Wind energy advocates were pressing Ohio Governor John Kasich to use his line-item veto to remove what they called an anti-wind-energy provision from a tax-cutting budget bill – a requirement that new installations be built further away from property lines.
Critics of wind energy believe wind turbines nearby cause headaches, insomnia and other maladies. Environmental groups and wind energy corporations dismiss the claims as anecdotal evidence. The budget bill bring $400 million in tax cuts.
Alternative energy has been something of a letdown. California residents pay 50 percent higher utility rates than the rest of America due to its alternative energy provisions while New Jersey and Pennsylvania have only broken even because much higher rates for solar and wind have been offset by lower costs due to natural gas. Wind energy subsidies were barely renewed during the 2012 election year, primarily because they were union jobs, an essential voting bloc for Democrats.
Wind energy interests insist that the setback limits in the budget bill would kill more than $2.5 billion worth of projects now in development, and billions more in the planning stages. The state requires currently turbines to be located at least 1,300 feet from the nearest inhabited residence but the new law, in effect for two years, requires a turbine's distance to be measured from the nearest property line. Wind energy companies say the provision is anti-business.
"It appears designed to make the construction of utility-scale wind farms commercially unviable," wrote Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, who says his company's Timber Road project represents a $200 million investment in Paulding County and has "tremendous local support," and that EDP plans another $800 million of investment in Ohio, "all of which would be devastated by this provision."
Advocates lobbied to have the provision removed, and then delayed. Instead, the distance provision will be in place for two years. Critics insist it is designed to favor fossil fuel companies but the money wind companies claim they were spending makes that unlikely. Real money is lacking but potential money was the carrot they they dangled to get media support for a veto.
Mark Goodwin, President of Apex Clean Energy, says his company has more wind energy development projects in the state than any other company, and "in our portfolio alone, we estimate that this bill will kill over $3 billion of investment in the state," enough clean energy to power 454,000 homes, and $525 million in leases and local tax payments. If it passes as-is, Apex "will have no choice but to take its investment and its business elsewhere. Given the need to find new carbon-free sources of electricity in Ohio, we cannot imagine a worse time to send wind energy companies packing."
In other words, he insists they were going to invest $3 billion in the next two years and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the tax base. Had they been able to document any of that, it's a sure bet the governor would have felt differently about compromising.
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