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Ohio’s renewable energy freeze to be extended 3 years under latest bill, despite Kasich’s frigid response

A bill to freeze Ohio’s renewable and energy efficiency standards could be introduced as soon as this week, but it’s unclear if Gov. John Kasich would sign it.

Kasich made clear his discontent when a legislative committee recommended indefinitely freezing the state’s renewable and energy efficiency standards, calling it “ unacceptable.” He reiterated the sentiment on the presidential campaign trail.

Now a new bill, introduced by Sen. Bill Seitz, is set to come in the wake of the Energy Mandates Study Committee’s indefinite-freeze recommendation. As a sort of compromise, the bill gives a three-year concrete end date for the freeze.

Seitz last week sent a draft of the bill to environmentalists, utilities, industrial groups and the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The Republican senator from Cincinnati wanted to give the stakeholders a chance to comment before introducing it.

“Here it is: I’m not trying to hide anything,” Seitz said.

While Seitz said his inbox was devoid of response to the bill, public criticism came from environmental groups shortly it leaked.

Someone who has yet to officially comment, however, is Kasich. A spokesman for the governor said he doesn’t typically comment on pending bills, let alone bills in draft form.

Despite signing Senate Bill 310 in 2014 that froze the standards, Kasich has since spoken bluntly of a need to thaw the freeze. Kasich’s team told Seitz they didn’t want the standards to be frozen indefinitely. Seitz said he would come up with a definite date, which led to the planned end-date of Dec. 31, 2019.

The two sides met about six weeks ago to talk about it.

“They said, ‘We’re really not hot about that, either,’” Seitz recalled.

But Kasich’s office never got back to Seitz or Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, another member of the committee that recommended the indefinite freeze, Seitz said.

“So the bill I’m going to introduce, we’re going to stick with Dec. 31, 2019, “ Seitz said.

Seitz and others on the energy committee say questions surrounding the federal Clean Power Plan necessitate a continued freeze on the state’s energy standards, which would have required utilities to generate 12.5 percent of their power using renewable energy by 2025. The standards also include mandates for energy efficiency use. Ohio and other states are challenging the legality of the Clean Power Plan’s regulation of carbon dioxide emissions, and in February the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the plan.

The new bill has other elements that Kasich’s office and environmentalists should like, Seitz said.

“This bill was about a lot more than just a three-year extension of the freeze,” Seitz said.

If no new bill is passed, the frozen standards would resume in 2017. Seitz hopes the bill is passed before summer recess. If not, and a bill instead is passed during the fall’s lame-duck session, the 90-day window for bills to go into effect could lead to a brief window where the standards resume until they’re re-frozen.