COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich chose sides today in a battle over electricity that has pit utilities and major industrial and business groups against environmental groups, labor, and even other businesses.
The Republican governor, without comment, signed Senate Bill 310 into law as expected, at least temporarily stopping Ohio’s move toward greener energy started in 2008.
Critics argued that the bill, sponsored by Sen. Troy Balderson (R., Zanesville), is just the first step toward killing the energy mandates outright.
Supporters countered that idealistic mandates that utilities find at least 25 percent of their power from such sources by 2025 and reduce overall energy consumption by 22 percent is about to start causing real pain, especially for heavily industrial electricity users.
“The governor clearly had an impact in improving the bill, and we’re grateful for that,” said Eric Burkland, president of the Ohio Manufacturers Association, an opponent of the bill. “It’s unfortunate that the bill is still not in the best interest of Ohio manufacturers. It will raise costs and lower the benefits of energy efficiency.”
Mr. Kasich has walked a tightrope on the issue since taking office in 2011, generally voicing support for the mandates and even reinforcing them with his own energy policies passed in 2012. But he’d also voiced concern about the costs they could carry for business.
Doug Colafella, spokesman for FirstEnergy, Akron-based parent of Toledo Edison, said the utility has predicted that energy efficiency programs alone would gradually raise consumers’ bill from $54 today to $241 a year if no changes were made in the mandate law.
“Opponents of the bill talk about the hypothetical price increases in years to come, but one thing we know for sure—the job creators in Ohio are paying thousands every year, in some cases millions a year, to meet these targets, something they wouldn’t be subjected to in neighboring states,” he said.
Supporting the bill were the likes of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business of Ohio, and Ohio Council of Retail Merchants; electric utilities, and heavy industrial consumers.
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