There is a war on science and the environment in Ohio. Numerous recent pieces of legislation and decisions by state agencies make it clear—the GOP has put politics over science and the health of Ohio’s environment time and time again. One need only look to recent legislation to allow drilling in state parks, unlimited water withdrawals from Lake Erie, or new fracking regulation which prevent disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process and continue to allow disposal of fracking waste by deep underground injection.

Today we’ll explore one of several recent examples of the Kasich administration making decisions based more on politics than good science.

Third Frontier Rejects Funding for Long-Planned Lake Erie Wind Energy Project

For years, boosters of the Cleveland region’s economic advancement have envisioned the city as host to North America’s first offshore freshwater wind project. In 2009, Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties, the City of Cleveland, NorTech Energy Enterprises and the Cleveland Foundation established the nonprofit Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) to advance the project. After extensive study, the project has a stated potential to lower the cost of energy below $.10 per kWH, a huge improvement on wind’s currently uncompetitive prices.

Wind energy projects have enjoyed the ongoing support of the State of Ohio. Governor Strickland won passage of a renewable portfolio standard in SB 221, requiring 12.5% of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025, vital to creating a market for wind energy. The Department of Natural Resources produced a turbine placement analysis, looking at bird habitat, fisheries, industry, lakebed geography, shipwrecks, navigable waterways and distance from shore. The Department of Development has also been a consistent champion of offshore wind energy projects in Lake Erie.

But that’s all changed. In April, Governor Kasich signed into law SB 289 which weakens the State’s renewable portfolio standard, diminishing the market for wind in Ohio. Then, on Wednesday, the State’s Third Frontier Commission, voted to reject LEEDCo’s application for funding, critical for its much larger application for an upcoming offshore wind energy grant application to the US Department of Energy. Without the state’s funding, the project’s future is uncertain.

How did this happen? Third Frontier relies on independent experts to evaluate applications and make recommendations before any funding decisions are made. In the case of LEEDCo, these advisers gave the project a thumbs-up, stating that the project would:

  • Establish Ohio as a cornerstone of the US wind industry;
  • Attract research faculty from across Ohio, focusing on lowering the cost of wind energy;
  • Leverage Ohio’s academic and industry strengths in advanced materials and sensing technologies

After hearing the recommendation for funding by the outside experts, members of the 9-person Third Frontier Commission—all appointed by the Governor, including 4 members of his administration—rejected the application, saying they feared it was “too speculative” and that wind energy costs too much. Recall above where we noted that the LEEDCo application, which was reviewed and endorsed by the Third Frontier’s outside technical experts, actually promises to lower the price of wind energy to as little as $.10 per kWH.

If the current cost of wind energy is too high, wouldn’t a collaboration between industry and four of the state’s premiere research universities that could lower that price be worthy of investment by a body charged with supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, especially as we seek to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and establish Ohio as a leader in advanced energy?

Not for the Kasich administration. In the face of the recommendation of outside experts that a project could establish Ohio’s leadership and lower the cost of wind energy, political appointees rejected their advice.

Opposition to wind and solar energy is a national trend among conservatives, part of an aggressive, coordinated strategy to defeat President Obama in November:

A network of ultra-conservative groups is ramping up an offensive on multiple fronts to turn the American public against wind farms and Barack Obama‘s energy agenda.

A number of rightwing organisations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support for solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy.

Kasich appointees are marching in lockstep with the GOP’s anti-wind energy talking points. But it’s not just Kasich appointees.

That’s just dumb!
– John Kasich on Lake Erie Wind Energy, in 2010

Happy to ignore the advice of scientists, Kasich himself apparently prefers making decisions based on casual conversations with “some people who fish up there in Lake Erie once a year”:



(courtesy: Ohio Capital Blog)
Clearly he was uninformed about ODNR’s work to identify turbine locations that would not impact commercial or sport fisheries, but Kasich has never been one to let facts get in his way.

This is not the only example of the Kasich administration seemingly taking a political stand against science and the environment. We’ll be back with more soon.

Evangelize!
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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740014081 Paula Garfield

    wont let me post to facebook…weird

  • amyvav

    It’s OK, Josh Mandel will fix everything by saving coal jobs in Eastern Ohio. He was joined at a press conference by hard-hatted miners from one of Murray Energy’s local mines.

    http://www.timesleaderonline.com/page/content.detail/id/539030/Mandel–Senate-bid-about-jobs.html?nav=5010

    I’m all about saving jobs; our state is plummeting fast. But I can’t believe that pursuing new renewable sources wouldn’t create many more jobs. I’m tired of these incredibly wealthy businessmen sending their paid-for politicians to us with their ridiculous canned comments about being one of us and wanting to save our jobs. Bullsh**. They want to make more money for themselves. Just ask the folks at Diebold, American Greetings, Bob Evans…

  • Davisholubar

    Not only will Diebold cut jobs in Ohio but they are dedicated to delivering elections to Republican Candidates, like former securities trader John Kasich. He obviously understands where the big money is coming from. Anything that will change the status quo is unacceptable, he’d rather deal with another Bin Laden than a democrat threatening change.

  • L Traves

    Land based wind turbines make environmental and economic sense but Lake Eric wind turbines just don’t cut the mustard and Ohio has lots of clean sources of power (net negative air pollutants meaning there would be a reduction) from industrial waste heat and waste gas co-generation.  That means that to send another dime pursuing this unnecessary dream is just plain stupid.  Environmentalists (and I consider myself one) have to move to the middle or you will become irrelevant.  There are lots of places in US with better wind conditions (ND, west Texas, even Indiana) where land based wind is competitive with other power sources.  Just like with solar PV approaching 25% in CA and AZ etc  and that is where those technologies should be located. 

    When Ohio has more than 5,000 MW of industrial co-generation that is less than 20-25% of the cost of Lake Erie windmills, economic sense means this project’s public funding  has to end. 

    see  a fact based commentary on this topic at: http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20120130/SUB1/301309994&template=mobile

  • Onahunt

    We need the 10’s of thousands of  jobs in manufacturing, delivery, building, and maintaining the wind turbines in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Not to mention the studies that were done that proved they are environmentally safe for Lake Erie and all it’s eco system! Let’s get them built already! They are pollution free and waste free clean energy!

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