Finally, the election is over. It is the beginning of the end as the Ohio General Assembly goes into its Lame Duck session. And it is a new beginning for Governor-Elect Mike DeWine. What do we know at this point?
GOOD NEWS! Four of the five current PUCO commissioners will have their terms end during Gov-elect DeWine’s four-year term. The Governor will then nominate candidates from a slate selected by a nominating committee. We shudder to think what might have happened had Cordray been elected.
BAD NEWS! The day after the election, this electronic billboard/jumbotron appeared across the street from the offices of the Ohio House of Representatives courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Council.
News outlets report that DeWine lost almost all of the urban counties and squeaked by with 50.66% of the vote. The wind energy fight appears to reflect a rural – urban split as well. The Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that DeWine “must find a new middle from which to lead”. They go on to say, “First, DeWine must to do all he can to make sure his fellow Republicans legislate responsibly and in quest of future economic growth. DeWine, of Cedarville in southwest Ohio, is a quintessential small-town Ohioan. But he also knows that GOP support in rural Ohio will decline if jobs and livelihoods continue to erode. “
As is seen on the billboard at State & High Streets, wind is advancing its cause as a jobs and economic development campaign. Most rural Ohioans (outside of leaseholders) believe that the destruction of the rural environment for the sake of economic development incentives to locate a companies in urban Ohio is not a jobs program. Nor is making a rural community unlivable due to wind turbines a recipe for growth. Yes, there are temporary construction jobs but the obliteration of the horizon is forever.
Our old “friends” from the American Wind Energy Association, Rob Gramlich and Michael Goggin have been reincarnated as “Grid Strategies” (https://gridstrategiesllc.com/about/ ) . This group is dedicated to the expansion of wind energy through improvements in the power grid. Inadequate transmission capacity is often cited as the biggest hurdle for wind developers. Gramlich expresses concern for Ohio’s lame duck session of the legislature fearing that, in response to a fuel security report from grid operator PJM, legislators will pass a bill to provide subsidies to coal and nuclear energy. The environmentalists at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Ohio Environmental Council might be busy with this issue with their old pals Gramlich and Goggin.
Notwithstanding the above, Senate President Obhof has said the workload of lame duck session will be fairly light. If Cordray had been elected things would have been different. The vacancy for the seat previously held by Troy Balderson is anticipated to be filled the first week of December. With respect to the vacancy in the chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Obhof said he’ll try to “wrap that up relatively quickly” now that the election is past.
In Seneca County, County Commissioner candidate, Mike Kerschner was attacked by pro-wind forces throughout his campaign due to his support of the community against wind development. In a complete vindication of the people, Kerschner won a resounding victory along with Rep. Bill Reineke. Commissioner Shayne Thomas is now under a microscope as it seems his mother-in-law has been identified as a leaseholder. More to come on that subject as calls for him to step down are growing louder. Seneca County is facing nearly 300 turbines reaching about 600’ scattered across four separate projects.
Given what is at stake in Seneca County, Sen. Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls traveled to Seneca County and met with representatives of the community to offer his idea of a compromise. Dolan had earlier taken up the mantle and failed ideas of former Senator Cliff Hite who left the General Assembly last year under a cloud of scandal. Sub. HB 114 which deals with renewable mandates and reduces property line setbacks may or may not move forward in the lame duck session. It looks unlikely absent provisions for local control. In Seneca County, Dolan was also touting his stand alone setback bill which is SB 238. Other than an initial hearing last winter when Dolan introduced the bill, there have been no hearings. It is not likely the bill could be rushed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and even more unlikely that it would have any support in the House. Dolan believes local control should be limited to County Commissioners. This is a non-starter for all wind warriors.
This brings us back to Governor-elect DeWine. He is a firm believer in local control. His approach to the drug crisis, to school reform, and other issues is centered on local control. If, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggests, there is an urban-rural split, the best way to manage the wind energy setback challenge may be to give voters the right approve or reject wind development at the township level. The Governor-elect must be made to appreciate that, in rural Ohio, a vote by County Commissioners is not an acceptable compromise. Exhibit A: Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas!
- Apex confirms it is abandoning the Long Prairie project in Van Wert and Mercer County and blaming it on transmission challenges.
- In Hancock County, the Zoning Board voted to zone 37 acres for light industrial. This area includes some residential properties. One citizen ”was worried about a number of scenarios occurring across the street. One is the possible construction of 400-foot-tall wind turbines. Just months ago, wind turbine builder One Energy and Mayle tried to persuade the Marion Township trustees to rezone the same 37 acres for wind turbines. Thomas and several of his neighbors spoke out against it. The trustees rejected the requested zoning change. But right after that meeting, Jereme Kent, chief executive officer of One Energy, predicted the wind turbines would be built there anyway, one way or another.” One possibility would be via the issuance of a conditional use permit made possible by the light manufacturing zoning designation. One Energy builds turbines below the OPSB 5MW threshold but he then appears to cluster multiple projects thereby evading OPSB regulations.