Panel seeks to extend freeze on Ohio renewable power targets

JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press

Government requirements for the use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy by Ohio power companies would be suspended indefinitely under recommendations being prepared by a legislative panel.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Government requirements for the use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy by Ohio power companies would be suspended indefinitely under recommendations being prepared for release Wednesday by a legislative panel.

The Energy Mandates Study Committee's draft report was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its release.

The panel is reviewing an Ohio law requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from alternative and advanced sources by 2025. It was created as part of a compromise brokered by Gov. John Kasich amid efforts to repeal the targets outright.

The report cites legal uncertainty and a need for "greater clarity" surrounding proposed federal clean coal rules among reasons that proceeding with Ohio's state-level mandates would be imprudent.

Ohio is among states that have sued over the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which sets targets for carbon dioxide emissions for existing power plants as a means of reducing emissions from 2005 levels by 32 percent by 2030. Kasich has also written to President Barack Obama asking him to hold off on implementing the plan until questions are resolved by the courts.

"The US EPA, by promulgation of the proposed CPP, seeks to change the energy landscape significantly across the United States," the report states.

Proponents argue that Ohio's targets were creating jobs and benefiting the environment before they were frozen, and would continue to do so if allowed to proceed.

Democratic members of the Republican-controlled study committee, Sens. Capri Cafaro and Sandra Williams, urged the governor in a letter from their caucus released Tuesday to fight for the mandates to be reinstated.

"Allowing the clean energy industry to prosper could result in better products, a healthier population, cheaper prices, and more jobs over time," they wrote.

Samantha Williams, attorney and energy policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Ohio's momentum as "a clean energy trailblazer" has stalled.

"Any policies that block progress to regain Ohio's leadership will only grow the mountain of missed opportunities and keep the state lagging behind its neighbors that are moving forward with clean energy to create jobs, boost their economy and protect public health," she said in a statement.

Republican Sen. Bill Seitz, a member of the study committee and advocate for earlier repeal efforts, said Ohio's "march up Mandate Mountain" needs to be curtailed indefinitely. He said setting a specific timeline for extending the freeze — say, for one or two years — doesn't allow enough flexibility to await court rulings and clarifications from the federal government.

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