The Ohio State Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that includes broadening the definition of “green energy” to include natural gas. All seven Democrats present voted against the bill, along with Republican State Sen. Matt Dolan, while 22 GOP lawmakers voted in favor of it. The bill, HB 507, will return to the Ohio House, where its revisions will either be accepted or negotiated through a conference committee.
Hilariously, the bill is titled “Revise number of poultry chicks that may be sold in lots,” yet it includes major victories for the fossil fuel industry, including that change to green energy. HB 507 broadens the definition of green energy and states that it can include natural gas as well as energy that “releases reduced air pollutants” and “is more sustainable and reliable relative to some fossil fuels.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes natural gas as a conventional power source, along with coal and oil. The EPA considers what’s known as green power to be “electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.” For a federal agency to differ so greatly from a state like Ohio shows how intensely fossil fuel groups are working alongside Republicans to derail the Biden administration’s goals to phase out oil and gas in pursuit of reaching net-zero.
A hot button issue included in this bill is whether oil and gas drilling should occur on public lands. For Ohio, state land will be up for grabs for oil and natural gas exploration and drilling if HB 507 were to be signed into law in its current iteration. This isn’t the Ohio GOP’s only tactic boosting fossil fuels; in fact, Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost was one of more than a dozen who signed onto a filing attempting to block the investment company Vanguard Group from engaging in what Republicans believe are anti-natural gas activities.
The filing was sent on Nov. 28 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee and was signed by attorneys general in Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the attorneys general’s top campaign donors come from the oil and gas industry, such as Koch Industries, Phillips 66, and energy companies like NuStar and CenterPoint.
The attorneys general and their fossil fuel industry friends believe they scored a victory thanks to the Vanguard Group removing itself from the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative. “We have decided to withdraw from NZAM so that we can provide the clarity our investors desire about the role of index funds and about how we think about material risks, including climate-related risks—and to make clear that Vanguard speaks independently on matters of importance to our investors,” the company said in a statement.
A recent op-ed from the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance Campaign Director Ben Cushing lays bare the GOP agenda to keep the country reliant on fossil fuels through anti-ESG tactics like these. ESG is defined as environmental, social, and governance and is a tool that informs more climate-friendly investing. To the GOP, that’s just “woke capitalism.” Cushing writes:
It’s an insidious, coordinated effort among Republican elected officials, conservative dark money groups, and fossil fuel interests that is attempting to block progress to make the financial sector more sustainable. In recent years, financial institutions have increasingly made common-sense, business-driven decisions to respond to the systemic risk of climate change. But Republican politicians, serving fossil fuel donors, want to force institutions to ignore those risks, which puts their constituents’ savings—and the entire economy—in jeopardy.
Cushing, and many environmental groups and climate activists, believe better regulations hold the key to combatting the GOP’s ESG smear campaign. Oversight and accountability are also crucial in this fight. And while many attorneys general and Republican lawmakers have hemmed and hawed over even the possibility of fossil fuel divestment, there are Democrats across the country working to better hold companies accountable to make meaningful changes—more than their GOP counterparts, in fact. Seventeen Democrat attorneys general sent a letter pushing back against Republicans’ claims.
“A thorough evaluation of risks and rewards may properly include consideration of ESG factors aspart of a sound investment strategy,” the letter concludes. If anything, shareholders are less concerned about nonsense issues pushed by Republican than they are about greenwashing efforts from companies. This just shows how out of touch the GOP is on a state and national level.
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