The Fuse

Energy Policy 2016: Spotlight on Ohio Governor John Kasich

by R. Kress | July 22, 2015

Status: Declared candidacy on July 21, 2015

Party: Republican

Career Overview: Kasich has been Governor of Ohio since 2011. Prior to that, he was the managing director of Lehman Brothers’ office in Columbus, Ohio until the firm dissolved during the financial crisis of 2008. He had a long tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001 where he eventually assumed the position of Budget Chairman. After choosing not to seek reelection for his seat in 2000, he briefly explored a presidential bid and then backed out due to poor funding. During his time in the private sector until becoming governor, he was a frequent Fox News contributor and had his own show on the network called From the Heartland With John Kasich.

Ohio energy policy: In 2012, Kasich proposed a wide-ranging list of energy policy reforms for his state. His plan sought to tax the oil and gas industry as a means to lower personal income taxes—a move that did not go over well with Ohio oil and gas leaders. The bill also sought to tighten restrictions on the construction of fracking wells and force well operators to disclose chemicals used in drilling to state regulators—a move that brought about ire from some environmentalists seeking disclosure to the public and not to regulators alone.

Freeze on renewables: In 2014, Kasich signed a bill that froze renewable energy increases and efficiency upgrades for utilities in Ohio. The move effectively undid legislation from 2008 that would have pushed the Buckeye State to cut energy use by 22 percent by 2025 and have 12.5 percent of its total energy portfolio generated by renewables. Some advocates had hoped Kasich would veto the bill after it was passed by the state’s legislature. Instead, he signed it in private and without comment—making Ohio the first U.S. state to reverse its energy efficiency and renewable targets and mandates. Even Honda—which has a large plant in Ohio—came out against the freeze.

Fracking: Fracking is a major industry in Ohio given that both the Marcellus and Utica shale plays cross through the state. Kasich’s track record on the controversial practice is somewhat unusual, however, in that he reversed his position while in office.  In 2011, Kasich signed a bill that opened Ohio state parks to fracking— but three years later, he flipped on the hotly contested practice of horizontal drilling and came out against fracking in state parks. There is speculation that Kasich’s reversal was not entirely the result of a philosophical change of heart. The flip-flop happened on the same day that Ohio Democrats called for an investigation into a 2012 marketing memo from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources—the group that regulates oil and gas drilling in the state. Kasich’s camp initially denied involvement in the memo, which would have allowed the same department employed to regulate the oil and gas industry in the state to oversee the marketing of land rights in state parks to fracking companies.

Keystone XL: In February 2015, Kasich joined 23 other Republican governors to call on the President to undo his veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline construction approval. He tweeted, simply enough: “Mr. President, give us the Keystone Pipeline.”

Transportation: Kasich’s transportation budget for Ohio went into effect on the first of July this year. He signed the legislation back in April to upgrade infrastructure, cementing Ohio’s key location as the country’s often middle ground for transportation of people and goods. The bill allocated some $7.06 billion for highways, road and bridge upgrades. Another million dollars will be added to the previous budget’s public transportation allocation.

Coal power: Ohio has some of the dirtiest energy output in the nation: in 2012, it ranked in the top five for total CO2 emissions. The state is, of course, home to American Electric Power, a major coal-burning energy producer.  In 2014, 67% of the state’s electricity generation came from coal—an industry that Kasich has protected during his time in office. At an energy conference in 2012, he said: “We are going to continue to work on cleaning coal, but I want to tell you, we are going to dig it, we are going to clean it, and we are going to burn it in Ohio, and we are not going to apologize for it.” He’s also been a vocal opponent of the Clean Power Plan that would in large part impact the coal industry.