Guest Authors: Kylie Johnson, Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund
Nolan Rutschilling, Kylie Johnson, and Councilmember Meeka Owens
Even when it was first introduced, President Biden’s Build Back Better plan wastouted as the most significant federal action ever taken to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the plan was met with resistance over the past year and a half, and at one point this summer completely stalled and its passage declared nearly impossible. However, many provisions in the President’s original plan evolved to become the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes historic investments in clean energy projects, jobs, and incentives to build the energy grid for today and tomorrow. For Ohio, the investment means cleaner air, more electric vehicles on the road, a bolstered advanced manufacturing sector, and lower energy bills. The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund launched a major statewide ad campaign to raise awareness of the IRA’s climate and jobs provisions. To learn more, read the press release.
ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL:
A MAJOR Climate Victory
In August, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022—cost-saving legislation that makes overdue investments in clean energy, improves energy security, and will build a more affordable, healthy, just, and equitable future. The combined investments in the bill put the U.S. on a path to roughly 40% emissions reduction by 2030, and represent the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far. For more on the Inflation Reduction Act, please visit this resource page from our partners at the League of Conservation Voters, or check out this recent Statehouse News Bureau interview featuring OEC Action Fund Political Director Spencer Dirrig.
The OEC and Power a Clean Future Ohio go to Washington, DC!
In August, Joe Flarida, Executive Director of Power a Clean Future Ohio (PCFO), testified before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee in coordination with the Ohio Environmental Council’s (OEC) Energy team. The invitation came from the Committee Chair Senator Brown to highlight a new report the OEC published with Power a Clean Future Ohio and Scioto Analysis outlining the cost on local governments to deal with climate change. The hearing focused on the financial impact of climate change. The testimony and the report accounts for costs associated with climate adaptations that fall on municipal budgets, including infrastructure improvements, public health services, natural systems protections, and more.
Senator Brown started the hearing with a powerful statement: “Climate change is here. The country knows it. Ask mayors, ask school superintendents, ask county commissioners about the increasing costs they deal with already because of climate change—costs we know will only get worse—and we know who will be forced to pay for these costs. It’s not the oil companies making record profits… it’s the local taxpayers. The likely impact of climate change could cost people in my state $6 billion a year.”
You can view the hearing online and read our joint press release with Power a Clean Future Ohio.
CLIMATE POLICY AT THE STATE LEVEL:
A Return to Business in the Capitol
State legislators returned to Columbus to kick-off another “Lame Duck” session for the remainder of the year. Activity might pick back up again in mid-November. Some of the bills the OEC Action Fund will advocate for and play defense against include:
SB 320 Voter ID Requirements - Senator Gavarone / HB 650 Voter ID Requirements - Representatives Wiggam & Young
HB 385 National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Prohibition in Western Lake Erie Basin - Representative Cross
HB 685 Pipeline Tax Incentives - Representatives Jon Cross and Jay Edwards
SJR 2 Water Bond - Senators Gavarone and Yuko
SB 313 To Revise Coastal Management at ODNR - Senators Gavarone and Manning
HB 317 PUCO reform/ratemaking - Representative Wilkin
HB 389 Energy Efficiency Programs - Representatives Seitz and Leland
HB 450 Community Solar - Representative Baldridge
HB 596 Electronic Voting for Overseas Veterans - Representatives A. Miller and Hicks-Hudson
HB 641 Permanent Absent Voter List - Representative Skindell
Any items that aren’t signed into law this year will have to start the process over again next year as the 135th General Assembly will officially begin with any new or returning state legislators.
A BIG Win for Wind Energy
North America's first freshwater offshore wind farm was cleared to move forward after the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 6-1 decision, approved a permit for the Icebreaker Wind Project in August! For more than 10 years, the Ohio Environmental Council carefully studied, strongly supported, and, ultimately, fiercely defended the Icebreaker Wind project as it faced significant opposition from fossil fuel interests. This project is an exciting six-turbine wind energy demonstration project in Lake Erie that will be a strong win for our environment and our economy—helping us combat air pollution and climate change while also creating more than 500 jobs and injecting $253 million into the local economy.
The Ohio Supreme Court decision is a huge victory for Ohioans who deserve bold action on climate change and a healthier environment. Learn more about the decision and our 10 years of advocacy with our interactive timeline.
Long-Term H2Ohio Planning
Over the last several months, our team met with environmental and industry partners to map out a course to secure long-term public funding for H2Ohio, the state’s well-rounded, science-based water quality improvement program. While public support from the Governor likely won’t occur until after his general election is over, this informal coalition is looking to approve a state constitutional amendment to trigger the acquisition of bonds to fund the program. Stable funding would ensure the program could continue the work already being done for a 10-year period, rather than two years at a time as it is currently funded. H2Ohio needs to finalize an advocacy strategy in the coming weeks as well as key details for this proposal, and develop public polling to assess the support of voters. More action will likely occur later in the next month and a half during the “Lame Duck” session.
Congressional Redistricting Fight Continues
Unfortunately, members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission blocked voter-supported fair maps reform for the 2022 election, forcing Ohioans to vote in primaries on May 3 and the general election on November 8 under an unconstitutional congressional district plan. Still, the fight continues. Partners filed appeals of the second gerrymandered congressional plan in March, and the OEC filed an amicus brief in support of that appeal on May 5, 2022 as well as a reply amicus brief.
In July, the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the second congressional map, once again striking a victory for redistricting advocates. On October 14, Ohio’s top Republican lawmakers announced they are appealing the ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that renders the state’s congressional map unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. We continue to monitor this case and do our part in the fight for fair maps.
CLIMATE POLICY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL:
2023 Green Cincinnati Plan Progress
The Green Cincinnati Plan (GCP) effort has helped establish Cincinnati as a national leader in sustainability. The Plan has been updated every five years since 2008, largely through a community engagement process. The 2023 plan will establish aggressive carbon neutrality goals by 2050, with a near-term 50% reduction by 2030.
From August to October, community members participated in Focus Area meetings to provide insight and feedback on the next iteration of the Plan. Now efforts will enter a time of assessment, analysis, and review by other key stakeholders before the finalized Plan resurfaces for Council approval in early spring 2023. You can continue to keep track of the Plan progress by visiting the Green Cincinnati Plan CitizenLab website.
City of Cincinnati Updates
$3.5M for Parks:
$1.5M for stream stabilization efforts in California Woods
$1M for renovation in the lower portion of Inwood Park
$1M for erosion stabilization efforts in Smale Riverfront Park
$3M for neighborhood pedestrian improvement projects
$2.3M for Parks and Recreation projects, including improvements to Bold Face Park and MLK Jr. Park
The City applied for a U.S. EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant Program grant. If received, the funds will be used to provide resources for brownfield inventories, environmental assessments, community engagement plans, and other similar work in the environmentally vulnerable neighborhoods along the Lower Mill Creek Industrial Corridor.
The Bill is Coming Due for Cincinnati
In September, OEC’s Managing Director of Energy Policy Nolan Rutschilling joined Southwest Ohio Regional Director Kylie Johnson in Cincinnati to present at the Cincinnati Climate, Environment & Infrastructure (CEI) Committee meeting. Nolan’s presentation outlined the OEC’s latest report with Power a Clean Future Ohio and Scioto Analysis that breaks down the financial costs of climate change for Ohio municipalities. Nolan highlighted specific costs coming due for Cincinnati with the intent of providing local leaders with the information needed to take bold climate action. Councilmember Meeka Owens, Chair of the CEI Committee, has been a strong champion of the report. At the July statewide press briefing, she joined Youngstown City Councilmember Lauren McNally and Toledo City Councilmember Nick Komives to discuss the report’s significance. To watch Nolan’s testimony at the CEI Committee, visit CitiCable.
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, and be on the lookout for a full 134th General Assembly scorecard update in early 2023! Please also be sure to follow our sibling organization, the Ohio Environmental Council, for additional educational opportunities. Sign up for our Southwest Ohio newsletter or follow the OEC’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram pages for regular updates.