Recent news

Ohioans flooded with ads as battle heats up over effort to repeal energy law

Sep 13, 2019 2:09 PM

"A petition circulator filed a police report in suburban Columbus last week alleging he was assaulted by a woman working on behalf of the anti-petition forces.

Ohio Citizen Action, a non-profit environmental group that opposed House Bill 6, fired off a letter to Ohioans for Energy Security on Sept. 11, calling on the campaign to cease and desist efforts to stop voters from signing the referendum petition.

'Those supporting the bailout of Ohio’s nuclear power plants have stooped to a new low,' said Ohio Citizen Action Director Rachael Belz in a written statement. 'Individuals are being sent to block a voter’s Constitutional right to sign a petition through confusion and intimidation. Sounds like they know Ohioans are ready to sign and are prepared to stop at nothing to protect the benefits of their corporate bailout.'

She added that claims that the petition is driven by agents of a foreign government are false and defamatory."


Who's behind Ohioans for Energy Security's ad campaign to scare voters?

Sep 12, 2019 12:00 PM

Ohioans for Energy Security tells voters to call its hotline to report petition gatherers.

"The server for the group’s website – – also hosts the websites of Elsass’s Strategy Group Company and Front Porch Strategies. 

It also hosts a site – – supporting Ohio’s Republican House Speaker Larry Householder, whose rise to the speakership was backed by FirstEnergy and Generation Now. Householder then led the drive to pass HB 6. The pro-Householder site is paid for by the Michigan-based Hardworking Americans Committee, which spent over $450,000 on ads opposing Householder’s Republican primary opponent Kevin Black in 2018. 

Federal Elections Commission data shows the Hardworking Americans Committee received $50,000 in 2018 from the PAC of Murray Energy, a coal producer that stands to benefit from HB 6. 

The Hardworking Americans also received $50,000 that year from Political Education Patterns, the PAC for the Cleveland-based International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18. IUOE Local 18 doled out $295,000 to Generation Now in 2018 and 2019, according to FEC data. Mark A. Totman, the union’s VP, serves as one of Governor Dewine’s appointees to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Nominating Council, where he represents organized labor."

-- Dave Anderson, Energy and Policy Institute 

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Man says he was shoved while collecting signatures to overturn Ohio nuclear bailout

Sep 11, 2019 4:44 PM

COLUMBUS - "The woman is not affiliated with Ohioans for Energy Security, which is flooding Ohio homes with pro-House Bill 6 advertisements that warn residents not to give their personal information to the Chinese government, spokesman Carlo LoParo said.

That claim refers to a loan from a Chinese bank to an Ohio natural gas-fired plant owned in part by an opponent of the law. FirstEnergy Solutions' former parent company FirstEnergy Corp., who supported the law, also received loans from the same Chinese bank.  

Ohio Citizen Action, the state's largest environmental organization, sent a cease and desist letter to Ohioans for Energy Security Wednesday regarding the ads, saying they could put signature gatherers at risk.

'The false words of your ad will injure the reputation of our volunteers and potentially place them in the crosshairs of xenophobic or antagonistic individuals who heard your ad,' Ohio Citizen Action's executive director wrote. 

Ohioans for Energy Security declined to halt the ads, saying in a letter that it 'intends to continue to exercise its First Amendment rights.'"

- Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer 

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Ohio Citizen Action files Cease and Desist Letter with Ohioans For Energy Security

Sep 11, 2019 2:37 PM

Letter delivered amidst police reports of violence toward signature collectors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2019

Contact: Rachael Belz, 513-602-4115

or Melissa English, 513-307-8527

Cincinnati, OH – September 11, 2019- Ohio’s largest consumer and environmental advocacy group has issued cease and desist letter (attached) with Ohioans for Energy Security regarding their ad campaign and website opposing signature collection for the citizen referendum on House Bill 6. Ohio Citizen Action is calling for an end for all unlawful defamation, slander, and/or libel around actions and statements relating to Ohio ballot petitioners and website language encouraging Ohioans to report seeing petition circulators via a “hotline.”

In addition to a ludicrous $2.3 million ad buy asserting that signing a House Bill 6 referendum petition would result in personal information being given to the Chinese government, Ohioans for Energy Security has now hired workers referred to as “blockers” who shadow petition collectors in efforts to prevent voters from signing petitions. Their goals are to confuse and intimidate petition signers and interfere with the signature collection process.

On September 10, a paid signature collector for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts filed a police report in the city of Dublin (Columbus suburb) saying he was assaulted by someone hired by Generation Now. While an investigation is pending, it is clear that the messages coming from Generation Now are having their desired effect of putting signature collectors in harm’s way.

“Those supporting the bailout of Ohio’s nuclear power plants have stooped to a new low,” said Rachael Belz, Executive Director of Ohio Citizen Action. “Individuals are being sent to block a voter’s Constitutional right to sign a petition through confusion and intimidation. Sounds like they know Ohioans are ready to sign and are prepared to stop at nothing to protect the benefits of their corporate bailout.”

Ohio Citizen Action regularly manages petition drive-type work throughout the state on numerous issues. Due to the language of the ads being run by Ohioans for Energy Security, volunteers and employees of Ohio Citizen Action may be targeted under false pretenses as agents of a foreign government, a blatantly false and defamatory conclusion.

“Claims made in these ads are false and disparage the reputation of Ohioans exercising their democratic rights,” said Belz. “Our cease and desist letter gives this campaign 10 days to stop these potentially harmful tactics or face possible legal action.”

Cease and Desist letter (pdf)

House Bill 6 referendum petition circulator says he was assaulted in Dublin

Sep 11, 2019 12:32 PM

COLUMBUS — "A Las Vegas man gathering petition signatures for the House Bill 6 repeal referendum says he was assaulted Tuesday in Dublin by a woman who slapped his cell phone from his hand as he took her picture.

Harold Chung called police at 12:56 p.m. Tuesday to report he was attacked outside the Dublin branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 75 N. High St., according to a police report.

Police said an investigation is continuing and no arrest has been made.

Chung told officers the woman who shoved him with her shoulder and slapped his phone to the ground had been following other petition gatherers from his unidentified company around prior to the incident.

'It looks like she is hired blocker to keep me from gathering signatures,' Chung said in his 911 call to police. The woman, who was carrying fliers she dropped, 'kind of shoulder blocked me away,' when he attempted to pick up his phone, he said."

— Randy Ludlow, The Columbus Dispatch

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Ohio nuclear bailout defenders deploy ground troops to thwart repeal effort’s signature collection

Sep 11, 2019 10:43 AM

COLUMBUS — "Generation Now, a pro-House Bill 6 political group, has hired on-the-ground workers to try to prevent voters from signing petitions from a different group seeking to place an HB6 repeal on the November 2020 ballot.

Political professionals generally refer to this category of campaign workers as “blockers,” who are tasked with interfering with the signature collection process. But Generation Now spokesman Curt Steiner called them 'educators.'

'They’re going to be going to places where there’s a likelihood that there will be activity to gather signatures,' Steiner said. 'They’ve also been asked, where they see people, to be polite, give them information and don’t interfere with anyone trying to sign a petition.'

Gene Pierce, a spokesman for Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group collecting the signatures, said the blockers’ early tactics have been aggressive."

— Andrew J. Tobias,

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Ads claim voter referendum would allow 'China to control Ohio’s power'

Sep 10, 2019 11:37 AM

Screenshot from the pro-HB 6 advertisement.

COLUMBUS — "Both sides are limited liability corporations that do not have to reveal who’s paying their bills. Both say they will comply with Ohio law and have not chosen to voluntarily disclose their backers.

Mr. Loparo declined to say whether FirstEnergy Solutions is among its backers while Mr. Pierce stressed there is no Chinese money involved in the referendum effort. Mr. Pierce also noted that FirstEnergy Corp., the Akron-based corporation that spun off FirstEnergy Solutions, also benefited from investment from the China bank.

Corporate Bailouts also claims that its coalition includes representatives of consumer and environmental organizations as well as others opposed to the passage of House Bill 6, although it remains to be seen how the scope of the coalition will be reflected in its campaign filings."

— Jim Provance, The Blade

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FirstEnergy referendum lawsuit may hinge on who benefits from subsidies

Sep 06, 2019 12:33 PM

Photo by Sam Howzit / Creative Commons

COLUMBUS -- “'In most cases, and in this case, the question turns on the third criteria: Who benefits from the assessment?' said retired tax attorney M. Susan Murnane, who is not involved in the case. 'If the general public is the primary beneficiary, then the assessment is likely a tax. If a small number of nuclear energy providers are the primary beneficiaries, then the assessment is likely a fee.' Ultimately, the issue is 'a question of fact for the court,' she added.

FirstEnergy Solutions’ brief also notes that the U.S. Supreme Court found that penalties under the Affordable Care Act were a tax. However, there are differences.

'The HB 6 assessment applies to all utility users, whereas the individual mandate only applied if a taxpayer failed to purchase health insurance,' said retired government tax attorney Dennis Driscoll, who also is not involved in the case. 'Another difference is that the benefit of the HB 6 assessment will primarily go to a few utility companies.' In contrast, 'the ACA assessment was used to fund the medical insurance subsidies for the general public.'

Trish Demeter, chief of staff for the Ohio Environmental Council, said the subsidies will clearly and overwhelmingly benefit one company and its shareholders. 'They have $150 million per year for at least six years at stake. This is an estimated total going to FirstEnergy Solutions or a successive owner of Ohio’s nuclear plants of $900 million.'"

-- Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

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FirstEnergy Solutions lawsuit asks Ohio Supreme Court to block House Bill 6 referendum

Sep 04, 2019 3:29 PM

COLUMBUS — "The filing notes that a number of opponents of HB6 argued that it was a tax during legislative debate over the measure earlier this year.

The suit was filed against Secretary of State Frank LaRose – the state’s chief elections official – as well as Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, the group pushing to hold the referendum.

Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts got the go-ahead last week to begin collecting the roughly 266,000 valid petition signatures from registered voters to place the referendum on the 2020 ballot. The group has until Oct. 21 to submit the signatures.

FirstEnergy Solutions asked the Supreme Court to rule quickly, arguing in a motion that "'The sooner the Court invalidates the Referendum Petition, the fewer the number of Ohio electors who will be misled by the Committee’s illegal referendum effort and the less public resources that will be wasted in determining the sufficiency of signatures and other legal requirements relating to the futile Referendum Petition.'”

— Jeremy Pelzer,

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House Bill 6 excepts some, leaving the rest to pay more of the costs for nuclear bailout

Sep 03, 2019 11:39 AM

"The legislation's recent passage was controversial, with some Republicans opposed to the GOP-sponsored measure on economic grounds, while Democrats opposed its provisions gutting Ohio's renewable-energy standards.

One sticking point was the cost, which many said will put Ohio at an economic disadvantage against other states with which it competes for business and industrial plant locations.

Those costs, however, apparently won't be borne by everyone. Municipal power companies and rural electric co-ops are exempt from HB6 and their customers won't have to pay the subsidies, their members and associations say."

-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland Business 

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