Ohio Churches Fight To Save Renewables And Energy Efficiency


Faith leaders in Ohio called on Gov. John Kasich Wednesday to veto a bill that would gut the state’s renewable energy standards and energy efficiency programs.

“It is our calling as people of faith to be compassionate and caring for the earth,” Rev Tim Ahrens of the First Congregational Church, UCC in Columbus, who spoke at the press conference on Wednesday, told ThinkProgress. “The first words of the Bible say ‘take care of this planet that I have created for you.’”

The bill at the center of the controversy, Senate Bill 310 passed the Senate earlier this month and is now in committee in the House. The bill would effectively freeze the state’s renewable standard along with its energy efficiency program at 2014 levels for the next two years. The legislation would also freeze annual increases in Ohio’s green energy standards for two years while a special committee studies whether to make other changes to the rules. The Ohio House has postponed a vote on the bill until at least next week after lawmakers asked for more time to consider the bill.

Ohio’s efficiency and renewable rules were passed unanimously, save for one vote, back in 2008. Under the law, the state’s electric utilities are required to generate 12.5 percent of energy from renewables and 12.5 percent from advanced sources by 2025 and offer consumers programs to help them reduce their energy use, such as energy audits and rebates for insulation work and replacing lighting.

Reverend Robert Martin of First Presbyterian Church of Athens, Ohio, says that in the past year alone his church has saved over $6,000, thanks to an energy audit which helped his church install LED lighting, replace old boilers and insulate windows. First Presbyterian Church was in fact recently recognized by the EPA as the top house of worship in the National Building Competition for energy savings.

“Our energy use was reduced by 30 percent,” Rev. Martin told ThinkProgress. “And the savings that we realized went straight back into the community, supporting the local food bank, providing free meals, and helping to keep the doors open at a local homeless shelter. That’s where our money should go, rather than disappearing into our energy bill.”

On Friday, Ohio members of the national Evangelical Environmental Network plan to deliver petitions containing more than 14,000 signatures to the governor calling for him to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

“My church alone sends out about $200,000 a year to help provide food and shelter for those in need,” said Rev. Ahrens. “If passed, this bill would cost us about $10,000 in the next two years. That’s ridiculous. If I can wear the hat as the CEO of my church, for a moment, that’s just bad business.”

“The people who would benefit from this are just five people — the five CEOs of Ohio’s utility companies,” Rev. Ahren added. “And I can tell you, the CEO of FirstEnergy made $11 million last year. He doesn’t need this money, he has enough money in his wallet. We need this money to care for the people coming to our doors.”