Ohio lawmakers again seek to cut renewable energy mandates
The bill has more than 50 co-sponsors, including all of the Republican leadership
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Majority Republicans in the state legislature are again seeking to eliminate Ohio's renewable energy requirements with a measure similar to one that Republican Gov. John Kasich vetoed last session.
The House bill introduced this past week would get rid of mandates that currently require utilities to generate or buy and sell a percentage of power from alternative and advanced sources, such as solar, wind and clean coal.
Under the legislation, utilities would no longer face penalties for not meeting annual benchmarks for purchases of renewable energy and would instead have optional goals. Many businesses would be able to opt out of electricity-bill charges that pay for utilities' clean-energy programs.
The bill has more than 50 co-sponsors, including all of the Republican leadership.
"We just wanted to have a strong showing of support," said Rep. Louis Blessing, a Cincinnati Republican and the lead sponsor.
Blessing said utilities have indicated to him they would continue clean-energy programs even without the mandates and want the flexibility of no longer facing penalties for not meeting standards.
"The mandates at this point are just unnecessary," he said.
Kasich vetoed similar legislation in December, saying he supported the objectives of the original law passed under former Gov. Ted Strickland, but the House GOP now has enough votes to override a governor's veto. Blessing said he hopes the bill clears the House by June. If that happens, it would still need to go through the Ohio Senate, where its fate is not yet clear.
"The governor has been clear regarding the need to work with the General Assembly to craft a bill that supports a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources while preserving the gains we have made in the state's economy," said Emmalee Kalmbach, a spokeswoman for Kasich.
Renewable energy companies and environmental advocates had backed the veto, calling the optional mandates just a freeze in another form. Opponents of the bill now say there's no good reason to make changes to a law that has been good for the state.
"Ohio's energy policy is in a good place right now, and we should leave it alone," said Rob Kelter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.