By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Amidst an astonishing billion-dollar nuke reactor corruption scandal, one of the world's richest wind resources -- the key to Ohio's economic and ecological future -- is being trashed by a single sentence.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Ohio is being robbed of $4 billion worth of industrial development, thousands of jobs, and a wealth of cheap, emissions-free energy by a single easily-removable clause in the Ohio Code.
How? In 2014, without public hearings, pro-fossil/nuke legislators slipped into law a requirement that wind turbines be sited at least 1,300 feet from property lines. The previous requirement was 600 feet. There are no meaningful economic, ecological, or health/safety imperatives served by the additional set-back footage. No other state has such a requirement.
But by vastly expanding the land required for turbine siting, that single sentence stopped some $4 billion in pre-approved northern Ohio wind farm development.
Ohio's "North Coast" has steady winds blowing over flat fields whose farmers desperately need the fat checks that come with turbine leasing. The region is uniquely crisscrossed with transmission lines feeding nearby urban areas where the power is consumed.
Ironically, Ohio is already a leading manufacturing center for the turbine industry being blocked within its own borders. The proposed arrays are set to create thousands of jobs, save hundreds of family farms, and provide decades of reliable, clean electricity at rates far below current subsidized fossil/nuke prices. The employment created by the wind construction projects would far exceed that at the Davis-Besse and Perry reactors.
The nuke bailout is now under intense fire. Because House Bill 6 has been tainted by the $60 million in bribes given House Speaker Larry Householder to grease it through the legislature, even pro-nuke governor Mike DeWine wants it rescinded. It comes in the wake of some $9 billion in "stranded cost" bailout money sucked up by Ohio's nukes starting in 1999.
But if HB6 goes away as promised, DeWine and pro-reactor legislators will likely introduce a new, slightly altered bailout. As a popular concession, they might drop the previously included handout for two coal burners or avoid attacking Ohio's highly successful energy efficiency programs.
But the one move that could completely revamp Ohio's energy future would be to restore its wind setback to levels commonly accepted nearly everywhere else.
Opening Ohio's energy markets to cheap wind power would undercut subsidized, fossil/nuke-inflated electric rates, restore the jobs deleted by shutting the reactors, and spur long-term economic growth as virtually nothing else would.
Will Ohio's safe energy movement grab the opportunity to make all that happen?
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