By Emily Bamforth
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio House Bill 6 bailed out two FirstEnergy power plants and gave subsidies to coal plants, while dismantling mandates designed to move Ohio’s clean energy landscape forward.
The controversial bill, passed last year, is now the centerpiece of a federal bribery investigation, which implicates Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, one of the most outspoken supporters of HB6, and four associates.
The corruption scandal is now prompting groups that already opposed HB6 because of its implications for the economy or environment to call for a re-examination of the bill, or its total repeal. Both the Sierra Club and American Wind Energy Association issued statements on the case Tuesday evening.
“The legislative push to bail out legacy generation and roll back Ohio’s renewable energy commitments was always against the will of Ohioans, who overwhelmingly support renewable energy,” American Wind Energy Association Eastern State Affairs Director Andrew Gohn said in a statement. “It now appears that the passage of this bill was not just against the will of the people, but also may have involved serious and possibly criminal impropriety.”
Supporters of the bill claimed the bailout would save jobs in nuclear energy and reconfigure surcharges to Ohio customers to save money. But those fighting against it, including environmental groups, balked at the changes which effectively “gutted” energy-efficiency and renewable-energy mandates for utilities.
The bill also had economic implications for renewable energy projects, like wind and solar, that might have expanded jobs in the clean energy space. It’s difficult to discern the effect of the bill so far on those jobs because the clean energy market was also hit hard by the coronavirus.
One in six Ohio workers employed in clean energy are now out of work because of the pandemic, according to a report released in June from business group Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2.