Ohio

The Plain Dealer: Energy Efficiency was Projected to Cut Electric Consumption, Power Companies told the State

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio’s electric companies were on course to help their customers cut overall power use by as much as 33 percent in coming years before lawmakers froze state energy efficiency mandates.

Filed and forgotten at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the analyses and projections were drawn up by FirstEnergy, AEP Ohio, Duke Energy and Dayton Power & Light.

The 33 percent savings figure was based on the assumption that costs would not stand in the way of higher efficiency. But a more conservative estimate, looking only at solutions deemed to be cost effective, still put potential savings at 24 percent.

Despite those internal estimates of cost-effective savings, the industry lobbied against the efficiency mandates for years. Last year year, lawmakers led by Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, froze the program; Seitz said it was supported by “enviro-socialists.”

Now, a nationally recognized group that advocates energy efficiency has taken another look at the utility reports in the PUCO’s files.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE, Wednesday issued its own report, a white paper making the case for a return of the state standards, based on those utility projections.

The four companies were asked to figure out how much power their efficiency programs could help customers save over 10 to 20 years.

Each utility projected the savings in at least two ways — maximum achievable, without consideration of the cost of the programs, and what could be achieved with “cost effective” programs, meaning the savings in using less electricity would be greater than the costs of the programs.

The reports were available to the public and mentioned at times by efficiency advocates in testimony to state lawmakers who wanted to kill the efficiency programs. The utilities never testified.

But lawmakers either ignored or dismissed references to the utility studies during the months of hearings before approving S.B. 310, the legislation that has frozen Ohio’s efficiency mandates for two years.

While the new analysis is the work of analysts employed by the ACEEE, which is a non-profit, funding for the report came in part from the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Natural Resources Defense Council, two groups that argued for keeping the mandates. Both opposed the freeze.

The ACEEE paper concludes “there is huge potential in Ohio to save families and businesses money on their utility bills through energy saving programs.”

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Press Release: New Analysis Shows Big Savings for Ohio with Energy Efficiency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 26, 2015

Analysis: Significant Energy Efficiency Savings Available to Ohioans for Years to Come

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new analysis finds huge potential in Ohio to save families and businesses money on their utility bills through energy saving programs. This study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which examines reports from Ohio utilities as well as industry-standard programs that Ohio has yet to take into account, concludes the state has significant, cost-effective, and untapped energy efficiency potential just waiting to be utilized.

Ohio’s four major electric utilities-AEP, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy-are seeking ways to reduce their energy consumption 22.2% by 2027. These utilities have been running wildly successful energy efficiency programs for homes and businesses since at least 2010, saving Ohioans over $1 billion on their energy bills and delivering customers a 2:1 return on their investment. ACEEE concludes Ohio’s utilities will be able to continue to meet these energy efficiency goals through cost-effective programs that provide tremendous benefits for customers.

Beyond the significant untapped savings Ohio’s utilities could be capturing, the ACEEE report finds that the state has not even scratched the surface of the benefits available to Ohioans over the long term. These include currently available and cost-effective programs like LED lighting, multi-family housing retrofits, combined heat and power projects, and low-interest financing opportunities.

The report also finds increased potential for emerging technologies-potential that Ohio has yet to capture. Technologies such as smart thermostats and advanced clothes dryers can give customers more choice on how they use energy and help save money. With the clean energy industry evolving at a rapid pace, innovation in energy efficiency has also come faster than expected, in some cases with rapidly falling prices. For example, the price of LED lighting has decreased over 85% in the last five years.

“Innovation in energy-efficient products and services creates enormous opportunities for cost-effective energy savings, and helps customers make smarter choices about how they use energy,” said Maggie Molina, utilities, state, and local policy director at ACEEE. “Thankfully for Ohio, utilities recognize some of the opportunities to capture these emerging technologies and will be able to help their customers save money over the coming years.”

Molina continued, “Our report finds even more ground can be covered at low cost in areas where Ohio could see benefits immediately, like multifamily housing and LEDs, and in technologies such as ‘smart’ thermostats that are just now emerging.”

When utilities run better and more innovative programs that target a wide range of consumers, they add to Ohio’s growing clean energy economy. For example, AEP estimated that its energy efficiency programs will create 4,000 jobs over the next few years. And that’s just one of four major utilities that run programs in the state.

Energy efficiency companies in Ohio see this potential first hand.

According to Greg Smith, President and CEO of Energy Optimizers, USA in Tipp City, Ohio, which retrofits schools and other government buildings across the state, “We’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg in Ohio with how much we can improve the efficiency of homes and businesses, along with commercial and industrial facilities. In the last few years, my business has taken off as we continue to rapidly expand our team. We’ve grown from a true start-up to a $14,000,000 a year company. We have smart people from right here in Ohio who we want to put to work immediately. It’s that simple-we just need the right ingredients and investments to make it happen.”

Unfortunately, the future of these programs is in jeopardy.

Just as energy efficiency and renewable policies were taking off following the 2008 enactment of SB 221<http://archives.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=127_SB_221>, Ohio passed SB 310<http://archives.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_SB_310>, which froze these policies at their 2014 levels and pushed back the deadline to meet the 22.2% energy efficiency target by two years. A committee was established to examine the clean energy policies and determine their fate, which remains uncertain.

“Across Ohio, residential, business, and industrial customers are saving money because of utility energy efficiency programs,” said Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “As technologies advance, these opportunities are growing, but achieving this potential will require strong programs that are available to all utility customers. Continuing these programs will position Ohio as a leader in the clean energy sector, providing lower customer bills, creating sustainable jobs, and cutting pollution.”

The committee is set to release a report in September and may make recommendations on the future of Ohio’s energy landscape, including whether these cost-saving programs will continue to exist.

According to Samantha Williams, energy policy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Energy efficiency efforts in Ohio still have plenty of fruit to bear. Luckily Ohioans are still craving ways to save money by lowering their energy use, which brings all kinds of benefits like cleaner air and more jobs to the state. This report adds to the mounting evidence, and hopefully the committee will come to the same conclusion ACEEE did-that these programs are integral to low-cost power and will continue to reap benefits for Ohioans today and tomorrow.”

A link to the full ACEEE report can be found here: http://aceee.org/white-paper/ohio-potential

 

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Midwest Energy News: Agency considers further delay on Ohio River mercury rule

A 12-year extension allowing power plants and other industrial polluters to exceed mercury standards as wastewater enters the Ohio River could be stretched out even further, if a proposal before an interstate regulatory board is approved.

The question before the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) is whether dischargers should continue to be allowed to use “mixing zones” for high levels of mercury that will be diluted downstream to levels meeting the standards.

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Press Release: Environmental Law & Policy Center Commends President Obama, U.S. EPA on Final Clean Power Plan

For Immediate Release

August 3, 2015

Environmental Law & Policy Center Commends
President Obama, U.S. EPA on Final Clean Power Plan;
Will Partner With Regional Leaders for Smart Implementation

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

“The Clean Power Plan is our nation’s strongest step forward to reduce carbon pollution by accelerating clean solar energy and wind power solutions. Solving our climate change problems is the moral, economic, policy and political challenge of our generation. The Plan’s clean energy development solutions will create Midwest jobs, improve global public health and protect our Great Lakes ecosystem.”

“The Clean Power Plan gives states flexibility for implementation strategies that maximize the benefits of both cutting carbon pollution and growing the clean energy economy. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s experts on the ground will work with the Midwest’s local stakeholders on plans that will deploy clean technologies to hold down utility bills, create jobs and improve environmental quality.”

“For Midwest manufacturing centers, today’s news is a signal to advance the clean renewable energy and energy efficiency supply chain businesses producing modern equipment. For the Midwest’s rural areas, today’s news is a signal that wind power development will keep growing and provide a new income stream for farmers, spur rural economic development and improve the environment for everyone. For cities like Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Detroit, Indianapolis and Minneapolis, today’s news means a new era of solar panels on rooftops and more energy efficiency buildings that can better energize our urban communities.

“It’s time for the Midwest’s Congressional Delegation and Governors to step up and seize this opportunity to modernize our aging energy system and gain the benefits of growing the new clean energy economy. Let’s end the political squabbling and move forward with smart climate change solutions that are good for many Midwestern businesses and good for our environment.”

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Courthouse News Service: Thirty-one States Fight Clean Water Rule

(CN) – Attorneys general from 31 states asked the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to delay implementation of a Clean Water Act rule for at least 9 nine months for judicial review.
The rule defines “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The states claim it asserts federal jurisdiction over streams, wetlands and other water bodies previously considered to be under state jurisdiction.
The EPA cited the need for clean drinking water and clean water as an economic driver as the impetus for its new rule, and Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 in which justices disagreed about which waters were covered by the Act.
“About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule,” the EPA said in a May 27 statement about the new rule. “The health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters are impacted by the streams and wetlands where they begin.”

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Toledo Blade: Toxic Algae Leave Toledo’s Reputation Hanging in the Balance

This much has become clear on the one-year anniversary of the Toledo water crisis: Perception can be stronger than reality when weighing the risks of western Lake Erie algae.

And — whether or not another crisis occurs — failing to stop the lake’s chief algal toxin, microcystin, from coming back on a yearly basis could devastate Toledo’s attempt to rebrand itself as a forward-thinking, 21st century place to live, work, and play.

Has summertime panic over drinking water become the new norm?

People were wondering that last week as they cleared bottled water off supermarket shelves in preparation for this summer’s bloom, which — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says — is likely to gain strength and become the second largest on record when it peaks in late summer or early fall.

Whether it is smart thinking or panic, people are stockpiling.

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Press Release: Environmental Groups Deliver Petitions to ORSANCO Calling for them to Uphold Mercury Anti-dumping Standards for Ohio River

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Deliver Petitions to ORSANCO Calling for them to Uphold Mercury Anti-Dumping Standards for Ohio River

Technical committee meets today to decide recommendations

Cincinnati, OHIO – A coalition of environmental groups will deliver close to 2,000 petitions today to a subcommittee of a multi-state commission urging members to recommend following through with new standards that forbid companies from dumping high levels of toxic mercury into the Ohio River. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that causes brain and nerve damage to children and developing fetuses.

Twelve years ago, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, known as ORSANCO, banned companies located along the Ohio River from releasing large amounts of mercury into the water through the use of mercury dilution zones. The ban on these “mixing zones” is scheduled to go into effect in October in order to improve the safety of fish consumption caught in the river and overall protection of public health. Dozens of coal plants and factories in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and elsewhere haven’t yet complied with this long-planned ban and many are now asking the commission to create exceptions to that ban or eliminate it completely. ORSANCO, which oversees water pollution and abatement standards on the Ohio River, has said it’s considering their request.

Environmental groups have been collecting signed petitions urging ORSANCO to stick to its original ban set in place more than a decade ago – and already delayed by 2 years – rather than give in to pressure from businesses that have failed to take even initial steps to comply with mercury mixing zone standards, according to Madeline Fleisher, staff attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Columbus, Ohio. ORSANCO’s technical committee, which is reviewing comments submitted by environmental groups and others during the public comment period last spring, is meeting today in Cincinnati to discuss recommendations it will submit to the commission.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center and our partners are pressing ORSANCO to do the right thing by ensuring there’s a level playing field requiring concrete steps to reduce the amount of damaging mercury that polluters are dumping into the Ohio River,” said Ms. Fleisher.

The Ohio River is the public water supply for more than 5 million people, and it ranks at the top of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of dirtiest rivers, in part because of high mercury levels. The petitions delivered to ORSANCO today were gathered by ELPC, the Kentucky Water Alliance, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental group allies. Last May, more than 17,000 petitions from environmental groups were delivered to ORSANCO during its public comment period.

“We want the state and federal appointed officials tasked with improving water quality in the Ohio River to uphold the ban on chemical hot spots, or mixing zones,” said Judy Peterson, executive director of the Kentucky Water Alliance. “We want government officials to put public health before corporate profits.”

“Citizens up and down the Ohio River are saying ‘clean water can’t wait,’” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “They won’t accept delay or backsliding when it comes to reducing dangerous toxins in their water supply.”

The commission is slated to make its decision by fall and announce its new pollution control standards at its scheduled October 8 meeting. The 27-member commission is charged to conduct a review of its pollution abatement and control standards every three years.

 

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Columbus Dispatch: Scrapping of mercury-pollution rule for Ohio River under fire

A multistate commission that oversees the health of the Ohio River is considering relaxing rules on mercury pollution, which has long been considered a threat to the river and the people who eat its fish.

The proposed changes have prompted nearly 18,000 written responses from people who live near the river and from environmental-advocacy groups saying that changing the rules could increase mercury in the already-polluted river.

But the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, whose members represent eight states and set pollution standards for the river, says the proposed changes would not result in added mercury in the river. The debate is over how and where industries test the amount of mercury they release.

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Howard Learner Statement on Supreme Court Mercury Ruling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2015
Contact: David Jakubiak 

Supreme Court’s Mercury Decision Limits Progress for Cleaner Air, Healthier Environment
Costs of Mercury Pollution Too High to Ignore

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

“The Supreme Court’s decision today delays important mercury and other air toxics standards that limit pollution in order to protect children’s health and the Great Lakes. State public health officials in the Great Lakes states have issued ‘mercury advisories’ warning people that, sadly, it’s not safe to eat many fish they catch in most of our lakes and rivers. The U.S. EPA should now act promptly, following the Court’s decision, to fully assess the public health and environmental costs of mercury pollution, finalize lawful standards and move our country forward.”

“Unfortunately the coal industry is being rewarded for endless litigation stalling the U.S. EPA’s reasonable standards to reduce mercury pollution in our environment and protect public health. It’s well past time for EPA and the courts to move forward in responsible ways to greatly reduce mercury and other toxic pollutants that harm our children’s health and our waterways.”

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Greenwire: Lawyers Mine Health Care Ruling for Clean Power Plan Clues

This story featuring Howard Learner is re-posted from http://www.eenews.net/greenwire/2015/06/25/stories/1060020908

By Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter

Environmental attorneys are grappling with whether today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Obama administration’s health care reform could set a precedent in expected legal challenges to U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

In a 6-3 vote, the justices upheld the Affordable Care Act’s tax subsidies for people who get insurance on both federal and state-created exchanges.

Challengers claimed that a strict reading of the law mandated that the IRS provide the subsidies only for individuals who purchased insurance on an “exchange established by the state” and, therefore, not on the exchanges in roughly three dozen states that were set up by the federal government.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his opinion for the court, wrote that the context of the law indicated that Congress intended both types of exchanges to qualify for the subsidies. Otherwise, he wrote, the underpinnings of the health care law would crumble.

“Those credits are necessary for the Federal Exchanges to function like their State Exchange counterparts,” Roberts wrote, “and to avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid.”

Environmental lawyers, however, have homed in on the chief justice’s brief discussion of the 1984 precedent Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. In that ruling, the court set up a two-step structure for adjudicating agency actions. Step 1 is whether the law directing the agency’s work is ambiguous. If it is, under Step 2 the court must defer to the agency’s interpretation if it was reasonable.
At first glance, the health care reform case, King v. Burwell, looked as if it could be decided on Chevron grounds. But Roberts quickly sidestepped the precedent.

Chevron didn’t apply because the health care case is “extraordinary” and centers on a question of “deep ‘economic and political significance,'” Roberts wrote, quoting precedent. The Chevron two-step process, he said, need not be initiated if it appears the ambiguity at issue was not one that Congress intended for the acting agency to resolve.

“Had Congress wished to assign that question to an agency, it surely would have done so explicitly,” Roberts wrote.

Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown Law professor and former climate official at EPA, said she was “struck” by the passage.

It’s an “affirmation of the idea that because an issue is really important, an agency doesn’t get deference,” she said.

She noted that the “economic and political significance” argument has been raised in the early challenges to EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas standard for existing power plants, the key component of the administration’s effort to address climate change that is due to be finalized later this year.

In fact, Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, a former mentor to President Obama, made that argument earlier this year, Heinzerling said.

A potentially analogous issue involves the conflicting Clean Air Act amendments under which EPA is issuing the greenhouse gas rules. Due to a legislative glitch, two versions of Section 111(d) were signed into law — one from the House and one from the Senate. Critics of the proposal read the House version to prohibit EPA from issuing regulations for sources of pollution already regulated under the law.

Because EPA has already issued power plant standards for other pollutants, that theory would foreclose the new rule.

EPA and environmentalists counter that the Senate version only prohibits redundant regulation of specific pollutants, which would allow the greenhouse gas standards to stand.

The two amendments are not easily reconciled, and Thomas Lorenzen, a former Justice Department environmental attorney, said today’s ruling reinforces the idea that the fate of the Clean Power Plan will ultimately be resolved by judges.

And Roberts’ opinion, he said, may have provided a way for them to sidestep the traditional two-step Chevron analysis.

With the two amendments, “you have a congressional goof,” said Lorenzen, who now represents industry clients at the law firm Crowell & Moring. There is “no clear intent to delegate authority to the agency.”
Jeff Holmstead, a former EPA air chief now representing industry at Bracewell & Giuliani, echoed that point.

“The decision in King v. Burwell makes it pretty clear that the court will not just defer to EPA but will make its own decision about the legal implications of the competing House and Senate versions of 111(d),” Holmstead said. “The court clarified its holding in Chevron by saying that the courts should only defer to an agency on the types of issues that Congress intended to leave to that agency’s discretion. It will be hard for EPA to argue that Congress intended to give EPA discretion over the scope of its own power.”

‘You need to look at the context’
Heinzerling, as well as environmentalists, however, cautioned against reading too much into today’s decision. They noted that several factors differentiate the case from the inevitable challenges to the Clean Power Plan.

Roberts said Chevron didn’t apply because the ambiguity in the state versus federal exchange issue was left to the IRS.

“It is especially unlikely that Congress would have delegated this decision to the IRS, which has no expertise in crafting health insurance policy of this sort,” Roberts wrote.

That would not be the case in a challenge to the Clean Power Plan, said Howard Learner, the president of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“There is a congruence between the statute, the Clean Air Act and the agency, EPA, being called upon to execute it,” he said. “I would be very, very surprised if the court went to some sort of Chevron step 0 analysis with regard to EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act.”

Heinzerling added that there was an alternate way to read the health care decision that would bolster EPA’s case.

After rejecting a Chevron analysis, Roberts chose to look at the broader context of the law in order to uphold the administration’s reading of it.

In the context of the Clean Power Plan, EPA and environmentalists contend that the 1990 amendments to the law were clearly intended to strengthen EPA’s authority under Section 111(d), not weaken it — and critics’ reading would.

Roberts, Heinzerling said, seemed to say “you need to look at the context in which that language appears.”

“That’s very helpful in most environmental cases,” Heinzerling said.

More broadly, some law professors still found reasons to be concerned about Roberts’ reasoning, even though the case turned out to be a major win for the administration.

Justin Pidot, a former DOJ environmental attorney now a professor at the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver, said the ruling reinforces the court’s willingness to wade into high-profile agency actions.

There is, he said, “this newly minted rule that the court is going to intercede when costs get high. I think it’s alarming,” he said. “That’s a pretty dangerous principle for EPA.”

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