Gov. John Kasich has said he would veto any bill that extended Ohio’s freeze on alternative energy and energy efficiency standards.
That was a wise bar: Ohio’s freeze for the past two years — and uncertainty about state energy policy going forward — already has pushed green energy investments and jobs out of state. Other businesses are waiting to see if the freeze continues before deciding on future investments.
Kasich must follow through on his threat and veto House Bill 554. HB 554, passed during the General Assembly’s recent lame duck session, effectively extends the freeze by making compliance voluntary until 2020.
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Coincidentally — or not– Kasich will be out of office by 2020. If Kasich vetoes the bill, the freeze would end on Dec. 31, thawing provisions of the original 2008 law (adopted virtually unanimously by Ohio lawmakers, with only one negative vote).
Those provisions originally required — albeit with safeguards as to cost — that by 2025 a quarter of the electricity sold in Ohio come from alternative energy sources, including advanced nuclear and clean coal, with at least 12.5 percent of that from wind, solar and other renewable technologies. The two-year freeze has pushed those goals back to 2027.
Alternative energy is a major economic factor in Ohio now, supporting good-paying manufacturing and research jobs. For instance, more than 227 solar companies in Ohio employ more than 4,800 people, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. There would be more jobs if Ohio were friendlier to alternative energy companies.
But now Ohio risks having fewer jobs. More than 60 green energy business owners and advocates testified before the Ohio Senate in November opposing HB 554 and warning of the pressure on some firms to move investments and jobs out of state if Ohio’s freeze continues. Too many Ohio lawmakers, keen to appease powerful utility companies or deep-pocketed constituents, appear to be in denial about these economic realities.
It’s time for Kasich to wake them up. When willfully blind Ohio lawmakers ignore the future, Kasich has a duty to ensure the state remains competitive by nourishing a growing alternative energy industry.
Gov. Kasich, veto this bill.
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