State Representative Mike Dovilla (R-Berea), chairman of the Ohio House Committee on Policy and Legislative Oversight, this week convened a field hearing on ensuring affordable, reliable electricity for all Ohioans. Following the hearing, Chairman Dovilla released the following statement and key findings of the committee:
“Our committee extended an open invitation to Ohio’s electricity generators, electricity consumers, municipal officials, trade unions, environmental groups, and trade associations. We are grateful that many Ohioans from across the political spectrum answered our call and provided an in-depth conversation on the effects of shutting down coal-fired power generation.
“Witnesses from organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Ohio University Coal Research Center, and Industrial Energy Issues – Ohio described how federal environmental policies are placing utilities and electric cooperatives in Ohio in an increasingly difficult position trying to balance their pollution reduction programs with the need to meet ever-increasing electricity demands from Ohio families and businesses.
“The potential loss of Belmont County’s largest employer, Murray Energy Corporation, coupled with projected job losses across our state, electricity rate increases for hardworking Ohioans, and the lack of a cohesive state energy policy which addresses the affordability and reliability of electricity for Ohioans is simply unacceptable. Our committee will reconvene hearings on this topic in October. And, we will continue to have an open conversation with all Ohioans dedicated to developing a commonsense, long term energy policy for our state that will help electricity providers meet their obligations to federal regulators and keep the lights on at home.”
Key points from testimony included the following:
• According to Dave Bayless, Director of the Ohio University Coal Research Center, as utilities begin transitioning from coal to natural gas, natural gas prices will significantly increase, increasing the costs of not only electricity but also home heating for Ohio families;
• Portions of Ohioans’ electricity bills may increase as much as 300 percent;
• Eastern Ohio will lose 1,600 mining jobs in nine months and up to 19,000 associated jobs in various industries due to governmental delays in the permitting process for more than five years;
• The closure of just two power plants by October of 2013 will result in the loss of roughly 380 jobs;
• Gary Woodward, the Morgan County Auditor, testified the effect of plant closings on the budgets of counties, municipalities, and school districts will be devastating, with Morgan County losing $2,000,000 of revenue with the closure of A.E.P. Units 1 through 4;
• Townships have sustained a revenue loss of 53 percent of their general revenue funds due to the closure of coal-fired power plants;
• Energy Industries of Ohio submitted written testimony which described how Ohio will lose its competitive advantage in the traditional and advanced manufacturing sectors which have been helping lead Ohio’s economic recovery;
• Since 1970, utilities have invested close to $100 billion in clean coal technologies and are expected to invest an additional $100 billion to reduce mercury and other pollutants;
• According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ohio’s coal-fired power plants have reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides by 76 percent and direct particulate matter emissions by 61 percent since 1999, the largest reduction in all major source categories in the state; and
• Witnesses suggested the Ohio General Assembly can impact this important issue by evaluating state policies regarding the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Coal Development Office, the development of energy engineers, and Ohio’s energy portfolio requirements, among others actions.