Kathy Wyenandt: Opinion contributor
What’s most disturbing about Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest in a $60 million bribery scheme victimizing Ohioans, is the pattern of behavior the U.S. Attorney’s office and FBI tracked regarding the passage of House Bill 6, the nuclear energy bailout bill. While the scheme unfolded in public, in plain sight, there was no check and balance in our political system able to stop passage of this bad law.
Media reported assiduously on events from 2016, when Householder returned to state government, was selected speaker and pushed for House Bill 6’s passage. While many questioned the bailout, opposing lawmakers were either powerless to stop the legislation or held their noses and approved it in order to keep campaign funding checks flowing and save nuclear industry jobs.
Meanwhile, Ohio citizens lost with the passage of the bill. This is not a victimless crime. It’s a crime against all Ohioans who struggle to work and keep their jobs. It’s a crime against all Ohioans who trust their leaders to be ethical, innovative and creative thinkers and solve the problems so many of us face, especially now during the coronavirus. Ohio needs good jobs that can support a family, good education, affordable health care and mental health care.
House Bill 6 requires Ohio residential taxpayers to pay a monthly tax on their utility bills to support two aging nuclear power plants and two coal-fired plants, one located in Indiana. While an 85-cent tax may seem like a small amount to supply Ohio voters’ energy needs, it will generate about $1 billion by 2026 to support Harbor Energy Corp., the company spawned by FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy last year.
That’s almost half the estimated cost to replace the Brent Spence Bridge.
If “Company A,” the company named in the affidavit, had been a small business, it would have been forced to compete in order to survive. Any ethical business faced with the same problems of aging technology and a polluting end product would have innovated and invested its way out of dirty energy solutions and shifted to cheaper, green solutions like solar and wind. Instead, Company A may have bribed, cheated and stolen from hardworking Ohioans in order to make money for its investors and establish a short-term revenue stream for its successor.Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.
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I question House Bill 6’s practicality as well as ethics. Why should Ohio, which has lost 320,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000, NOT want to become a leader in manufacturing the green energy solutions of the future? Isn’t that what state agencies like JobsOhio are supposed to do – create good, sustainable jobs for Ohioans so we can lead happy, healthy lives and feed our families? The rest of the world is going green and fossil fuel-based energy is being phased out. Yet on top of bad laws like the nuclear energy bailout, the Ohio Power Siting Board recently ruled that Icebreaker Wind on Lake Erie, the first freshwater offshore wind farm in North America, cannot operate at night for much of the year. This decision may effectively kill the project.
Ohioans can vote their anger this fall about pay-to-play statehouse politics and its culture of corruption. What we glimpsed last week is the 21st century version of those old-fashioned political cartoons we used to laugh at in our high school history books – greedy, cigar-smoking corporate heads and politicians making backroom deals that enrich themselves at the public’s expense. The people of Ohio deserve leaders who are ethical, honest and transparent, leaders who will fight for everyday Ohioans, not industry and self-interests.
Kathy Wyenandt is running for Ohio state senator in District 4, Butler County. To read about her stances on other important Ohio issues, visit www.kathyforohio.com.