Ohio House of Representatives Republicans reject support for proposed Lake Erie Icebreaker wind project

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives have rejected the idea of ​​imposing a small surcharge on FirstEnergy customers in northeast Ohio that would be used to support a wind farm project in the Lake Erie known as the Icebreaker.

Rep. Bill Seitz, Republican for the Cincinnati area, said Friday afternoon that when the issue was raised in the Republican caucus, it had not received the support to pass.

“It was pretty well rejected despite my best efforts,” he said.

The Icebreaker demonstration project involves the installation of six turbines in Lake Erie, approximately 8 to 10 miles off the coast of Cleveland. It has the necessary regulatory approvals, but not all the money it needs to start construction.

And unless an additional source of revenue can be identified soon, the project risks losing federal funding deemed crucial to its success.

Advocates hoped the legislature would provide support in the form of an amendment to House Bill 389, which had left the Public Services Committee but was never proposed this week. The legislature is now adjourned until January.

The bill is designed to restore some of the energy efficiency programs eliminated by House 6 Bill. But Republicans were considering an amendment to HB 389 to allow an addition to be added to the bills of Illuminating Co customers. .. The proceeds from the sale would be used to purchase much of the electricity that Icebreaker would produce.

Seitz said he believed the surcharge would have been no more than 20 cents a month “and probably less than that.”

A map of the proposed Icebreaker wind project that would include six wind turbines in Lake Erie, located eight to ten miles offshore from Cleveland.

Currently, Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have committed to purchasing one-third of the 20.7 megawatts of electricity that Icebreaker would produce. A pledge to buy the rest would send a signal to the Department of Energy, which has committed $ 50 million to the project, that the project move forward.

Will Friedman, director of Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., the organization behind Icebreaker, said in October that the Department of Energy had grown weary of the many delays Icebreaker suffered. Planning began over a decade ago.

Seitz, who has criticized the development of wind farms on land in Ohio, said he supported efforts to help Icebreaker because it was offshore, had significant support in northeast Ohio and was going be paid by the inhabitants of the region.

In addition, the amendment would have allowed one of the counties along the lake to reject proposals to build future wind projects off their shores.

But many Republicans felt differently from Seitz. He said the main objection seemed to be that taxpayers should not have to pay extra for electricity that would be “significantly higher” than the current market price.

In addition, many saw the demonstration project as putting the “camel’s nose in the tent” to allow the installation of thousands and thousands of other turbines in the lake. Another reason, he said, was that placing turbines in the lake bed could dredge potentially toxic material.

Seitz said Rep. Jamie Callender of Concord Township and Rep. Tom Patton of Strongsville, both Republicans, supported an amendment in favor of Icebreaker. Cleveland.com contacted them both.

Euclid’s Democrat Rep Kent Smith, when briefed on Seitz’s comments, said it was “very bad news.”

He said Republicans back support for decades-old coal-fired power plants, including one in Indiana, but will not support future clean technology that creates jobs and brings notoriety to the Northeast. Ohio.

“This is a Wright Brothers moment for the state of Ohio and the GOP would rather keep our energy policy 70 years in the past,” he said.

If built, the Icebreaker Demonstration Project would be North America’s first freshwater wind farm.

Friedman, who is also chairman and chief executive officer of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, said he was “hopeful” that arrangements could be made to make Icebreaker a reality, but he declined. to comment on what Seitz said to cleveland.com.

Smith said if there are other ways to help Icebreaker that don’t involve state policy, they should be prosecuted.

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