OPINION: Ohio needs energy and environmental policies that serve Ohioans, not industry

Ohio legislators support construction of an Appalachian Petrochemical Hub along the Ohio River that endangers air and water quality and increases plastic in our environment.

The project’s an ecological nightmare: now it looks like a boondoggle, too.

Ohio’s private economic development organization JobsOhio already spent $70 million on a Monaca, Pa., “cracker” plant and a second plant planned for Belmont County, Ohio.

Ohio economists, engineers, public policy analysts and former policymakers have warned Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia governors they risk “squandering” hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars if they move forward with the hub.

Plastic prices have fallen by half over the past five years, from $1 to 40 to 60 cents per pound. There’s also a global oversupply of ethane-ethylene plants, reports the Columbus Dispatch.

Why, when Ohioans are increasingly concerned about plastic pollution and the environment, was the chemical hub considered a viable project in the first place?

Energy and environmental policy decisions and laws supported by Ohio’s majority party legislators lack vision at best; they subsidize a troubled industry in exchange for re-election campaign dollars at worst.

House Bill 6, a new energy law and $1 billion tax, supports a statewide fossil fuel-based energy policy. It simultaneously locks out sustainable energy projects in Ohio while the rest of the world goes green. We pay the tax in our utility bills to the tune of $150 million annually until 2026.

I recognize the law put all legislators in a tough spot; they voted yes to preserve energy jobs. But millions of jobs would be created through green energy solutions like wind and solar, which will power industry, manufacturing and the cities and towns of the future.

Instead, Ohio subsidizes two aging nuclear power plants owned by Harbor Energy Corp. (its parent was now-bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions) and two 1950s-era, coal-fired plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp.

A third, head-scratching environmental issue in state legislature now is a proposed law stopping Ohio communities from banning (or taxing) plastic bags.

My opponent, George Lang, co-sponsors it.

Curious turnaround from a man who supported limited government and home rule as a West Chester Township trustee.

Banning potential plastic litter seems like an easy way to improve our communities. Why, when local bag ordinances are legal in at least 22 other states, does Ohio need to get involved?

Lang’s sponsorship defies common sense­­­­-- unless you follow the money.

Lang received donations totaling $203,851.57 during the first two months of 2020, according to state campaign disclosure reports. His Republican primary opponents raised $6,300 and $12,135, reports the Journal-News.

Corporate donors who contributed $2,000 or more to Lang include:  FirstEnergy Solutions; Duke Energy; Energy Leaders PAC; and Global Retail.

Ohio majority party legislators today support the Appalachian Petrochemical Hub; the fossil fuel energy bailout; and “plastic bag ban-ban” that kowtow to the fossil fuel industry when they should serve the people of Ohio.

We need leaders who are honest, transparent and unafraid to embrace common-sense energy solutions for Ohioans, not industry.

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.