Ohio rebels against Obama climate change agenda with energy bill

Source: By Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Guardian • Posted: Monday, June 16, 2014

The coal-heavy state of Ohio rebelled against Barack Obama’s climate change agenda on Friday, becoming the first state to roll back measures promoting wind and solar power and energy efficiency.

The bill signed into law by Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, puts a two-year freeze on measures requiring power companies to obtain some of their electricity from wind and solar power, and reduce demand for electricity.

The move will make it harder for Ohio to meet new standards unrolled by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month cutting carbon pollution from power plants by a national average of 30%, by 2030, opponents of the new measure said.

The new law was seen as a big win for conservative groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) which has been trying to overturn similar legislation across the country.

It also gives a boost to Republicans in Congress who can point to the rollback in the bellweather political state of Ohio as evidence of grassroots opposition to Barack Obama’s climate change agenda.

Environmental groups reacted to the move with dismay. “The bill the governor signed into law today can only be viewed as a step backwards for the state,” the Environmental Defense Fund said.

The industrial state of Ohio is one of the top users of coal in the country, obtaining more than two-thirds of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The state was also one of 30 other states that have adopted measures to promote renewable energy and reduce consumption of electricity.

Now those measures in other states are also under threat.

By national standards, the targets Ohio set in 2008 were relatively modest. By 2025, Ohio was required to source just 12.5% of its electricity from renewable sources. It was also required to find energy savings of 22% by the same year.

As of last year, Ohio was obtaining just 2% of its electricity from renewable sources.

But coal companies and some power companies in the state had lobbied hard against the rules.

The measures would have helped Ohio make the emissions cuts proposed under the new EPA standards. Under the EPA plan rolled out earlier this month, states have a suite of options for meeting the new standards – from retiring the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired plants to joining cap-and-trade programmes or expanding renewable energy.

Now some of those options are off the table, undermining Ohio’s ability to meet the new EPA standards, opponents of Friday’s measure said.

“We could have met the carbon reduction goals very cost effectively,” said Ted Ford, president of the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, an industry group. “By eliminating those standards we now face a very different scenario. It becomes very expensive.”