Two Northeast Ohio Lawmakers Propose Comprehensive Clean Energy Bill
State Representative Casey Weinstein of Hudson and fellow Democrat Rep. Stephanie Howse of Cleveland spent more than a year working on the Ohio Energy Jobs and Justice law before unveiling the bill at a Great Lakes Science Center press conference last week.
The two lawmakers, along with supporters of the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, Black Environmental Leaders and other organizations, spoke Tuesday, September 21, of the need, as Weinstein put it, “for a comprehensive energy policy based on equity, economic development, and accountability. “
âOhio deserves a true 21st century energy policy,â said Weinstein, a leading member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Weinstein believes that Ohio is at “an inflection point” and that after decades of state energy legislation and policy that have helped bail out large utilities and support fossil fuels, there must be have a plan that levels the playing field for renewable energies; invests in workforce development to endow the growing sector; and reform the regulatory system of public services to add transparency and accountability.
The proposal, Ohio House Bill 429, outlines plans for upgrading the state’s electricity grid; sets a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity by 50% by 2030, dropping to 100% by 2050; and targets an objective of 22% reduction in energy waste in less than 10 years.
It also discusses additional legislative measures in recent years that Weinstein and other critics deem regressive, including the 2014 increase in property lines for wind farms and metering restrictions on community solar programs that would otherwise help minimize. installation costs for homeowners.
To improve transparency and accountability, the bill creates an Office of Energy Justice, which, among other functions, would provide increased oversight of the industry and expand state regulatory authority to include strong powers of justice. audit and investigation. The move is a direct response to Ohio House Bill 6, the 2019 utility bailout legislation that also downplayed the state’s clean energy standards and is under investigation federal government on corruption.
âOhio is still reeling from the corruption behind HB 6, and taxpayers are still paying the price,â Weinstein said.
Rather than offering a piecemeal approach to repealing elements of HB 6, Weinstein’s bill comprehensively addresses consumer reimbursement, restores revolving subsidies, and sets stricter standards to increase utility charges for consumers.
âThese are transparency and regulatory and consumer-friendly reforms,â Weinstein said. “This is a people-centered policy, so, for example, if utility charges are found to be predominantly predatory, they can be immediately reimbursed to consumers.”
In addition to the oversight of utilities, the director of the energy justice office would be responsible for directing resources to the state’s clean energy training and entrepreneurship programs.
Clean energy jobs offer higher wages, as well as a lower barrier to entry for workers of color who have been under-represented in the energy industry and for workers displaced by the moving away from fossil fuels, said SeMia Bray, co-facilitator at Black Environmental Leaders Association, an Ohio environmental organization that participated in the economic and fairness discussion around the bill.
âWe are launching the largest economic development project in the history of the state,â said Bray. “This plan is transformational. There is an opportunity for new jobs to come to fruition that has never existed before.”
There are less than 3,000 Ohioans employed in the coal industry, which saw a 25% drop in jobs during the period 2016 to 2019. More than 100,000 Ohioans are employed in the energy industry clean, which is on average 34% higher than the national median, Weinstein said.
However, only 9% of jobs in the renewable energy sector are held by black workers, who make up 12% of the country’s workforce, and just over 30% of clean energy jobs are held by women, according to a study by consulting firm BW Research Partnership.
The Jobs and Justice Act proposes the creation of 15 clean energy incubators located both in underserved communities and in areas previously dependent on fossil fuels but which will soon be moving away from fossil fuels . The incubators would house employment programs targeting those re-entering the workforce after incarceration and would include a clean energy entrepreneurs program aimed at minorities, offering financial guidance and grant opportunities. The trade program would include participation in a government-backed tied deposit program that would provide loans at below-market rates for a period of up to four years.
These programs are essential, Bray said, to help displaced workers, to attract younger employees and to “avoid the brain drain,” which is a challenge for the state.
To date, there is no specific funding mechanism associated with the workforce and entrepreneurship programs. The money would come from the income of the general fund.
Any legislation sponsored by the Ohio Minority Party is onerous, but Weinstein is optimistic that the recent wave of bipartisan energy-related legislation sweeping its way into both houses of the Statehouse is a good sign that both sides are hungry for change.