When support seemed to slow down for last year’s energy bill, it was unclear what would happen to current efficiency standards and policies. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow asked the major legislative leaders what the next step might be.
When it comes to energy policies, it might not be a question of if they’ll be changed but how.
The top leaders in the Ohio General Assembly seemed to all agree that the state’s efficiency policies and renewable standards will be tweaked in some way, but none could give a more specific outlook.
Last year’s big energy bill proposed some major changes to how utilities could spend and charge for efficiency. The bill seemed to have momentum until stalling in committee at the end of the year.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, a Democrat from the Youngstown area, believes changes can be made but they must find a plan that works best for everyone.
“There’s posturing on both sides of how bad this would be, how great this would be to make these changes," Schiavoni said. "But really there’s a middle ground here just like with the severance tax, and I think as legislators we have to foster an environment to find that middle ground so that businesses can still stay strong, the energy giants will still be able to make money, provide services, but still have that alternative piece to it because we need that as well.”
During a forum hosted by the Associated Press, Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican from Celina, admitted that the big energy bill is still lacking complete support in his caucus. However, he believes they must change the standards telling utilities to reach certain steps of energy savings from now until 2025.
“The concept of 25 in ’25 or 20 in ’20 -- all of those were not based on science," Faber said. "They were based on nice talking points that came -- at the time -- either the governor’s or speaker’s office when that bill went through. I think it’s time for us to figure out what’s based on science and economics and not based on nice talking points and numbers.”
Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati sponsored the major energy bill. President Faber also commented on another bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Kris Jordan of Delaware County, that would repeal the standards altogether.
“I think that Senator Jordan’s bill essentially resetting, going back to without the -- again -- arbitrary standards is certainly getting worthy consideration," Faber said. "I’m not sure the caucus is in support of that as an absolute. Just like we had a lot of discussion, I think we had a caucus discussion on Sen. Seitz’s bill as we’ve had on most things this session, and I don’t know if there was a general consensus on all those issues.”
House Speaker Bill Batchelder, a Republican from Medina, agrees that the energy efficiency policies must be addressed and adds that the current provisions have a huge impact on the manufacturing industry.