Double standard in Ohio: energy policy favors oil, coal and natural gas
When the moment calls for embracing the energy future, the Republican majorities at the Statehouse are determined to resist. They prefer the energy of the present, even of the past.
Consider the latest example, Senate Bill 52, passed late last month about an hour after midnight. The legislation throws obstacles in the way of large-scale solar and wind projects. It does this by giving new powers to county commissioners, or county executives and councils, allowing them to crush such clean energy development early in the approval process.
County officials are also getting the power to establish restricted areas in unincorporated areas, where solar and wind development would be banned entirely, though residents can challenge a ban by collecting signatures to hold a referendum on the land. ballot.
This veto-worthy legislation follows other bad turns in energy policy making. For example, the notorious, scandal-laden House Bill 6 devastated the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, while subsidizing two unnecessary coal-fired power plants. Republican lawmakers have all but halted the development of wind power by establishing severe setback requirements.
Most recently, they enacted House Bill 201, which prevents municipalities from limiting the use of natural gas in their energy portfolios. Communities have taken such steps in large part because they are frustrated with the lack of action on climate change.
Note the double standard. Renewable energy sources do not enjoy many similar advantages. Local authorities will not soon have the power to tip the scales towards clean energy, let alone create useful restricted areas.
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Why do the Republican majorities insist on discouraging the development of renewable energies? They point to complaints from residents of rural Ohio about the disturbing, if not ugly, presence of huge wind turbines or solar farms occupying large areas. A legislator speaks of “these monstrosities”.
Note also that they are not as responsive to cities seeking to curb gun violence or otherwise assert autonomy.
Supporters of the legislation insist they protect property rights and values, albeit seemingly to the detriment of landowners who wish to sell their land to solar and wind developers.
Some cite the cost of renewable energy sources, wondering indeed: why impose a burden on taxpayers? Yet, over the past decade, solar and wind prices have fallen dramatically, far exceeding expectations, thus becoming cost competitive.
Matt Huffman, Speaker of the Senate, told reporters wind and solar were not “a big enough part of Ohio’s energy mix to warrant replacing local control.” Isn’t that the point of a healthy energy approach, making them more meaningful in the context of slowing the march of climate change, not to mention the addition of productive dimensions to the state economy? ?
The general opposition to SB 52 is telling, from environmental organizations to business and labor groups, including the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum. A handful of Republicans in the House and Senate have sided with the opponents.
The opposition begins with the obvious. The state already has an effective process for evaluating energy projects – the Ohio Power Siting Board.
The council includes representatives from relevant state departments and agencies, including natural resources, agriculture and development, and the public, a person selected by the governor with input from the state consumer council. Four legislators are non-voting members. The assessment includes in-depth applications, expert staff, public hearings and environmental reviews.
SB 52 makes a worthy addition of two “ad hoc” members. These spots go to representatives of the county where a proposed project is located. Too bad lawmakers did not stop there, ensuring a role for local voices in the broader decision-making of the selection board.
Instead, the legislation goes further – a green light from the county is required before the proposal reaches the selection board, local political dramas are more likely to obscure real need or value.
Opponents fear that the state will have 88 different location standards and thus miss out on economic opportunities. An analysis from Ohio University found the logic: Large-scale solar and wind projects will spur economic growth and create jobs here, generating new income for the state, communities and schools. Ohio risks losing this investment and its ripple effect to the detriment of local suppliers.
Large solar and wind projects are crucial for the energy future as a counterweight to the growing impact of climate change. These are clean sources of electricity, which businesses are asking for more frequently when choosing locations. Ohio wants a reputation as a place open to these projects.
Unfortunately, this is less the case. The state pulled back from its level of more than a decade ago when it adopted renewable energy and efficiency standards. Rather, these backward steps are the real monstrosities, as well as the damage, and worse yet, promised by global warming, such as rising temperatures and more violent storms, primarily driven by what Republican majorities favor. – petroleum, coal and natural products. gas.
Douglas is a retired editorial page editor for the Beacon Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected]