Broad Ohio Coalition Wants Renewable Energy Targets Restored

Broad Ohio coalition wants renewable energy targets restored

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A broad coalition of state business, health, community and environmental groups called Wednesday for Ohio lawmakers to reinstate mandatory targets for the use of renewable and advanced energy sources such as wind, solar and clean coal.

The recommendation was contained in a report following what was dubbed Ohio's Energy Future Tour. The report pulled together input from 70 issue experts and 10,000 residents who provided feedback online and at forums across the state.

Tour spokeswoman Jane Harf said it was clear from the discussions that residents want a state energy plan that embraces clean energy, which means reinstating "meaningful" requirements.

"To transform this vision into reality requires a series of policies that reflect bold leadership and long-term planning and leverages the regional strengths of the state," Harf said. "Participants in the tour wanted that message delivered to Ohio policymakers."

Harf said the report will be delivered to a legislative study committee that's deciding what course to recommend regarding the mandates. The panel faces a Sept. 30 deadline.

A 2008 state law required 25 percent of Ohio's energy to come from alternative sources by 2025 and set certain energy efficiency goals. The law, along with similar renewable energy mandates across the country, began to see pushback from some Republican legislators who proposed repeal.

To resolve the faceoff, GOP Gov. John Kasich forged a compromise last year that paused phase-in of the targets for two years while it could be studied. If lawmakers fail to act, phase-in of the standards will resume in 2017.

State Sen. Troy Balderson, who's chairing the study committee, has said repealing the mandates entirely is not on the table. But reducing the 25 percent requirement imposed on Ohio energy companies is under consideration, as are changes to the energy efficiency goals laid out in the 2008 law.

The Ohio's Energy Future effort involved about three dozen groups, including entities as diverse as the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Small Business Majority and representatives from several colleges and universities. They set goals for their energy vision being affordable, reliable and safe, as well as fostering innovation and protecting public health.

Besides reinstating alternative energy mandates and energy efficiency standards, the coalition also recommends developing a cost-effective state plan for complying with President Barack Obama's plan to cut nationwide carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030.

Kasich wrote to Obama on Aug. 28 asking him to suspend implementation of the Clean Power Plan until all legal appeals are resolved. Kasich raised the concern that Ohio power plants were being required to make irreversible changes despite "significant legal uncertainty."

The Ohio's Energy Future group also recommends repealing setback requirements for wind farms that were also passed last year. They require wind turbine blades to be at least a quarter-mile from the nearest property line, a rule large-scale wind developers have called devastating - even if the renewable energy mandates are reinstated.

About a dozen wind farm projects that have been certified by the state are on hold and may never be able to move forward as a result of pausing the renewable energy mandates for two years.

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