Fossil fuel, utility interests spend $3.1M on Ohio elections

Report: Fossil fuel, utility interests spend $3.1M on Ohio elections

BRIEF,  From Utility Dive Weekly Newsletter  Nov. 4, 2016

AUTHOR  Robert Walton

Dive Brief:

•  Fossil fuel interests including utilities spent $3.1 million this year, through October, on issues and candidates leading up to next week’s election, Midwest Energy News reports. 

•  Midwest Energy News (MEN) analyzed data from National Institute on Money in State Politics to illustrate the level of interest in Ohio policy this year. By comparison, however, alternative energy and environmental groups gave just over $100,000. 

•  FirstEnergy ranked fourth on the list of overall Ohio contributors. AEP ranked 16th, according to MEN.

Dive Insight:

With high stakes energy issues on ballots around the country, lobbying interests have spent millions in this election cycle.  As Utility Dive reported this week, the Center for Responsive Politics says electric utility companies contributed $25.3 million to candidates and outside political groups across the country, ranking 34th among all U.S. industries.

In Ohio, FirstEnergy has given almost $500,000 and AEP and NiSource contributed more than $200,000. The Ohio Oil & Gas Association and Ohio Coal Association each gave more than $50,000.

Last load of coal to Ball State Univ. Muncie, IN which will be replaced by geo heat pumps.

Last load of coal to Ball State Univ. Muncie, IN which has now been completely replaced by geo heat pumps, campus-wide.

Stakes are higher this year as debates swirl over unfreezing the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy  standards, as well as the Clean Power Plan compliance. AEP is also pushing for partial re-regulation of  Ohio’s energy markets following its failed bid to guarantee income for some of its aging fleet. 

In Florida, utilities are pouring money into a ballot initiative battle that could determine the state’s solar policy for years to come. Florida Power & Light gave at least $2 million to the political action committee supporting its interests, while Duke gave $1 million—in addition to the $11 million they’d previously ponied up for the fight.

Political funding has been particularly contentious in Arizona, where Arizona Public Service was previously accused of secretly funneling money to pro-utility candidates in past elections. Donations nearing $5 million from installer Solar City prompted APS parent Pinnacle West to fund its own political action committee with $1 million for advocacy this cycle. 

At the Presidential level, donations from the utility sector have heavily favored Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. She received the most money of any candidate in the 2016 cycle, with nearly $458,000 contributed to her cause by utilities. GOP candidate Donald Trump, however, did not break into the top 20 recipients from the utility industry.

CaliforniaGeo Responds—

In the post- Citizens United world, those protecting existing business models in fossil-based utilities (as well as opposing  interest from clean power advocates) are contributing lots of money in this election cycle to tip the scales of regulation.  A 10-to-1 ratio in Ohio’s election spending of $3.1 M is too much emphasis on money.

Spectral photography of Aliso Canyon methane blowout 9/15 -to- 2/16

Spectral photography of Aliso Canyon methane blowout 9/15 -to- 2/16, Porter Ranch, CA

The conclusion might be that regulatory measures and decisions are becoming based less on science or environment and more on self-interest economics or political ideology.  Adequate regulation and enforcement are the only way to  minimize the likelihood of major accidents with associated damage.

Again, renewable electric and thermal resources cannot cause such damage to people or the environment, and since their energy is free, no entity can control or manipulate the market in its sole interest.  Anyone who spends $3.1 M in a single state election is encouraging this.

—Bill Martin