Environmental groups are loudly cheering Ohio Gov. John Kasich's veto of a bill that would have effectively frozen the state's renewable energy standards for another two years.
Kasich vetoed House Bill 554 on Tuesday, going against his own Republican party that passed the legislation to make voluntary a rule that electric companies meet a portion of their power through clean-energy sources like wind and solar. Kasich voted for the original freeze, in 2014, but since vowed to veto another one.
The governor's veto message cited businesses, especially tech companies, that increasingly look to renewable energy as power sources. He said the bill "amounts to self-inflicted damage to both our state’s near- and long-term economic competitiveness. Therefore, this veto is in the public interest."
Not all are giddy at the governor's decision. Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, has tried to halt the standards for years, saying the compliance costs for electric companies are too high and that further action should be halted until the uncertainty over upcoming federal clean-air rules is removed.
Seitz, chairman of the Senate's Public Utilities Committee who next month moves to the House of Representatives, said the veto disrespects the legislative process and lawmakers' attempts to meet Kasich halfway.
"It is apparent that Governor Kasich cares more about appeasing his coastal elite friends in the renewable energy business than he does about the millions of Ohioans who decisively rejected this ideology when they voted for President-elect Trump," Seitz said in a statement. "We can only hope that President Trump and his amazing cabinet of free market capitalists will save us from the regulatory overreach of Al Gore-style policies that take unnecessary money out of ratepayers’ pockets.
"We will do our part by launching a full scale effort next session to totally repeal these (former Gov. Ted) Strickland-era mandates," he said. "With veto-proof majorities next session, we are optimistic of success."
The 2017 legislative session will feature both chambers with enough Republicans to potentially pass veto-proof bills, posing a challenge and, perhaps, just a short-term win to Kasich and supporters of the bill. Lawmakers, including incoming Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, say the new session will feature a comprehensive look at energy policy.
"I think there is a significant amount of momentum in both the House and the Senate in figuring out what our long-term energy policy needs to be," Obhof said last week on a Statehouse News Bureau program.
Here are some reactions from others who have fought over the freeze for years:
Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Director Jim Schimmer:"I'm looking forward to getting calls from companies now who want to come back into this industry – and do it right here in Franklin County. Our best years still lie in front of us and discovering our energy future is where we need to be. His veto allows us to get back into the game – and hopefully there won’t be an override to stop us – again."
Gap Inc., Whirlpool Corp. and other companies with Ohio operations who lobbied for a veto, in a thank you note to Kasich: "Under immense pressure, you have demonstrated the courage and conviction to stand up for a clean and more diversified state energy portfolio. We commend you for your leadership on this issue that is of great importance to our businesses and to the state of Ohio."
Bob Murray, CEO of Ohio-based coal mining company Murray Energy Corp., to Columbus Business First last week on what a veto would mean: "It'd be very bad for the jobs in Ohio."
Natural Resources Defense Council:“Governor Kasich’s veto sends the signal that Ohio is back in the clean energy game, and ready to deliver good jobs and a healthy environment to businesses and families. While the lawmakers who fast-tracked this legislation seem determined to freeze Ohio in the past, the administration wisely sees that embracing the clean energy shift that is already underway can only help the state move forward."
The Buckeye Institute, the Columbus free-market think tank: "While we at Buckeye ultimately want an outright elimination of these burdensome energy mandates that are of dubious environmental value at best, the legislature's modest reform is better than nothing. Perhaps the best Christmas gift of all would be to trade in the lump of coal Kasich's veto of this legislation offered Ohioans and instead have jobs for coal miners as well as cheaper (and locally produced) energy for Ohio families and businesses."
Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, on Twitter: "Gov. @JohnKasich was right to veto #HB554. Renewable energy standards help create renewable energy jobs & a healthier Ohio. #Ohio #Renewable "
Christian Palich, president of the Ohio Coal Association, on Twitter: "It's incredibly disappointing Gov Kasich has chosen to veto H554. No reason for government to pick winners/losers for #energy consumers."
Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund: "HB 554 is a sloppy piece of legislation that could increase electric bills and clog our air with pollution while hampering innovation and job growth. We urge legislators to follow Gov. Kasich’s lead and allow Ohio’s clean energy potential to be unleashed."