Proposed constitutional amendment in Ohio would benefit biomass

By Erin Voegele | July 18, 2014

A political action committee in Ohio is one step closer to getting a constitutional amendment on the state ballot that would provide funding for clean energy initiatives over a 10 year period. Biomass energy is among the sectors that would benefit from the program.

On July 7, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified a petition for the proposed Clean Energy Initiative amendment. According to Josh Pulliam, a consultant for Yes for Ohio’s’ Energy Future, the political action committee that proposed the amendment, the Ohio ballot board has also approved the language of the amendment. The next step will be to gather enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

The amendment would provide the issuance of general obligation bonds and other obligations of the state in the amount of $1.3 billion per year annually for 10 years. The bonds would support energy infrastructure capital improvement, which includes but is not limited to solar, wind, biomass, battery technology and geothermal facilities. The funding would also support research and development in support of Ohio industry, commerce and business related to clean energy. This may include research and product innovation, development and collaborative commercialization efforts between public and private entities. Finally, the measure would support the development of sites and facilities in Ohio for, and in support of, industry, commerce, distribution, and research and development related to clean energy.

Pulliam explained that the amendment is focused on job creation. We approach clean energy from a realistic perspective, he said, noting that Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future understands that it’s not just about helping individual companies. It’s also about infrastructure development, commercialization assistance, research and development and training.

While many states have created initiatives to support renewable energy through legislative means, Pulliam said the legislative process isn’t a feasible option in Ohio. “Ohio is not a traditional clean energy state,” he said, pointing to the recent legislation that has frozen the state’s renewable portfolio standard for two years as evidence that state lawmakers are generally not supportive of clean energy. While the political action committee could have elected to place a statute on the ballot, Pulliam said the legislature would be more easily able to tamper with a law made through statute than one made through a constitutional amendment.

To get the measure on the ballot, the committee needs to gather 386,247 signatures from Ohio residents residing in at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties by July 2 of whichever year the group decides to target for the ballot. To date, Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future hasn’t determined if it will target the 2015 or 2016 ballot, and is currently weighing the pros and cons of each. On the logistics side, it could be difficult to gather so many signatures in time for the 2015 deadline There is also political climate to consider. For example, Pulliam said the group must weigh whether it wants to be at the top of the ballot or wait until a presidential election year when it could potentially capitalize on the possibility of a more friendly demographic.

Either way, Pulliam said the group is expecting to experience a great deal of voter support on the matter. A poll conducted in late 2013 indicated that 64 percent of Ohio voters were likely to vote for the initiative. Pulliam added that Ohio has a strong history of passing bond measures. “If you look at the last 20 years, they’ve passed every one,” he said.  

Additional information on the constitutional amendment is available here