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Environmental advocates say SCOTUS ruling on EPA hinders Ohio’s climate change fight

Kyger Creek Power Plant in Cheshire, Ohio on September 5, 2019.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Kyger Creek Power Plant in Cheshire, Ohio on September 5, 2019.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling that stops the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from enacting rules across the country to reduce carbon emissions.

The 6-3 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court saidthe EPA did not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to issue regulations for each state to cut down on power plant emissions.

Trish Demeter, Ohio Environmental Council interim executive director, said this decision ultimately harms the health and well-being of Ohioans. She said policymakers need to help in the fight against climate change to reduce air pollution and prevent extreme weather, such as the storms and heat wave that knocked out power for nearly 250,000 people in June.

“We are turning a blind eye to those impacts. We are hobbling and taking tools out of our toolbox to fight that and to have any hope of reducing carbon pollution to try to slow the pace of climate change,” said Demeter.

Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) has been a major player in state policymaking when it comes to energy issues. He said the U.S. Supreme Court decision is not about whether greenhouse gases should be regulated or not.

“That's irrelevant to the decision of the court. What the court is simply saying is Congress needs to provide a clearer direction to the administrative agency before the administrative agency can come up with such a sweeping rule,” Seitz said.

He noted that coal plants have been retiring and carbon emissions have been decreasing even without the EPA’s rules in place.

“Which suggests that markets ultimately do work in a responsible way and the folks that are running around like Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling are plainly incorrect. Because even absent the Obama Clean Power Plan, significant strides were made throughout the United States in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Seitz.

Demeter said climate change needs to be addressed at every level of government, and the court’s decision hinders that all-in approach.

“It doesn't take away what the states can do. It doesn't take away what locals can do. However, everyone's got to be working together on all cylinders in order to keep pace with the climate crisis” Demeter said.

On the state level, Ohio implemented renewable energy and energy efficiency standards in 2008. These were requirements for utilities to invest in alternative energy which would ultimately increase the amount of renewable sources on the energy grid and reduce energy demand.

In 2019, the state legislature passed HB6, a sweeping energy bill that granted a $1 billion bailout for Ohio’s nuclear power plants and guaranteed subsidies for coal plants. That bill also rolled back the state’s renewable energy standards and eliminated the energy efficiency standards.

HB6 is now at the heart of a $61 million bribery scheme where former House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican, is accused of taking money from FirstEnergy for political and personal gain in exchange for passing that legislation. FirstEnergy has admitted to the scheme in federal court. Householder has pleaded not guilty and awaits a trial set to begin January 2023.

While the nuclear subsidies have been repealed, the subsidies for coal and the changes to Ohio’s alternative energy policies remain in place.

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