COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Republican Gov. John Kasich championed a major rewrite of Ohio energy policies two years ago.
By Kasich’s own description, the 2012 law accounted for newly accessible shale gas and embraced Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency targets as vital to the state’s economy. The legislation was drawn from a heavily attended 21st Century Energy Summit.
Now, the governor is ready to sign a bill freezing the very same renewables targets.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said signing a bill that suspends Ohio’s phase-in of clean-energy targets won’t be a reversal by the governor. He said the targets were set six years ago, as part of a 2008 law passed under then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat.
“I can think of nothing more arrogant than to say that this law written six years ago shouldn’t be re-evaluated in light of the energy realities around us,” Nichols said.
The bill would suspend the targets for two years and, if lawmakers don’t act within that period, the targets would resume in 2017.
Nichols said groups from across the political spectrum oppose the compromise that call for suspending the standards, with those on one side wanting them repealed and those on the other wanting them retained.
“That tells us we’re right where we need to be on this,” Nichols said. “We’re right in the sensible center.”
Jack Shaner, of the Ohio Environmental Council, said any governor who supported alternative energy just two years ago should logically veto a proposal to freeze those standards when it hits his desk in 2014.
The council joins advanced energy interests – those companies that incorporate new technologies with traditional energy sources to reduce environmental harm – in pushing Kasich to veto the bill. Faith leaders, civil-rights activists and others also want a veto.
“This is anything but the sensible center,” Shaner said. “It’s going to put Ohio on the radical, anti-clean energy fringe.”
Ohio is among more than half of the states that have set renewable energy targets for utilities. The state’s 2008 law required utilities to generate 25 percent of their power from alternative sources by 2025, half of that from advanced sources, such as cleaner coal plants, and half from renewable sources, such as solar and wind.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a policy advisory group dominated by Republicans, is a leading force behind the push against such targets. Ohio is among states to which the council provided model legislation eliminating renewables targets, which it dubbed the Electricity Freedom Act.
Opponents of the targets include Senate Public Utilities Chairman Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican active in the legislative exchange council, who has sometimes cited Ohio’s shale gas boom for changing the state’s energy landscape and prompting the latest bill.
Shaner calls that claim “bogus,” noting that shale drilling was prominently featured at Kasich’s summit. It was also mentioned during the rollout of the 2012 law.
Kasich worked with lawmakers to strike a compromise to full repeal of Ohio’s renewables standard that was backed by Seitz and others. With legislative leaders, he negotiated the two-year suspension in place of a permanent moratorium.
The 2014 bill he plans to sign suspends only the renewables standards, however. It eliminates the advanced energy standard that Kasich’s 2012 energy law embraced and expanded to add co-generation and waste heat recovery. The earlier law also invested $30 million in taxpayer dollars to develop advanced energy technologies in clean coal.
Nichols said Kasich believes in “re-evaluating everything” and that includes renewables mandates that appear to be creating jobs in the wind and solar fields only through heavy subsidies.
“At the end of the day, the governor’s for renewables,” Nichols said. “But it’s got to be done in a commonsense manner.”
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