Ohio Legislature Must Repeal House Bill Six

As students at Oberlin, many of us feel passionate about mitigating climate change, protecting our environment, transitioning to renewable resources, and defending the integrity of democracy. House Bill 6, currently under scrutiny and consideration by the Ohio state legislature, puts all of these values into question. It  could use some motivated attention from Obies.

State energy initiatives — in particular green energy — too easily bend to the will of the biggest businesses while disregarding the health, economic well-being, and long-term interests of Ohioans. Effective since October of 2019, HB 6’s “Creates Ohio Clean Air Program” contains a range of changes related to energy in Ohio, the majority of which clearly aim to mislead and belie short-sightedness — a too-common issue in energy policy. 

Most infamous is the clause that bails out two nuclear power plants run by Energy Harbor, known as FirstEnergy Solutions (a FirstEnergy subsidiary) prior to a bankruptcy-related restructuring. FirstEnergy was implicated in a corruption scandal last summer related to the nuclear subsidy plan. The scandal led to the arrest and indictment of Ohio State Representative Larry Householder and four of his associates on federal racketeering charges and the removal of several top FirstEnergy executives. Due to a lack of transparency and the potentially high taxpayer burden attached to the nuclear plant bailouts, HB 6’s nuclear subsidies are currently placed on hold by Ohio courts. 

Many Ohio representatives, primarily conservative, are pushing for a partial repeal of HB 6 to address the confusion surrounding and costs of these subsidies, as well as the preferential treatment for specific corporations. Yet this partial repeal does not reinstate previously required energy efficiency standards. This is unacceptable and a full repeal of HB 6 is necessary to allow green industry to flourish and eliminate the backwards nuclear and coal plant bail outs. Even if this partial repeal passes, the revised HB 6 will still include clauses that gut Ohio standards for renewable energy. In practice, this looks bleak. A mere partial repeal would still result in the outright elimination of solar energy requirements statewide and a gradual elimination of all renewable energy requirements by 2027. 

HB 6 also includes a bailout of two old coal plants and ends support for existing utilities programs; one of these plants was deemed a toxic “super-polluter” by the EPA. Utilities programs that households take for granted in other states, including reduced prices and rebates for energy-smart light bulbs, washing machines, and thermostats, as well as free energy-efficiency and repair programs for low-income homes, are being phased out in the current iteration of HB 6. The bill does, however, include tax and regulatory exemptions for specific private businesses. 

In a sector where incentives and guidelines are essential to paving the way to a more renewable future, HB 6 showcases a true lack of investment in clean air and access to renewable energy. The bill undoes progress we’ve made over the past two decades, and sets us on a path away from the energy trends of the rest of the country. Take for example the state’s total required contribution from renewable energy sources, which HB 6 reduces from 12.5 percent down to 8.5 percent by 2026, far below the current U.S. average of 11 percent renewable energy (in terms of energy consumed). We’re only disadvantaging ourselves in the long run if we refuse to adapt to increasingly drastic and documented climate changes and health problems. If we want the “Ohio Clean Air” we were promised, HB 6 has to go. 

The good news is that several representatives have already proposed alternative bills (HB 57, HB 18) reinstating energy standards and addressing many other aspects of the bill. We should be investing in green and renewable energy in Ohio, instead of energy from fossil fuels. 

Aside from the environmental risks, HB 6 unjustly increases energy costs for many Ohioans by forcing them to pay for the subsidization of nuclear and coal power plants. The Ohio government should be protecting and supporting its citizens, yet HB 6 empties Ohioan wallets to support dubious energy policy.

As college students in Ohio who are passionate about environmental conservation and repealing HB 6, we believe a full repeal is necessary to work toward reducing Ohio’s carbon emissions and achieving environmental justice. We are concerned about the long-term effects of HB 6 on carbon emissions and thus climate change. Regulations on energy efficiency are necessary to keep us accountable and encourage green renewable energy sources. Without regulation, corporations and individual homeowners left unaccountable for their unsustainable choices, which put others at risk. Increased emissions, worse air quality — these are just some of the risks that will go unchecked. Those who live in lower income areas are disproportionately affected by these threats, and HB 6 eliminates programs that help achieve energy equity. We believe in the importance of taking many small steps that, when considered altogether, meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. Repealing HB 6 — thereby reinstating clean energy standards — would be an amazing step toward reducing carbon emissions in Ohio.

For protect both the people of Ohio and the environment, we are advocating for a full repeal of House Bill Six.