COLUMBUS — Ohio would step back from its mandate that utilities find more of their power from green sources under a bill that passed the House today with a large enough margin to potentially carry a veto override.
The House voted 65-30 to pass House Bill 114, which would replace state-mandated thresholds of renewable energy with goals that would have no penalties attached for non-compliance.
“It’s already happening,” said Rep. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati) as he argued that electric utilities are moving toward renewables anyway.
“You don’t need mandates to have clean energy,” he said.
The bill’s future remains in doubt. Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar measure in December and has hinted he would do so again. While the Senate also passed the vetoed bill three months ago, it did so without veto-proof margins and there are doubts that enough has changed since then.
The House needs 60 votes to override. The Senate needs 20, and it had 18 in December.
“Are we doing this again—and again and again and again?” Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) asked. “Really?”
He argued that passage of this bill, sponsored by Rep. Louis Blessing III (R., Cincinnati), would harm job-creation, an argument similar to one Mr. Kasich has made.
“If this is not a jobs killer, I don’t know what is…,” Mr. Ashford said. “We have an opportunity to create jobs now in this state by going green, and we’ve decided to turn our back on it.”
The bill slows the direction the General Assembly set with strong bipartisan support in 2008. But Mr. Seitz noted that that vote occurred before the new technology of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, helped to flood the market with shale natural gas and drive down prices.
Supporters of the bill, including some major industrial users of power, argue that the mandates have reached the accumulated point where they’re starting to affect customers’ bills.
The bill would turn the requirement in current law that FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, and other electric utilities find 12.5 percent of their electricity from solar, wind, hydroelectric, and other renewable sources by 2027 into goals accompanied by no enforcement penalties.
It would also allow customers to opt out of paying for riders on their bills tied to purchase of renewable power if a utility makes the business decision to proceed in that direction.
The bill keeps the mandate that the utilities find ways to reduce overall energy usage, but reduces that mandate from the 22.2 percent by 2027 in current law to 17.2 percent.
Rep. Mike Duffey (R., Worthington), a rare Republican “no” vote, noted he would have preferred an outright repeal of both mandates. He noted that the utilities are in charge of how they want to pursue energy efficiency programs for which customers could pay via riders on their bills.
“Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse,” he said.
Most Democrats opposed the bill, including northwest Ohio Reps. Ashford, Teresa Fedor (D. Toledo), and Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon).
All of the region’s Republicans supported it— Reps. Derek Merrin (R., Monclova Township), Theresa Gavarone (R., Bowling Green), Steve Arndt (R., Port Clinton), Bill Reineke (R., Tiffin), Robert McColley (R., Napoleon), Robert Sprague (R., Findlay), Craig Riedel (R., Defiance), Wes Goodman (R., Cardington), and Robert Cupp (R., Lima).