Monday, April 08, 2002

Committee to study energy

Lawmakers to spend months in hearings

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The large group of lawmakers brought to the Ohio House by term limits will help shape Ohio's future energy policy, and Speaker Larry Householder wants them to do so with a grasp of the facts surrounding the issue.

        Mr. Householder has merged the House Energy & Environment and Public Utilities Committees into a special committee to hold hearings throughout the spring and summer.

        The committee will not move legislation but was formed primarily to discuss energy.

        The Glenford Republican also is planning other special committees to study education, taxes, business and other issues.

        “We have so many issues out there that are so important to the future of this state, we haven't addressed it to the point we should,” Mr. Householder said Friday. “With the ongoing turnover, there is a real need for a very open discussion and debate on all of these issues.”

        Voters in 1992 approved a constitutional amendment that limits members of the Legislature to eight consecutive years in each chamber. While the Senate lost seven members to term limits for the current session, only one senator, Tim Ryan of Niles, had no legislative experience. The other six were former House members.

        In the House, though, only four of the 51 freshmen have previous legislative experience.

        Ohio's energy needs will require a depth of knowledge about coal, natural gas and alternative power sources such as wind, Mr. Householder said.

        Ohio coal fuels most of the state's power plants, but federal regulations threaten its use and cleaner-burning — and more expensive — coal from outside the state is available. Mr. Householder, from the heart of coal country in Perry County, said technology is available to burn the coal more cleanly, but he also wants to consider alternatives.

        “I don't have any agenda at all,” he said.

        The committee will focus on energy use, projected use in the future and the most cost-effective way to address it, he said.

        The details will be left up to the committee's co-chairs, Public Utilities Chairman Lynn Olman of Maumee and Energy & Environment Chairwoman Nancy Hollister of Marietta. Both are Republicans.

        Mr. Olman said it's important to develop a policy now, while energy supplies and prices are relatively steady.

        In the summer of 1998, a grueling heat wave and a weather-related outage at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo made power scarce and sent prices skyrocketing. In the winter of 2000-01, a cold snap and a shortage of natural gas had the same effect on gas prices.

        “We wanted to prevent a recurrence of crisis by management,” Mr. Olman said.

        The committee will hear from energy providers, utilities, business and environmental groups and others in related fields.


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