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By: Judd Baroff

black smokeOn the first Monday of June, President Obama rolled out a new plan to reduce America’s carbon footprint.  The EPA’s new coal standards seek to cut carbon emissions from coal plants 20% by 2020.  This comes almost four years after President Obama’s Cap and Trade legislation died in congress, never getting past the Republican controlled House.  The administration hopes these new standards will force the states to create Cab and Trade programs for themselves, as former-Governor Mitt Romney helped spearhead for all of New England back in the early aughts.

Sadly, everything is not sunshine and roses (a greater likelihood if there is more coal dust in the air) here in Ohio.  On Friday the 13th, a date some opponents find satirically appropriate, Gov. John Kasich signed Bill 310, which imposes a two year moratorium on Ohio’s energy efficiency standards.  These standards, originally signed by an almost unanimous legislature back in 2008, aimed to have renewable energy comprise 25% of all energy consumption in Ohio by 2025.

The bill set in place standards that rose each year, which utility companies would have to meet.  If they did not meet the standards, or get an exemption from Columbus, they would have to pay a fine to Ohio’s Advanced Energy Fund.  Half of all energy efficiency could come from management side resources, such as improving the efficiency of existing power plants.  But at least fifty percent of the improvement had to come from renewable energy, including solar power, waste-to-energy plants, and wind.

At least thirty states now have renewable energy standards.  But this is not the first attack on statewide renewable energy programs around the country.  Back in March, Kansas’s renewable energy mandate endured a very similar challenge.  Happily for Kansans, the assault was rebuffed in their state legislature.  

Bill 310 faced stiff opposition in Ohio too. Critics worried that the rule freeze would make it harder for the state to meet President Obama’s new EPA standards.  More than 70 manufacturers sent a letter to Gov. Kasich imploring him not to sign the legislation.  They said that they used the energy efficiency standards to save on power costs and told Gov. Kasich that the law would hurt business.  These businesses include such companies as Honda and Whirlpool Corp.  

Now passed, Bill 310 has environmental activists worried that all the hard work Ohioans put into renewable energy might be threatened.  Trish Dementer, managing director of Energy and Clean Air Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council complained, “Dirtier air.  Higher electric bills.  Lost jobs and investment.  These are the new ‘dividends’ in store for Ohio from this major divestiture in clean energy.”  While Christian Adams, state associate at Environmental Ohio, defended Ohio’s renewable energy progress since 2008, “Ohio’s clean energy law has worked for five years to encourage the development of clean, renewable energy in Ohio.  After starting from almost nothing, we’re now generating enough renewable energy to power over 1,000,000 homes and have saved Ohioans over a billion dollars on their electric bills through energy efficiency.”  

Gov. Kaisch, however, defended his freeze, saying that the original standards, while “well-intentioned,” posed an “emerging challenge to job creation and Ohio’s economic recovery.”  Unfortunately for Gov. Kaisch, the Toledo Blade reports that already some companies are taking their business out of Ohio, as many anticipate that the moratorium is a prelude to an outright dismantlement of the renewable energy standards.

Perhaps there is some life left in the standards, however.  Less than a week after signing Bill 310 and fielding a firestorm of fierce criticism, Gov. Kaisch promised that he would veto any bill that terminated the standards indefinitely.  We here at YellowLite hope he is being honest.  We shall see.

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