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Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed House Bill 554 Tuesday, a bill that would have effectively extended the freeze on the state's clean energy standards.

Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards have been frozen for the past two years, ever since Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the freeze cost the state its place as a national leader in the clean energy economy by hampering innovation, investment and jobs.

A 2015 survey by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners and investors, showed that job growth in the clean energy sector in Ohio slowed to 1.5 percent, and those firms that did grow had to find business out of state.

"Today Governor Kasich put economic growth over politics ... With the state's renewable and efficiency standards back in place, Ohio can reclaim its spot as a clean energy leader, clearing the way for well-paying jobs, millions in investment and healthier air for all," Dick Munson, director of Midwest Clean Energy for Environmental Defense Fund, said. "Ohioans should cheer—it may be winter, but the clean energy freeze has finally thawed."

The Ohio General Assembly, lead by lame-duck Republicans in the House and Senate, passed House Bill 554 earlier this month, ignoring Kasich's warning that he would not favor a bill that "went backward on the environment."

"Reinstating these policies means the state can continue to work toward creating jobs and growing the economy, all while reducing harmful global warming emissions to better protect our children, public health and natural resources," Melanie Moore, Midwest field director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said. "Ohio can now join other states as they charge forward towards a clean energy future for our nation."

The state's original Renewable Portfolio Standard, SB 221, was passed in 2008. It set a target for the state to get 25 percent of its electricity from "advanced energy sources" by 2025, with a requirement that at least half (12.5 percent or more) to be generated from "renewable energy resources," including one-half of one percent from solar and 50 percent of the energy to be generated within the state.

Now, unless Kasich's veto is overridden, Ohio can take advantage of the public health benefits of the clean energy standards. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, in 2017 alone, the standards could prevent 140 premature deaths, 230 heart attacks, 2,230 asthma attacks and 16,900 lost days of work and school.

"I applaud Governor Kasich for showing true leadership and vetoing this bill," Heather Taylor-Miesle, executive director of Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, said. "HB 554 is a sloppy piece of legislation that could increase electric bills and clog our air with pollution while hampering innovation and job growth. We urge legislators to follow Governor Kasich's lead and allow Ohio's clean energy potential to be unleashed."

According to Ceres, several research reports show Ohio's clean energy policies were bringing money into the state and benefiting consumers before the freeze was put in place in 2014:

  • Ohio attracted $1.3 billion in private clean energy investment from 2009 to 2013 and was projected to generate an additional $3 billion over the next ten years, according to Pew.
  • Electricity customers were saving hundreds of millions of dollars each year on their bills and were on track to save over $5 billion cumulatively by 2020.

"Policies that encourage clean energy investment are on the rise in many U.S. states because they make strong business sense," Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, said. "By allowing Ohio's clean energy standards to come back online, Governor Kasich joins other Midwest states—including Michigan and Illinois—that recently passed laws strengthening renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts, which will stimulate private investment, economic growth and new jobs."

Geoff Greenfield, president of Third Sun Solar, agrees. "This anti solar legislation was more about protecting the old-fashioned energy industry than about economic development and competition. We are thrilled Governor Kasich decided to move past the bill's shortsighted views on energy policy and position Ohio to participate in solar, the nation's fastest growing energy segment."

Three Midwestern states are closing out the year with big clean energy changes on the horizon.

Both Illinois and Michigan passed major clean energy bills in the last hours of their lame duck sessions, encouraged by the state's Republican governors.

And while Ohio's legislature extended a freeze on the state's renewables standards, earlier comments from Gov. Kasich indicate he may veto the bill.

"Ohio lawmakers decided to significantly stall the state's clean energy efforts, putting politics over economic growth," Dick Munson, Midwest clean energy director for Environmental Defense Fund, said. "The governor should continue the leadership he has demonstrated and reject this harmful legislation, so Ohio can get back to work building its clean energy economy, opening the door to well-paying jobs and millions in investment."

Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute, agrees. "Governor Kasich has an opportunity to show that Ohio's energy policy is not for sale to utility lobbyists by vetoing HB 554 and unfreezing clean energy in the Buckeye State," he said.

In Minnesota, while a Republican legislature could curtail progress on the state's emissions reductions plans, some policymakers have hinted that clean energy policies could be ground for bipartisan compromise.

Michigan, Ohio, Illinois: Midwest Energy News

Minnesota: Midwest Energy News, MPR News

Commentary: Crain's Chicago Business, Will Kenworthy op-ed

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By Samantha Williams

Now that Ohio's Senate and House have sent an ideologically-driven bill, HB 554, to Gov. John Kasich's desk that would further delay implementation of the state's popular clean energy standards (and weaken them, too), the governor has until Dec. 28 to do the smart thing for his state's economy and the wellbeing of Ohioans: Veto it.

That's what Ohio citizens (including conservatives) and the businesses that employ them overwhelmingly want, including national players like Nestle, Campbell's Soup, the Gap and the world's largest manufacturer of energy efficient appliances, Whirlpool.

There are many good reasons why businesses are weighing in. The clean energy standards—which were frozen two years ago in another ill-advised legislative attempt to delay progress, and will resume on Jan. 1 if Gov. Kasich vetoes this bill—mean more good jobs for residents. They also represent a draw for the growing number of employers who want to locate their companies in states where they can readily achieve their own corporate sustainability goals.

The standards have also succeeded (and will continue if they're allowed to reinstate) in lowering energy bills for residents and businesses, factories, and farms. They ensure Ohio's kids cleaner air to breathe. They improve public health. And, of course, they're a vital hedge against dangerous climate change.

Over the last year, Gov. Kasich has promised, admirably, "I'll veto the bill," calling any further delays in implementing the clean energy standard "unacceptable." Now, he has the opportunity to show Ohioans—and Americans as a whole—just what leadership looks like, demonstrating not just backbone but a smart head on his shoulders. After all, he'll signal to the growing number of businesses that want clean energy that they can find it in Ohio, not just in Michigan and Illinois, two neighboring states led by Republican governors that have recently upped the ante on their own clean energy standards.

To help you understand just how successful the clean energy standards have been in Ohio, and the potential if the freeze is thawed, let's run the numbers:

100,000 clean energy jobs: That's how many Ohio has now. Buckeyes, for instance, already lead the nation in wind power component manufacturing, with more than 60 factories across the state. But since the standards were put on hold two years ago, they've sold far fewer products within Ohio. The freeze (and other wind-power restrictions the legislature imposed) have put an end to most Ohio-based projects. Then there's First Solar, which employs 1,200 in the Toledo area. The company told legislators in testimony last month that if HB 554 becomes law, "it would take a hard look at staying in Ohio." Should Gov. Kasich veto HB 554, and the standard becomes reinstated, the opposite is possible. Not only might First Solar stay put, but the state will have the opportunity to retain, and even grow, the clean energy jobs that already exist in fields as wide-ranging as insulation manufacturing, solar component parts development, and light bulb design.

112 businesses: Businesses want certainty, so they know how to plan for their future. HB 554, which will delay the standard for two more years and then open it up again for reinstatement, offers the opposite. Take it from Worthington's Republican Representative Mike Duffy in his comments during debate on the bill. "More uncertainty. More legislation. Not a lot to like," he's said.

Not only that: In 2016, 17 U.S. companies with combined revenues of more than $826 billion, including Apple, General Motors, and Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, pledged to get all of their electricity from renewable sources. More are lining up to join them, and they want to site their facilities near clean energy projects. They want the energy-bill savings that wind, solar power and energy efficiency provide, and the future hedge against the volatility of natural gas prices. That's why 112 Ohio businesses opposed the bill and support the veto, dozens of which came out to testify in legislative committees urging a thaw to the clean energy freeze.

14 Republican lawmakers: A growing contingent of Republicans, both inside and outside of the legislature, support clean energy for Ohio.

In total, 14 GOP legislators opposed the bill—nine in the House of Representatives (Arndt, Boose, Burkley, Dean, Duffey, Grossman, Hall, Reineke, Thompson) and five in the Senate (Hite, Gardner, Beagle, Manning, and LaRose.) Senator Hite even went so far as to call wind turbines "beautiful." Many of these legislators have clean energy projects and employers in their districts. And, together, they're enough to stop a veto override.

140 premature deaths: The public health benefits of the clean energy standards are enormous. In 2017 alone, the standards can prevent 140 premature deaths, 230 heart attacks, 2,230 asthma attacks and 16,900 lost days of work and school. By 2029, if Gov. Kasich vetoes HB 554, the clean energy standards stand to prevent 2,820 premature deaths among neighbors, families and friends in Ohio.

So we call on the governor to be, literally, a lifesaver, a job creator, an energy-bill-savings-promoter and a greenhouse gas pollution fighter.

As is especially important now, with President-elect Trump and his appointees promising to gut the country's clean energy policies and programs, Gov. Kasich can be a smart and important leader when we need one most.

Veto the bill, governor!

In the final hours of Ohio's lame-duck session, lawmakers passed House Bill 554 late Thursday night, which will freeze clean energy mandates for another two years if Gov. John Kasich signs the bill. More than 25,000 jobs could be at risk.

The state's original Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), SB 221, was passed in 2008. It set a target for the state to get 25 percent of its electricity from "advanced energy sources" by 2025, with a requirement that at least half (12.5 percent or more) would be generated from "renewable energy resources," including one-half of one percent from solar and 50 percent of the energy to be generated within the state.

A two-year freeze was enacted when Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. HB 554 now seeks to extend that freeze, making renewable energy targets voluntary for utilities. Ohio is the only state in the nation that has frozen its RPS. To date, 38 states have adopted RPS targets.

"Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards have been frozen for the past two years, costing the state its place as a national leader in the clean energy economy by hampering energy innovation, investment, and jobs," said Dick Munson, Midwest clean energy director for Environmental Defense Fund. "Before the freeze, these standards saved families money and brought huge investments into the state, supporting more than 25,000 jobs, saving Ohioans over $1 billion on their electricity bills, and slashing the Buckeye State's air pollution."

A 2015 survey by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners and investors, showed that job growth in the clean energy sector in Ohio slowed to just 1.5 percent following implementation of the freeze in 2014. Moreover, those firms that did grow had to find business out of state.

"Investments in renewable energy in Ohio have dried up," stated the E2 report. "Solar development has ground to a halt, with new solar resources dropping below 100 kW per month when industry averages for the six months prior stood at 1 MW or more per month."

One example is First Solar. The company employs 1,200 people in Ohio and spends $100 million a month on its production and research labs in the Toledo area, according to testimony by its director of regulatory affairs Colin Meehan. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the company would "take a hard look at staying in Ohio" if HB 554 were enacted.

A manufacturing associate at work in First Solar's Perrysburg, Ohio plant.Source: First Solar

Nationally, renewable energy grew to 16.4 percent of total installed capacity in 2015. Job creation in the solar sector grew 12 times faster than overall job creation. The green workforce in the U.S. now numbers 2.5 million.

"The Ohio House of Representatives did a great disservice to the people of Ohio," said Trish Demeter at the Ohio Environmental Council. "This rushed and sloppy legislation will have untold impacts on electric bills, result in dirtier air, and stifle economic innovation and job growth."

"Newly published emails confirm the influence of utility and industry lobbyists on 2015's controversial Energy Mandates Study Committee report, which recommended an extension of the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards," said Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. The emails were obtained from state legislators by the Energy and Policy Institute via a public information request, and were not available publicly before now.

Anderson reported:

"In one August 18, 2015 email addressed to several Republican state policymakers and 10 industry lobbyists, Ohio Senator Bill Seitz suggested that 'we should be meeting as a small group to figure out what that report is going to say.' The following month, the Energy Mandates Study Committee that Seitz referenced in his email issued a contentious report that recommended extending the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards indefinitely.

"Seitz's email went to lobbyists for American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy, as well to Samuel Randazzo, a lobbyist for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio and anti-wind attorney."

Source: Energy and Policy Institute

Seitz is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers-backed group that supplies corporate-friendly model bills to state legislators. In 2012, ALEC joined with the Heartland Institute, a think tank described by DeSmogBlog as "at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for man-made climate change," to write model legislation aimed at repealing renewable energy standards across the country.

Prior to the 2014 freeze on Ohio's renewable energy portfolio standard, emails show a trail of energy industry lobbyists working with Seitz.

The question now is whether Gov. Kasich will sign or veto HB 554.

In response to a reporter's question on Nov. 30, Kasich said, "I just would hope the legislature will not have a headline that Ohio went backward on the environment." But he did not say that he would veto the bill.

During the governor's aborted presidential campaign, he took an "all sources" approach to energy supply and said that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He also touted his job creation in Ohio without mentioning that many of those came from the clean energy sector. The Environmental Entrepreneurs report numbers Ohio clean energy jobs at 89,000 from 7,200 businesses.

If he does veto HB 554, it's questionable whether the legislators could override it. Most, but not all, Republicans voted for the bill.

"Today, Ohio lawmakers decided to significantly stall the state's clean energy efforts, putting politics over economic growth. The governor should continue the leadership he has demonstrated and reject this harmful legislation, so Ohio can get back to work building its clean energy economy, opening the door to well-paying jobs and millions in investment," Munson said.

"Governor Kasich has an opportunity to show that Ohio's energy policy is not for sale to utility lobbyists by vetoing HB 554 and unfreezing clean energy in the Buckeye State," Anderson concluded.

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