Recent news

Professor sees flaw in argument that energy bill is a "tax increase"

Aug 16, 2019 3:32 PM

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voting

Photo by Karen Kasler

"A Columbus law firm argues that the new energy law charging electric customers up to $2.35 a month for nuclear, coal, and solar subsidies is a tax increase.

'Here, the charges levied under HB6 are imposed by the legislature, upon a broad class of parties, and for a public purpose,' writes John Zeiger, attorney with Zeiger, Tigges, and Little. 

The memo was sent to the Ohio Secretary of State's office in hopes of thwarting an attempt to put a referendum of the energy bill on the 2020 ballot. Under the Ohio Constitution, voters cannot reject a tax increase through a referendum.

Ned Hill, an energy economics professor for Ohio State University, does not agree with that line of thinking. He says, if that were the case, then the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved several tax increases over the years.

'All the other non-bypassable riders that have been larded onto your electricity bills over the past six years are also taxes and maybe legally questionable,' says Hill."

- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau 

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Wind power is winning in the U.S. despite Trump's critiques

Aug 16, 2019 2:54 PM

The Brazos Wind Farm, also known as the Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, near Fluvanna, Texas. (Wikimedia Commons)

"Here are a few big-picture highlights from the granular report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analysts...

  • New wind power capacity additions were "robust" last year, totaling nearly 7,600 megawatts.
  • Investment in new plants was $11 billion, and there's more bang for the buck. The average per-kilowatt installed cost of wind projects is 40% lower than 2009–2010.
  • Wind power prices are lower than ever. Power purchase deals they analyzed show an average cost below 2¢/kWh, which is less than a third of 2009 prices.
  • Wind now provides 6.5% of U.S. power, and it's over 30% in Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma.
  • The chart above shows how the industry has moved to bigger and more powerful designs. The average capacity for newly installed turbines is 239% higher than it was 20 years ago."

Ben Geman, Axios Visuals

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Toledo passed a “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” to protect its water. The state is trying to stop it.

Aug 16, 2019 2:48 PM

"A sign warns bathers about algae infestation at Maumee Bay State Park August 4, 2014 in Oregon, Ohio. Toledo, Ohio area residents were once again able to drink tap water after a two day ban due to algae related toxins." (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

"Like movements of the past, which focused on expanding rights, the people of Toledo are seeing their efforts met by a ready opposition. The Ohio legislature recently passed a budget bill that strips away the authority of community members to defend the rights of nature in court. And this spring, the state of Ohio also joined an industry lawsuit seeking to overturn the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. The litigation is ongoing.

Unfortunately, state-sponsored efforts to block the fight for more legal rights are all too common. 

The history of the Civil Rights movement is rife with examples. This includes going after one of the most effective tools of civil rights activists: the boycott. By refusing to patronize segregated businesses, African Americans were able to demonstrate their economic necessity to communities, leading to many shops and lunch counters opening their doors to black customers. This includes the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 381 days when a federal court ordered the buses desegregated.

The full weight of the law was brought against Civil Rights activists, with injunctions and laws banning boycotts. Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists faced jail and intimidation based on such tactics."

- Mari Margil and Ryan Dickinson, In These Times 

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A tax or not a tax? That is the question that could sink opposition to Ohio's nuclear bailout

Aug 14, 2019 3:19 PM

COLUMBUS – "When Ohio lawmakers approved a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear plants, they bristled at one word that opponents of the subsidies used repeatedly: tax. 

'I heard a lot about a tax,' Green Township Rep. Bill Seitz said. 'I do believe in being precise. Not one word in this bill creates any tax of any kind whatsoever.'

That was then.

This is now: in an effort to halt a ballot challenge, a Columbus attorney is calling the nuclear subsidies a new tax on Ohioans.

That's because taxes are not subject to a veto referendum, the method opponents hope to use to stop the legislation from taking effect.

House Bill 6, which adds fees on ratepayers' bills for nuclear plants while slashing incentivizes for renewable energy and energy efficiency, meets all the requirements of a tax, wrote attorney John Zeiger in an Aug. 1 letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. 

'The charges levied under H.B. 6 are imposed by the legislature, upon a broad class of parties and for a public purpose,' he wrote.

Zeiger asked Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to reject the referendum. Zeiger, known for helping to disqualify the Libertarian gubernatorial candidate in 2014, did not say in the letter whom he represented."

– Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

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Attorney general shuts down proposed referendum to overturn Ohio’s new nuclear bailout law

Aug 13, 2019 10:24 AM

Attorney General Dave Yost

COLUMBUS — "Yost, a Columbus-area Republican, wrote in a rejection letter to the group Ohioans Against Corporate Bailout that he found 21 errors with the group’s proposed summary language – a succinct explanation of the proposal provided to voters asked to sign a petition supporting the measure.

The errors he cited range from inaccurate definitions of terms such as 'electric distribution utility' and 'operation risks' to misstating the size of energy projects that are eligible for a property tax exemption. (The proposed summary states that projects generating less than 20 megawatts are eligible, while the new law states the tax exemption is for projects greater than 20 megawatts.)

The proposed summary, Yost asserted, also misstates the powers given by the new law to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the newly created Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, the latter of which will oversee the distribution of $150 million per year (raised from a new $1 surcharge on every Ohio ratepayer’s bill) to Ohio’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, both of which are owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. that is in bankruptcy proceedings as part of an attempt to become a separate company.

Yost’s rejection means Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts has to revise their summary language, collect another 1,000 signatures from registered voters, and resubmit their proposal to the attorney general’s office. The group has until Oct. 21 to submit language that’s acceptable to the attorney general, according to Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts spokesman Gene Pierce.

In a statement, Pierce said his group will submit a revised summary within the next several days that addresses Yost’s concerns."

— Jeremy Pelzer,

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FirstEnergy turns on supporters

Aug 12, 2019 11:10 AM

TOLEDO -- "FirstEnergy Solutions got its $150 million a year bailout from the state of Ohio and then proceeded to declare war on the unions that represent workers in two of its nuclear power plants.

The company’s attempt to cancel its contracts with the unions at Perry and Beaver Valley nuclear generating stations smack of opportunism and bad faith. Perry is near Cleveland. Beaver Valley is in Pennsylvania.

The General Assembly’s vote to save good-paying jobs at Ohio’s two nuclear plants — Perry and Davis-Besse — earned some Democratic backing, enough to push it over the edge. Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, near Oak Harbor, was not included in FirstEnergy Solutions’ legal filing."

-- editorial board, Toledo Blade

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Wind industry says Ohio’s proposed turbine ‘incident’ reporting rules are too vague

Aug 08, 2019 1:53 PM

a wind farm

"Ohio’s wind industry could soon face more hurdles to siting and producing wind farms if regulators approve new rules on building codes and incident reporting. 

The proposed rules would require various components of wind farms to comply with building code regulations. They also call for prompt reporting of 'incidents' at wind farms, as well as regulatory approval before facilities start up again after those events.

The building code requirements 'state the obvious and should not be controversial,' said lawyer John Stock in comments filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board in July on behalf of wind farm opponents. Stock represents opponents in various cases dealing with individual wind farms. He has also represented the Murray Energy coal company in regulatory proceedings.

But the proposed rules present multiple problems, according to industry and environmental advocates."

- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

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FirstEnergy Solutions moves to ditch union contracts

Aug 06, 2019 10:43 AM

FirstEnergy Solutions' veteran nuclear plant workers would lose traditional pensions if a bankruptcy court agrees with the latest FES restructuring plan

AKRON -- "On the same day in July that Ohio lawmakers approved state-wide customer charges to give FirstEnergy Solutions a six-year $1.1 billon nuclear plant subsidy, the company told a bankruptcy court it could not honor existing contracts with unions representing power plant employees and intended to negotiate completely new bargaining agreements once it emerged as a reorganized company.


Referendum to defeat House Bill 6 begins to gather energy in state

Aug 05, 2019 10:44 AM

Ohio's Perry Nuclear Plant Credit: Neal Wellons (Creative Commons)

COLUMBUS -- "FirstEnergy Solutions might not want to spend its bailout money just yet. There's reason to doubt Ohioans will follow through in subsidizing the Akron company's nuclear plants in Lake and Ottawa counties.

While state legislators may have decided to subsidize the Perry and Davis-Besse plants with about $150 million a year from ratepayers via House Bill 6, voters have not. A referendum to overturn HB 6 is gaining support and could land on the ballot in a perfect, high-turnout election year for its success.

'I think it could easily win. … HB 6 is very unpopular,' said Paul Beck, a professor emeritus and former chair of the political science department at Ohio State University.

Beck and other observers say HB 6 has it all, in terms of angering voters. Liberals and even some conservatives hate that it guts support for renewable energy after the state used subsidies to lure those industries to Ohio. Liberals hate that it subsidizes dirty coal plants. Many conservatives hate that it picks winners and losers by subsidizing one industry over another."

-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business

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