Ohio Gov. John Kasich
State legislative leaders and Gov. John Kasich could be headed for a showdown over a plan to limit increases in “green” energy required of utility companies.
A Republican-backed bill would lock in at current levels the amount of renewable energy that electricity companies are required to buy, instead of increasing it until 2025.
Sources told The Dispatch that Kasich told Republican Senate President Keith Faber and GOP House Speaker William G. Batchelder that he wants changes in the bill, and he might have threatened a veto.
Faber would neither confirm nor deny that Kasich made a veto threat, but he said, “The governor has made some suggestions of things he would like to see changed in the bill, and we are in the process of trying to see whether we can accommodate” them.
Senate Bill 310 would freeze the amount of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy that electricity utilities are required to buy under a law passed in 2008.
Faber said the bill already had been destined to undergo changes before it is passed out of committee and the Senate.
“We need to understand what our disagreements are, and we need to understand how (Kasich’s) changes would work,” Faber said.
He said Kasich’s concerns are rooted “more in the application of the freeze than anything,” but he noted that he had not reviewed Kasich’s specific policy suggestions.
Sources also said that Faber suggested he might pursue an override of a veto. Faber wouldn’t confirm or deny that, either, but he said: “I anticipate we will pass a bill out of the Senate."
In a text message to The Dispatch, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said: “We don’t conduct our negotiations through the press, we are looking for common ground, and we’re confident we will find it.”
Supporters and opponents of the bill say they have heard that there is disagreement between legislative leaders and the governor, although sources indicate that Kasich didn’t raise his concerns until recently. The supporters say this is a normal part of passing a high-profile energy bill.
“I’m sure there’s a dialogue going on, as there always is,” said Sam Randazzo, an attorney for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, a group that is one of the measure’s leading supporters.
Randazzo noted that the 2008 law, which set annual increases in renewable-energy standards through 2025, faced major ups and downs — including a veto threat by then-Gov. Ted Strickland late in the process.
The new bill would revise the parts of the 2008 law dealing with renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Republican Sen. Bill Seitz, a backer of the new bill, said he hopes the bill wins committee approval as soon as next week.
“We’re not done with the bill,” he said yesterday. “There are going to be amendments. We don’t quite know what those will look like yet, but I hope we will by Wednesday.”
The proposal has split the business community. It has the support of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and other statewide business groups, and of FirstEnergy, the Akron-based utility. It is opposed by key employers such as Honda and trade associations such as the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association. Also among the opponents are consumer advocates and environmental groups.
Opponents have tailored their message to the governor, pointing to studies that show the bill will cost the state jobs and lead to the elimination of popular programs that help consumers reduce their energy bills.
“Senate Bill 310 would be the death knell for a promising, high-growth Ohio industry still in its infancy,” said Ted Ford, president and CEO of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, in an April 12 opinion piece in The Dispatch.
Ford used some of Kasich’s previous statements on energy to make the case, arguing that this bill would undermine the governor’s “well rounded” approach to energy policy.