News and Analysis
The new state budget contains little that impacts energy policy. However, it does provide a kilowatt-hour tax exemption for entities that generate electricity primarily for their own consumption, either on the same premises or at a facility on a property contiguous to where the electricity is consumed. This is a valuable provision for OMA members that had implemented either self-generation or alternative-energy generation agreements. 6/29/2021
Unrelated to the budget, the House this week voted 52-44 — followed by a Senate concurrence vote of 21-12 — to approve Senate Bill 52, which would make significant changes to Ohio’s power siting process for large-scale wind and solar projects. Specifically, the bill would:
- Enable county commissioners to approve a project via a lack of action, or to adopt a resolution rejecting or limiting the footprint of a proposed project;
- Allow local officials to adopt a resolution, subject to referendum, to designate a restricted area in which any project is prohibited or block any material amendment to an existing facility; and
- Create two ad-hoc seats to the Ohio Power Siting Board to represent county commissioners and township trustees in proceedings affecting their jurisdiction.
Critics say the bill unfairly singles out wind and solar projects. In an attempt to provide a workable solution, the OMA engaged at the Power Siting Board-level to reach a compromise — one that still achieved the goals of the bill sponsors — but remains opposed to the final version of the bill. To ensure clarity, uniform policy, and economy of process, the OMA continues to urge a statewide approach to such projects and decisions.
The bill now awaits Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature or veto. 6/30/2021
The Ohio Senate has passed House Bill 201, a measure prohibiting local governments from preventing consumers from obtaining natural gas service or propane. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature or veto. Earlier this year, the OMA worked with the bill sponsors and other interested parties to ensure the language of HB 201 matched its intent. 6/25/2021
Last year, consumption of renewable energy in the U.S. grew for the fifth year in a row, reaching a record high of 12% of total U.S. energy consumption. According to the Energy Information Agency, renewable energy was the only source of energy consumption that increased in 2020 from 2019. By itself, solar consumption increased 22%, while wind energy consumption grew 14%. 6/21/2021
For the first time since before the Civil War, the Ohio House has expelled one of its members. On a 75-21 vote, the chamber stripped Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) of his office for “disorderly conduct” amid his ongoing criminal case tied to Ohio’s scandal-ridden 2019 energy law, House Bill 6. (The OMA led the opposition to HB 6 upon its introduction in 2019.)
The former speaker was arrested last summer along with his political strategist Jeff Longstreth and three lobbyists — accused of accepting $61 million from FirstEnergy through a dark money group to help ensure enactment of HB 6. The law authorized customer-funded subsidies for FirstEnergy’s nuclear generation assets, OVEC-owned coal plants, and more. Householder has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and this week — prior to the House vote — declared his innocence in front of the House Rules & Reference Committee. 6/16/2021
Utility interests testified this week in opposition to Senate Bill 117, legislation that would repeal the OVEC subsidies authorized by the scandal-tainted House Bill 6. Shockingly, the utilities testified that the OVEC subsidies are in fact not subsidies since there’s a slim chance customers could some day receive a rebate.
Under questioning from committee members, it was conceded that at no time since OVEC’s creation had any customer even received a credit from the riders. The operator of OVEC — which is jointly owned by several parent electrical utilities — also conceded that the two coal plants being subsidized by HB 6 would not close if the rider was eliminated.
The OMA has led efforts to eliminate the unnecessary OVEC subsidy, which could amount to $700 million in ratepayer dollars by the time it expires in 2030. The OMA continues to work with SB 117’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield), to eliminate the subsidy and protect manufacturers from unnecessary electric charges and riders. 6/17/2021
The OMA Energy Group (OMAEG) is leading the effort at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to ensure FirstEnergy customers receive a full and immediate refund of nearly $30 million paid under House Bill 6’s decoupling provisions.
As reported by Gongwer News, under HB 6’s decoupling provision, which has since been repealed, FirstEnergy was authorized to collect revenue through a rider that guaranteed the company’s revenue at record-setting 2018 levels (about $978 million). The repeal legislation — House Bill 128, which takes effect June 30 — requires those funds to be promptly returned to consumers.
The OMA wants the PUCO to make public the records used to calculate decoupling refunds — and to ensure those records are independently verified. 6/14/2021
Gasoline prices rose for the eighth straight week as crude oil has surpassed $70 a barrel. GasBuddy reported that the national average price for gasoline climbed to $3.07 per gallon; the average for diesel was $3.21. Check out this heat map from AAA for the latest average price for gasoline in your county. 6/16/2021
The OMA this week supported a measure (Senate Resolution 41) that implores the governor of Michigan and director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to exercise all efforts to keep the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline operating.
The owner of the pipeline is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the State of Michigan over whether it can operate through the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lakes Huron and Michigan. Enbridge Line 5 is a major oil pipeline that carries petroleum from Canada to multiple Ohio oil refineries, which provide resources for countless manufacturers. 6/10/2021
In the latest development tied to the House Bill 6 scandal, AEP has received a subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Gongwer News reports that the Columbus-based utility believes its participation in the HB 6 process “was at all times lawful and ethical” and that the company is cooperating fully with the SEC’s subpoena.
Over the past year, it has been discovered that AEP contributed large amounts of money in support of HB 6 through wholly-funded dark money groups. 6/9/2021