Lawmakers want Ohio electricity production to go carbon-free by 2050

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solar panels in a field
Solar panels sit in a completed section of Hillcrest solar farm, April 21, 2021, in Brown County. Acres of land are slated to become utility-scale solar farms in Ohio. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

Two Ohio lawmakers want all electricity produced in Ohio to be carbon-free by 2050.

The Energy Jobs & Justice Act would require retail electric providers to submit carbon reduction plans to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio detailing how they will reach a 50% drop in carbon emissions by 2030 and 100% reduction by 2050.

Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, and Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, introduced the lofty legislation Sept. 21 during a press conference at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland.

“It’s time to make clean energy work for all Ohioans,” Weinstein said, during the press conference. “The Energy Jobs and Justice Act fills that need for comprehensive and equitable clean energy legislation and creates a blueprint for how Ohio can move forward.”

House Bill 429 would also reduce minimum setbacks on new wind farms, allow community solar and virtual net metering and make the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program permanent.

The 265-page bill would create the Office of Energy Justice to oversee decisions made by PUCO and administer workforce development programs and create more transparency and accountability over electricity providers and state agencies.

The legislation is cosponsored by 10 other Democratic representatives.

Weinstein said the legislation was Ohio’s way forward from the House Bill 6 debacle.

FirstEnergy was federally charged this summer with bribing key Ohio officials to pass House Bill 6, the legislation that included a $1 billion bailout for the state’s two nuclear plants that are owned and operated by a FirstEnergy subsidiary.

As part of the federal agreement to defer prosecution, FirstEnergy acknowledged how it paid former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former PUCO head Sam Randazzo millions of dollars, funneled through dark money groups, to get the ratepayer-funded bailout to pass.

House Bill 6 also gave out subsidies for two coal-fired power plants, one of which is in Indiana, and five utility-scale solar farms.

The nuclear subsidy parts of the bill were repealed earlier this year, but the other subsidies remain. Weinstein said there is bipartisan support in the legislature to end the coal plant subsidies. The Energy Jobs & Justice Act is the next step.

“The transition away from fossil fuels is happening…We are actively propping up on the backs of Ohioans a completely noncompetitive source of energy that is shutting down everywhere else,” he said. 

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