COLUMBUS -- Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald wants to reverse course on energy policies adopted by Gov. John Kasich and increase the state's focus on green energy innovation.
The Cuyahoga County executive outlined a six-point plan Wednesday in Columbus, the latest package of policy proposals he's offered in his run for governor.
FitzGerald wants to undo law changes recently signed by Kasich to temporarily freeze renewable energy and efficiency mandates for two years, pending consideration by a new state study panel, and language included in a mid-biennium budget bill that he said will hurt wind industries.
"We're really sending a very strong and powerful message, to the wind industry in particular, that we don't want them here," FitzGerald said. "That needs to be reversed, and we should introduce legislation that would do so."
FitzGerald said he also would like the state to encourage additional research in advanced energy; work to strengthen the coal, oil and natural gas industries in an "environmentally responsible way;" and target economic development efforts in coal-producing areas of the state.
"As older forms of energy start to decrease and newer forms of energy hopefully increase in the state, we have to make sure that's done in a balanced way so that regions in the state are not left without resources," he said.
FitzGerald also wants the state to adopt the "advanced energy district" approach adopted in Lakewood in suburban Cleveland when he was mayor. The setup allows individuals and groups to join together to finance energy improvements.
"It's not forced on anyone, it's voluntarily, but what it allows businesses or individuals to do (is bring) down the cost of actually implementing something like a geothermal system... and it brings down the financing costs to make it more affordable to actually construct a system in the first place....," he said.
Republicans found it curious that FitzGerald's energy proposals were short on details related to oil and gas from eastern Ohio's emerging shale oilfields -- on the day the Ohio Department of Natural Resources released 2013 production totals.
"All of the jobs, all of the revenue, all of the prosperity and all of the future growth from natural gas doesn't even merit a mention in his so-called plan for Ohio's energy future," Chris Scrhimpf, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said in a released statement. He added, "This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to raise funds from the same people who fund the out-of-state environmental extremist groups who've opposed Ohio's booming natural gas jobs."