February 27, 2014

Seitz Confident His Bid To Alter Ohio’s Renewable Energy Mandates Will Be Acted On In 2014

Ohio State Sen. Bill Seitz doesn’t think his bill that would roll back Ohio’s renewable energy mandates will suffer the same fate as it did last year.

This time he expects his bill to make it out of committee and be signed into law.

“I can’t predict which approach will find favor, but something will happen in calendar year 2014, immediately before or after November elections,” the Republican from Cincinnati told a Monday morning program on WCPN, Cleveland’s National Public Radio station.

Seitz was part of a panel of proponents and opponents the radio program gathered to discuss his bill, which last week had its first hearing of 2014 after being shelved in late 2013 because of a lack of support.

Seitz re-introduced the bill because of new “devastating testimony” from an industry-sponsored study that refuted a previous study that found flaws in Seitz’s bill. The person who conducted that survey, Jonathan Lesser, president of Continental Economics Inc., was on the radio program along with Seitz.

The senator has been outspoken in his support for bills to either alter or remove Ohio’s renewable energy mandates that passed with large bipartisan support in 2008. Seitz supported that bill when it passed because it included “a number of things that were meritorious.” But he told WCPN that it was shoehorned late into a comprehensive bill.

He has compared the 2008 law’s mandate to those passed by Soviet Union dictator Josef Stalin’s government, and he didn’t back away from the comparisons in Monday’s discussion. When host Mike McIntyre asked about Seitz’s comparisons to the Soviet Union, he said: “It is worse than a five-year plan because it is a plan that runs from 2008 through 2025. He added: “These mandates were passed in 2008 on a series of assumptions which, like Stalin’s five-year plans, have proven to be spectacularly false.”

Those assumptions, Seitz said, were that Ohio would need more generating plants that would be expensive to build, and were made without knowledge that Ohio and other states in the U.S. would discover vast amounts of natural gas in shale rock that would lower energy prices.

The 2008 law says that by 2025 electric companies must provide 25 percent of their electricity supply from alternative energy resources, and 12.5 percent of that 25 percent must be from renewable energy. It also requires energy providers to reduce consumers’ electricity usage by 22 percent by 2025.

Seitz’s law does not advocate cancelling those mandates, although he previously voiced support for a bill that would remove those mandates.

Instead, one of the more prominent facets of the bill would freeze the renewable energy benchmarks where they are at now instead of incrementally increasing to 12.5 percent in 2025. Senate Bill 58 also explores eliminating the in-state requirement for renewable energy generation, which Seitz says is unconstitutional. Seitz also favors allowing the largest industrial customers, such as AK Steel Holding Corp. and the Timken Co., to opt-out of paying an energy efficiency surcharge in exchange for relinquishing any benefits existing law might give them. Seitz said these large companies compete globally, including in states and countries without mandates, and do not need government decrees to save energy.

“We have every incentive to save energy because we’re using most of it,” Seitz told WCPN. “We don’t need government.”

Seitz said the bill is changing and he isn’t sure which approach will find favor with legislators.

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