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Ohio Becomes First State to Roll Back Renewable Energy Mandate
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said two years ago that he had "no doubt" that the renewable energy bill he signed would last 100 years. After a state House of Representatives vote Wednesday afternoon, that appears unlikely.
The state House approved Senate Bill 310, 53 to 38, making Ohio the first in the U.S. to freeze renewable energy standards. The bill previously passed the Senate, but now the Senate needs to approve minor changes made by the House, and then the measure heads to Gov. John Kasich's desk.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Thursday that Kasich plans to sign the bill.
“As the rest of the country is moving forward on energy efficiency and independence, Ohio is moving backwards,” State Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) said in a statement. “Reversing our Renewable Portfolio Standards is completely irrational, and unfortunately Ohio consumers and businesses are the victims of the absurdity."
In addition to the freeze, it ceases to require utilities to buy half of their renewable energy from Ohio companies. That's why many groups believe the legislation to be a job killer for the industry. According to the Columbus Dispatch, State Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) believes SB 310 was the worst proposal he has seen in eight years as a legislator.
Some environmental groups are still holding out hope that Kasich will veto the bill. However, they should recall Media Matters for America unearthing an unsettling fact earlier this month—Kasich is recognized in the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) internal talking points as someone who “helped mold ALEC in its formative years.” ALEC has attacked renewable standards in states across the country.
"Clean energy critics claim Ohio can no longer afford the clean energy standards. But that's not what they said just two years ago when lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Kasich energy plan," Trish Demeter, managing director of Energy and Clean Air Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, said in a statement. “What's changed in two short years? More importantly, has Governor Kasich's commitment to clean energy changed?
"Now is the time for him to demonstrate the forceful leadership that he not been afraid to exert on other issues."
Some think the answer to Demeter's question lies in several Ohio legislators' affiliation to ALEC. Aside from Kasich's ties, Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) is known as the legislation’s loudest advocate and is also an ALEC board member, for example.
“Passage of SB 310 threatens Ohio jobs and potential future investment in green technology," Hagan said. “We are on the precipice of destroying our environment and climate.
"Instead of clinging to outdated modes of energy generation, the legislature needs to focus on securing our state’s energy future.”
The American Wind Energy Association made a late push Wednesday for people to call their representatives in hopes that they would vote against SB 310. Now, the group hopes those constituents can influence Kasich.
"Much of the impressive growth of wind power in Ohio was sparked by our state renewable energy law—the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. This policy calls on Ohio utilities to provide 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025," the organization wrote.
Earlier this year, Iberdrola Renewables presented $2.7 million worth of checks to two Ohio communities to commemorate the first of the annual payments in lieu of taxes for the Blue Creek Wind Farm—the state’s largest wind farm with 304 megawatts of output. Groups believe such investments will come to a halt as a result of Wednesday's vote.
"Governor Kasich has a critical choice to make: Back or bail on his own energy policy that embraces many different resources," Demeter said. "Cleaner air, consumer savings and new jobs and investment are hanging on his decision."
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The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.