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Ohio Plays Ping-Pong With EPA Carbon Regulations

Coal is shipped by barge down the Ohio River.

A bill that puts the state’s renewable energy standards on hold for two years is headed to Ohio governor John Kasich’s desk. That comes just as the federal government has proposed new limits on emissions from power plants.

The goal of both the state and federal policies is to make people less dependent on power that comes from burning coal—to try to slow down global climate change. Ohio is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the country.

Ohio’s law has been workingto increase renewable sources like solar and wind, and to reduce overall energy use. Supporters have said it saves money and creates green jobs, but some industry groups pushed to pass new state legislation that pauses the state standards for two years, saying they drive up costs. Governor Kasich has said he will not veto that legislation, which calls for a committee to study the standards over two years.

Now the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal could end up requiring pretty much the same things Ohio is placing on hold: reduced energy use and a shift to renewables, as well as an increase in generation from natural gas. Environmentalists are supportive of the plan.

“There’s gonna be a lot of job growth, and a lot of people are gonna be healthier and happier as a result of these regulations when they are fully implemented,” says Brennan Howell with the Ohio Environmental Council.

Coal producers, who would be directly affected in coal-intensive states like Ohio, are rallying against the proposal already.

“The EPA’s policies have resulted in the elimination of low-cost and reliable sources of electricity, bottom line,” says Christian Palich is with the Ohio Coal Association.

Ohio is one of the biggest electricity producers in the country. Right now less than 2 percent of the power produced here comes from renewable sources, and almost 70 percent comes from coal.

If the EPA rules go through, each state would have to submit a plan that cuts carbon pollution through 2030 through a combination of measures. Meanwhile, an Ohio house committee is expected to vote today on legislation that would limit the impact of the EPA rules at the state level. The bill would require any state plan to protect electric affordability and reliability.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's economics reporter and substitute morning host. Follow him @lewispants.