This guest blog post from a partner organization reflects the work and opinions of the author and does not reflect action taken by Green Umbrella staff or board.
Guest Blog Author: Kylie Johnson, Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund
Quick Summary: Securing a healthier environment for all Ohioans is complex and challenging work. This work takes all of us, using every tool in our toolbox and making the most of opportunities at every level of government. This year, OEC worked to secure environmental policy wins on Capitol Hill, at the Ohio Statehouse, and in city halls across the Buckeye State. OEC provides a brief update on some of those policy wins for you here.
Securing a healthier environment for all Ohioans is complex and challenging work. This work takes all of us, using every tool in our toolbox and making the most of opportunities at every level of government.
For those that aren’t familiar, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund is the accountability and lobbying arm of the Ohio Environmental Council family of organizations. The OEC Action Fund advances critical environmental priorities, holds policy makers accountable, and works to elect environmental champions and pass park levies that expand access to public land.
This year, our team worked to secure environmental policy wins on Capitol Hill, at the Ohio Statehouse, and in city halls across the Buckeye State. We’re proud to provide a brief update on some of those policy wins for you here.
CLIMATE POLICY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
Let’s start at the national level. President Biden and Vice President Harris took office in January 2021 with a decisive mandate to act with great strength on climate change, clean energy, and environmental justice. From day one, we supported federal efforts to reinstate important environmental regulations to protect our air and our water. And we’ve worked with partners to rally around the President’s Build Back Better proposals to advance historic climate legislation.
Securing Big Investments in Infrastructure & Climate Action:
We applaud Congress’s recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and look forward to the passage of the transformational climate and justice bill we need, the Build Back Better Act. Together, these bills included funding to clean up polluted areas, upgrade our drinking water system, and modernize our electric grid and public transit systems. Importantly, they put the U.S. on the path to cutting our climate pollution in half by 2030, invest directly in communities of color too often left behind, and create good-paying union jobs.
CLIMATE POLICY AT THE STATE LEVEL
At the state level this year, our team closely tracked the state’s biannual budgeting process and lobbied for our environment along the way.
State Budget Wins for the Environment:
Overall, the bill included some good news for our environment. The H2Ohio program, one of the most comprehensive, science-based plans for clean water in state history, received $170 million in funding. On the public lands side, $28 million was allocated to purchase the remainder of the AEP ReCreation Land in southeastern Ohio, $500 million was allocated for brownfield revitalization, and Doris Duke Woods in Malabar Farms State Park was protected. Unfortunately, there was some bad news too. As the more than 2,000-page bill moved through the process, amendments were added including one that could diminish public input when oil and gas drilling is proposed on state parks or forests. Despite strong opposition, this amendment made it into the final bill.
Continuing the Fight Against House Bill 6:
Throughout the year, the OEC Action Fund continued the fight against House Bill 6—known widely as the worst energy bill of the 21st century. Since news broke that this bad legislation was passed as part of “likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio,” we demanded its full and immediate repeal. We have seen some success, but there is still more work to do. In March 2021, Ohio lawmakers repealed the portion of HB 6 that provided subsidies for FirstEnergy nuclear plants, as well as two other components of HB 6 that provided a windfall for FirstEnergy. While this is a positive step in the right direction for Ohio energy consumers, it leaves components of HB 6 on the books that will harm Ohio’s air quality and our environment. That is why we continue to fight for the repeal of the bailout of two dirty coal plants and for the reinstatement of Ohio’s clean energy standards—both a result of HB 6.
Promoting the Energy Jobs & Justice Act:
It is clear that after decades of energy policy that largely favors utilities and fossil fuels, Ohio needs forward-looking, equitable solutions that are good for our economy, our communities, and our health. In September 2021, the OEC Action Fund proudly joined partners on the shores of Lake Erie for the introduction of the Energy Jobs and Justice Act by bill co-sponsors Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson).
The Energy Jobs & Justice Act (Ohio House Bill 429) is an intentionally-designed, comprehensive clean energy policy rooted in equity, economic development, and accountability. This bill is the product of over a year of work with many partners working toward a new, equitable clean energy vision for Ohio. The legislation aims to move Ohio toward a more equitable clean energy future by encouraging clean energy growth, energy waste reduction, and curbing utility influence over policymaking and regulatory actions. It will do so by launching the state’s largest economic development initiative in recent history, prioritizing investments in clean energy jobs and environmental justice programs. Importantly, the legislation centers on equitable policy design to make sure those most historically and disproportionately harmed by Ohio’s regressive energy policies benefit most from this clean energy transition. All with the goal to ensure 100% carbon-free electricity generation and use by 2050! Together, we can advance bold climate action like the Energy Jobs and Justice Act to secure a healthier future for all Ohioans.
CLIMATE POLICY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL
At the local level, the OEC Action Fund focused heavily on this year’s local elections.
The OEC Action Fund endorsed a slate of climate candidates including Aftab Pureval for mayor, as well as Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Greg Landsman, Reggie Harris, Meeka Owens, Victoria Parks, Jeff Cramerding, and Mark Jeffreys who all won their bids for City Council. We are excited to work with each one of these candidates in 2022, especially Mayor-elect Pureval, who was elected on a comprehensive environmental platform with a 66% majority vote, underscoring a clear mandate from his constituency for climate action. The Mayor-elect’s environmental policy proposal includes strong pledges to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and 100% renewable energy by 2035. Our new city leadership has an unprecedented opportunity to fight climate change and secure a healthier environment for all Cincinnati residents.
Another positive environmental outcome of the Cincinnati election was passage of the Great Parks of Hamilton County levy. We applaud this investment in the future of the region’s tremendous park system which will support continued access to more than 17,000 acres of vibrant greenspace and important programming for the community.
We’re excited to get to work in the New Year and continue fighting for a healthier environment for all Ohioans, especially alongside partners like Green Umbrella. If you’re interested in getting updates and action alerts from the OEC Action Fund, please sign up here. We encourage you to follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for regular updates.
Please also be sure to follow our sibling organization, the Ohio Environmental Council, for additional educational opportunities. Sign up here or follow OEC’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for regular updates.