SALEM, Ohio — A group of Ohio residents is hoping to collect enough signatures over the next few months to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the Ohio ballot, known as the “Ohio Clean Energy Initiative.”
The initiative, now in its sixth year, was certified as a single ballot issue March 23, by the Ohio Ballot Board.
The initiative calls for $1.3 billion in Ohio bond money, for each of 10 years, that would be used for renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, renewables and battery technology, consumer and business energy cost reduction. It would also fund jobs training, internships and scholarships related to these energies.
According to the petition, project selection and funding would be decided by a company registered in the state of Delaware, called the Ohio Energy Initiative Commission.
The petition also stipulates that at least $65 million annually would be transferred to this commission, to cover members’ operating costs.
The petition also seeks to prohibit the Ohio General Assembly from being involved in the selection of projects, or “setting the terms of any such award.”
In order to place the measure on the fall ballot, petitioners need to collect 305,951 signatures by July 6, which is equal to 10 percent of the total vote cast for governor in 2014.
They also need to collect signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and within each of those counties, collect enough signatures equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast for governor in 2014.
Farm and Dairy reached out to representatives for the campaign, which is called “Yes for Ohio’s Energy Future,” but did not receive a response by press time.
A December 2013, Associated Press article reported that the individuals involved with commission could not be traced through IRS records, nor Delaware business records.
German Trejo, a campaign strategist and spokesperson for the campaign at the time, said that operating through a corporate structure allows the company to be free from political influence and gridlock.
“This is truly a citizen-driven idea, and not having the hand of politicians is very important,” he told the AP.
Point of concern
But prohibiting Ohio’s lawmakers from participating — and entrusting the funds to an out-of-state entity — has been a point of concern each year that the campaign attempts to get on the ballot.
The American Institute of Architects-Ohio, and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, have both taken issue with accountability of the funds — and whether the campaign has the necessary experience in the renewable energy industry.
The AIA warned against allowing the money to be “controlled by a secretive Ohio commission incorporated in the state of Delaware.”
And the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, in a November 2015 statement, said the initiative would “call for Ohio money to be shipped to a company registered in Delaware,” while also granting them “sole authority” over deciding how the funds be spent.
The issue has also raised concern among several Ohio energy and environmental groups that traditionally have supported investing in clean energy.
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