It‘s plenty bad enough that Gov. John Kasich is preparing to sign a bill that would cripple Ohio’s useful standard for promoting renewable energy, including wind power. It’s intolerable that lawmakers have now sent him legislation that would effectively halt expansion of the state’s wind industry.
If Mr. Kasich won’t veto the broader measure — and he still should — he at least needs to delete the anti-wind-power provision that lawmakers doing the bidding of old-energy interest groups slipped into an unrelated budget bill. Ohio, and especially northwest Ohio, can’t afford this attack on economic growth, job creation, and energy diversification.
State law requires wind turbines to be sited at least 1,125 feet from inhabited residential structures; lawmakers increased that setback from 750 feet last year. In this year’s budget bill, lawmakers revised the 1,125-foot setback rule to apply to a turbine’s distance from neighboring property lines, not just homes.
Republican senators who muscled the change through offered bogus justifications about improving the quality of life of people who live next to wind farms. But the practical effect of the provision would be to force developers to assemble so much land — unnecessarily — for a wind farm as to make such projects uneconomical. That would encourage them to invest in other states instead.
Ohio’s largest wind project, the Blue Creek farm in Paulding and Van Wert counties, aims to include 152 turbines that can generate more than 300 megawatts. The project is designed to power as many as 76,000 homes a year. It also is creating hundreds of construction and permanent jobs, contributing $2.7 million a year to local schools and governments, making $2 million in annual lease payments to landowners, and generating $25 million a year in local spending.
But wind industry officials say that if the restrictions in the measure before Mr. Kasich had been in effect during Blue Creek’s planning stages, the project could have included no more than 19 turbines. Another 10 wind projects in advanced stages of development are in danger of cancellation if the governor approves the provision, they add. The $1.2 billion private investment already made in Ohio wind projects would become a ceiling, not a foundation.
The federal government is ordering all states to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants to limit the effects of man-made climate change. Yet Ohio’s government is about to handcuff the state’s ability to promote options other than dirty fossil fuels — notably clean energy and energy efficiency.
That is good news for traditional energy industries that throw their weight around at the Statehouse. It is bad news for Ohio’s economy and public health.
With their usual concern for public accountability, senators abruptly added the noxious wind-turbine provision to the budget bill with scant testimony and debate. Governor Kasich can reject the amendment without vetoing the entire budget measure.
In the interest of transparency as well as good policy, it’s the least he can do.