COLUMBUS, Ohio – The proposed legislation to overhaul Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy is dead, for now.
Sen. William Seitz, chairman of the Senate Public Utilities Committee, cancelled Wednesday morning’s committee meeting, without explanation. The committee was scheduled to vote on the bill and pass it on to the full Senate.
In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s planned showdown, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, along with trade groups the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and Advanced Energy Economy Ohio, waged a pitched battle against the bill. The consumers’ counsel capped its arguments Tuesday with the prediction that if the bill were passed as currently written, every Ohio household would pay as much as $528 extra over the next three years and businesses an average of $3,231 additional. That got the attention of lawmakers.
Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, and driving force behind the bill, issued a statement after noon explaining that the cancellation “reflects nothing more than my continued adherence to the principle that it is more important to get this complex subject done right than to get it done quickly.”
Seitz did not mention the less-than-enthusiastic support he has received from GOP colleagues, or the long debates about the bill during a Tuesday night Republican Caucus meeting that went on until nearly midnight. The caucus debate was the third in as many weeks.
Instead, he focused on the little time left this year to deal with the extensive language changes he has ordered in the 89-page bill within the last couple of weeks in order to address concerns of his opponents.
And he indicated his desire to bring the bill back at an unspecified future date.
“An additional handful of amendments to the substitute bill that was to be accepted today have also been drafted, and the additional time will now allow us to incorporate those amendments into yet another fresh substitute bill which we will take up in the future,” he said.
Seitz did not close the door completely on all of the opponents, some of whom he has repeatedly characterized as “envirosocialists.”
“We will continue to work with parties who have acted honestly and in good faith to find compromise that will facilitate passage of Senate Bill 58,” Seitz said.
While that is happening, Seitz vowed to revive hearings on a bill introduced twice in the last two years by fellow conservative Sen. Kris Jordan, a Republican from Powell. That proposal would eliminate the state laws requiring that Ohio utilities sell electricity generated by wind, solar and other renewable technologies. Jordan’s proposals stalled in committee for lack of support.
“We will shortly commence extensive hearings on Senator Jordan’s bill (Senate Bill 34). That bill would end the mandates once and for all,” he said.
Seitz also said he hoped simultaneously to work with “interested parties” to map out a strategy to take Ohio to court over the issue of requiring half of the renewable power sold to be generated in Ohio rather than imported from elsewhere. Seitz believes that mandate is unconstitutional and wants to have it overturned, at least at the federal appellate court level.
“California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have abandoned their in-state mandates in recognition of the constitutional problem,” he said.
“We have seen enough of unconstitutional government mandates emanating from federal and state governments, and liberty loving Ohioans should join together to seek judicial redress at the earliest possible time.”