Ohio's attack on renewable energies
On Monday, July 12, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law SB 52. This bill specifically targets wind and solar projects in Ohio. Prior to this bill, all energy projects had to apply first- and only- to the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) for approval. OPSB is a governor-appointed/senate-approved board comprised of energy experts.
With the passage of SB 52, businesses that would like to build wind and solar farms in Ohio must now hold a public meeting in the county they are proposing their project at least 90 days before applying to OPSB. This gives county commissions the power to reject a specific project or ban wind and solar projects altogether in the county. However, citizens would still be able to canvass signatures and put the restricted development up for popular vote.
Please keep in mind that this new hoop for energy businesses in Ohio only applies to wind and solar: local officials have no power over coal mines, oil or gas well projects in Ohio. In fact, local governments are NOT allowed to ban natural gas activity (fracking) and local efforts to regulate it have been struck down. But now local governments will be allowed to ban wind and solar farms.
At a time when the Biden administration is gearing up to fund renewable energy projects nationwide, this definitely feels like a step backwards for Ohio. It could mean missed opportunities for generating a greater percentage of energy from renewables and for new job growth.
Opponents of the bill believe that Ohio will be passed over for renewable projects and neighboring states will benefit instead. An Ohio University report from fall of 2020 found that solar energy could support between 18,000-54,000 jobs over the next several decades. And that report just examined solar energy, not wind.
The bill did not have any support from Democrats. Additionally, 10 Republicans from both the House and the Senate also opposed the bill. At the very least, each type of energy project should have the same standards in Ohio. Farmers should also keep their rights over their own land should they choose to lease it to a company for wind or solar energy. This bill gives the government control over private land.
So what to do now? To be honest, I do not know. I want you all to be aware of this significant change in Ohio in case you haven’t read about it in other publications. I’m cautiously optimistic that if Ohio does indeed start to lose out to neighboring states for renewable projects (and thus money and jobs), this will be reversed.
In the meantime, please make sure you contact your local state senator and representative and let them know you support the creation of renewable energy projects in Ohio. There’s no question that renewable energy IS the future, and Ohio should be on board with that or else risk being left behind.