Law freezes energy regulations

Last updated: July 16. 2014 11:44AM - 151 Views
By PAUL HANNAH phannah@civitasmedia.com

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On June 13, Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 310 into law. This is a piece of legislation that the reader many not have heard about, but it affects Adams County.

Senate Bill 310 freezes the renewable and solar energy benchmarks at the 2014 levels for the years of 2015 and 2016, before resuming in 2017 at the levels 2015 was to be set at. It also redefines renewable energy sources and changes requirements to improve energy efficiency and reduce peak demand output.

Recently the coal-powered generator stations along the Ohio River have been feeling the pinch, as environmental regulations tighten.

While this freeze may benefit some, many around the State of Ohio are unhappy with the new law.

Democratic candidate for Governor Ed FitzGerald stated that Gov. Kasich had signed the law to satisfy the Koch brothers, who had recently donated the maximum amount allowed to the Kasich campaign.

“Governor Kasich ignored the voices of Ohio’s working families, veterans, manufacturers, religious leaders, and business leaders,” FitzGerald said. “By signing SB 310 in secret, John Kasich is all but acknowledging that he has cost Ohio thousands of new jobs and millions in increased utility prices in order to appease the Koch brothers and other special interests.”

Americans for Prosperity, a political action committee that was founded by the Koch brothers, rebutted that claim, stating that SB 310 curtails the possible damage caused by proposed federal regulations that would tighten carbon emission standards.

“Ohio consumers and business owners along with the hard working men and women in the coal industry will all be hurt by these job-killing regulations,” said Eli Miller, Americans for Prosperity Ohio State Director. “Unfortunately Ohio consumers and business owners not only have to contend with these new unrealistic regulations from the federal government, but here at home, politicians like Ed Fitzgerald are trying to increase electricity rates by forcing even more unrealistic green energy requirements on Ohio consumers. Thankfully the Ohio legislature passed SB 310, which will protect Ohio’s consumers and business owners from some of the higher energy prices. We hope Ohio’s representatives in Congress will have the same prudence and foresight as their counterparts in Columbus and oppose these new EPA regulations.”

In Adams County, it is not exactly higher electric bills that concern citizens. The power plants are the largest employer in Adams County. More than 500 jobs would be lost if the two Adams County power plants were suddenly moth-balled. Along with thousands of dollars in taxes and wages. Fortunately, DP&L feels that the controversy over SB 310 will have little effect on their business.

DP&L states “SB 310 primarily relates to Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewables statute. DP&L is operating under an approved energy efficiency portfolio plan that spans 2013 to 2015, and we will continue to implement programs approved under the plan. Additionally, we will continue to comply with the renewables mandate.”

Not all business owners share the outlook of the Americans for Prosperity either. The Small Business Majority, a non-profit that studies the effects of regulations on small businesses, argued that the new law will hurt small businesses in Ohio.

“Small Business Majority’s scientific opinion polling found the majority of Ohio small business owners agree the state’s clean energy standards have helped them by reducing utility costs, and by spurring innovation and creating business opportunities. In fact, more than half agree Ohio electricity providers should be required to help small businesses increase energy efficiency and save money through energy audits and rebates for installing energy-efficient products, among other services.

“Since Ohio’s energy efficiency standards went into place in 2008, renewable electricity generation is up 64 percent, 3,200 jobs have been created and Ohioans are saving about a percent and a half on electricity bills. This legislation puts an end to all that.”

Members of of the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association also were hesitant to support SB 310, giving examples of the positive effects the current standards were having on Ohio’s economy. Brad Belden, OMA Energy Committee chairman, of The Belden Brick Company detailed his company’s savings from AEP’s program implementing the standards.

“So from the perspective of The Belden Brick Company – based on firsthand experience – Ohio’s energy efficiency standards and policies are producing documented, quantifiable benefits in the form of significant reductions in our electricity costs.”

OMA energy counsel Kim Bojko of Carpenter Lipps & Leland noted that current law “contains some provisions that tilt the state’s regulatory framework in favor of the monopoly electric distribution utilities at the expense of consumers and consumer protection. The result in the rate making process is higher electricity prices for consumers and higher profits for the utilities…SB 310 does not address these cost-increasing features of current Ohio law.”

“The energy age will be one of the great booms of this century, and (the proposal is) running away from it,” said Steve Melink, president of Melink Corp., a Cincinnati-area company that works with clients to manage their energy use and develops renewable-energy projects.

Ron DeLyons, managing principal and CEO of Creekwood Energy Partners in downtown Cincinnati, stated “A group of local lawmakers is pushing legislation that would all but end Ohio’s energy-efficiency standards. They claim these standards hurt businesses – a claim that is not based on facts. I’m the CEO of Creekwood Energy, a small business Downtown, and I can say for certain those claims aren’t true. Energy-efficiency standards save people money – small businesses included – but even more importantly, open up new segments of the economy that create business opportunities.”

Religious organizations have even weighed in on the legislation. The Catholic Conference of Ohio wrote to the General Assembly on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Ohio to give their opinion on SB 310.

“We understand there is an ongoing debate over the need to freeze current standards while a study takes place. We ask you to prayerfully consider if it would be more prudent for the sake of environmental stewardship to maintain our current policies and not freeze these standards while the study takes place.

“We offer these reflections, not as experts in appropriate energy standards, but as pastors called to protect Godʼs people and Godʼs planet by living our faith in relationship with all creation. We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation.

“We are not advocating for specific benchmarks for alternative energy sources and incentives. However, we encourage the Ohio General Assembly to pursue reasonable and effective initiatives for energy efficiency and to develop alternate renewable and clean-energy resources.”

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