Legislative Pulse: Fighting Rising Energy Costs in Ohio

Published February 3, 2017

Editor’s Note: State Rep Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) has served in the Ohio Legislature as a state representative (2001–07, 2017) and state senator (2007–16). Seitz currently serves as chair of the House Public Utilities Committee.

Burnett: The Ohio legislature passed your proposed freeze on the state’s renewable power mandate in 2016. Gov. John Kasich vetoed the bill. Why did you offer the bill, and why do you think Kasich vetoed it?

Seitz: Actually, the bill we passed did not extend the freeze, even though that is what the joint House and Senate Energy Mandates Study Committee recommended in September 2015. The final bill simply substituted the targets as being aspirational goals for two years, after which the mandates would return, absent further legislative action. Our point was mandates are unnecessary given the lavish subsidies given to renewable energy and given the moves by many large corporations to buy renewable-fueled electricity in order to appease shareholders, customers, and/or environmental pressure groups.

In addition, we wanted to see if the federal Clean Power Plan survived judicial review and how it might be modified or scrapped by the Trump administration, a process that may take two years to evolve.

The governor vetoed the bill to appease his coastal elite friends who want to locate in Ohio only if all Ohio ratepayers subsidize their environmental preferences via the mandates.

Burnett: Will you attempt to freeze or roll back Ohio’s renewable power mandate in 2017?

Seitz: The legislature and my committee are currently considering three approaches to the renewable power mandates: one, repeal the mandates entirely; two, convert the mandates into aspirational goals, as Indiana has done; or three, allow all electric consumers the option to opt out of paying for the mandates, something currently permitted only for large mercantile customers.

Burnett: The Obama administration enacted numerous regulations in a purported effort to fight climate change, which affected the make-up of Ohio’s electric power supply. Do you expect things to change under the Trump administration, and if so, what would you like to see happen?

Seitz: I am certainly optimistic the new administration will bring common sense and true cost-benefit analysis back to environmental regulations. [President Donald Trump’s] excellent choices to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy give reason for hope.

Our Ohio EPA director testified the Clean Power Plan rule would cause Ohio electricity prices to rise by 39 percent. I hope that rule will be repealed and Congress reassert its proper role by passing the REINS Act, [which requires] Congress to approve major regulations before they are enacted and overrules the Chevron deference doctrine under which courts defer to executive agencies concerning the interpretation of statutes when agency regulations are challenged.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.