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Published: Thursday, 5/22/2014

Ohio House panel cancels energy vote

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — An Ohio House committee vote on a controversial bill at least temporarily backing away from Ohio’s 6-year-old renewable energy and efficiency mandates was abruptly canceled Wednesday.

Opponents of Senate Bill 310 are now airing a TV ad making the case that undermining the state’s mandates would be a step backward in shaking off the state’s rust-belt image.

“There’s a reason the GOP lawmakers are thinking twice about moving this bill,” Rep. Bob Hagan (D., Youngstown) said. “Instead of continuing to focus on a rapidly developing sector of our economy, this bill amounts to a big handout to the utility companies at the expense of Ohio consumers and businesses.”

The bill has passed the Senate and is now expected to come to a full House vote next week.

Sponsored by Sen. Troy Balderson (R., Zanesville), the bill is the latest to try to change the 2008 law that requires utilities to find 25 percent of their power from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, or advanced sources like fuel cells, advanced nuclear, or cleaner-coal technology by 2025.

The law also requires utilities to implement programs to reduce customers’ power consumption by 22 percent.

Senate Bill 310 would freeze the renewable-energy mandate for two years at the current year benchmark of 2.5 percent while a committee studies the law and recommends changes.

The bill has divided the business community with both sides making variations on the same argument — either that relaxing the mandates or keeping the mandates will hamper job creation and drive up electricity bills.

House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) said some members of the House GOP caucus were uncomfortable with the pace of the bill.

“We have six more votes than we had [Tuesday] night,” he said. “People have had a chance to talk among themselves and with people who are knowledgeable about the bill. We’ve got a number of important corporations that have got people here now.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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