July 23 was a sad day for Ohio. On that day, Ohio’s legislature passed by a vote of 51 to 38 and Gov. Mike DeWine quickly signed HB 6, which subsidizes two aging nuclear and two coal plants. And while they were at it, the bill guts Ohio’s renewable energy and energy-efficiency standards.

First Energy’s two nuclear power plants, Davis-Bessie and Perry, will receive $150 million, paid for by an add-on to all Ohio electric rate-payers’ bills. Also two aging coal-fired power plants will receive bailout money from the rate-payers.

But the real kicker is that the bill dismantles Ohio’s 10-year-old Renewable Portfolio Standards and Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, which mandated the growth of renewable energy and efficiency. The bill does fund six solar facilities in Ohio but that is no substitute for a statutory framework for clean energy development in Ohio which the standards provided.

These standards were passed in 2008 by a vote of 32-0 in the Senate and 93-1 in the House, and were signed by Gov. Ted Strickland. The standards required that Ohio electric utilities generate 12.5 percent from renewable energy sources (mainly solar and wind) by 2027 and reduce electric energy consumption by 22 percent by increasing efficiency. These standards are estimated to have helped create 112,000 new jobs in a growing clean energy industry in Ohio.

The Republicans have been trying to delay and reduce these standards over the last 10 years. But their efforts were blocked in part by Republican Gov. John Kasich who appreciated the new jobs. But Gov. DeWine has capitulated to First Energy demands.

The governor and 51 state legislators have set Ohio back decades, extending our reliance on aging nuclear and dirty coal plants. And they ignore the growing evidence of climate change. According to NASA, nine of the 10 warmest winters on record have occurred since 2005 and the last five years have been the warmest five on record. A record heat wave swept through Europe a month ago and moved on up to Greenland, accelerating its already melting ice sheet. Wildfires rage in Brazil, Siberia and Alaska fueled in part by warming and drought.

But the governor and his 51 cohorts will not get the last say. A referendum effort is underway in Ohio to place the issue on the ballot next November. Then Ohioans can return to a path for a clean energy future.

Ed Perkins farms in Athens County.

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