Ohioans Tell the Governor and US EPA that They Want Climate Action - NOW

There have been a slew of big energy stories coming out of Ohio in recent months. Most of them not so great:

  • … Attorney General DeWine suing to halt efforts to regulate carbon pollution from our nation’s power fleet.
  • … a freeze on the state’s otherwise successful energy efficiency and renewable policies.
  • … the dubious start to the legislative committee convened to “review” these policies—policies that have to date spurred more than $1 billion in energy bill savings for Ohioans and are supporting a fast-growing economy.

But a close look at the public comments coming out of Ohio to US EPA on the Clean Power Plan (the first-ever rules to cut carbon from power plants) tells a different story.

Ohioans want the state to take climate action.  

And they support US EPA’s important new policy. This support can be traced to a myriad climate impacts being felt in Ohio right now. Maybe it is the stunning climate-related algae blooms in Lake Erie that robbed Toledo of drinking water this summer. Or, the study released this week noting that climate change will force the iconic buckeye (and OSU mascot) out of Ohio and into neighboring Michigan.

…or, maybe some of the leaders in Ohio are just out of touch with the public on this issue.

Whatever the reason, at last count, nearly 50,000 Ohioans have weighed-in to support the Clean Power Plan and its goal that the state cut carbon emissions 28% by 2030, including influential elected officials, business owners and community leaders.

A few highlights from among the commenters include the following:

  • A coalition of state legislators from across the country, including Ohio, submitted a letter which applauds:

“…the Environmental Protection Agency for taking action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change from existing power plants...We stand ready to assist your efforts to reduce carbon dioxide pollution to protect our families, communities and nation.”

Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) said in a press event announcing his and other Ohio lawmakers’ support of the Clean Power Plan that it is “vitally important” that the U.S. lead on developing clean forms of energy to reduce the effects of climate change. He indicated that Ohio – as the nation’s 4th largest emitter of carbon from the power sector – “has a special duty” to reduce emissions.

  • Ohio clean energy businesses also support cutting carbon through US EPA’s proposed rules. For example, Dovetail Wind and Solar, which has offices in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Athens, wrote that:

“[l]imiting carbon pollution is an essential step towards spurring innovation and job creation. This yields investments in low carbon technologies, energy efficiency and new energy infrastructure.”

The letter also noted the Clean Power Plan’s role in supporting Ohio’s emerging clean energy economy, stating that:

“[i]f Ohio proposes a strong plan it would provide the clear market signals that businesses like mine, entrepreneurs and investors are looking for to further invest in the state and position Ohio as a regional leader on clean energy.”

  • A group of solar companies from across the nation, including more than a dozen headquartered in Ohio, signed onto a letter “welcoming” the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. These companies underscored the tremendous potential of solar energy in cutting carbon, noting that:

“The EPA’s plan comes at a time when the fight against climate change absolutely requires bold and ambitious goals. We believe that your proposed plan is a good stepping-stone, and can be strengthened by maximizing the potential for solar energy. We are eager to work closely with local stakeholders to achieve the biggest carbon reductions possible.”

  • Local health officials, such as the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, support the draft plan, calling on US EPA to set the strongest possible carbon pollution standards to “… improve the quality of our air, protect public health and help move our country toward cleaner energy technologies that won't make people sick.”
  • The Mayor of Cleveland has also weighed in supporting the rules and the role of clean energy in Ohio.

And all across the state, there were nearly 50,000 citizen comments in favor of regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants, collected by NRDC, Ohio Citizen Action, Environment Ohio, Sierra Club, Environmental Evangelical Network, National Wildlife Federation, League of Conservation Voters, EarthJustice, Save Our Environment, League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, among others. That’s in addition to a larger group of nearly 300,000 Ohio residents voicing their support for policies that cut carbon and spur climate action across the state.

This show of support is consistent with recent polling data showing that Ohioans support clean energy investment over dirty fossil fuels by a wide margin. Specifically, a poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication reveals that a majority of Ohioans want policies that do more—not less—to address climate change. According to this same poll, a majority also want to require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable resources.

Clean Energy is the Key to Cutting Carbon

This show of support for clean energy as valuable tools to cut carbon is bolstered by analyses done by NRDC and elsewhere showing that the carbon pollution target set for Ohio is achievable through energy efficiency and renewables. These resources should be the linchpins of Ohio’s climate action strategy.

What’s Next?

The next six months are a key time for Ohio’s decision-makers are they decide which path to take—one that embraces policies that propel the state toward a clean energy future, or one that turns a blind eye on that future and the climate action that Ohioans are calling for.

And there are several milestones along the way, including:

  • The SB 310 study committee, in which we hope that Ohio’s lawmakers re-open the toolbox that they slammed shut when they passed the clean energy freeze and opt to reinstate efficiency and renewable energy—the biggest tools Ohio has to cost-effectively cut carbon.
  • A series of regional forums across the state—dubbed Ohio’s Energy Future Tour—that will serve as a platform for Ohioans to ask the study committee and lawmakers to prioritize clean energy as essential to creating jobs, developing local communities, saving Ohioans money on their energy bills, and protecting human health and the environment. The first stop on the tour is on December 15 in Cleveland, with stops this winter and spring in Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and other cities.
  • The third is US EPA’s finalization of the carbon rules by June of 2015, after which each state—including Ohio—will be charged with developing a compliance plan.

NRDC looks forward to working with Ohio’s regulators, legislative leaders and all interested stakeholders to develop a plan to build an innovative, diverse, and clean electricity system that costs less, delivers reliable power and creates tens of thousands of good paying jobs.