Onerous Solar and Wind Referendum Substitute Bill is Introduced

This week, the House Public Utilities Committee accepted substitute House Bill 118, which subjects wind and solar projects to a new layer of local government regulation to the state siting process by including township referenda on these projects.

The Ohio Chamber has long been an advocate for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy that does not hinder Ohio’s ability to develop any of its many energy resources. This approach to energy policy is important because as Ohio’s economy evolves, our energy portfolio cannot remain static. Government regulation should not hinder energy innovation and economic development.

Substitute HB 118 prevents the construction of new solar and wind projects unless township trustees adopt a resolution designating all or part of their township as an “energy development district.” Once the resolution is passed, it is effective within 30 days unless 8% of voters in a township file a petition for a referendum with their local Board of Elections. The election for the referendum would take place at the next primary or general election at least 120 days after the petition is filed. Township trustees could also pass a resolution to oppose a specific project before the Ohio Power Siting Board deems a project application to be complete, even on the eve of certification. Continuously moving the goal posts during the siting process creates uncertainty for any developer looking to do business in our state and would effectively stagnate Ohio’s ability to attract any new investment.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce believes state policy should eliminate barriers to new energy infrastructure investment, not erect new ones; which, will increase costs and reduce consumer choice. Subjecting major infrastructure investments to popular local referenda is economically harmful and will have a chilling effect on the state’s business climate. No other major energy infrastructure is, or ever has been, subject to a local vote in Ohio.

We will continue to keep an open dialogue with lawmakers on this legislation; however, we urge the House Public Utilities Committee to vote “no” on substitute HB 118.