Recent news

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.


3 ways to help us celebrate Earth Day 🌏

Apr 22, 2021 3:46 PM

I wanted to share three great ways to celebrate Earth Day this year:

1. Make a special Earth Day contribution 


Join us as a dues-paying member
 if you haven't already. When we advocate on these issues, numbers count. The more members we have, the more effective we are and the better we stack up against the opposition.

If you’re already a member, please consider a special gift anyway, to help us celebrate this season of hope and renewal. 

2. Take action to oppose HB 109, the anti-protest bill

Public protest is baked-in to our history, rights and character as Americans. But our ability to protest in Ohio is under attack. House Bill 109 equates civil disobedience with terrorism and seeks to shut down and bankrupt organizations exercising free speech.

Incredibly, the law specifies that five or more people blocking an intersection could be considered rioting. Even those who provide support to protesters could be prosecuted under the corrupt activities law and their organization could be dissolved and assets seized. The far reaching implications could end up putting a chill on people’s’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Use this link to identify your representative
 and tell them to vote NO on HB 109.

3. Ask your elected officials to make the "30 by 30" pledge

On May 20, 2021, Power a Clean Future Ohio will host the Ohio Clean Energy Summit: Local Communities Lead. Please contact any elected leaders you know and ask them to support carbon reductions in your community.

Ask them to sign the pledge today
 and let us know that you did! We will feature all leaders who make the pledge in a video at the Ohio Clean Energy Summit. Our environment, our health, and our economic well-being depends upon local leadership stepping up.

Thanks for your support and Happy Earth Day!
Lisa Maatz, Ohio Citizen Action Organizing Director


Today's traditionally tax day, but not for Big Energy

Apr 15, 2021 12:15 PM

Did you pay more than a penny in income taxes over the last 3 years ?

These corporations didn’t:

Ohio’s investor-owned utilities FirstEnergy, AEP and Duke Energy haven’t paid federal income taxes in years according to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank. 

A neat trick: FirstEnergy ducks their tax bill while shifting costs onto consumers.
FirstEnergy is still on the hook for its $61 million statehouse corruption scandal to pass House Bill 6 - a $1.3 billion bailout package called the "worst energy policy in the nation." Most of the bailout money was meant to prop up FirstEnergy's two failing nuclear plants, but more than $100 million has gone to subsidize two dirty, Eisenhower-era coal plants partially owned by AEP and Duke. While the companies pleaded for bailouts from Ohio ratepayers, their tax information shows healthy revenue.
FirstEnergy netted almost $3.7 billion before taxes over the past three years, yet it’s allowed to show a loss for tax purposes.
Governor Mike DeWine and lawmakers have quietly repealed $1 billion in nuclear bailout subsidies, but the coal subsidies continue to roll in. The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel says that so far $107 million in coal subsidies have gone to OVEC coal plants since the beginning of 2020. Another $233,000 rolls in EVERY DAY.


Ratepayers pay federal income taxes in addition to state and local taxes — PLUS their electric bills. It's past time for Ohio utilities to pay their fair share of taxes, too.


Some good news for a change

Apr 07, 2021 11:04 AM

Ohio Citizen Action (OCA) has recently hired two new staff members, who will allow us to relaunch our piece of the Power a Clean Future Ohio campaign and revive our field canvass, which has been suspended due to COVID since March 2020.

Michael Todd

Michael Todd joins OCA as Cleveland Field Canvass Director, bringing with him volunteer history with a youth leadership program and the campaigns of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Bernie Sanders. He's also has two years experience organizing and fundraising for Clean Water Action in Michigan.

Tatiana Rodzos

Tatiana Rodzos continues to work with us in a new role as Campaigns Organizer. Tatiana was hired two and a half years ago as a field canvasser and senior field manager. She's also got years of experience volunteering for animal rescue, environmental restoration and recycling groups and has taught English to recent immigrants. 

Restarting our field canvas

We're excited to restart our field canvass in early May and use electronic tablets for the first time. Our friends at other canvass-based groups around the country have already restarted field canvassing and we're confident we can do so safely. The tablets will modernize our outreach and furnish us with new organizing tools to engage people in our campaigns.

The return of field canvassing will allow us to provide ground support for the Power a Clean Future Ohio campaign, a nonpartisan coalition that works with local leaders to develop and implement proven climate solutions. Already, twelve communities around the state have joined the campaign and we'll be knocking on doors soon to expand PCFO's reach, encouraging people to write to their mayors about taking local action to address climate change.

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HB 128 not nearly good enough

Apr 01, 2021 2:51 PM

The bill was signed the day before April Fools, but we still shouldn't take this "repeal" seriously.

FirstEnergy has agreed to disgorge $26 million it collected under House Bill 6 to customers just after Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 128, legislation repealing the nuclear bailout portion of the bill. 

The partial repeal of House Bill 6 is a partial win for FirstEnergy because it leaves in place the rollback of Ohio’s renewable energy & energy efficiency standards and still provides subsidies to two Ohio Valley Electric Corporation coal-fired power plants.

Visit www.repealHB6.com to tell your legislators FirstEnergy should not be allowed to walk away from House Bill 6 with even a penny of consumers’ money


Randazzo influence remains at PUCO

Mar 31, 2021 3:43 PM

More than four months after the FBI raid on Sam Randazzo’s home and his subsequent resignation from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine has selected former Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French as his replacement and new Commission Chair. Judge French will also serve as chair of the influential Ohio Power Siting Board. 

Thank you to all Ohio Citizen Action and Ohio Consumers Power Alliance members who wrote and called Governor Mike DeWine about the commission. Over 1,500 of us asked him to appoint someone who could offer Ohio a fresh start, not a rubber stamp for utilities.

Unfortunately, French comes to the PUCO with no consumer advocacy experience or energy policy background - a deficit the governor views as a strength. We're skeptical because this lack of experience will likely make the PUCO even more reliant on Scott Elisar, the Commission’s legislative and policy director.

Elisar, Randazzo’s former law firm partner, was appointed to the PUCO nominating committee by indicted former Speaker Larry Householder. Elisar became PUCO's legislative and policy director the same month Randazzo became chairman.

Randazzo influence remains within the agency and must be removed

Sam Randazzo may be gone, but Governor DeWine has stopped short of cleaning house at the PUCO

Ohioans deserve better than what we got with Sam Randazzo. We deserve energy policy free of corruption and lies. We congratulate Judge French and urge her to bring dignity, transparency and the consumer perspective back to the PUCO. We urge her to commit to a fresh start.


The tentacles binding Gov. Mike DeWine to FirstEnergy run deep

Mar 17, 2021 7:56 PM

CLEVELAND –– "There is no evidence DeWine participated in any wrongdoing. Still, as Laura A. Bischoff of the Daily News reported a week ago, FirstEnergy and its then-subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions (now the independent Energy Harbor), gave eye-popping sums, directly and indirectly, to DeWine’s campaigns.

Since 2017, when DeWine was gearing up to run for governor, the two firms 'donated more than $1 million to nonprofit groups and political campaigns to help elect ... DeWine,' Bischoff reported.

...

But the facts in this tangle of alleged pay to play, dark-money influence, political arm-twisting and a pipeline of utility favors extending from FirstEnergy’s Akron headquarters right into the heart of Ohio governance and regulation can’t be ignored.

And DeWine benefited from that dark-money pipeline. He is not accused of any criminality. But he has soiled himself by openly courting FirstEnergy favors, including soliciting the company’s political contributions for himself and his daughter, Alice DeWine, when she ran unsuccessfully for Greene County prosecutor last year.
And can it be coincidental that, even after others warned DeWine of the extent of Randazzo’s FirstEnergy ties, DeWine picked Randazzo to chair the PUCO and the Ohio Power Siting Board?"
–– Editorial Board, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer