By Tracy Sabetta
Initiative Consulting
tsabetta@initiativeohio.com

COLUMBUS – Concerned Ohioans from around the state kicked off the first in a series of three virtual hearings to be held in support of repealing House Bill 6, the nuclear and coal plant bailout legislation at the center of an alleged $61 million bribery scandal.

Since public participation at the Statehouse has yet to be invited, this series of hearings was designed to offer the opportunity for members of the public and other stakeholders who were shut out of the committee hearings to express their perspectives on the need to repeal House Bill 6 immediately. View a recording of the live testimony offered today at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvkzW1TcO0c&feature=youtu.be.

On the heels of the announcement by the Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight that they would not meet until further notice to consider a repeal of House Bill 6, stakeholders instead convened a series of virtual public hearings to ensure the voices of Ohio citizens are heard. Lawmakers were invited to attend the event to listen to their constituents’ remarks; however, no members of the House Select Committee chose to participate in today’s event.

Witnesses included members of the public concerned about clean energy and cleaning up corruption, and those closely involved with the effort to place a referendum on House Bill 6 on the November ballot.

“House Bill 6 bailed out a failed corporation with the hard-earned tax dollars of Ohioans - something the GOP, my own party, claims to stand against. It also stripped our state of meaningful environmental regulations and puts the health and safety of countless men, women and children at risk,” said Tyler Fehrman, formerly with the referendum campaign to repeal House Bill 6 and involved with the FBI investigation into the bribery scandal. “This was irresponsible policy when it was proposed, before we knew about it being part of the largest corruption scandal in Ohio's history. And, now that we know, it is not only irresponsible, horribly written policy but it is also a disgusting attempt by lobbyists, political operatives and elected officials to set themselves above the law and get away with crimes that have detrimental effects on the people of our state."

Others testifying today included public health professionals, representatives of the faith community, and concerned citizens from across the state.

“Our children are watching. We are teaching them that bribery and corruption win the day. You have had months to restore our faith and confidence in your leadership, and instead you are showing them what a lack of integrity looks like,” said Michele Timmons of Reynoldsburg, the mother of an asthmatic son and volunteer with Moms Clean Air Force in Ohio. “Ohio legislators have a choice to make. Reward corrupt and failed energy sources of the past or create good jobs and protect clean air for our children into the future. We urge you to choose wisely. Please repeal House Bill 6 now.”

It has been three months to the day since the news broke of the alleged bribery scandal spearheaded by former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder surrounding House Bill 6.

Even before the scandal became front-page news, House Bill 6 was widely opposed by Ohioans because it bails out nuclear and coal plants at a cost of over $1 billion to Ohio consumers, puts 114,000 clean energy jobs at risk, and strips away clean energy programs that have protected Ohioans’ health during this pandemic.

“If we are serious about improving child health – birth outcomes, school readiness, reducing chronic disease burden – we need to get serious about clean energy and clear air,” said Dr. Aparna Bole of University Hospital Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, speaking on behalf of Ohio Clinicians for Climate Action. “House Bill 6 is bad for health and was corruptly passed.”

As co-founder of Black Environmental Leaders, an association of community leaders, entrepreneurs, representatives of national and local non-profit environmental groups and governmental organizations, Jacquelin Gillon also testified during today’s hearing.

“Today, we have an opportunity in our grasp, a chance to work toward a sustainable future built on mutual trust, respect and community building,” said Gillon. “Now, we can address systemic racial and environmental injustices that are all connected together.”

Virtual hearings have become more popular during the current health crisis, yet members of the Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight have made the willful decision not to utilize this option to engage in public discussion around this critical issue that touches all Ohioans.

“Over 53,000 pro-life Ohioans have called for 100% clean energy. We must repeal House Bill 6 and replace it with pro-jobs, pro-growth, and pro-life legislation,” said Rev. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, National Organizer and Spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, speaking today on behalf of Evangelical Environmental Network.”

Additional hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 27 and Thursday, Oct. 29, both running from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Co-hosts for the series of hearings include: Alliance for Climate Education, Audubon – Great Lakes, Black Environmental Leaders, Clean Fuels Ohio, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Evangelical Environmental Network, Green Energy Ohio, Moms Clean Air Force, Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, Sierra Club, and Solar United Neighbors.