Ohio Senator Cliff Hite is challenged for his unconditional support of BigWind

Thank you to all who called members of Congress this week to oppose extension of the Production Tax Credit.  The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) big lobbying push on Tuesday was timed to get out ahead of Rep. Dave Camp’s release on Wednesday of his proposal for comprehensive tax reform.  In a report from E&E News (Camp reform plan would ax incentives for oil and gas, renewable energy 2/26/14) “Renewable firms appear to be big losers under the proposal. Not only would Camp not reinstate expired clean energy incentives such as the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC), he also would dramatically reduce payments to companies still eligible for the credit.”    In the days to come, there will be much pulling and tugging in the Congress but it is unlikely that tax reform will move forward until after the election.  In the meantime, a tax extender for a one year PTC is unlikely given the generous extension last year.  

The prospect of the PTC finally going away makes the notion of protecting the Ohio mandate for wind through 2025 look almost silly.  If the PTC covers 1/3 of the capital cost of wind development and it is terminated, who picks up the shortfall in Ohio?  Ohio electricity consumers – families and employers.  This makes Senator Cliff Hite’s position on safeguarding the mandate even less credible. It appears the race is heating up between Sen. Hite and Van Wert County’s Hoaglin Twp. Trustee Milo Schaffner.  Milo is putting the pressure on and the more opportunities he has to get his message out to the press and to voters, the clearer the choice becomes for voters in the 1st Ohio Senate District.  The Gongwer Report took a look at the race and the article is below.  We note that Hite is still trying to protect a special niche in his district irrespective of its effects on others.  Why? Is there something he is hiding from us, the taxpayers? He continuously dodges legitimate questions about his position on wind development, especially the Constitutionality of the in-state mandate.  Challenger Milo Schaffner will keep asking those hard questions….

source: Gongwer 2-27-14

Sen. Cliff Hite, who has pushed back on his colleagues’ efforts to water down Ohio’s renewable energy requirements, now faces a primary challenger who is criticizing the incumbent’s stance on wind power.

Hoaglin Township Trustee Milo Schaffner, who recently urged the Senate Public Utilities Committee to repeal the state’s clean energy law (see Gongwer Ohio Report, January 29, 2014), said Sen. Hite’s (R-Findlay) support for wind energy drove him to challenge the incumbent in the May 6 primary.

In addition to Mr. Schaffner, Sen. Hite also faces opposition from Pastor Corey Shankleton, one of many primary challengers angry with Senate incumbents for not passing stricter abortion restrictions. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, February 6, 2014)

Numerous witnesses from Sen. Hite’s district, which includes several operating and proposed wind farms, have voiced opposition to the renewable energy requirements during a string of proponent-only committee hearings on Sen. Kris Jordan‘s (R-Powell) repeal legislation (SB 34).

Sen. Hite said he wasn’t discouraged by the torrent of negative attention to wind farms in his district, but he would like his colleagues on the committee to hear the other side of the story.

“Since my district is under the microscope, I would sure like people to see some of the good news stories – the philanthropy that’s been involved with some of these companies, donating monies to projects and historical societies,” he said in an interview. “I would love to have the opportunity to get more on that out.”

Sen. Hite, 59, pointed to what he views as a very tangible benefit of wind turbines in the district – the fact that Van Wert and Paulding counties and local schools recently got checks totaling $2.7 million in payments from the Blue Creek Wind Farm. The money flows from a payments in lieu of taxes agreement between Iberdrola Renewables and local governments.   [Ed. Note:  They should have rec’d 5 times that amount but they gave it away through the PILOT & Van Wert schools does NOT receive 1 cent]

“There are many pros and many cons of both sides of this issue and you have to look at the entire package of what it means for people in our district,” the senator said. “There are people who want wind projects and there are people who don’t. I’ve always said: if you put a project where people want them, that’s great. Don’t put them where people don’t want them.”   [Ed. Note: Can’t do that when you took away our zoning, Senator.]

Mr. Schaffner, 66, clearly didn’t want Blue Creek Wind Farm in his township and he believes he speaks for the majority of his constituents.

“Everyone in this county knows where I stand on the wind issue,” he said, noting that he won the most votes among three Hoaglin Township trustee candidates last November. “That tells me – I don’t care what some people say – the majority of the people living here in Hoaglin are on my side.”

The incumbent’s support for wind power is one of several issues that he said encouraged him to run. “But I guess that’s finally the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he added.

Mr. Schaffner filed his candidacy petitions a few days after testifying on the issue before the Senate Public Utilities Committee. During his trip to the Statehouse he met Chairman Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who has been pushing for either Sen. Jordan’s plan to scrap the requirement for 25% of the state’s electricity to come from advanced sources by 2025, or his bill to make it easier for utilities to comply with the renewable mandate (SB 58).

Mr. Schaffner recounted his discussion with Sen. Seitz after testifying that the 12 township members represented on the Van Wert County Township Association’s Executive Committee had voted unanimously to support repealing Ohio’s renewable energy law.

“He said, ‘If I had a county where all the trustees’ executive committee voted unanimously…I’d listen to those guys,'” Mr. Schaffner said. “Well, Sen. Hite has not listened to us.”

The trustee said he believed a provision in the law requiring half of Ohio’s renewable energy come from in-state facilities is unconstitutional. He cited a federal court decision that opined a similar requirement in Michigan violates the Commerce Clause.

“As I sat and talked to Mr. Hite – he was here in my living room – I told him you and I both, the very first thing in our oath of office is to uphold the Constitution of the United States and this is unconstitutional,” he said. “I think once you’re told you’re unconstitutional, you should do something about it.”

Sen. Hite points out that the sprawling 1st Senate District encompasses all or part of 11 different counties and he says opinions about wind energy and other issues vary widely from place to place. While wind turbines are a big issue in Paulding, Van Wert, Auglaize, and Hardin counties, residents in the northern counties are more concerned about algae blooms in Lake Erie, he said.

However, the biggest issue for constituents all over the district is job creation, he added. “That’s what I hear the most about. It’s: what are you guys doing to create jobs?”  [Ed. Note: The correct answer to that question is to lower the cost of doing business in Ohio.  The renewable mandate increases costs – see Germany!  Senator Hite opens his mouth and sticks his foot right into it.]

The incumbent touted two recent job creation announcements in the district from International Paper in Kenton and Marathon Petroleum. “That’s great news. That’s what people are talking about most in my district,” he said.

Sen. Hite also sees wind energy as a key factor in the district’s continued economic development.

“We don’t have steel mills, we don’t have giant companies doing waste-heat energy. What we do have is wind and so we wanted to harness that, take advantage of that so we could add to the energy supply,” he said. “I tell people there’s a lot of wind in my district, even when I’m not there.”…