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Ohioans tell State Representative Upchurch that they have not forgotten his vote on House Bill 6

Nov 22, 2019 10:41 AM

Consumer group running radio ads with a reminder of Upchurch’s support of coal bailout

Rep. Terrence Upchurch

CINCINNATI – Four months after the passage of controversial House Bill 6, the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance has launched a radio campaign reminding voters in Ohio House District 10 that State Representative Terrence Upchurch voted against their best interest when he voted in support of the legislation in July 2019.

House Bill 6 bailed out two failing nuclear power plants and two of the region’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, while gutting the state’s successful renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The bill imposes a monthly fee on every electric ratepayer across the state to subsidize FirstEnergy Solutions to the tune of $150 million each year to keep their nuclear power plants operational. In addition, $50 million each year will be used to subsidize two coal plants, one of which is located in Indiana. At the same time, the reversal of the energy efficiency standards is estimated to cost Ohioans $4 billion in cost savings that will no longer happen.

Voices on the radio spot currently airing on WMJI and WTAM in Cleveland tell Representative Upchurch, “We will remember. We will remember your yes vote on HB 6. We will remember that you voted for Wall Street investors over hardworking Ohioans…Your vote on HB 6 bailed out two outdated nuclear power plants and two coal plants – one that’s in Indiana. Your vote killed Ohio’s renewable energy standards and energy efficiency efforts. We will remember.”

“Even though the legislative debate has ended and threats of violence against signature collectors have stopped, it is critical that Ohioans remember their elected officials made a choice on House Bill 6,” said Rachael Belz, Project Director of Ohio Consumers Power Alliance. “In Cleveland, State Representative Terrence Upchurch chose a corporate bailout of dirty coal plants over the health of Ohioans and the potential economic growth coming from clean energy innovation. We will remember.”

Ohio ranks 4th in the United States and 29th in the world for the highest levels of carbon emissions, not a distinction of which Representative Upchurch should be proud. These increased emissions are the equivalent of putting 2 million more cars on the road. Yet, Representative Upchurch supported the legislation on two separate occasions.

“House Bill 6 will take money out of our pockets and hand it over to corporations spending thousands of dollars each year lobbying our elected officials,” said Belz. “While these ads remind those in District 10 of Representative Upchurch’s vote today, the increases in their electric bills and the cuts to their family’s monthly budget will remind them of his vote for years to come.”

-- press release, Rachael Belz, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance

Radio ad 1

Radio ad 2


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

Nov 18, 2019 4:52 PM

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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

Nov 08, 2019 4:41 PM

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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

Oct 28, 2019 10:19 AM

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

Oct 25, 2019 4:36 PM

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

Oct 25, 2019 4:17 PM

"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

Oct 22, 2019 12:26 PM

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

Oct 19, 2019 5:08 PM

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”

Oct 10, 2019 11:48 AM

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

Oct 10, 2019 11:34 AM

"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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