By Marc Kovac
and David Skolnick
Democratic gubernatorial nominee 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, a Republican, 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.
“Our policies are about as different as can be,” FitzGerald said. Kasich is “taking us in a very negative direction with his renewable-energy policy. It’s extremely short-sighted. My plan takes us in the opposite direction.”
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.
His proposal doesn’t provide details related to fracking.
When asked by The Vindicator about oil and gas drilling, FitzGerald said he opposes Kasich’s proposed 2.75-percent fracking tax. The House voted in May to impose a 2.5-percent tax while the Senate hasn’t voted on an amount. Kasich’s office said the House version “falls short of what the governor believes is needed.”
“There has to be a severance tax, but it should be given to the communities in eastern Ohio where the drilling is and used to rebuild the economy” there, FitzGerald said.
He declined to give a frack-tax percentage, saying he would want to discuss it with those in the industry as well as get provisions to help get Ohioans hired for jobs in the oil and gas industry.
In response, Chris Schrimpf, Ohio Republican Party spokesman, said, “In yet another of Ed FitzGerald’s daily imitations of the gang that can’t shoot straight, he completely ignores Ohio’s booming natural-gas industry on the same day we learn that Ohio’s production of clean natural gas doubled in the past year.
“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.”
Meanwhile, FitzGerald was asked Wednesday about controversy last week that led him to rescind the nomination of Jeannet Wright as Cuyahoga County treasurer. That decision occurred after the Northeast Ohio Media Group wrote about her late disclosure of income from a half-dozen rental properties, as required by the county’s ethics policy, and her failure to register the properties as required under state law.
“I made a couple of hundred appointments as mayor [of Lakewood] and county executive and have had two issues where something went wrong with the process,” FitzGerald said.
The other issue was his choice of state Sen. Eric Kearney as his lieutenant-governor running mate. Kearney, his wife and his businesses owed about $825,000 in unpaid taxes.
“When [mistakes] were raised, I did something about them,” FitzGerald said. “When you run a large organization, you’ll have instances. The governor has had a string of bad appointments.”
FitzGerald mentioned Kasich’s longtime friend, Mark Kvamme, who resigned in 2012 as head of JobsOhio, the private economic-development entity, because he wasn’t a state resident, as well as the inspector general giving campaign contributions to the governor.