Ohio lawmakers looking to extend a freeze on state “green energy” mandates will have to find a way past Gov. John Kasich.
Kasich immediately shot down as “unacceptable” a legislative study committee’s Wednesday recommendation the state extend its current two-year mandate freeze indefinitely.
When Kasich signed Senate Bill 310 last year, he agreed to pause the phase-in of energy efficiency and alternative electricity generation mandates adopted in 2008 — and to create the Energy Mandates Study Committee, whose guidance he seems set on ignoring.
The governor’s public opposition to an extended freeze isn’t the only sign he’ll fight for increased mandates. Kasich reportedly threatened to veto a version of SB 310 that would have locked the mandates at 2014 levels.
And the same day the Energy Mandates Study Committee published its recommendations, a new coalition of Kasich backers calling itself Ohio Conservative Energy Forum popped up to promote steeper mandates.
Mike Hartley, who was named Ohio director of Kasich’s presidential campaign less than a month before the launch of Ohio CEF, is the group’s executive director.
Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis — a Kasich appointee to the state medical board — is a member of Ohio CEF’s leadership council. So is retired Air Force Col. Tom Moe, formerly Kasich’s appointed director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
Other leaders of the group demanding tougher mandates as a matter of “conservative support for a common-sense, all-of-the-above state energy policy” include Kasich campaign enthusiasts from Ohio Young Republicans and Ohio Federation of College Republicans.
Kasich and Ohio CEF are supported in their push for increased green energy mandates by industry lobbying groups like Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, and Ohio’s major newspapers, too.
News stories from Gannett and The Columbus Dispatch have already quoted Hartley and Ohio CEF as “conservative” advocates of higher mandates without acknowledging Hartley’s ties to the governor’s presidential campaign.
Dispatch reporter Dan Gearino described Hartley as “president of a political consulting firm,” and Gannett reporter Jessie Balmert described Hartley simply as a “conservative who thinks an indefinite freeze is a bad idea.”
Ohio Watchdog contacted Ohio CEF to ask whether Hartley is still being paid by Kasich’s campaign, but an inquiry sent to the address listed on Ohio CEF’s website was returned as undeliverable and Ohio CEF did not respond to questions submitted through a web contact form.
Both of Ohio’s free-market think tanks remain critical of the green energy mandates Kasich wants to expand.
“I’m bewildered by Gov. John Kasich’s leftish stance on energy issues,” Opportunity Ohio president Matt Mayer told Ohio Watchdog.
“From his tax hike attack on the oil and gas industry to pro-renewable mandate support, Kasich frankly isn’t much different than a Democratic governor would be,” Mayer sad. “Unfortunately, his anti-free market energy positions will increase costs on businesses and consumers in Ohio and lead to job losses.”
The mandates Kasich wants to expand were approved in 2008 by a Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly and signed into law by former governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat.
“We shouldn’t return to the policy mistakes of the Strickland administration by embracing another costly government mandate,” Buckeye Institute president Robert Alt said in a press release.
The Ohio chapter of conservative activist group Americans For Prosperity praised the Energy Mandates Study Committee for recommending an indefinite freeze.
“We’re thrilled that Ohio is continuing to lead the way in rethinking these harmful energy mandates,” AFP-Ohio state director Baylor Myers said in a statement.
The governor’s office did not respond to questions from Ohio Watchdog.
Before Kasich signaled he wouldn’t stand for a freeze of Ohio’s green energy mandates, there were signs of progress in the General Assembly towards rolling back the energy efficiency and electricity generation requirements.
In 2013, Republican State Sen. Kris Jordan introduced legislation to repeal the mandates, but the repeal bill was smothered in an Ohio Senate committee without ever receiving a vote.