AARP State Director Barbara A. Sykes condemned the last minute amendment slipped in the state budget bill, which allows First Energy and other utilities to keep excess profits previously intended to refund Ohio consumers.
“Not only is this amendment harmful to Ohio consumers, taking away their rights to refunds, but it was also slipped in last-minute with no opportunity for a public hearing,” said Sykes. “This new bonus for First Energy is on top of the huge, unfair and unnecessary $300 million tax already proposed for all Ohioans via House Bill 6.”
“With the amount of money being spent on misleading ads meant to confuse seniors and their families and the continued lack of transparency, the Ohio Clean Air Program is looking pretty dirty.”
Based on the legislation, one company, First Energy, stands to receive the majority of the newly created $300 million Clean Air Program Fund. Ads and direct mail urging Ohioans to support the Ohio Clean Air Program for the future of their grandchildren point to “big oil” and a desire to prevent an energy monopoly as critical reasons for the new program.
“The irony of these ads is unavoidable. They are taking the stance that House Bill 6 will prevent an energy monopoly when one company is positioned to benefit the most,” said Sykes.
“Their ads have images of older consumers clearly in distress and claiming utility bills will be lowered. They’re using scare tactics claiming the future of their grandchildren and Ohio’s energy diversity depend on this bailout. The reality is that AARP is firmly opposed to this for all Ohioans, but those age 50-plus who are living on fixed incomes have the most to lose if this bill is passed as is.”
Following several days of opposing testimony from a number of individuals, consumer advocacy groups and the business community, changes were made to the original bill. However, analysis of the law indicates that rather than seeing a cost reduction in their bills, as supporters originally promised, all Ohio utility customers will still be on the hook to pay for existing energy efficiency programs and contracts with no clear end to those fees.
The substitute bill also creates a whole new set of utility bill riders and potential fees for renewable energy. It also authorizes the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to create new power purchase agreements, which opens the door for unknown costs and fees to be passed on to the Ohio consumers.
“Ohioans are too smart to fall for misleading ads or scare tactics aimed at our 50+ plus population. We deserve elected officials who look out for those who voted them into office and take the time to find solutions, rather than rushing to push flawed policies through in a secretive last-minute move,” said Earl Goldhammer, a Central Ohio AARP Volunteer and past member of the AARP Executive Council.
“Utility customers in Ohio expect to pay fair and reasonable prices for electricity. AARP will continue to fight unfair increases in utility rates in Ohio,” said AARP Ohio Manager of Advocacy Luke Russell.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services.A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity of AARP that is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.