Here we go again: Only a few months after Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, vetoed a similar bill, Ohio lawmakers have advanced new legislation to repeal the state’s renewable energy mandate.
In June 2014, Ohio became the first U.S. state to roll back its clean energy mandates after passing a law that implemented a two-year “freeze” on the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Last year, the Ohio legislature passed a bill that would have effectively extended the freeze by turning the requirements for utilities to purchase renewables and invest in energy efficiency into voluntary goals, with no compliance obligations, through 2019. However, Kasich vetoed the bill last December, thus reinstating the utility mandates on Jan. 1.
Seemingly determined, though, the legislature has redoubled its efforts to do away with the standards. In a 65-31 vote last week, the Ohio House of Representatives passed H.B.114, a bill that again aims to repeal the renewable energy mandates and instead make them optional goals. H.B.114, which also targets state energy efficiency requirements, now goes to the Ohio Senate for consideration. The American Wind Energy Association recently spoke out against the bill, which could “slam the brakes” on wind investments in Ohio, the group said.
In a blog post, the House Republican Caucus refers to H.B.114 as a “pro-business bill” that “encourages economic growth [and a] free-market system.” Bill sponsor Ohio State Rep. Louis W. Blessing III, R-Colerain, says he is “pleased” with the bill’s passage and is looking forward to “more spirited discussion as it heads to the Senate.”
House Public Utilities Committee Chairman Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, adds, “I am delighted that this comprehensive bill received the votes of a veto-proof majority in the Ohio House and that, when the bill is fully passed, Ohio will join its neighboring states of Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia in having no energy mandates.” (According to DSIRE, a government-funded project operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have a renewable portfolio standard.)
In a separate blog, several House Democratic lawmakers have spoken out against H.B.114.
“If Ohio’s economy is on the ‘verge of a recession,’ as the governor has claimed, rolling back state renewable energy standards will threaten future job growth and could harm consumers, workers and the environment,” says House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton.
“This legislation threatens thousands of current and future jobs in the renewable energy industry, including jobs connected to wind power projects here in Northwest Ohio,” adds Rep. Michael Sheehy, D-Oregon.
“The biggest losers with this bill are the people of Ohio,” says Rep. Nickie J. Antonio, D-Lakewood.
National business group Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) claims H.B.114 is objectively worse than H.B.554, the bill vetoed by Kasich last year. According to AEE, H.B.114 would deprive the state of $10 billion in advanced energy market opportunities created by reinstatement of the state’s standards on Jan. 1.
“The Ohio House’s attempt to slam a revolving door on the advanced energy industry by passing a job-killer like H.B.114 is discouraging. Businesses are depending on a clear signal from the legislature, and unfortunately, all they keep hearing is that Ohio is closed for business,” says Ray Fakhoury, state policy associate at AEE, in a release. “Now it’s up to the Senate to do take a stand and do what’s right for Ohio’s consumers by rejecting H.B.114.”
“It’s unfortunate that Ohio continues to undermine its reputation and its economy by throwing roadblocks in front of renewable energy and energy efficiency,” adds Ted Ford, president of the Ohio AEE. “Ohio can’t go forward by going backward.”
In a separate release, Jennifer Miller, director of the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter, says, “The Ohio House’s obsession with archaic energy policy ignores the enormous job potential in the clean energy industry. While Ohio remains a leader in clean energy jobs, Michigan and Indiana are experiencing faster job growth in the cleantech sector since the Ohio legislature began fooling around with Ohio’s clean energy progress.”
Miller continues, “Sierra Club Ohio calls upon the Ohio Senate and the governor to deny these short-sighted efforts to tie our state to old, dirty, and expensive forms of energy. It is time for Ohio to become an international leader in the burgeoning clean energy economy and to protect public health at the same time.”