April was busy with more Ohio Operating Budget hearings and debates. Currently, advocates on all sides of the advanced energy world are watching the budget closely to determine if any changes will be made to Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) established in Senate Bill 221 of the 127th General Assembly. The version of the budget currently being debated by the Ohio House of Representatives, House Bill 153, does not have any provisions affecting the RPS at this time.
Below is a summary of new and pending legislation at the state and federal level that may be of interest to the advanced energy community.
House Bill 204. Advanced energy businesses and consumers in Ohio enjoyed a grant program in 2010 called the Ohio Advanced Energy Fund. The Fund was paid for through a rider on electric consumers’ bills. The General Assembly decided not to renew the Fund when it lapsed at the end of last year. This bill, introduced by Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) reinstates the Fund and the rider placed on utility bills. HB 204 was introduced on April 13, 2011 and is waiting to be assigned to a committee.
House Concurrent Resolution 12. HCR 12 is a non-binding resolution intended to send a message to the President of the United States from the Ohio Legislature. Introduced by 1st term Representative Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), the Resolution proposes, “To urge the Administration of President Barack Obama to reconsider proposals to increase taxes on producers of coal, natural gas, and petroleum and instead commit to adopting policies that encourage domestic production of these important resources.” The Resolution has been referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee. While it would not have any affect on Ohio or Federal law, if passed, it does signal a focus by the legislature on traditional fossil fuels and away from advanced energy development.
Senate Bill 137. Senator Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) introduced SB 137 on March 31, 2011. It has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee and is awaiting its first hearing. The bill modifies standards for strip (“high-wall”) mining for coal when the strip-mining may cause surface disturbance and it clarifies measurement standards for mining set-backs.
House Bill 72. Representative Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont) introduced a companion bill to Senate Bill 22. The House version has been referred to House Health and Aging Committee where it awaits a hearing.
House Bill 153. House Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) introduced the placeholder bill for the Biennial Budget. The bill has had extensive hearings in the House and that Chamber is expected to vote on the measure May 5, 2011.
Senate Bill 22. Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), requiring Ohio EPA to consider new factors to before issuing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, was heard in the Ohio Senate this month. That chamber passed the measure on March 9. The bill is in the House of Representatives and awaiting a third hearing.
Senate Bill 78. Lakewood Senator Michael Skindell (D) introduced a bill to ban drilling for oil and natural gas under Lake Erie. The bill has been referred to Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where it awaits a first hearing.
Senate Bill 108. Senator Kris Jordan (R-Powell) introduced a bill to create a board to facilitate lease arrangements for oil and natural gas drilling on state-controlled land, including parks. The bill has received three hearings and faced many witnesses opposed to the measure. The Senate may try to vote on the bill after they return from Spring break on May 2, 2011.
The U.S. Senate rejected in early April four separate proposals designed to limit or outright eliminate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The measures were all introduced as amendments to small business legislation. The most drastic of the measures was introduced by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and James Inhofe (R.-Okla.) and would have completely stripped EPA of authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
The Senate also rejected three other, more limited proposals offered by Democratic senators. One of the proposals, sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would have exempted agriculture from EPA climate regulations and codified the agency's so-called "tailoring rule," which exempts smaller emitters from the regulations. Another, offered by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) would have delayed EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for two years, exempted agriculture from the rules, and revived a tax credit program for manufacturers of clean energy equipment. A third proposal, introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D.-W.Va.) would have placed a two-year moratorium on the agency's climate rules.
The White House has said that President Obama will veto any legislation that limits the EPA's climate authority.