Ohio legislators introduce bill to allow for public referendum on new renewable energy projects

Ohio Representatives Craig S. Riedel (R-Defiance) and Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) recently introduced a bill that they say protects the property rights of township residents by allowing a public referendum for wind and solar projects.

“As a state legislator in Northwest Ohio, I represent the counties with the most wind development in the state,” said Riedel. “The beauty of this bill is that it gives local control to township residents for them to decide whether wind or solar development is welcome to move forward or stopped where it is not welcome.”

Under this legislation, developers are required to share their application with township trustees 30 days before applying for a certificate (or an amendment to an existing certificate) from the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). After reviewing the application, trustees must vote on one of the following:

  • A resolution allowing public input (grants qualified electors within the affected township the right to petition a referendum)
  • A resolution requiring public input (stipulates that if approved, a certificate is required to be submitted to the voters of the township for approval via referendum)
  • No resolution (indicates public support for the project)
  • A certificate or amendment issued by the OSPB for a project that falls within the area of a township becomes effective on the 90th day after it is issued unless a referendum petition is filed with the local board of elections.

If the petition receives the required number of signatures of at least 8% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, the project must be approved by voters at the next primary or general election before moving forward.

The bill sponsors noted that the bill is permissive for townships and provides no hindrance to townships that support wind and solar projects in their region.

“With the introduction of this legislation we look forward to expanding rights of local communities to be more active participants in wind development which affects their daily lives,” said Stein.

The Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition of Ohio (USSEC) strongly opposes these bills.

“This legislation is opposed by business, labor, agriculture, energy and education interests. Solar companies are working with farmers and communities to develop world class energy projects while providing massive revenue for schools and local governments,” said Jason Rafeld, executive director of USSEC. “We are looking at $18 billion in economic impacts and almost 55,000 jobs through utility-scale solar development in Ohio. Senate Bill 52 and House Bill 118 would have a chilling effect on this progress. We believe that complex, utility-scale electric generation must be regulated at the state level.”

“The Ohio Power Siting Board process is one of the most rigorous and extensive permitting processes in the state. We spend almost a year working through dozens of studies like environmental and cultural, wildlife, interconnection and economic — in addition to transportation management and decommissioning plans,” said Mark Walter, director of legislative and regulatory affairs for Savion. “We are working with landowners, communities and businesses to create lasting wealth for schools and local governments all across Ohio. Just as we are reaching the finish line, some want to change the rules of the game. We have made agreements and decisions under current law, but we are being told that doesn’t matter. This is a terrible signal to send business in Ohio.”

“Our project teams engage and listen to residents and community leaders when developing projects to ensure our facilities can be in harmony with the surrounding community. Each site’s design is carefully considered to avoid impacts on neighbors, the environment, and cultural and community resources,” said Jessica Gliha, director of community and government relations for Geenex Solar. “Solar’s development and construction processes make it one of the only land uses specifically designed to allow the land to return to its previous use as farmland in the future. Solar is the perfect placeholder for the future.”

This bill is companion legislation to Senate Bill 52 sponsored by State Senators Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) and Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). The bill now awaits referral to a House committee.

News item from the office of Representative Craig Riedel