Gov. John Kasich says he’ll sign a bill that would freeze the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for two years and weaken them after that.
Kasich announced his intention to sign SB310 shortly after the bill passed the Ohio House May 28, paving the way for Ohio to become the first state to roll back already approved energy-efficiency standards. Thirty-seven states have passed some form of renewable energy standards.
The standards aim to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels in favor of greener renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy.
Conservatives in Ohio’s state house have taken to disliking the standards, even though they passed nearly unanimously in 2008. Most memorably, Bill Seitz, a Republican state senator from Cincinnati, last year called them “Stalinist.”
On May 28, Kasich called the current standards “unrealistic” and costly for Ohio’s economy. But others, including conservative-leaning business groups, say the standards freeze will actually be more costly.
The Ohio Manufacturer’s Association says it fears the measure will increase energy costs and make Ohio less competitive industrially. Honda, one of Ohio’s biggest employers, has also come out against the freeze.
Several last-minute provisions inserted during debate on the bill in the state Senate could make it harder for renewable energy companies to get loans or increase capacity. Another last-minute change jettisons requirements that power companies get half their renewable energy in the state of Ohio.
Ohio ranks fifth nationally in green jobs, a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study says. Nearly 140,000 Ohioans work in industries related to renewable energy or environmental conservation.
Environmental groups have also criticized SB310. An analysis by the Ohio Sierra Club says the average Duke Energy customer in the Cincinnati area will spend $117 more for energy over the next two years thanks to the standards freeze.
The standards originally called for a 5.5 percent increase in the use of renewable sources of energy by 2017. Overall, the law aims to have 12.5 percent of all energy sold by power companies in the state coming from renewable sources by 2025. SB310 will pause upcoming standards increases and keep them at their current levels until 2017, when a smaller, 3.5 percent increase will kick back in.
Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s Democratic opponent for the governor’s office, blasted Kasich over his support of the pause.
“Tonight, Governor Kasich’s office announced that he intends to move Ohio’s economy, families and environment backwards,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.
Kasich acknowledged that alternative energy is a big part of Ohio’s economy but said there are problems with the standards that needed to be ironed out.
Americans for Prosperity, the big-money conservative group backed by petroleum and gas magnates the Koch Brothers, has been a cheerleader for the standards delays. The group released statements applauding SB310’s passage. Coal and gas-powered utilities throughout the state also support the bill.