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Ohio’s HB 6 Contradicts Conservative Values

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle via AP

The Ohio state legislature is considering HB 6, the Ohio Clean Air Program–a poorly named bill that will cost Ohio families money and harm clean energy job growth, all the while failing to improve air quality. 

Most families worry about paying their bills, finding good jobs, and protecting the health of loved ones. HB 6 makes it harder for Ohio families to succeed on all these fronts— it raises electricity bills for Ohio families and businesses, does nothing to abate respiratory illness causing air pollution, and makes it virtually impossible to build new, job-creating clean energy projects in the state.

In reality, HB 6 is nothing more than an old-fashioned government bailout, paid for by the citizens of Ohio. HB 6 subsidizes two aging coal plants, one of which is not even in Ohio, and bails out two nuclear power plants at a $150 million price tag. All of this is done on the backs of Ohio families. Instead of lowering taxes for Ohioans, lawmakers are funding an anti-free market bailout by essentially adding a new tax to residents’ electric bills

The truth is, these power plants can’t compete in today’s energy market. Cheap natural gas is putting pressure on both the coal and nuclear industries. No ratepayer funded bailout will alter this economic fact. Energy bailouts like this HB 6 are a nonsensical answer to the challenge of providing affordable, reliable, clean energy to Ohio families. All they do is punish innocent ratepayers and eliminate competition.

As if industry bailouts alone are not more than Ohio families can afford, the proposed law also guts consumer cost-saving energy efficiency targets. The energy efficiency program has saved $5.1 million on electric bills since it was adopted in 2008. For every dollar invested, the program creates $2.65 in savings. And there are over 112,000 related clean energy jobs in Ohio. HB 6 would halt all this progress in its tracks.

HB 6 effectively makes it impossible to build new wind farms in Ohio, too. One provision allows for a public referendum on wind-energy projects, even after the developer completes the state’s rigorous permitting and approval process. Residents could vote to block a project that has already begun construction. What smart, innovative company will attempt to build new electricity infrastructure in Ohio, only to face a fatal referendum after millions have already been spent on the approval process and construction? This burdensome regulation, coupled with the oppressive, arbitrary wind turbine siting setback law, will eliminate jobs that new wind projects can bring to rural communities.

Conservatives and proponents of free market values should find it concerning that Republican leaders in the statehouse are the driving force behind HB 6. Republicans are supposed to be the party that slashes needless regulation, unshackles the free market, and lowers the tax burden for hard working Americans. Republicans are also the party of personal responsibility and environmental stewardship, exemplified by Theodore Roosevelt’s national park system. 

The proposals that constitute Ohio’s HB 6 directly contradict these conservative, free market values. Subsidizing power plants that cannot economically compete is antithetical to the free market. Likewise is adding in new layers of regulation and bureaucracy that intentionally single out an entire industry, wind energy companies, and make it impossible for them to do business. Ohio conservatives in the state house will turn their backs to the Republican history of good economic and environmental stewardship if they pass this measure that hikes energy costs for families while increasing air pollution. Voters will not leave this act unpunished at the ballot box.

HB 6 accomplishes the opposite of what conservatism stands for by disturbing free market forces and complicating the ability of Ohio residents’ access to clean and affordable energy. 

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