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Environment


Are energy-freeze opponents making progress in the Ohio House?
The energy bill that went fast in the Ohio Senate hits a clog in the House 
by WKSU's ANDY CHOW


Reporter
Andy Chow
 
Ohio would be the first to repeal the standards, which call for more efficiency and more electricity to come from renewable sources.
Courtesy of File photo
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In The Region:

The debate over Ohio’s energy standards is escalating as legislators trade accusations, and groups on both sides lobby hard. As Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, some believe the momentum of the bill is changing course.

LISTEN: Chow on the energy bill's delay

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Since it passed the Senate during an early morning session earlier this month, the energy bill that would freeze efficiency and renewable standards is gaining more attention from advocacy groups.

This week, a faith-based coalition voiced its opposition to the bill, saying it would stunt green-energy development. And the green-energy business coalition called Advanced Energy Economy Ohio released a TV ad in hopes of turning up the pressure on legislators.

Says the ad:  “Just as our comeback is gaining steam—our state is trying to pass a law that would shut down new-energy job growth and send us back to the rust belt. We can’t let that happen.”

Just a breather
Republican Sen. Troy Balderson of Zanesville is the sponsor of the bill. He says he respects the groups’ right to oppose the legislation but insists it’s just a two-year freeze that’s needed in order to evaluate the standards’ impact on costs.

“I’m not going to turn anything into a Rust Belt in two years’ time,” he says. “The numbers are going to stay the same. I think this is something that’s engaged enough all over—the people are going to want some answers.”

Balderdash
Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, who has been the most vocal force behind a change to the current energy standards, has some stronger criticism for those leading the opposition.

 “The campaign against this has been the biggest campaign of deception and misinformation that I’ve ever seen in 14 years and the fervency of their cries is simply testament to the fact that they know that this is coming, and they’re resorting to hysteria in an effort to derail this bill.”

Unexpected rush, then unexpected delay
The bill was scheduled for a possible vote in a House committee this week, but that meeting was canceled.

Democratic Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown, who’s against the measure, believes that could be a sign that opponents are slowing down the bill.

“When you slow something down in the Legislature, that does give those individuals who oppose an opportunity to gain some momentum.”

Campaign contributions
As opponents and supporters go back and forth in the debate, a large portion of the argument has to do with ratepayer prices on electric bills. But Hagan accuses lawmakers of pushing for the legislation to satisfy large campaign contributors, not consumers.

“Just look at the numbers, and look at the lobbyists that have joined forces in giving those campaign contributions to the individuals to stall the movement towards alternative energy.”

A look at Balderson’s most recent campaign filing report shows that his top contributors are utilities and energy companies, with American Electric Power topping the list with a $5,000 donation. 

These contributions were for the primary, and were filed nearly two months before Balderson introduced his new energy bill. Balderson adamantly denies his bill is a political favor for campaign contributors.

 “Completely not true. It’s not about campaign contributions for me. This is a bill we’ve been working on for a very long time — maybe not SB310 but SB58. We’ve heard from both sides of this issue. We understand and consumers are saying something about it.”

It’s all about constituents
Balderson added that he continues to hear concerns from constituents about increasing electric bills and the impact these standards may have.

Seitz also slams any accusation that links the bill to campaign contributions.

“It’s not about campaign contributions for me because I’m term limited. So that’s one more hysterical, ridiculous argument that is being thrown in a last ditch effort to

Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder has said he plans to hold a vote on the bill before breaking for summer recess. 

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