Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, signed Ohio's budget bill, H.B.483, on Monday without vetoing a provision that establishes a harsher setback rule for wind turbines in the state. Just last Friday, Kasich also signed into law S.B.310, which freezes the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard for two years, thus making Ohio the first state to roll back its renewable energy mandate.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Ohio already had some of the most restrictive setback policies in the U.S. by requiring that wind turbines be located at least 1,300 feet from the nearest inhabited residence. However, the newly passed rule now mandates that wind turbines be built at least 1,300 feet from the nearest property line instead of the nearest house.
AWEA says the requirement was added to the state budget bill only after all public debate had ended, and the group argues that $2.5 billion in current wind energy projects now face cancellation.
"Gov. Kasich has walked away from his commitment to renewable energy. He and the legislature are creating an unfriendly business environment in Ohio," says Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. "Legislators rammed through restrictive rules without due process, and millions of dollars already invested based on the previous set of rules may now be lost without any public debate."
Kiernan adds, "If the governor and the legislature had intended the "pause and study' intentions of S.B.310 to be taken seriously, they would have never allowed this punitive setback provision into the budget to threaten all wind energy development in Ohio."
Before Gov. Kasich signed the new setback rule into law, several wind developers voiced their objections. In a June 4 letter to the governor, Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, wrote that the new requirement "appears designed to make the construction of utility-scale wind farms commercially unviable."
Alonso said that his company's Timber Road project represents a $200 million investment in Paulding County and that EDP planned another $800 million of investment in Ohio – "all of which would be devastated by this provision."
According to Mark Goodwin, president of Apex Clean Energy, "This is an Ohio job killer, pure and simple." In a letter to Gov. Kasich on June 12, Goodwin wrote that 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."
With the setback requirement, he continued, 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."