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Ohio’s laws hamper renewable energy, even if the pro nuclear HB6 law is repealed

HB 6 Repeal Would Address Only Part Of Lawmakers’ Actions To Slow Renewables, Cincinnati Public Radio, By KATHIANN M. KOWALSKI & EYE ON OHIO • JUL 24, 2020  Both Republican and Democratic Ohio lawmakers are pushing to repeal the state’s nuclear bailout bill after this week’s release of a federal criminal complaint against House Speaker Larry Householder and others. Clean energy advocates say that would be a start, but more is needed to address eight years of lawmakers’ actions to slow the growth of renewables in the state.

The complaint alleges a $60 million bribery and conspiracy scheme that led to the passage of House Bill 6 last summer, followed by the defeat of a referendum effort to give voters a say on the bill. Amounts involved are about 20 times more than amounts that could be tracked through public documents.

HB 6 is primarily known as a “nuclear bailout” for providing six years of subsidies for the FirstEnergy Solutions/Energy Harbor nuclear power plants in Ohio totaling roughly a billion dollars, but it also gutted the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, and provided bailouts for two 1950s-era coal plants in Ohio and Indiana.

And while Gov. Mike DeWine has recently shifted his position from defending HB 6 to saying he wants to “repeal and replace” it, legislators from both parties say the whole thing should be thrown out. DeWine has said his office had no involvement in the alleged scheme. Yet he signed the law within hours after Householder secured its passage last summer.

Whether due to actual or perceived corruption, HB 6 “is a corrupt piece of legislation. All of it — not just part of it,” said Rep. Mike Skindell, D-Lakewood. “Therefore, the entire thing needs to be repealed. … That is one step in restoring the confidence of the citizens which was broken because of this corrupt process.”

“Those of us who are free-market conservatives are against the bill. Those of us who care about consumers and predatory pricing are against the bill. And it’s why those of us who want more renewable energy, not less, are against the bill,” said Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City.

“Ohioans deserve an immediate and full

repeal of House Bill 6 in order to restore the public’s trust in the legislative process, and also to get Ohio’s clean energy future restarted,” said Miranda Leppla, vice president of energy policy for the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund. “There is simply no room to consider anything less than a full repeal of this bill, as it is corrupt to the very core. Ohio lawmakers should consider what policies are best for Ohioans, without the corrupt influence of pay-to-play politicians and lobbyists working to influence their decisions.”

“I think this fiasco of HB 6 is just symbolic of the pay-to-play culture that has been in operation for a decade or more,” said Steve Melink, founder and CEO of Melink Corporation in Cincinnati. An analysis of lawful, reported campaign contributions from the utility, nuclear and coal industries in Ohio shows substantial increases in election years after a competitive generation market finally began developing in the state.

Efforts to give preferences to FirstEnergy and utility and fossil fuel interests didn’t start with HB 6. Bailout proposals have been on the table since at least 2014. And efforts to limit or repeal Ohio’s clean energy standards have been underway since at least 2012. A 2014 law imposed a two-year “freeze,” and then former Gov. John Kasich vetoed another bill to erode the standards. Other bills for nuclear and fossil subsidies and for weakening the standards were proposed in 2017 and 2018. And then Householder was elected.

HB 6 “was much more than a bailout for uneconomic nuclear and coal plants. It was an attack on renewable energy and energy efficiency that FirstEnergy, and its allies in the legislature, had been pushing for years,” said J.R. Tolbert, managing director for Advanced Energy Economy’s national business group. 

What More Is Needed?

“Ohio has some fundamental changes that need to be made to get back on track in our fight against climate change,” Leppla said. “These include fixing our wind setbacks, prioritizing efficiency as a money- and energy-saving resource, and fixing our power siting board process to ensure renewables have an even playing field.”

Removing a 2014 provision that tripled property line setbacks for wind turbines “is the very first change that has to happen” after a full repeal of HB 6, said Sandy Buchanan, executive director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“When the rules changed, it essentially froze the number of wind projects,” said IEEFA data analyst Seth Feaster. That caused communities to miss out on revenues, more financial stability, better credit ratings and indirect job benefits, he and Buchanan noted. Meanwhile, a lot of wind projects moved to other states that were more welcoming.

The constant push to limit or repeal the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standards has also hurt, Melink noted. The portfolio standards act as incentives to attract and develop clean energy and other businesses that want renewable energy by setting enforceable targets, which the market then moves to meet, he said………. https://www.wvxu.org/post/hb-6-repeal-would-address-only-part-lawmakers-actions-slow-renewables

August 29, 2020 - Posted by | politics, renewable, USA

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