HB 6 could pass the Ohio House this week.  NOW is the time to contact your Representative and Senator with your views.

The recent deluge of direct mail and TV ads may have convinced you that this “Ohio Clean Air Program” bill is the best hope for clean power and lower utility bills. In fact, Ohio State economics professor Edward Hill submitted testimony May 8 explaining how the bill will drive utility rates higher.

As you’ll see from witnesses cited below, the bill threatens the state’s progress towards renewable energy, endangering a new source of tax revenues for Ohio’s rural counties and schools. It also eliminates funding for technical assistance and rebates that have helped Ohio businesses, households, and congregations significantly reduce their utility bills.

Examples in our diocese include Procter Farm and the Diocesan Office, St. Alban’s, St. Edward’s, Trinity, St. Philip, and St. John’s in Columbus, St. Matthew’s in Westerville, St. John’s in Worthington, Good Shepherd in Athens, Advent and Gabriel’s Place in Cincinnati, and Ascension and Holy Trinity in Wyoming.

AARP’s Ohio State Director Barbara Sykes has condemned the Ohio Clean Air Program ads as deceitful. “With the amount of money being spent on misleading ads meant to confuse seniors and their families and the continued lack of transparency, the Ohio Clean Air Program is looking pretty dirty.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jessie Balmert reported May 26 that First Energy and pro-First Energy groups are funding this ad campaign. HB 6 would impose charges on all Ohio ratepayers to prop up First Energy Solutions’ two aging nuclear plants in Northern Ohio. The bill would make you, the consumer, pay to subsidize nuclear plants which can’t compete against the far cheaper generation costs of natural gas, wind, or solar.

HB 6 will also abolish Ohio’s renewable energy portfolio standards. Many businesses have testified to legislators that HB 6 threatens new solar farms and supply-chain investments planned across the state.

The bill will also wipe out the funding for energy efficiency programs which have already saved Ohio consumers over $5 billion dollars in electricity costs since 2009, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Rebates through Ohio’s energy efficiency program helped my Wyoming parish make retrofits that have reduced our carbon footprint by 11 tons a year and cut our annual utility bills by over $5,000.

Almost 180 people have already testified on HB 6 since it was introduced in April. 75% of the witnesses oppose it, including many business leaders, economists, engineers, and Consumer Reports’ Manager for Cars and Energy Policy. You can read their testimony on the website of the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Click on the hearing dates to see the witness list and download the evidence they submitted.

How HB 6 endangers Ohio’s economic development

The case for the nuclear plants is that they don’t generate carbon emissions and are vital to their local tax base.

Renewable energy facilities are already having an impact that dwarfs that, at a fraction of the cost and with significant potential to expand to many more counties.

Wind and solar farms have already proven to be powerful factors in reviving rural economies at a time when farmers are reeling under the impact of the trade war and falling commodities prices. Susan Munroe, past President of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, testified that the Blue Creek Wind Farm in her county is a “drought and flood proof ‘cash crop’” which “delivers $5 million every year in new tax revenue and payments to schools, community organizations, income to landowners, and local supply chain businesses.”

“Blue Creek Wind Farm is the single largest taxpayer in our county, larger than the next eleven businesses combined,” Munrow added. “Renewable energy projects like Blue Creek are the greatest opportunity for economic growth in many rural courthouse communities in Ohio.”

Innergex told legislators it plans a solar farm in Brown County which will generate $1 million a year in lease payments to landowners and 35 years of new property tax revenue for the county schools. But investors, spooked by HB 6, may now pull out of the project.

Many experts testified that by reducing demand, Ohio’s energy efficiency program reduces electricity costs for everyone unless pricing is distorted by anti-competitive purchase price agreements. Dr. Edward Hill, Professor of Economic Development at Ohio State, explained that HB 6 would have the opposite effect:  “HB 6, if enacted, will hurt Ohio’s economic development by increasing electricity costs, and diminish the reliability of the state’s electric grid.”  His May 8 testimony explains why.

Supporters of HB 6 cite the 1,300 jobs that would be lost if the two nuclear plants close. By 2018, Ohio had 112,486 clean energy jobs, over 81,000 of them in energy efficiency careers. That number is already up 2.5% this year: perhaps an opportunity for displaced nuclear plant workers?

Dave Rhinehold of the nonprofit Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE) testified that more than a million financially-strapped Ohio households qualify for weatherization aid because they are elderly, disabled, or have children. Weatherization is “a permanent solution to energy affordability,” he said, explaining that for many households, it ends their need for financial assistance to pay their bills. Taxpayers benefit: Rhinehold also cited a recent national study that weatherization saves an average of $14,000 over 16 years in family medical bills, lowering Medicaid costs.

HB 6 would eliminate $15 to $20 million in funding to OPAE member agencies, leading to a drop of 10,000 in the number of houses they can weatherize each year. He mentioned People Working Cooperatively as a local example of a program that would be crippled if the bill passes.

Why is this awful bill racing towards passage? One reason is the determination of some Republicans to kill the renewable energy standards, despite the growing economic benefits of wind and solar.

Here may be another: First Energy’s contributions of more than $1.74 million to Ohio political parties and candidates including House Speaker Larry Householder, Senate President Larry Obhoff, and Governor Mike DeWine.

I want to see the whole state better off, not just First Energy’s creditors.  I’m writing Mr. Householder, Mr. Obhoff, and Gov. DeWine to urge them to drop HB 6. I hope you will too.

Submitted by Ariel Miller, Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming