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Published: Thursday, 7/3/2014

FitzGerald reveals plan to push Ohio green energy

Democratic candidate touts business impact

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
FitzGerald FitzGerald
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

COLUMBUS — The Democratic candidate for governor said Wednesday he would restart the recently halted clock on Ohio’s move toward greener energy and would invest more in research into that technology.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s six-point energy plan does not include an increase in the state tax on expanding oil and natural gas drilling in eastern Ohio, a move that puts him at odds with Republican Gov. John Kasich and Democrats in the General Assembly.

Among the first things he would do, he said, is undo Senate Bill 310, which was passed almost entirely with Republican votes and signed by Mr. Kasich. It freezes for two years the state’s timeline that will ultimately require utilities to find 25 percent of their power from renewable and advanced technology sources by 2025.

During the freeze period, a legislative panel will study the existing law and recommend changes.

“We’ve had this enormous message that’s been resonating not just all over the state but all over the country, saying Ohio is not the place to go if you want to make a major investment into the new-energy economy,” Mr. FitzGerald said.

He said he would also undo a provision of a recently passed budget bill that tightened property setback restrictions on wind turbines, a move seen as potentially undermining the economic feasibility of future wind farms.

“Something changed after Governor Kasich got elected, even with the process of the grants given out by Third Frontier,” Mr. FitzGerald said, referring to the taxpayer-fueled research and development fund that, among other things, is supposed to invest in green-energy technology.

“So you have a situation where Third Frontier was denying a wind-power project in particular. The board rejected a proposal that would have had a research component to it. They actually overruled their staff.”

Mr. Kasich recently defended his signing of Senate Bill 310, saying he made it clear to lawmakers he would have vetoed a bill indefinitely freezing the standards.

“[Twenty-five percent] wasn’t going to work for our big employers who are energy intensive,” he said. “They would probably have to lay people off. Consumers were going to be hopping mad about how much they were going to have to pay.

“But I said we believe in renewables. …. We can have a reset, not a freeze, because a freeze means nothing ever gets done.”

Mr. FitzGerald’s proposals also include reaching out to areas of the state dependent on legacy sources of energy, such as coal, as the sector is affected by expected lower demand for their products.

He said he doesn’t think nuclear power has a place in Ohio’s move toward greener energy, but he said he would not take the step of removing advanced nuclear technology from the menu of advanced technology sources in existing law.

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



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