At least 10 counties in U.S. state Ohio have passed resolutions blocking the development of new utility scale wind and solar projects within all or part of their jurisdictions in the last year, according to Ohio Capital Journal.
The counties’ moves come after the October 2021 enactment of a state law giving the locals the veto power over renewable energy generation sites — a veto power that doesn’t exist for fossil fuel developments.
At least two more counties are actively considering such a prohibition.
The state law and subsequent county action add new roadblocks to renewable energy development as the international scientific community warns of a warming climate and a need to shift away from fossil fuels.
The legislation doesn’t apply to wind and solar projects that have received approval from the state before it took effect.
Sarah Spence, executive director of the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, has been tracking the counties’ action on wind and solar. She said she’s disappointed but not surprised by the speed with which the counties moved. She said it’s a loss for economic development and renewables in the areas.
Environmentalists opposed Senate Bill 52, which gave counties the new authority, arguing there was room to create more community input on power siting without choking off wind and solar entirely.
“By implementing these bans now, it’s going to make it harder to make the transition to clean energy that the public, business community, and public health and climate science all demand,” said Neil Waggoner, an operative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
“These bans close off communities from the investment dollars driving these projects, new sources of revenue for local services and education, and also limit local property owner rights.”
“Economic development and innovative energy technology is always welcome in the State of Ohio, but not at the expense of rural communities who do not want them,” said GOP Senate President Matt Huffman in a statement. “This bill keeps local residents and officials informed and in-control of where they are located.”
In April, 278 climate experts with the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change warned that the world is on track to pass a key climate target within eight years at the current rate of emissions. While the international goal can still be met to stave off disastrous effects of global warming, it will require an economically viable but politically difficult shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.
Ohio’s new legislation has moved in the opposite direction, erecting a new hurdle to clear for development and new risks for investors. In contrast, the state passed legislation last year removing authority from local governments seeking to block new buildings within their borders from natural gas hookups, an effort seen in some progressive cities to decarbonize buildings.