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Published: Friday, 6/6/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Area firms urge Kasich to reject GOP energy bill

Letter states measure would hurt investments

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A number of companies in northwest Ohio or with significant operations here have signed a letter urging Gov. John Kasich to reconsider legislation that would put a two-year hold on the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards while lawmakers study the mandates.

A total of 51 companies, including Toledo’s Owens Corning, signed the letter, which was delivered to Mr. Kasich on Wednesday.

The Republican-backed legislation seeks to address what many members of that party believe are costly and unattainable goals set in a 2008 state law.

Current rules require utilities to get 25 percent of the power they deliver to customers from renewable and advanced energy sources by 2025, while at the same time cutting overall consumption by 22 percent.

The legislation has cleared the Ohio House and Senate and is awaiting the signature of Mr. Kasich, a Republican. He has indicated he intends to sign it.

The proposal has been fiercely controversial, splitting not just Democrats and Republicans, but Ohio’‍s business community. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has thrown its support behind the measure, saying Ohioans have spent $1 billion to comply with the mandate so far and that costs will continue mounting.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Manufacturers Association has opposed it, seeking a different compromise.

The letter sent this week argues that the legislation would reverse course on a policy that has created significant investment and job creation across the state.

“The current state policies promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy align with your 21st Century energy plan. Unfortunately, key provisions of S.B. 310 that change those policies have not been vetted and ultimately will hurt Ohio businesses and residents,” the letter read.

One of the charges the letter makes is that pausing the mandates essentially amounts to a start-stop in the market, disrupting investment and ultimately resulting in higher electric bills.

Brian McPeak, Owens Corning’s vice president of external affairs, said the company supported the 2008 legislation and sees no reason to change course.

“We’re not seeking to be the lead voice on this, but we do feel strongly about the issue,” Mr. McPeak said.

Owens Corning makes products that support the renewable energy industry, such as composites for the blades of wind turbines, as well as products that support energy efficiency initiatives.

Other local companies that signed the letter included Mannik & Smith, a Maumee engineering firm, Nissin Brake Ohio, a Findlay auto parts supplier, and Rudolph/​Libbe Inc.

The contractor has become a major player in the solar industry.

The company recently told The Blade it hopes to get 30 percent of its annual revenue from its unit that focuses on solar power.

Jason Slattery, Rudolph/​Libbe’‍s director of solar, said Thursday the company feels the law is improving energy costs in Ohio, and the proposed freeze will halt that progress.

“Rudolph/​Libbe joined other companies in signing the letter to reiterate the concerns that our customers feel about this bill,” Mr. Slattery said. “Our hope is that Governor Kasich will veto Senate Bill 310 to keep our customers’ investments from shifting to other states and allow us to continue helping them to lower their operating costs with solar, advanced energy, and energy efficiency.”

Other firms with large local interests to sign the letter included Campbell Soup Co., which has a plant in Napoleon, Whirlpool Corp., which has plants in Findlay and Clyde, and Johnson Controls Inc., which has two Toledo-area plants.

First Solar, Honda, Honeywell, and Husky Energy, which operates an oil refinery in Lima, also signed on.

“Each of the undersigned businesses and organizations has signed this letter for different reasons,” the letter said. “But we all agree that S.B. 310 is not a true compromise on the issues and that the legislation will be harmful to Ohioans’ electric bills and to Ohio’‍s burgeoning renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.



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