Clean Air Act polluted with drastic changes benefiting coal, hindering renewable energy


COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ohio Clean Air act was supposed to bail out the two nuclear power plants run by First Energy Solutions, saving a total of 1,400 jobs.

To accomplish that, it was supposed to create a fund from money generated by a new fee on our electric bills.

Originally, that fund would also be open to wind and solar plants to draw from.

As a result of the creation of the fee, another fee on our electric bills would go away.

Many in the renewable energy industry didn’t want that fee to go away because they say it was encouraging growth and the development of efficiencies that many Ohioans have benefited from.

Republicans didn’t like the fee.

“Through Republican Caucuses, there was many discussions about what’s right or wrong for Ohio and one of the big things that came up is, we need to stop the mandates,” said State Representative Nino Vitale, chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

For the last month, hearings have been held on the Ohio Clean Air Act.

The bill has been changed several times.

Not once have the Democrats felt it was something they could support, and they claim the Republicans never came to the table with a way to make the bill better.

If you track what has happened with this bill, it actually trends away from a middle ground as opposed to toward it, leaving the end result as the worst version, according to Democrats.

When I asked Vitale what was offered to Democrats to get them on board with the original bill – which still included access for wind and solar to subsidies – he didn’t have an immediate answer.

He pondered deeply, looking up to the ceiling as if the answer was up there somewhere. Ultimately, Vitale said that it came down to this, “It’s a negotiating process, sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don’t.”

State Representative Sedrick Denson, the ranking minority member on the committee, said the entire process has been a sham.

“This process has not went in a way that has been in a bipartisan spirit or effort to us to sit down to get to any conclusion of anything that makes sense,” Denson said.

Meanwhile, some Republicans blamed the Democrats for not budging.

When asked if members of the wind and solar industry actually told him they had no interest in subsidies generated by the bill, he said yes.

He refused to say which one(s).

In addition to stripping out the access to the subsidies for renewable energy, Vitale and the Republicans tacked a failed bill from last General Assembly to the Ohio Clean Air Act.

All that bill does is codify a ruling by the Supreme Court, as Vitale claims.

However, it also could lead to an increase of a different fee already on your electric bills.

Currently, that fee is going toward subsidizing two Ohio Valley Electric Corporation coal power plants, one of which is located in Indiana.

So that Clean Air Act that was supposed to help nuclear power and renewable energy could end up helping pump greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere instead.

Democrats, unsure if the bill would get a vote in committee Thursday, were rushing to get amendments written up and in order to present when the Republicans called for a vote on the bill.

Earlier, Denson had requested the vote be delayed until the Democrats had an opportunity to present their amendments. Vitale rejected or ignored the request and didn’t clarify when asked.

The bill heads to the House floor for a vote by the entire House of Representatives.

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