Three months after Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) blocked a bill to make clean energy standards optional, the state House passed a similar measure with hopes of pulling enough support to override a second veto.
The House voted 65-29 to pass H.B. 114. The vote followed an hour and a half of floor debate that ended with state Rep. Bill Seitz (R) railing against clean energy standards as unnecessary mandates.
“The trend toward clean energy is here,” Seitz said. “We can do it without mandates.”
The bill would make purchases of renewables such as wind and solar optional for utilities and let customers opt out of paying for green power. Under Ohio’s 2008 law that established clean energy standards, utilities are required to meet 12.5 percent of electricity demand with renewables by 2025 and reduce electricity use by 22 percent.
H.B. 114 would also replace energy efficiency requirements with voluntary goals for certain years and business customers that reduce cumulative energy savings targets to 17 percent.
Some House Democrats urged bill supporters to find a compromise to an issue that’s divided the Legislature since the clean energy standards were adopted in 2008.
“Really, are we doing this again and again and again?” asked state Rep. Michael Ashford (D). “We’ve been doing this for nine years.”
State Rep. David Leland (D) said the issue goes beyond the effect of the clean energy requirements on utility bills and the Ohio economy. He said the move toward clean energy is about addressing climate change.
“This is the existential issue of our time,” he said. “We’re the first generation to fully understand the reasons for climate change and, unfortunately, we’re the last generation that can do anything about it.”
Seitz, the legislature’s most outspoken critic of clean energy standards, disagreed. He led the effort to pass S.B. 554 last fall. Term limits forced him to surrender his Senate seat. But Seitz won election to the House and now chairs the House Public Utilities Committee.
“This is a bill about electricity production mandates,” Seitz said during yesterday’s floor debate. “This bill has nothing to do with climate change or health.”
Other Republicans, meanwhile, said the bill doesn’t go far enough.
State Rep. Kristina Roegner (R) said wind and solar are driving up energy prices in Ohio, keeping the state from taking full advantage of less expensive shale gas from the neighboring Marcellus formation.
“I support a full repeal,” she said.
The margin by which the bill passed the House yesterday is large enough to override another veto. It’s unclear, however, if there’s enough support in the Senate, which will take up the bill next.
The Senate passed H.B. 554 by 18-13 in December only to see Kasich veto the bill days later (Greenwire, Dec. 27, 2016).
Republicans picked up additional seats in the Senate when the new Legislature was sworn in this year. But some GOP members voted against H.B. 554 last year, including state Sen. Cliff Hite, whose northwest Ohio district includes wind farms.
The governor’s press secretary, Emmalee Kalmbach, didn’t say yesterday whether Kasich would veto the bill if the Senate passes it in its current form.
“As we compete against states that are embracing clean energy, like Texas and Michigan, for 21st century jobs, 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,” she said in an emailed statement.
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