By Dan Gearino
Gov. John Kasich plans to sign a controversial pullback on renewable-energy rules that passed the Ohio House yesterday. "After a lot of hard work, we've got a solid plan to examine the progress Ohio has made while also holding onto that progress," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said in a statement.
He said the bill is a compromise between those who want to eliminate the energy rules and those who want no change. "It's not what everyone wanted, which probably means we came down at the right spot," he said.
The bill passed the House 53-38, overcoming opposition from nearly all Democrats and some Republicans who said the measure will lead to job losses and an increase in air pollution.
Soon after, the Senate voted to accept minor changes that the House had made to the bill, which sends it to the governor.
Opponents had held out hope that Kasich would veto the bill, citing reports that the governor might have threatened a veto of a previous version of the plan.
But Kasich's office issued its statement shortly after the Senate vote.
Senate Bill 310 is a two-year freeze on standards that apply to electricity utilities for renewable energy and energy efficiency. It also makes major changes to the rules when they resume in 2017, ending a requirement that utilities purchase half of their renewable energy from within the state and expanding the types of projects that count as energy efficiency.
The standards needed to be changed because they "are simply not achievable or sustainable," said Rep. Peter Stautberg, R-Anderson Township.
Ohio is the first state of the 29 with renewable-energy standards to pass a reduction of the standards in both legislative chambers. Similar proposals have been made in more than a dozen other states and were all beaten back by some of the same concerns that were expressed in Ohio.
In light of this distinction, the bill makes Ohio the "laughingstock of these United States," said Rep. Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown.
Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, said the bill is the worst proposal he has seen in eight years as a legislator. Supporters of the bill are "bound and determined to drag Ohio backward," he said.
Two Democrats voted for the bill. Six Republicans voted against it, including Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington.
Asked about the disagreements among Republicans, House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, said there had been a healthy debate.
"I think some people really believe in this green stuff," he said. "That's fine. But somebody's going to have to answer to the public as this additional expense gets added on."
The business community has been divided over the bill, with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, FirstEnergy, Timken and many others supporting it. The other side includes the Ohio Manufacturers' Association, Honda and Whirlpool.
Many of the opponents signed on to an alternative plan that calls for a one-year freeze and has many other differences with the bill that passed. The House rejected a version of that plan that was offered as an amendment.
Some of the opponents have framed the proposal as an extension of a national campaign by conservative groups to reduce subsidies for energy projects.
One of those groups, the Heartland Institute, issued a statement saying that the bill is "a small step in the right direction for Ohio and a much bigger step in the national conversation over these costly policies."
Dispatch Reporter Jim Siegel contributed to this story.
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