Wednesday afternoon, Senate Bill 52 passed the Senate by a 20-13 vote; and, earlier that morning, the bill was favorably passed out of the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee by a 7-5 vote.
SB 52 modifies the siting process for wind and solar projects by giving county commissioners the power to determine whether they welcome renewable development to their county or not. Six months before filing with the Ohio Power Siting Board, a developer must notify and propose a project to the county commissioners. This proposal must include the type of generation, maximum number of megawatts and the boundaries/general footprint of the project area. This would trigger a 90-day window in which commissioners would have three options: do nothing, which would deem the project approved; pass a resolution barring the project; or pass a resolution limiting the geographic area of the project. The county commissioners could also pass a resolution closing the county to wind or solar development or designate an energy development zone to limit projects to a certain area.
Before SB 52 was voted out of committee, the bill picked up another amendment which removed the rebuttable presumption language. In the previous version of SB 52, within 60 days of a siting application, county commissioners or the township trustees could have passed a resolution in opposition of a project if it was not of “public benefit” or “necessity.” The developer would then have to respond to the rebuttable presumption and go through the OPSB’s adjudicatory process.
In lieu of the rebuttable presumption, a provision was added to expand the Ohio Power Siting Board to include two ad hoc seats for each wind and solar project. These seats would be occupied by a county commissioner and a township trustee from the footprint of the project they would be overseeing. This is a much-welcomed change because it allows for more local input while giving more certainty to developers.
Although we remain opposed to SB 52, the Ohio Chamber will continue to work with the sponsors as the bill moves through the legislative process in the House.