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Guest Blog Author: Kylie Johnson, Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund
Quick Summary: In 2022, the OEC Action Fund continues to speak out for clean air, safe water, vibrant public lands, bold climate action, and a strong democracy. The fight to protect our environment has never been easy—but Ohio’s future is worth it. The OEC Action Fund provides a brief update on the latest federal, state, and local policy news for you here.
Happy Earth Day!
When you work for an organization that advocates for good environmental policy, every day is Earth Day. During the first quarter of 2022, I was proud to work alongside my colleagues at Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund to advance key policy priorities 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.
For those that aren’t familiar, the OEC Action Fund is the accountability and lobbying arm of the OEC 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.
ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
The investments in the federal bipartisan infrastructure law (Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act) passed in November 2021 will benefit Ohio in many ways. In addition to traditional infrastructure funds, the bill focuses on building resilient communities in the face of climate change. While final estimates are yet to be announced, the White House has estimated how much funding Ohio will receive over the next five years.
Some notable appropriations include:
$140 million over five years to support the expansion of an electric vehicle (EV) charging network in the state, part of a larger effort to accelerate the adoption of EVs to address the climate crisis and support domestic manufacturing jobs.
$1.2 billion to improve public transportation options across the state and accelerate opportunities for communities to provide healthy, sustainable transportation.
$256 million over five years to clean up “orphaned” oil and gas wells which, if not properly capped, can release dangerous methane pollution into the air.
$1 billion set aside for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, including funding to accelerate clean up of Ohio’s Black, Cuyahoga, and Maumee rivers on Ohio’s north coast.
$1.4 billion for water infrastructure improvements across the state through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs. This funding will help finance critical water infrastructure projects throughout the state, including eliminating lead service lines, supporting stormwater management practices, and upgrading water and wastewater treatment systems.
Additional funding will accelerate reforestation projects on national forestland, improve energy efficiency in buildings and the industrial sector through weatherization programs, and strengthen recycling systems in Ohio.
Lead Pipe And Paint Action Plan
In December, the Biden-Harris Administration announced an ambitious Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan to accelerate the replacement of lead water pipes in the next decade while focusing on disadvantaged communities. The plan will disburse $2.9 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for lead pipe replacement to states, tribes and territories in 2022. Of these funds, Ohio will receive $71 million specifically earmarked for lead service line replacement. Other key highlights of this historic plan include developing additional rulemaking to strengthen key provisions of the Lead and Copper Rule to be completed by 2024, publishing guidance for local water systems that will outline critical steps to achieve 100% lead service line replacement, and creating a new cabinet-level partnership for lead remediation in schools and child care centers.
New Regulations to #CutMethane
Methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is fueling the climate crisis, and threatening the health and safety of communities across Ohio and the country. In November, the U.S. EPA proposed new regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The proposed rules would require operators to regularly find and fix their emissions. Our Energy Team testified before the U.S. EPA in early December to let them know we need the strongest safeguards possible—for the health of our communities and our climate.
CLIMATE POLICY AT THE STATE LEVEL
State of the Environment
In March, Gov. DeWine delivered his 2022 State of the State address. Our team at the OEC Action Fund closely watched the speech and here’s what we heard:
Here’s what we heard:
Governor DeWine is committed to continue growing Ohio’s great State Parks system, and he emphasized how important parks and greenspace are to our communities and our health.
Governor DeWine highlighted some plans to partner with Ohio’s Appalachian communities to define an investment strategy that makes sense for the region, including growing eco-tourism opportunities in the region.
Governor DeWine mentioned continued investments through the H2Ohio program that will go a long way to restore Ohio’s waterways and wetlands, minimize algal blooms, and fix aging drinking water systems.
Here’s what we didn’t hear:
Governor DeWine mentioned the need to attract employers to Ohio, citing a “good regulatory environment,” but he did not mention the fastest-growing job sector in the country—wind and solar energy. Unfortunately, in Ohio, the environment for renewable energy businesses has been slowed down by regulatory uncertainty and unnecessary red-tape during Governor DeWine’s tenure.
During his address, Gov. DeWine failed to mention the redistricting crisis happening under his watch. By voting in favor of partisan-gerrymandered district maps and signing the legislation establishing unconstitutional congressional district maps, he has failed to follow the clear directive of Ohio voters—we need and deserve fair districts for all people.
But that’s not the full picture when it comes to Ohio’s environment. We recently interviewed OEC Action Fund staff to learn more about the policies and actions Gov. DeWine and Ohio lawmakers have taken to support clean air, land, and water—or to damage our environment and democracy.
Hear from our policy experts on the State of Ohio’s Environment by watching the following 3-minute videos:
- ENERGY VIDEO
- WATER VIDEO
- LAND VIDEO
- DEMOCRACY VIDEO
Continuing the Fight Against House Bill 6
The OEC Action Fund continues the fight against House Bill 6—known widely as the worst energy bill of the 21st century. Since news broke that this bad legislation 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. We continue to work with partners across the state to draw attention to the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) coal bailout passed as part of HB 6. We also continue to put pressure on legislators to remove these subsidies, which damage Ohioans’ health, pocketbooks, and our environment. In December, the OEC Action Fund released a video with Reps. Casey Weinstein and Jeff Crossman as we traveled to Madison, Indiana to see one of two OVEC-owned coal plants.
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. The OEC Action Fund continues its advocacy work on the Energy Jobs & Justice Act (Ohio House Bill 429)—an intentionally-designed, comprehensive clean energy policy rooted in equity, economic development, and accountability. 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. 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 a clean energy transition. All with the goal to ensure 100% carbon-free electricity generation and use by 2050! To learn more about the Energy Jobs and Justice Act and to get updates on advocacy actions, sign up here.
Advancing Community Solar
The OEC Action Fund continues to support House Bill 450, legislation which would enable community solar across Ohio. The bill permits the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to certify up to 1,000 megawatts (MWs) of community solar projects and an additional 5,00 MWs at distressed sites, with at least a quarter of the total community solar projects required to be located in Appalachia. More on this exciting bill here.
Supporting Solar for Condos and Homeowners Associations
With the passage of Senate Bill 61 through the Senate, solar advocates who live in condominiums are one step closer to having their right to install solar on their roof protected from restrictive homeowner association rules. The bipartisan bill, supported by the OEC Action Fund and many of our partners, would let owners subject to condo or other homeowner association rules install solar if their unit includes the roof. The bill would let associations “establish reasonable restrictions” on solar panels’ size, place, and manner of placement, but it will potentially expand access to solar to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. More on this exciting bill here.
All environmental policy is passed by legislators, whether at city councils, at the statehouse, or in Congress. When Ohioans don’t have fair districts–when our vote is intentionally weakened to serve the power of partisan politicians–it makes it harder to fight climate change and invest in renewable energy, two things the majority of Ohioans want.
It can be hard to keep track of ALL the news surrounding Ohio’s redistricting process. We encourage you to learn more about the many updates in the fight for fair maps from our sibling organization, the OEC, here.
CLIMATE POLICY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL
Cincinnati Makes History: First Committee Focused on Climate Change
At the local level, the OEC Action Fund has been focused on supporting the Cincinnati Administration’s environmental policy priorities. In January, Cincinnati City Council held the first meeting of the new Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Committee—the first of its kind not only in Cincinnati but, we believe, in the country. The committee meets every other Tuesday throughout the year at 11 AM. Visit the City Council website for the schedule of committee meetings. You can attend meetings in-person, via live stream, or watch recordings of previous meetings.
City of Cincinnati Announces Green Cincinnati Plan Renewal
On March 17, Mayor Aftab Pureval and Councilmember Meeka Owens announced the renewal of the Green Cincinnati Plan. The Plan was adopted in 2008 and later revised and readopted in 2013 and 2018. The updated Plan will prioritize climate equity and environmental justice. “We are creating the foundation to protect our environment, combat the disproportionate effects of climate change on our Black and Brown residents, and set Cincinnati up as a pioneer in the green economy,” Pureval said. New environmental policy initiatives for the City of Cincinnati were also announced during the press conference, including the commitment to fully transition the city fleet to electric by 2035. You can watch the press conference announcing the Green Cincinnati Plan and share your input for the 2023 Plan update by completing the Community Climate Change Survey.
Each and every day we’re proud to 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. You can also visit the OEC Action Fund website for the 2021 legislative scorecard update.
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.