Off the table.
by Tom Henry, Toledo Blade, 3/11/2016
Remember those three words if Ohio General Assembly conservatives renew efforts to kill the state's renewable energy mandates this fall, as many people believe they will try to do.
According to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler, though, any such effort won't be coming from Gov. John Kasich, nor will Kasich condone it.
Kasich has agreed to let the freeze expire. Photo credit: Associated Press
One of the great under-reported stories of the 2016 presidential campaign is how Kasich became America's first and continues to be the nation's only governor to sign into law a two-year freeze on renewable energy mandates.
Ohio is one of 29 states with such mandates, most of which have been passed by state assemblies.
During the former Strickland administration, legislators nearly unanimously agreed that utilities doing business in Ohio must get at least 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources or buy credits to offset the difference.
Ohio's law also calls for another 12.5 percent in technologies cleaner than traditional coal-fired power plants, such as more investments in nuclear power or in research and development of projects that would reduce coal emissions.
It is, by comparison to other states, one of the softer set of rules.
But utilities such as FirstEnergy Corp. hate them. They don't want legislators or environmental lobbyists telling them to diversify their businesses.
The freeze that Kasich signed in 2014 emanated from a major utility lobbying effort led by FirstEnergy Corp., which originally wanted Kasich to outright kill Ohio's requirements.
The best that FirstEnergy and others got was a time-out.
While in Toledo last week to give First Solar, Inc. an award for environmental stewardship, Butler told me the administration's feelings back in 2014 were that market forces had changed dramatically and a two-year freeze was reasonable.
Many major businesses, including Honda and Rudolph-Libbe, objected. But the freeze was put into effect, anyway.
Then, just before he began his run for the presidency, Kasich announced the freeze had run its course and he would not be extending it this year.
He came full circle and agreed the temporary ban was keeping Ohio from tapping its full job potential from manufacturing and distributing renewable energy parts, a conclusion that consultants also arrived at in 2015.
Kasich echoed those thoughts during the GOP debate Thursday night.
In Cabinet-level discussions, Butler said the Kasich administration has agreed to listen to conservatives who want to propose modifications of the requirements.
But get rid of them permanently?
No way, he said.
Kasich hasn't wavered on that position.
"That's off the table," Butler said.