A two-year freeze of Ohio’s clean-energy standards would become indefinite under recommendations that legislative Republicans are set to announce today.
The proposal follows about a year of hearings by the Energy Mandates Study Committee, a joint House-Senate panel, and is likely to be greeted with loud objections from advocates for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The committee will cite the federal Clean Power Plan as the main reason for continuing the freeze in state standards, saying that Ohio needs to maintain flexibility to deal with the federal rules, according to a draft of the report obtained from a committee member by TheDispatch.
An open-ended freeze “is the best path forward for Ohio,” the draft says.
Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, co-chairman of the committee, confirmed on Tuesday night that the indefinite freeze will be among the recommendations today, and he expressed disappointment that a member of the panel disclosed the draft report before its official release.
“This uncertainty with the (Clean Power Plan) is real,” he said, explaining why he thinks the ongoing freeze is needed.
The Clean Power Plan is overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and sets state-by-state goals for reducing carbon emissions.
Rep. Mike Stinziano, D-Columbus, who provided the report to TheDispatch, said an indefinite freeze is bad for the economy.
“We would be hurting our ability to attract and retain clean jobs,” he said, adding that his thoughts are based on conversations he’s had with central Ohio business leaders who have concerns that the state appears hostile to clean-energy technologies.
The energy standards are part of a 2008 state law that said utilities must meet escalating annual benchmarks for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The two-year freeze was imposed by a 2014 law signed by Gov. John Kasich and following a long and bitter debate, with utilities and some businesses supporting it and many others opposing it.
The 2014 law set up the special committee to continue looking at the subject, with a deadline of today to issue a final report.
It is now up to the Ohio General Assembly to decide whether to turn the recommendations into a new bill, and attempt to pass it.
Dispatch Reporter Jim Siegel contributed to this story.