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Ohio regulator tied to group opposing renewables

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm •  Published: January 29, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A top state utility regulator who opposed plans for an Ohio solar farm and openly questioned global warming maintained ties with an influential conservative group that supports repealing states' renewable energy requirements.

Todd Snitchler, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, was a keynote speaker at the American Legislative Exchange Council's task force meeting in April 2011. His state ethics filings show he attended another meeting of the council that December, nearly a year after leaving the Legislature to accept Gov. John Kasich's appointment to the commission.

It is unclear what role, if any, Snitchler's continued involvement may have played in a model bill penned by the council, known as the Electricity Freedom Act. The council's board of state legislators approved the legislation in October.

The commission that Snitchler leads is overseeing implementation of Ohio's "25-by-25" standard, which requires power companies to get 25 percent of their electricity from alternative and advanced sources by 2025. Such standards are targeted for repeal under the legislative council's model bill.

Todd Wynn, who leads the council's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, said he does not know Snitchler, who was an active ALEC member throughout 2009 and 2010, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.

"(The council) has always been opposed to energy mandates, but in 2012 we picked up the debates on renewable energy targets specifically," Wynn said. He noted that repeal of Ohio's renewable targets has been proposed before, and said it wouldn't surprise him if it would be proposed again this session.

Holly Karg, the commission's public affairs director, said energy lobbyists attend events of the exchange council, but Snitchler was above the fray.

"He was not being lobbied at those events; he was speaking at them," she said.

His financial disclosure form indicates the commission reimbursed Snitchler for about $175 in meal expenses for the two 2011 meetings. He reported no travel costs.

Snitchler this month joined a 3-1 majority of the Public Utilities Commission in rejecting American Electric Power Co.'s proposal to incorporate power from the Turning Point Solar project into its renewable energy portfolio. The vote — against the advice of commission staff — was criticized as misguided by the power company, environmental advocates and Statehouse Democrats.

In its wake, Snitchler's steady criticism of solar, wind and renewable energy on Twitter over the previous year came to light. Observers said his posts broke with a tradition of public neutrality among utility commissioners on issues they regulate.

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