Wind turbines in Blue Creek Township, Ohio. Credit: Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons

The Ohio legislature resumes hearings this week on a bill to further weaken and delay any further enforceable obligations under the state’s clean energy standards.

On Tuesday state Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) circulated Substitute Senate Bill 320. The House public utilities committee will hold a hearing on its version of the bill, House Bill 554, Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.

If the legislature does not change the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards before the end of the year, they are due to come back into force in the modified, less stringent form approved by lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich in 2014.

‘Does nothing to move Ohio forward’

“The bills on the House and Senate dockets appear to be the same old junk that failed last time: cutting down money-saving energy efficiency standards, watering down what ‘counts’ as renewables and efficiency, and turning the standards into toothless, unenforceable ‘goals,’” said Samantha Williams of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s a grab bag of non-starters that does nothing to move Ohio forward. They should be rejected.”

As expected from a working draft circulated last month, the latest version of SB 320 would nominally bring back the standards, but delay any enforcement of additional requirements beyond this year until 2020 for energy efficiency and 2021 for renewable energy.

Critics have said the delayed enforcement would essentially make the standards voluntary for the next several years.

Beyond that, the bill would further weaken the standards by expanding what counts for both renewable energy and energy efficiency. Among other things, it would also hamper the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to impose further requirements on electric companies.

“Acting more like students cramming for finals in a class they’ve ignored, lawmakers have waited until the eleventh hour to propose legislation that fails to meet the Governor’s expectations or the needs of Ohio’s citizens and businesses,” said Williams.

Rallying for clean energy

Concurrent with the House hearings tomorrow morning, Ohio Citizen Action will hold a rally and workshop event starting at 11 a.m. on the north plaza of the Ohio Statehouse. Afterward, the group plans to deliver more than 20,000 statements of support, urging Gov. Kasich to reinstate Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.

Kasich previously said he would veto another freeze on the standards. “I think he understands that weakening the energy standards in Ohio is not an option” either, said even organizer Shannon Adams.

“Our clean energy standards represent a wonderful opportunity for us to innovate, create clean energy jobs and also improve air quality within our state,” Adams stressed.

“It’s still important for our state to move forward on a state level regardless of what happens with the Clean Power Plan,” she added.

Kathi is the author of 25 books and more than 600 articles, and writes often on science and policy issues. In addition to her journalism career, Kathi is an alumna of Harvard Law School and has spent 15 years practicing law. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. Kathi covers the state of Ohio.

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