COLUMBUS, Ohio — A new bill in the Ohio statehouse would leave no doubt that utility companies can still set up their own energy efficiency programs. The bill clarifies questions created when the controversial House Bill 6 was passed.
The legislation brings an unlikely bipartisan duo together, Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, and House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.
"Bill and I are going to disagree on probably nine out of 10 things as far as the legislature is concerned," said Leland.
Seitz has been a staunch defender of the $1 billion nuclear bailout given to FirstEnergy and of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, despite Householder and others being indicted in connection with the $61 million bribery scheme to pass House Bill 6. Leland has spoken out in the opposite direction.
Yet the two have introduced a bill to cut Ohioans' electric bills and incentivize businesses to back energy efficiency programs eliminated by House Bill 6.
"I was never against energy efficiency. As a concept, it makes all the sense in the world," said Seitz.
House Bill 389 says if electric companies can find ways to lower their customer's bills and those ideas get approved by the state, then those same companies could charge as much as $1.50 per month for these Energy Waste Reduction programs.
"By reducing our energy consumption, we will become a more responsible player in the fight against climate change," Leland said.
The new bill also says customers can opt out of the program which is different from House Bill 6. HB 389 focuses mainly on residential customers, caps amounts utilities can spend on the programs and reduces the targets companies need to achieve when it comes to how much energy they use.
"I'm not certain that you'll ever find a bill that, in its introduction on an energy topic, has the support of the investor-owned utilities and such environmental stalwarts as the Ohio Environmental Council and the Environmental Law and Policy [Center]," Seitz said.
Randi Leppla with the Ohio Environmental Council called House Bill 389 a “good first step” while admitting OEC would like to see more action in the future.
"These programs have been shown to be effective and it's really important that we're putting something back on the books for Ohioans to start taking control of that energy usage again," said Leppla, who is Vice President of Energy Policy and Lead Energy Counsel for OEC.
Leland and Seitz both said they look forward to the bill passing with strong bipartisan support.
"When Democrats and Republicans can find common ground and come to mutual conclusion that something needs to change in society, I think we should work together," said Leland.
"It doesn't happen often, but perhaps lightning struck this time," said Seitz.