Ohio's lawmakers should stand up to the Koch Brothers, and stand with Ohioans on climate action

This week, Americans for Prosperity, a front group financed by the billionaire, oil-magnate Koch brothers penned an alarmist piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer urging Ohio's lawmakers to "pass legislation to protect taxpayers." Believe it or not, we completely agree--Ohioans do need more legislation that protects taxpayers, starting with a repeal of the ill-conceived decision to freeze the state's clean energy standards in SB 310.

Where we do not agree, though, is their claim that unfettered carbon pollution would actually be good for Ohio.

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Americans for Prosperity follow the big polluter playbook to a tee and if they win, we all lose. Ohioans lose job opportunities, their health and a clean community to work and raise a family. These Koch-brother polluter groups and their allies continually get away with half-truths and outright lies--and now they are at it again.

The Clean Power Plan--our nation's first ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants--is not a partisan issue--it's a human issue. That's why we stand with more than 50,000 people of the Buckeye State who want action on climate change. Ohio can significantly cut harmful carbon emissions and address the impacts of climate change, while also helping Ohioans save money on their electric bills through investments in clean energy that create thousands of new jobs across the state.

In fact, Ohio was already on a path to success with Senate Bill (SB) 221, its wildly effective energy efficiency and renewable energy standards that have saved Ohioans more than $1 billion on their utility bills since the law was enacted five years ago. Unfortunately, the passage of SB 310 last spring froze the clean energy standards, rolled back progress and robbed Ohioans of good-paying jobs and a healthier future for their children.

Setting aside Americans for Prosperity's rhetoric, here is what the Clean Power Plan does:

  • It's a cost effective way to cut carbon, save money and jumpstart the economy. Reducing power plant carbon pollution could create a conservative 12,000 new jobs in Ohio--largely through investments in energy efficiency--and put money back in customers' pockets that they would have otherwise spent on their utility bills.
  • Cleaner air and water mean healthier children and families. The biggest source of pollution driving climate change comes from power plants--emitting 40 percent of our nation's carbon pollution. Dirty, polluted air worsens asthma in children, and leaves people coughing and missing work. Unfortunately, Ohio's power sector currently emits the nation's 4th largest carbon pollution plume, with four cities in Ohio ranking amongst the 20 most polluted in the country.
  • Climate change is real and its effects are dangerous. According to polls, 65 percent of Americans say climate change is a serious problem. Last year was the hottest year on record in the continental United States--3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-Century average. And the cost of inaction is simply too great--in 2012 Ohioans paid $4.2 billion in federal taxes to clean up after climate change-fueled extreme weather.

Ohioans demonstrated in a 2013 poll conducted by Yale researchers that they want policymakers at both the federal and state levels to take actions to address climate change. This desire is bolstered by a 2014 poll released by Ohio Advanced Energy Economy that Ohioans want more energy efficiency and renewables on the grid -- and they support state-level standards to make that happen.

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But misrepresenting the desires of Ohioans and the benefits of addressing climate change--and using clean energy to get there--is not the only thing that Americans for Prosperity got wrong.

The group also misrepresents basic facts about the Clean Power Plan.

While there are too many inaccuracies to address in one blog post, the most glaring error is the tired claim that addressing carbon pollution will somehow be costly for Ohio and will impact reliability. But this fear-mongering has been debunked, most recently by the Organization of PJM States (PJM)--the electricity grid operator whose very job it is to ensure that the lights stay on across 12 states, including in Ohio. PJM found that the region can cut carbon at zero additional cost to consumers if it focuses on renewables and energy efficiency. This is bolstered by another PJM assessment from 2014 concluding that the grid of which Ohio is a part could support 30% wind and solar energy and see drastic reductions in pollution and costs--all without impacts on reliability.

Further, all the states--including Ohio--were given complete flexibility to cut carbon over the next decade and a half in ways that fit each state's needs. That means Ohio is in the driver's seat, and the state has the chance to turn the risks associated with climate change into opportunity--a boon for the state's clean energy economy, protection of public health, and cleaner air and water.

Of course, Americans for Prosperity ignores this fact, and instead attempts to fuel conspiracy theory fires by claiming that the carbon pollution standards signal a federal takeover of Ohio's electric grid. But--again--this is simply not how the Clean Power Plan works.

All of this begs the question of whether the Koch-founded and Koch-funded group has even read the carbon standards that it is now so intent on undermining.

More importantly, it begs the question of how "standing up to EPA" (as the title of their piece suggests) is even remotely beneficial for taxpayers. If Americans for Prosperity really wanted to protect taxpayers, they would be standing up with Ohioans--and with EPA--to support the Clean Power Plan.

Otherwise, it's clear their agenda is focused on protecting the pocketbooks of the Koch brothers at the expense of taxpayers.

They're at it again, and we'll keep working to set the record straight.

About the Authors

Samantha Williams

Director, Midwest Region, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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