The increased publicity of a green energy jobs report paid for by the state has sparked an argument over how forward the Kasich administration was in revealing its findings.
Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.
Foley: “There was intent to keep that hidden under a dark musty cushion.”
Democratic Representatives Mike Foley of Cleveland and Dan Ramos of Lorain are crying foul after learning about a year-old report on the status of the advanced energy industry in Ohio.
The report was commissioned by the Ohio Development Services Agency—or DSA—part of Gov. John Kasich’s administration. It was completed near the beginning of 2013—finding about 31,000 alternative energy jobs.
But Ramos says Kasich suppressed these findings from the public during a crucial period. At the time the General Assembly was debating an overhaul to Ohio’s energy standards—benchmarks for energy companies to incorporate more efficiency and renewable sources.
Ramos: “In doing so he not only robbed the members of the Legislature of the crucial information from the budding sector of Ohio’s economy. The Kasich administration destroyed the opportunity for the public to participate in an open and honest discussion. By not putting all their cards on the table elected officials and their constituents were cheated.”
But that’s not the case, according to the DSA’s Lyn Tolan.
Tolan: “Well it certainly hasn’t been suppressed by us.”
She says the report is a public document that’s been distributed to individuals, organizations and media outlets since early last year. But Tolan says the agency couldn’t stand behind the report because the findings were flawed.
Tolan: “That 31,000 jobs they counted the employees of a manufacturer of lawn furniture—companies that install broadband because then if people had broadband they’d use less paper—tree trimmers. While those are all important jobs—really I think most reasonable people would say ‘that is not in this alternative energy sector.”
In 2012, the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy—which represents the green energy industry—put out its own report citing about 25,000 alternative energy jobs in the state.
That was the number used during the debate over the state’s energy standards. Instead of an overhaul—the General Assembly eventually passed a bill to freeze the standards for two-years.
Foley—a vocal opponent of the freeze—says the measure is driving away business, such as the wind energy industry.
Foley: “They are amazingly skeptical about Ohio now and utterly disturbed that investment dollars that they’ve sunk into the state are so hugely at risk and likely that they’re going to lose tens of millions of dollars.”
During that two-year freeze a lawmaker-appointed committee will look into the cost effectiveness of the standards. That panel is set to meet again this month and is required to eventually put out a report.
If the Legislature doesn’t take any action on the standards then the freeze will be lifted in 2017.