As promised, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has vetoed a bill that would have weakened the state's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, ending a two-year-long freeze on the standards and clearing the way for them to be reinstated as of Jan. 1, 2017.
Explaining the reasoning behind his decision, Kasich said the bill would have threatened energy generation options in the state, including those most prized by high tech firms seeking to create jobs and expand businesses. The bill also would have dealt a blow to successful efforts to help businesses and homeowners reduce energy costs through increased efficiency, the governor explained. Citing information from the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Kasich said energy efficiency investments made between 2009 and 2012 yielded $1.03 billion in savings and will result in $4.15 billion over their lifetime. Those investments were made thanks to the state's existing energy efficiency standards, and Kasich noted that the bill "sidelines some energy options at a time when Ohio can already meet many renewable energy generation standards in current law."
"The administration stands ready to work with the General Assembly to advance strategies for helping ensure competitive energy costs," Kasich wrote in his veto message, dated Dec. 22 and released Dec. 27. "Ohio workers cannot afford to take a step backward from the economic gains that we have made in recent years, however, and arbitrarily limiting Ohio's energy generation options amounts to self-inflicted damage to both our state's near- and long-term economic competitiveness."
The bill vetoed by Kasich has been revised several times since it was introduced in the General Assembly in May. Initially, Rep. Ron Amstutz proposed to continue a freeze on the state's renewable energy and solar energy benchmarks for investor-owned utilities at 2014 levels through at least 2027 while eliminating specific peak demand reduction and energy efficiency benchmarks. The bill approved Dec. 9 by the House, however, would have lifted the freeze but made compliance voluntary through 2020. The bill also would have required utilities to meet state benchmarks beginning in 2019.
The veto announcement was met with cheers from energy efficiency and renewable power supporters. Advanced Energy Economy Vice President for State Policy J.R. Tolbert heralded Kasich's "principled leadership."
"Governor Kasich understands that renewable energy and energy efficiency create jobs and save money. That's a formula that is good for business and good for every Ohioan," Tolbert said.
Ohio AEE Chapter President Ted Ford said the freeze has cost the state jobs and investments. "In the last three years, while Ohio has been idling, Michigan has attracted over $1.1 billion in renewable energy investments," Ford said. "With this veto, Ohio can begin to move forward with sensible energy policy next year — one that can bring back advanced energy jobs and investment to Ohio."
State Sen. Bill Seitz, who supported the bill, said Kasich's veto decision "disrespects the legislative process" the governor himself supported when he agreed to establish the commission that ultimately recommended the standards be frozen indefinitely. Seitz said the legislature attempted to meet Kasich halfway with the revisions to the bill reinstating the standards on a voluntary basis, and the proposed changes would have tried "a goals-based approach for two years to prove that statist mandates are not necessary to achieve a cleaner energy future."
The legislature could override the veto with a three-fifths majority vote; however, AEE noted that the bill, HB 554, did not receive that level of support when it was approved by both the House and Senate.