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State of the Environment

Heather Taylor-Miesle, April 5, 2016

“Hi, my name is Heather Taylor-Miesle and I’m the executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council. For the past several months I’ve been on the road, meeting with people all across the state. From the mayor of Dayton, to the head of the Garden Clubs in Akron, to the director of the Ohio EPA, I’ve seen people who believe in the spirit of Ohio. People who want to see our state be a leader and example to the rest of the country on issues related to environmental protection and public health.

Ohio is full of amazing, innovative, and hard working people, and I feel so lucky that in my work, I get talk to and learn from so many of them.

Our great state is also home to natural gems like the Hocking Hills and Lake Erie. Beautiful places that make Ohio special and unique. The buckeye state has a lot going for it. But threats to our people and environment are real, and our leaders must address them.

Just last week, the Public Utilities Commission approved two utility proposals that are a terrible deal for Ohio families. The PUCO is extending the lifespan of several old coal plants for 8 more years by charging Ohio families an average of $130 more per year for this dirty power, inefficient power. These old coal plants operate in parts of the state with some of the worst air quality in our country. We know this dirty air is making Ohioans sick.

The Ohio legislature has also halted progress towards a cleaner energy future by freezing Ohio’s clean energy standards, and they have few ideas on how to get the state back on track.

This is unacceptable. Ohio could LITERALLY build our country’s clean energy future. Instead our leaders are throwing up roadblocks and stifling the brilliant innovators of the buckeye state.

In contrast, Governor Kasich has recently  said a number of positive things about clean energy in Ohio. We commend him for this public support of sustainable energy solutions that benefit the environment and the economy. We look to his leadership to correct course and get Ohio back on track.

While the PUCO decision was a blow to clean energy in Ohio, last week also brought a major victory for clean drinking water. On Thursday, I joined Ohio EPA in support of their meaningful new proposal to keep lead out of Ohioans’ drinking water.

This proposal came on the heels of news that the small village of Sebring, Ohio’s water supply was contaminated by lead. To make matters worse, the town’s residents weren’t notified of problems with their drinking water for many months.

On a recent trip to Sebring, several residents told us of the panic and fear that has gripped the village since news of the lead-tainted water spread. One father didn’t even know about the lead problems until his daughter’s school closed because of a contaminated water fountain.

It is deeply troubling that even in 2016, some Ohioans remain without access to safe drinking water. That’s why the OEC immediately came up with solutions to prevent this from happening anywhere else. I’m thrilled that Ohio EPA included many of these solutions in the new proposal, and ask Ohio lawmakers to move quickly. We must correct this problem once-and-for-all.

But  lead isn’t the only threat to Ohioans’ drinking water.

Toxic algae, as we saw during the Toledo water crisis, can poison our drinking water, make beaches dangerous places to play, and devastate small businesses. Last summer, toxic algae spread 300 square miles across Lake Erie and stretched along 650 miles of the Ohio River.

While we’ve made some steps forward to address this issue, algae-causing pollution from industrial farms and livestock operations continues flowing into our waterways. Toxic algae remains the greatest threat to Ohio’s drinking water and Ohio lawmakers need to go further to protect Ohio families.

Although recent months have been trying for those who care about environmental protection, innovation, and public health, there is good news. None of Ohio’s problems are irreversible. And, if anyone is up to the task of tackling the big issues, it’s the people of the buckeye state.

Ohio is poised to be a leader and set a powerful example for the entire country. That example starts with you and me, with environmental champions like those at the OEC, and with decision makers, like Governor Kasich.

The OEC will continue our  work until every Ohioan has access to clean air, safe water, and the beautiful natural treasures that make Ohio so special. I believe we’ll get there, together. Thank you.”