Wind turbines generate electricity on a farm straddling Paulding and Van Wert counties in northwest Ohio. EAMON QUEENEY | DISPATCH FILE PHOTO
By Dan Gearino The Columbus Dispatch • Thursday May 8, 2014 6:58 AM
The Ohio Senate early today passed a two-year pause in annual increases in the state’s “green” energy standards, following days of negotiations with Gov. John Kasich’s office and in spite of adamant opposition.
Senate Bill 310 passed 21-11. Senators did not finish debating the bill until after 1 a.m.
The measure calls for a two-year freeze in standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency while a legislative panel studies issues related to the standards. If the legislature takes no action in response to the study, the standards would automatically resume in 2017 and continue through 2027.
The bill now heads to the House.
“One of the essential tenets of this debate has been how to best protect ratepayers,” said Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.
Senate Republicans had hoped to include a provision that would allow households to opt out of paying for some of the standards on their electricity bills. Lawmakers said they removed that part of the bill at the insistence of Kasich’s office.
That was one of many last-minute changes that rankled some senators.
“Somebody who’s not on the committee recommends this,” Seitz said, referring to the governor. “ For what reason, I’m not sure.”
The original version of S.B. 310 called for a permanent freeze in the energy standards. Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday changed this to a two-year freeze, again in response to concerns from Kasich.
Each side in the debate has said its position would lead to lower electricity bills.
Critics of the measure have said that the various changes to the bill have done little to improve a plan that remains a giveaway to utility companies. The critics include environmentalists, consumer advocates and some businesses.
Yesterday, the Catholic Conference of Ohio added its name to the opponents, saying in a letter that lawmakers should “prayerfully consider if it would be more prudent for the sake of environmental stewardship to maintain our current policies” and not pass the bill.
Supporters say the continued escalation of the standards will lead to costs that exceed the benefits, which will lead to increases in electricity bills.
The supporters include businesses, with a special push coming from FirstEnergy, the Akron-based utility.