It’s now up to Gov. John Kasich to decide the future of Ohio’s energy standards after the House and Senate agreed on a measure to freeze the benchmarks. As Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, the issue continues to stir strong debate on both sides of the aisle.
The bill’s journey to the governor’s desk has been a year and a half in the making. Legislators have held hours and hours of hearings about Ohio’s energy standards since the beginning of 2013.
The end result is a bill that freezes the benchmarks for utilities, which were supposed to get 25 percent of their energy from alternative sources by 2025. This bill stops the standards for two years as a commission performs a cost-benefit analysis.
Republican State Rep. Peter Stautberg of Cincinnati urges that the General Assembly had to make some type of change to the current standards which have, among other things, incentivized the purchase of energy-efficient appliances.
“The low-hanging fruit is disappearing," Stautberg said, "Consumers can only consume so many light bulbs and only so many refrigerators can be hauled away and only so many letters can adjust and modify consumer behavior."
Stautberg adds that consumers are taking on too much of the burden to pay for these standards.
“At the end of the day, we don’t think it’s good policy to require all electric ratepayers to pay into the pot to then benefit a few," he said. "We think that the free market works, efficiency makes sense, and we can all make that decision for ourselves.”
But House Democrats warned that the bill could pose long-term consequences on the environment and job creation. Democratic State Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland said turning away from standards means furthering the impacts of climate change.
“The Ohio House is about to turn its back on future generations who will live with the fact that when Ohio had the chance to diversify its energy sources and fight for a cleaner planet, it faltered and left behind a less clean and more inhospitable planet," Foley said.
Meanwhile, State Rep. Dan Ramos, a Democrat from Lorain, claimed this bill will drive companies out of the state.
“It tells the free market, it tells business, Ohio’s not for you if you want to create jobs in the alternative energy sector," Ramos said.
Republican State Rep. Kristina Roegner of Hudson emphasized the fact that the bill is only a freeze that’s lifted in two years if the General Assembly doesn’t take any further action.
The House passed the measure but not completely along party lines. Several Republicans voted against the bill, including State Rep. Mike Duffey of Worthington. Duffey said the legislation didn’t do enough to benefit consumers. Two Democrats voted in favor of the freeze.
The Senate concurred on the House’s version of the bill which means it now heads to Gov. John Kasich. A spokesperson for Kasich said the governor plans on signing the bill.