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Pro-House Bill 6 group launches $1 million ad campaign to fend off statewide referendum

COLUMBUS — "A new group that supports House Bill 6 has embarked on a nearly $1 million statewide ad campaign in an attempt to prevent a referendum on overturning the recently enacted law to bail out Ohio’s nuclear power plants and gut the state’s green-energy mandates for utilities.

The massive TV and radio ad buy, by the group Ohioans for Energy Security, is an early indication of the deluge of ads Ohioans will be subjected to if the proposed referendum makes the ballot in 2020.

...The 1-minute advertisement from Ohioans for Energy Security accuses Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts (without mentioning its name) of 'boosting Chinese financial interests.' The group, the ad states, 'is targeting Ohio’s energy, taking Ohio money, exporting Ohio jobs, even risking our national security. They’re meddling in our elections.'

The justification for these accusations, according an Ohioans for Energy Security release, is that Bill Siderewicz, a natural-gas power plant investor involved with Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, has received financing from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is owned by the Chinese government. Last week, Siderewicz’s company, Clean Energy Future, scrapped plans to build a $1.1 billion natural-gas plant in Lordstown; Siderewicz cited HB6 as the reason."

— jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com

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FirstEnergy Solutions behind argument against Ohio nuclear subsidy referendum

(Davis-Besse Power Plant / Wikimedia Commons)

COLUMBUS -- "A public records request confirms that FirstEnergy’s bankrupt generation subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions, is behind a tax argument being advanced to block a referendum on an Ohio bill granting subsidies to nuclear and coal plants.

Ohio lawmakers passed the nuclear and coal subsidy bill on July 23 despite widespread opposition from environmental groups, consumer advocates, renewable energy industry interests, petroleum industry interests, free market advocates and others. Six days later, a coalition of some of those interests filed its first proposed referendum against the bill, with an eye toward getting it on the ballot for November 2020.

Two days later, attorney John Zeiger of Columbus sent a letter and legal memorandum to the Ohio secretary of state’s office, arguing that House Bill 6 is a 'law providing for a tax levy' that would be exempt from the state constitution’s referendum procedures."

-- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

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Pro-House Bill 6 group airs first TV commercial amid referendum fight

COLUMBUS -- "In a spot heavy on imagery of Communist China, a new group supporting the House Bill 6 bailout of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants is airing its first TV commercial urging Ohioans to not sign petitions to place a referendum on the ballot to kill the law.

Ohioans for Energy Security began airing the 60-second commercial statewide Sunday on broadcast and cable TV station and radio stations, according to spokesman Carlo LoParo. The cost of the buy was not released.

...The commercial claims the Chinese, through loans by a government bank to companies that operate natural-gas fired power plants and which oppose House Bill 6, is attempting to control the American and Ohio power grids."

-- Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch

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FirstEnergy Solutions bankruptcy case held up by labor dispute

COLUMBUS — "FirstEnergy Solutions’ proposed reorganization plan can’t go forward until the company reaches a deal with the two labor unions representing workers at its two of its three nuclear power plants, a federal bankruptcy judge said this week.

The decision by Judge Alan Koschik creates another obstacle to FirstEnergy Solutions’ plans to split away from FirstEnergy Corp. and operate Ohio’s two nuclear power plants with a newly passed $150 million annual bailout collected from ratepayers statewide.

Locals of the two unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Utility Workers Union of America, asked Koschik not to approve FirstEnergy Solutions’ reorganization, arguing that it was using the bankruptcy proceedings to wiggle out of its labor agreements with the unions.

FirstEnergy Solutions argues that it needs to negotiate new contracts, as the restructured company won’t be able to afford to offer the pension benefits granted under the current contracts agreed to by FirstEnergy Corp."

— Jeremy Pelzer, Cleveland.com

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FirstEnergy Solutions' Chapter 11 continues

CLEVELAND -- "Bloomberg Law reported that Koschik this week ruled in favor of FES over environmentalists on an issue involving long-term plans to clean up nuclear waste at the company's plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The company is still wrangling with the issue of how to deal with its unions after leaving bankruptcy, though, and has faced complaints about its reported plans to use its Chapter 11 case to cancel union contracts.

FES CEO John Judge addressed that topic in an Aug. 18 column in the Columbus Dispatch.

'The company has proposed to keep all wages, wage increases and work rules the same as in the existing contracts. We also have agreed to keep all medical, dental, time off and other benefits the same for the employees as in our existing contracts. Through an agreement with FirstEnergy Corp., we have ensured that all employees will receive any benefits they have earned under the existing FirstEnergy Corp. pension plan,' Judge wrote."

- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business 

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House Bill 6 opponents seek ballot decision

Wilkin

COLUMBUS -- "If approved, the referendum campaign said it would begin collecting the roughly 265,000 signatures of Ohio voters needed to place the issue on the November 2020 general election ballot, with the deadline for obtaining those signatures two months away on Oct. 21, 2019.

Wilkin previously told The Times-Gazette that his view of the bill from the very beginning was that it had to bring with it a rate reduction for consumers, and despite the differences in what he originally co-sponsored and what the governor signed, he still holds that it’s a good bill.

Gene Pierce of Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts strongly disagreed with Wilkin’s assessment, describing House Bill 6 as 'a wrong-headed decision that makes government the final judge as to what companies survive and which ones don’t,' adding that in his group’s view, it should be the free market and free market prices that decide, and not 'a universal hike in fees on people that use electricity.'”

– Tim Colliver, The Times-Gazette

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Group that wants Ohio voters to decide on nuclear plants bailout submits revised petition

COLUMBUS -- "A group that wants voters to decide whether Ohio should bail out nuclear-power plants has submitted new summary petition language to the state after Attorney General Dave Yost rejected its initial petition Monday.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts provided the second summary petition along with 2,246 signatures to Yost and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Friday. In rejecting the original language, Yost said the summary was not 'fair and truthful' as the Ohio law requires, pointing out what he said were 21 inaccuracies and omissions.

The group wants voters to decide whether to overturn the new state law that would force electricity ratepayers to subsidize two of Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear power plants.

If the petition clears Yost’s office, it then would go to LaRose’s office. If approved there, the group would need to gather signatures from 265,774 registered voters from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties by Oct. 21, 2019, to make the November 2020 ballot."

- Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch 

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

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

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.

"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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