December 2020: Statement on Ohio House Bill 798
OCCA’s Official Position on Ohio HB798 – Ohio Clinicians for Climate Action (OCCA) opposes House Bill 798 (HB798) because it fails to repeal House Bill 6 (HB6) in full and instead only postpones HB6 which rolls back Ohio’s renewable energy standards and energy efficiency programs as well as subsidizes coal burning power plants contributing to air pollution in Ohio and worsening health outcomes for vulnerable populations and patients with compromised pulmonary and cardiac systems.
OCCA as well as two physician board members submitted written testimony to the Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight on December 2, 2020. You can find the testimony submitted in the following pages attached to this statement. The testimony has also been read by the submitting authors and is available to view on the OCCA YouTube page.
Written testimony submitted by Anna Cifanic, Director of Ohio Clinicians for Climate Action
House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight
Chairman Jim Hoops
OCCA Opponent Testimony on House Bill 798
December 3, 2020
Chair Hoops, Vice Chair Abrams, Ranking Member Leland, and members of the House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight, thank you for allowing Ohio Clinicians for Climate Action (OCCA), to provide written opposition testimony to House Bill 798 (HB 798).
OCCA is an advocacy organization of more than 150 doctors, nurses, and other health professionals across Ohio, founded by physicians, who recognize that their oath to do no harm encompasses more than just the patients they treat. We joined a growing national movement of clinicians and health professionals who recognize that climate change is already impacting the health of the patients and communities we all serve and advocate for climate change solutions that protect the health of our patients and communities.
While we wish we could join you in person for this important debate, the impacts of Covid-19 have made it necessary to alter the way we live and work in order to prevent more cases of illness. To promote public health, and to help slow the spread of this virus, which is transmitted through the air via droplets and also through touch contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth, a virtual option for live, “in-person” testimony is a safe, effective, and a responsible option that would allow more Ohioans to participate safely in the legislative process.
The OCCA is opposed to HB 798 because it fails to repeal House Bill 6 (HB 6) in full.
Many of Ohio’s health professionals have been concerned about the chilling effect HB 6 has had on Ohio’s transition to a clean and renewable energy economy, ultimately harming our public health by increasing air pollution and contributing to climate change. During the current respiratory pandemic, we are seeing now that air pollution worsens COVID-19 outcomes, which underscores the importance of safeguarding cleaner air for all Ohioans, now and in the future. The OCCA calls on this committee and the Ohio legislature to reject HB 798, repeal the corruptly passed HB 6, and turn its attention to investing in a clean energy future for Ohioans’ health.
The continuation of HB 6 policies through HB 798 have negative health impacts on all Ohioans:
● Ohio’s clean energy standards were on track to reduce Ohio’s annual carbon pollution by approximately 10 million tons between 2017 and 2029—the equivalent to avoiding emissions from the annual electricity consumption of 1 million homes.
● Ohioans will experience dirtier air, and we won’t receive the projected health benefits that the clean energy standards provided—prevention of over 44,000 asthma attacks, 4,400 heart attacks, over 2,800 premature deaths and more—all attributable to coal-plant pollution.
● Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranks U.S. cities based on three health outcomes: asthma prevalence, asthma-related emergency department visits and asthma-related mortality rates. The report also looks at eight risk factors that can affect asthma rates: poverty, lack of health insurance, poor air quality, pollen counts, long-term control medicine use, quick-relief medicine use, smoking laws and access to specialists.
○ Of the 100 cities ranked as the most challenging cities to live with asthma, Ohio has 5 cities that rank in the top 20
○ Two Ohio cities – Dayton (2) and Cleveland (5) – rank in the top 5
● As health care professionals, we see the impacts of climate change on our patients every day: worsened air quality, longer and more intense allergy season, more severe heat waves, and extreme precipitation events. Changing patterns of infectious disease, and water quality issues (like toxic algae in NW Ohio) also affect Ohioans’ health.
● The direct contribution of fossil fuel combustion to air pollution contributes to asthma exacerbations, poor birth outcomes like low birth weight and prematurity (both risk factors for infant mortality), and neurodevelopmental toxicity – harming kids’ learning, cognition, and behavior, putting them at higher risk for school failure and lifelong impacts on productivity & quality of life.
We have data to support the fact that when comparing the return on investment in clean energy across US regions, Great Lakes and Upper Midwest stand to benefit the most, when health and economic benefits are considered. In other words – at this urgent moment for climate action, Ohio’s citizens stand to benefit the most from accelerating our transition to clean and renewable energy, from immediate and sustained improvement in our public health. Climate solutions ARE health solutions – transitioning to clean and renewable energy, and ensuring cleaner air, have immediate benefits to our health and our children’s health.
So of all places in the country, WE here in Ohio need to be leading the way on clean air and climate action. Ohio’s clinicians are concerned about HB798’s provisions that keep the roll back of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards in place. We are concerned about its only delaying taxpayer funded bailouts of aging nuclear facilities, dirty coal plants, and utilities that are actively seeking to hold us back in our state’s clean energy transition. We also
know that a healthy democracy is important for a healthy state – and we’re concerned about the corruption of HB6’s passage undermining the health of our democracy.
For the sake of Ohio’s health, especially our children, we need to reject HB 798 repeal HB6 without delay.
Written testimony submitted by Dr. Aparna Bole, OCCA Board Member
House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight
Chairman Jim Hoops
Opponent Testimony on House Bill 798
Testimony of Dr. Aparna Bole
December 3, 2020
Chair Hoops, Vice Chair Abrams, Ranking Member Leland, and members of the House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight:
Thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony on House Bill 796. My name is Dr. Aparna Bole. I am a pediatrician practicing in Cleveland, Ohio, and a member of the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
I am advocating for the immediate repeal of HB6 because it sends us in the wrong direction on the clean energy transition Ohio needs to protect our public health, and because of the corrupt nature of its passage. H.B. 796 fails to do both of those things. I would like to share with you why H.B. 796, just like the bill it fails in trying to fix, H.B. 6, is not just an energy bill, it is a child health bill. Its provisions will harm the health of Ohio’s children. In particular, by keeping the roll back of Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio and Energy Efficiency Resource Standards and by subsidizing coal-fired power plants, our public health will suffer from worsened air quality–with children bearing the brunt of that burden. In addition, H.B.796 still excludes clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar from consideration as a “clean air resource” and creates barriers to development of new wind farms, further handicapping our state’s health-promoting transition to a clean energy future.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution for many reasons: they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, so they experience higher exposures than adults for the same levels of air pollution, and their organ systems are undergoing critical periods of rapid development. Their lungs continue to develop after birth through much of childhood, and exposure to air pollution can permanently impair lung growth. Children also spend more time outdoors, resulting in higher exposure to outdoor air pollutants.
A recently released report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation identified six Ohio cities in its top 20 “asthma capitals” in the United States. Ohio’s pediatricians have a front-line view of the toll this takes on our kids. In the communities I serve in Cleveland, one in five children has asthma – that is more than twice the national prevalence of childhood asthma. Surface ozone and particulate air pollution from burning fossil fuels both cause and exacerbate chronic lung conditions. Exercise and play are essential parts of children’s growth and development, but when air pollution levels are high, we must tell our young patients with asthma that it is unsafe for them to play or exercise outdoors. At the end of this school year, I saw one of my patients for a summer sports physical – he is a little boy who is obese and also has asthma. I high-fived him and his family for signing him up for a sports camp – we had been talking for a while about how physical activity is important for his health. However, I had to provide a caveat: on poor air quality days, he needs to stay inside, because he is at high risk for asthma exacerbation. How unjust, that this child doing what kids should be doing in the summer–playing outside==can’t always do that because we haven’t ensured that he consistently has clean air to breathe. Continuing the rolling back of Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards will make impossible choices like this even more frequent for pediatricians, kids, and families.
Air pollution affects kids’ health in many other ways, beyond asthma and other lung diseases. Ever-increasing evidence indicates that prenatal and early childhood exposure to air pollution affects brain development. I have heard air pollution being described, appropriately, as “the new lead” – meaning that kids’ learning, attention, and behavior are all negatively impacted by air pollution, especially particulate air pollution which is emitted by coal-fired power plants. Childhood exposure to pollution from coal-fired power plants results in impaired cognitive functioning, reduced test scores, and reduced grade point averages among school children. Prenatal exposure can even affect the quality of kids’ sleep – underscoring growing evidence that the developing brain is very vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. Kindergarten readiness is an important indicator of kids’ well-being in our Ohio communities – and I care for kids in my practice who experience many risk factors for suboptimal school readiness. If we’re serious about enhancing our kids’ school readiness, we need to be serious about clean air.
Prenatal exposure to air pollution also increases risk for low birth weight and prematurity. Both of these are risk factors for infant mortality. As you know, infant mortality is a health crisis in Cleveland and other Ohio cities. A study published last year that examined ten years of birth records in California showed that closing eight coal and oil power plants in California resulted in a 20% decrease in preterm birth for mothers living within 10km of these plants. As one of my obstetrician colleagues observed, if we invented a technology that could decrease premature birth by 20%, we would be shouting it from the rooftops. The evidence is clear: transitioning to clean energy is an important public health intervention to improve birth outcomes. In other words, if we’re serious about reducing infant mortality, we need to be serious about clean air.
Recent research at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global change evaluated the health effects and economy-wide costs of Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standards, and found that by 2030 the impact to Ohio’s economy in avoided annual premature deaths would translate to an economic benefit of $470 million per year, or 3 cents for every kWh of renewable energy generation supported by the RPS – far exceeding the cost of the RPS, with these health benefits yielding net $170 million per year. If the health benefits of the energy efficiency standards are added to these estimates, these standards will result in preventing over 44,000 asthma attacks, 2,400 asthma-related emergency room visits, 4,400 heart attacks, and over 2,800 premature deaths by 2030.
Finally, continuing the repeal of Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, and subsidizing coal-fired power plants, would expose more children not just to increased harmful particulate air pollution, but also to toxic heavy metals like mercury, and to other dangerous pollutants. Ohio can’t afford the current repeal of our standards—the health of our children is at risk.
Pediatricians have a responsibility to alert parents, our community, and policymakers about threats to our children’s health. Babies and young children cannot advocate for themselves, so we as child health advocates must speak for them. In addition, there is no greater duty of the government than to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Because of this, I would like to conclude by stating that measures that reduce air pollution and support our transition to clean and renewable energy – like our RPS and EERS, and avoidance of coal plant subsidies – are measures to protect Ohio’s most valuable resource: our children.
I urge this committee to reject HB 798, and instead fully repeal HB 6 by supporting House Bill 738, House Bill 746 and Senate Bill 346.