Whaley snags pre-primary endorsement from environmental PAC

By: - February 16, 2022 3:40 am

Nan Whaley at a press conference announcing her endorsement by the Ohio Environmental Council. Photo by Nick Evans, OCJ.

The Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund has endorsed Nan Whaley in this year’s governor’s race. The move, coming ahead of the primary election, is the first such endorsement for a statewide candidate in the organization’s history, and it marks a substantial bet on the former Dayton mayor’s gubernatorial chances.

The organization emphasized opposition to HB 6 in its announcement, with president Heather Taylor-Miesle highlighting that it’s been 938 days since the measure became law.

“We need a government that cares about the past environmental injustices and who will invest in making sure that corruption has no part in government, and we believe that’s Nan Whaley,” Taylor-Miesle said.

She pointed to Whaley’s record on protecting drinking water in Dayton, and her adoption of local renewable energy goals. Whaley got high marks as well for her role as part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors lobbying for the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as her participation in the Marshall Plan for Middle America.

“It’s not about the future, it’s today,” Taylor-Miesle said of climate change’s impact on Ohio. “She has been preaching that all over the country wherever she goes and she has followed it up in the city of Dayton with investments that are real.”

Whaley’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Cincinnati mayor John Cranley is also part of the Marshall Plan for Middle America, and his administration set similar renewable energy goals for the city more than two years before Dayton did. In a statement, Cranley campaign manager Matt Schoonmaker pointed to that track record.

“While serving as Cincinnati mayor, John Cranley created the nation’s largest municipal solar array, and will continue to promote sustainable energy and good-paying green jobs as governor,” he said.

The key difference, it seems, is HB 6. Teresa Fedor, Cranley’s pick for lieutenant governor, voted for the measure. It was pitched at the time as a way to prop up two nuclear plants, one of which is in her district.

After federal authorities unveiled the corruption behind the bill’s passage, Fedor signed on to a repeal measure and sponsored a campaign finance reform bill as well. Neither of those bills went anywhere. Earlier this year, lawmakers repealed the nuclear subsidies, but those for coal plants remain in place.

Taylor-Miesle sidestepped questions about whether Cranley’s selection made it impossible to endorse his campaign, but she said HB 6 would be a “defining issue” throughout the campaign, and that Nan is best positioned on the issue.

Whaley reiterated her commitment to fully repealing HB 6 and restoring the clean energy standards that were rolled back as part of the controversial bailout measure. Without those standards, there’s scant incentive for renewable energy development in Ohio, meaning those projects and the jobs that come with them go elsewhere.

“We cannot continue to get beat by the states around us by not investing in our workforce,” Whaley argued. “We know these jobs are coming we need to make sure they’re coming to Ohio.”

In addition to requiring energy companies meet benchmarks for renewables in their portfolio, Whaley plans to nudge the shift forward by using the same economic development toolkit that brought Intel to the state. Those tax incentive deals are often criticized for their lack of transparency — Whaley also notes they tend to cluster around large metros like Columbus.

But she contends incentives can be useful if the focus shifts. Whaley argued her jobs plan would spread the impact around the state by emphasizing businesses with 50 employees or less. And she explained that using tax breaks to incentivize industries the state wants, like clean energy and zero-emission vehicle manufacturing, can’t be the end of the story.

“What I’ve seen a lot at the statehouse is they’re all about the incentives, but they’re not really about the long-term regulations that really protect our water, protect the future of the state,” Whaley said.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.