for tangible energy policy change in Ohio and centering marginalized communities in such conversations, we certainly have the right minds at work.

Watch the full conversation here:

-- Tatiana Rodzos, OCA Senior Field Manager

First Energy terminates 2 more executives as HB 6 repeal languishes in legislature

Nov 09, 2020 4:37 PM

"Akron-based FirstEnergy is at the center of a scandal that has rocked Ohio politics as well as the company’s front office.

In late October, FirstEnergy fired its CEO and two other executives for violating company policy. In a filing Monday (see below), it announced two more executives-- including the chief legal officer and chief ethics officer--have been dismissed.

It all centers around House Bill 6, an energy bill approved last year by the Ohio Legislature that dramatically altered the state’s energy policy."

-- Sarah Taylor, WKSU

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Ohio’s head-in-the-sand legislature needs to act to remove the HB 6 stain

Nov 08, 2020 6:30 AM


"Let’s examine the scorecard for House Bill 6 amid federal allegations it was the tainted fruit of the largest racketeering corruption case the Ohio Statehouse has ever seen.

It makes for discouraging reading -- even moreso, since Ohio voters on Nov. 3 failed to repudiate the alleged corruption and or show any displeasure with lawmakers' failure to move quickly to repeal or replace the nuclear bailout bill.

--Editorial Board, and The Plain Dealer

Column: Ohio House Bill 6 lawsuit raises hidden constitutional concern

Nov 06, 2020 12:00 PM

In a guest column for The Columbus Dispatch, Evan C. Zoldan, a law professor at the University of Toledo, lays out how the recent lawsuit filed by the cities of Cincinnati and Columbus to stop the collection of an electricity fee imposed by HB 6 brings to light the potential unconstitutionality of the bill.

The lawsuit challenges the fee as an unconstitutional tax, alleging that it was the result of bribery and serves no public purpose. In doing so, Zoldan argues "By alleging that HB 6 was the product of bribery, and that it was designed specifically to benefit a single corporation, the cities’ complaint squarely raises facts that implicate special-legislation concerns. Ultimately, this lawsuit will give the Ohio courts the opportunity to weigh in on this important issue of Ohio constitutional law."

Read the full article. 

Local elections are changing America's energy mix, one city at a time

Nov 04, 2020 3:30 PM

Renewable energy just won in a few local elections

"Local races can go a long way toward changing how Americans get their electricity. After yesterday’s election, both the city of Columbus, Ohio, and township of East Brunswick, New Jersey, are projected to pass measures that allow their local governments, instead of utilities, to decide where residents’ power comes from.

These 'community choice' programs are boosting the growth of cheap renewable energy and are already prying loose investor-owned utilities’ tight grip on energy markets in places like California. More and more of these programs are popping up in states where they’re allowed, and they’re expected to grow beyond those borders in the future."

--Justine Calma, The Verge

Link to full article.

Indicted Householder wins statehouse reelection, but next term might be short

Nov 04, 2020 3:00 PM


"Being indicted at the center of the state's largest public corruption scandal didn't prevent Rep. Larry Householder from getting reelected on Tuesday, but House Republicans hinted his next term might be a short one.

In the race to represent the 72nd Ohio House District, Householder, R-Glenford, received 30,546 votes in the three-county district, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's website, which gave no totals for his four write-in opponents.

The incumbent was removed from his position as House Speaker, but not a state representative. He resisted calls to resign and was the only candidate to appear on the ballot. No Democrat filed for the office initially and the arrest came too late for anyone else to run as anything other than a write-in."

--Anna Staver, Jessie Balmert, and Kent Mallett, The Columbus Dispatch

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Lame duck top priority: Repeal House Bill 6

Nov 03, 2020 11:44 AM

COLUMBUS -- "U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers has made clear that additional charges may be coming and could involve FirstEnergy. That’s the most direct reason to repeal HB 6 before ratepayers begin paying for the bailout as scheduled in January. 

The financial industry is concerned about FirstEnergy’s integrity; on Friday, S&P Global Ratings agency downgraded the company’s rating by two levels, to BB+, based on the firing of Jones and what FirstEnergy’s internal review found. 'We view the severity of these violations at the highest level within the company as demonstrative of insufficient internal controls and cultural weakness,' the ratings company said, adding that the violations were 'significantly outside' industry norms. 

Why should Ohio ratepayers be on the hook to bail such a company out until allegations are aired and resolved? 

Just as important, what HB 6 does beyond the bailout is terrible energy policy. Ohio already does foolishly little to invest in a clean-energy economy that could revitalize manufacturing and make the state a leader in fighting climate change. HB 6 essentially cancels Ohio’s few remaining clean-energy incentives, putting the state in an even weaker position."

-- editorial, Columbus Dispatch

link to full editorial

Utility company linked to HB6 bribery scheme changes executive team

Oct 30, 2020 10:34 AM

AKRON -- "Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. terminated its chief executive, Charles E. Jones Jr., and two senior vice presidents for violating company policies and its code of conduct, the company said in a statement released Thursday evening.

Senior Vice President of Product Development, Marketing and Branding Dennis Chack and SVP of External Affairs Mike Dowling were also terminated.

The house-cleaning comes just hours after two other men pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in a massive public corruption case centered around House Bill 6.

FirstEnergy advocated for the new energy law, which will deliver an estimated $355 million 'decoupling' revenues to FirstEnergy, as well $1.3 billion in subsidies to Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary that owns two nuclear power plants in Ohio."

-- Laura A. Bischoff, Dayton Daily News

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