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Interview with Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz

Ohio State Sen. Bill Seitz

Michigan Capitol Confidential spoke to Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, on Oct. 21. Seitz is one of the lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly who back a two-year suspension of the wind energy mandates currently imposed on utilities in the state. Excerpts of that interview follow.

Capcon: What is the legislative committee hoping to accomplish with its recommendations?

Seitz: In 2014, we passed Senate Bill 310 that put a two-year freeze on the march up mandate mountain. The legislation that instituted that freeze also created a legislative committee to study the mandate situation. The mandate study committee has now done its work and recommends that the freeze be continued indefinitely due to the overreach of the federal Clean Power Plan. The next step is to craft legislation that embodies the recommendations. If the legislature fails to act on the legislation by the end of 2016 the freeze would end.

There is so much uncertainty about which renewables count under the Clean Power Plan. Do the ones already in place count? Do ones mandated by the state count or just those mandated by the federal government? The legislative committee believes we should halt the mandates until we get more information about what counts. We’re saying "Mr. Obama, it’s your rule, but until you tell us more about how it is going to operate we’re recommending that Ohio continue its freeze on mandates."

As you can imagine, our committee recommendations aren’t popular with our enviro-socialist friends. But, in spite of what they say, this isn’t about clean energy versus dirty energy. It’s about efficient energy.

Capcon: How much do the recommendations have to do with the wind power situation in Ohio and how much do they have to do with the president's Clean Energy Act?

Seitz: At this point the major issue is the Clean Power Plan. Ohio is among the states that have sued over the Clean Power Plan. We believe the rule is unconstitutional. There are a number of grounds under which to fight it in the courts. The federal government has no power to tell states or utilities they need to have wind farms or how many they need to have. It has no authority to dictate the energy mix used in each state. It is attempting to cross the fence line between states’ rights and those of the federal government. There are a lot of issues involved, including the 10th Amendment to the Constitution.

By the way, CO2 is not pollution. It is necessary for life to exist on Earth.

Capcon: In Michigan, our governor argues that by submitting a state implemented plan, known as a SIP, to the federal government, it would give the state a measure of control over how the Clean Power Plan is implemented. What do you see as the advantage of choosing not to submit a SIP?

Seitz: There are some arguments about there being advantages to having a SIP as compared to a FIP [allowing the federal government to implement its own plan]. To me, by submitting a SIP to the federal government you’re surrendering full plenary power and — in effect — putting your head in a noose of your own making.

I believe at some point someone has to take the John Calhoun approach: Refuse to file a state plan and say, "Hell no. You don’t have that power or authority."

Capcon: Do you believe that average residents in Ohio realize the extent to which wind energy is actually reliant on fossil fuels?

Seitz: No, most of the public and the press generally don’t know that. It’s a dirty little secret the public and press are unaware of and there are people who want to keep them unaware of it. Obviously, the better informed the general public is, the better off we’d all be.

I have no innate bias for or against wind or any other potential energy source. The focus shouldn’t be on what the energy source is; it needs to be on what’s efficient. Wind energy is more efficient in some states, like Texas and Kansas, than it is in states like Ohio and Michigan. Forcing it on all the states whether it is efficient in them or not would kind of be like telling the people of Texas they need to make walleye a basic staple of their diets. People in Michigan and Ohio are close to an abundant source of walleye but the situation is totally different in Texas.

Capcon: Getting back to the specific situation in Ohio: At the end of the day, does the Ohio legislature have the power to prevent the freeze from ending?

Seitz: Our governor has said the committee recommendations are unacceptable. He could potentially veto the legislation that would keep the freeze in place. But first we need to craft the legislation and work on getting it passed before the end of 2016. If we do that then at some point we’ll have to sit down with him and have a discussion.

Capcon: Is Gov. John Kasich saying he opposes government mandates, while at the same time supporting wind energy on the basis that Ohio needs a variety of energy sources? That’s the line of reasoning we’re hearing from several officials both in and outside of government here in Michigan.

Seitz: Well, on the one hand he says he opposes the Clean Power Plan, while on the other hand he says the committee recommendations are unacceptable. But right now he is a little bit busy running for president. So he may be sort of taking a path down the middle, but one way or the other a lot will have changed by the end of 2016.