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Kasich set to sign energy bill

Honda, others make last-minute push for veto.

Consumers and businesses will see their electric bills go up if Gov. John Kasich signs a new bill rolling back Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, according to a letter sent to Kasich on Wednesday by a coalition of 51 companies and 21 organizations.

The letter would appear to have little impact. Kasich’s office reiterated Wednesday that he will sign the bill, which puts a two-year freeze on standards that call for reducing the state’s reliance on nonrenewable fossil fuels, such as coal.

The “legislation will be harmful to Ohioans’ electric bills and to Ohio’s burgeoning renewable energy and energy efficiency industries,” said the letter signed by Honda of America, the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association, the Ohio Consumers Counsel and a variety of alternative energy companies, manufacturers, business groups and others.

The letter said the rollback is particularly problematic given Monday’s announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of proposed rules requiring a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fueled power plants by 2030.

While the letter sent to Kasich doesn’t specifically ask him to veto the bill, it outlines what the signers say is wrong with the legislation.

Honda of America spokesman Ron Lietzke said energy efficiency policies attract economic investment and growth.

“Basically the coalition that Honda’s part of wanted to share the same concerns with the governor that they shared with the legislature as they were looking for ways to amend the legislation,” Lietzke said.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols Wednesday said the governor will sign the energy mandate rollback, known as Senate Bill 310. In addition to the two-year freeze, the legislation sets up a study committee and states an intention to permanently reduce energy efficiency and renewable energy rules.

“Given the fact that there were those who wanted to end renewables entirely, and those who think we should never question or reassess an energy policy that was written before we even knew Ohio was rich in natural gas, we’re pretty confident that we’ve hit the sweet spot and are firmly in the sensible center,” Nichols said Wednesday.

Senate Bill 310 supporters — which include the Ohio Chamber of Commerce — argue that continuing the renewable and efficiency standards will raise electric rates and cost jobs. They say the state needs a “time-out” on the standards to study how the energy environment has changed since the law was passed in 2008, particularly the discovery of shale oil and natural gas reserves.

Jereme Kent, general manager of Findlay-based wind energy developer, One Energy LLC, opposes the rollback of the standards but is relieved that the House removed a “poison pill” provision that he said would have dried up financing for future wind or solar projects. The deleted “change of law” provision would have required that any parties to future contracts signed by electric companies for renewable energy resources or credits be released from their obligations if the state’s requirements changed.

“I appreciate that the House had the wisdom to remove a pill that detrimental to the state of Ohio,” Kent said. “At least we will not be the laughing stock. We will just be behind everybody else.”

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